There came a startling knocking sound…
“That’s odd,” I grumbled to myself. “What the hell is that?” I looked around and it seemed to be coming from a mysterious object I had once named, at random, a “door.” Found upon the door was a piece of spherically-shaped metal which I brilliantly intuited could be used to pry the bloody thing open.
Gazing through the gaping portal I saw a most hideous thing standing on the go-away mat. “What the hell are you?” I gasped.
With an eerily familiar voice it replied, “I’m you from the future.”
My mind reeled. “How far in the future?”
“Tomorrow, to be exact.” God, it sure was ugly. It looked irritated and menacing, too. “Are you going to invite me in?”
Once inside it looked around the living room as if with the eyes of a child. “You’ll have to forgive me,” it said. “This sure brings back memories.”
By now I was feeling pretty damn irritated. My normal routine had been severely disrupted. “I’m feeling damn irritated,” I said. “You’re severely disrupting my normal routine.”
For a second it lost it’s composure. “Don’t you think I know that?!” it snapped ferociously. It took a deep breath and slowly exhaled then seemed to go limp in resignation. After an awkward silence, it finally continued. “I’m here to help you,” it said softly. “To help both of us.”
“Go on,” I barked.
“A few minutes from now,” it said ominously, “something is going to happen. Something completely out of the normal. Something disastrous. I’m here to stop it.”
Suddenly I noticed a gun in it’s hand. That’s odd, I thought lamely to myself. We don’t own a gun. What the hell had happened to me?
Bang. The gun went off. I fell to the floor while clutching my stomach in pain. He had shot our most prized possession. He had just shot our LCD 42″ flat screen TV.
“You son of a bitch! You die!” I screamed as I felt my life oozing away. “Why??”
“Poor little idiot,” he said, literally looking down on me. I couldn’t help but notice he was starting to twinkle, almost as if he was slowly dissolving away. He smiled.
He looked at his dissolving hand in wonderment. “It worked, it worked,” he said, forgetting the question that was currently pending on the floor. Then an expression of fear gripped his hideous face. “At least this time.”
His expression changed to one of resolve then went soft as if he had reached some sort of climactic decision. “What I’m about to say may end the space-time continuum as we know it, everywhere, everything, but fuck it. It might be our only chance.”
“Shut up!” he hissed. “We have very little time.” By now he was about fifty percent translucent, much like the time I had tried to Photoshop a profile image using a real picture of my own face.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said to himself, ignoring me completely. “I never watch broadcast TV. I never even turn it on. I hate the commercials. I avoid it like the plague. But I was supposed to be working. So, yeah, I guess that might be how it happened.”
He turned and looked me in the eye. “I turned on the TV,” he said. He was starting to scare me. “I did it on purpose. It was showing the CBS morning show. God help me, I don’t know why, but I watched.” I was stunned to see tears streaming down his face. “They called it ‘Note to Self.’ Oh God, why did I watch?”
He was almost gone now. He sparkled like a glinty trick of light and I had to lean and strain to hear what he had to say.
“Don’t do what I did. Don’t ever, EVER,” he hissed, “make the mistake of watching Note to Self. It’ll be the death of you.”
And with that, he was gone.
Dazed, I slowly got to my feet and swayed. Wow. What a trip. And what an idiot. How the hell was I going to watch anything with a bullet in my TV? And how the hell was I supposed to avoid doing real actual work?
More importantly, who was going to clean up that mess of ectoplasm where the bastard had been standing?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news (actually not true) but I think I’ve figured out how it works. (I don’t just bitch, either. I’ll also include solutions. I’m proactive that way.)
- Netflix is the only source for Netflix Original programming: House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.
- Hulu is the only source for Hulu Original programming: None come to mind but I do know they’ll have commercials.
- Amazon Prime has mostly the same shit.
- iTunes offers the same content but at premium ala carte prices.
- HBO is the only source for HBO Original programming: The Newsroom and Game Of Thrones.
- CBS is a bunch of greedy dillholes: Survivor and Big Bang Theory.
- MLB is the only source for most MLB Original programming but only if you have enough money. Otherwise they won’t even stream the goddamned World Series. (I was actually surprised by this, but only for a nanosecond.)
I prognosticated to my wife a long time ago that the days of accessing “content” would soon be coming to a close. This week we moved much closer to that reality. You like some shows on Hulu and some on Netflix? You’ll have to buy both even if the remaining majority of their DNA is essentially the same. Exclusivity is the ticket to getting customers to pay more than once. And make no mistake, it is all out global thermonuclear war on your wallet. That is the only thing that matters. They don’t do this for fun.
Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?
OK. I’ll do my best. I’m a professional and I still have a job to do. I have taken the Advice Columnist’s Oath and that means, basically, I have to take it. Each and every time. Very well. Out of respect for the craft I will give this question a serious response.
What do I grab?
First Item: “Screen.”
I grab the screen. Get it? Screen grab? Woo hoo! I crack myself up. I’m a real hoot. My house is on fire and I’m cracking some of my best improv material ever. It’s a win win.
Professionalism be damned.
Uh, what was the question again?
Seriously, though. I’m not kidding. The 42″ flat screen LCD TV is obviously the first thing. I’m not insane. An American is nothing without his TV. And I can carry that puppy under my arm, all by myself. I’m sure it won’t be too heavy because I’ll be all hopped up on adrenaline from the flames.
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If you have ever watched commercial programming on television you may already be aware of this, but sometimes the shows repeat plot points. Surprising but true. It generally works something like the instructions on a shampoo bottle:
- Hire a core troupe of actors and put them in a setting, like a meat packing plant or a sewer treatment facility
- Go through the episodic table of plot elements
- After a certain period of time, usually 3-7 years, replace the actors and the setting, like the actuarial tables dept. at an insurance company
- Rinse and repeat
When watching a show with my wife, within the first 30 seconds I’ll shout out the plot variation as soon as it is recognized. Trust me, she really loves this. “Oh, god, no!! It’s plot #42. Wacky birthing episode ending with a touching isn’t-that-thing-cute moment. I’ll be on the computer. Let me know when it’s over.”
Here’s a few excerpts from the episodic table:
- A previously unknown family member of a main character comes to visit for a short time (father, mother, brother, sister, child, etc.)
- A main character is extremely distressed because an extended family member gets engaged, married, divorced, is involved in adultery or illicit love affair and/or dies
- Two main characters are involved in a marriage proposal, wedding, break-up, divorce, adoption, pregnancy and/or birthing
Even with those three limited examples from the table the possibilities are almost endless. I bet they could be used to generate over 500 specific plots. Mother and cousin come to visit. Father and sister die. Brother and niece get engaged. Mother pregnant, father having an affair. Father pregnant, mother having an affair. Yep, the permutations are practically unlimited.
When watching Northern Exposure the other day I noticed one of the rarer elements. “Looks like #138 coming our way,” I shouted. A mute traveling performer had been courting one of the main characters for several episodes. Sagely, I predicted, “I’ll bet the mute guy is moved to speak in a moment that will be especially poignant.” It was so touching, that I nailed it, I mean. My wife couldn’t have been more pleased.
The episodic table easily applies to movies, too. George Lucas, for example, often calls crap like this “notes” that are repeated across films, again and again and again and again and again. Did I mention again? To make this point I’ll now transport you from one galaxy far away to a make-believe land of medieval sex, violence and political intrigue. It won’t require that much suspension of disbelief.
Or, as I like to call it, “A Note Ripped From Star Wars By Game Of Thrones.” Introducing element #78: The Fake Greeting.
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Alaska. A land so vast that it turns out that it is big enough for the both of us. Our crack team of Discovery engineers has been hard at work calculating that 42 reality-based TV shows about this majestic and fascinating land just isn’t good enough. Not by a damn sight.
We’re gonna blow the lid off yet another story that needs to be told.
Thus, we are splittin’ a seam to unveil our latest bit of creative genius that fully explores every nook and cranny of America’s last frontier in a way the lower 48 has never quite seen before. Alaska State Poopers.
Like a Palin hoppin’ in a chopper fully-loaded for bear we are about to seriously unload, to pull back the lid as it were, on the brave men and women who patrol a wilderness so remote and vast it’s almost inconceivable someone built an outhouse there. Where there’s a will there’s a way. But someone’s still got to clean that shit up.
From tundra to toilet, when the job is just too dirty for anyone else, Alaska Sanitation Team (AST) stands vigilant and at the ready. Enough talk! Let’s plunge right in!
Pilot: S1E1 – “Watch Out For The Cornhole, Bud”
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It all started with the Big Carl from Carl’s Jr. No, I’ve never eaten one. I don’t have that kind of free time. But it did get my creative juices flowing.
I saw the “Big Carl” on TV and it was bragging about being bigger than a “Big Mac.” I was curious so I googled it. That’s when I found The Website. Quite likely one of the most glorious things I’d ever seen.
This dude wanted the truth. He went and exploded the scientific method on that shit. He weighed them. He tested. He did comparisons. It is one of the funniest websites I’ve ever read and it cut through the bull in an attempt to answer the question: Companies wouldn’t lie in a television commercial, would they?
He tried his best, but in his laboratory the Big Carl just didn’t measure up. He even enlisted the help of a Carl’s Jr. manager but the dufus wouldn’t play along. “A customer wants our burger served without wrapping of any kind? And on their own plate? I think that violates corporate policy.”
You have got to see how this turns out.