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Posts tagged as “Crazy Rants”

Is the future of television another article about the future of television?

Around TCA season, we always get inundated with articles related to “the future of television” or “the end of online streaming”.

It’s always funny to read these wannabe prescient articles about the rise and fall of television. Especially since they’re always reverberating the same thought over and over, year after year.

As usual, we had the one about how “live TV will be irrelevant in the future“. There’s also that other one about Netflix producing–wait for it–a bunch of original shows. Whodathunkit.
Let’s also not forget the obligatory “Netflix: Is this the end of online streaming as we know it?” versus “The future of television? HBO.

And then there’s the palme de la creme de la cherry on the top.
That one article desperately wanting to coin (and crown) a “new art form” within a sub-subset of a television trend.

This year’s winner: “Netflix is accidentally inventing a new art form — not quite TV and not quite film“.

Oh, boy.

Let’s take a glance at the article’s h3 points…

1. Binge watching versus weekly watching: It changes everything

How is this news in 2015?
Nearly six years ago (!) I wrote about that exact same thing.
You know, when House of Cards was but a twinkle in Ted Sarandos’ eye.

My point is not to back-pat myself (that sounded dirty); it is to explain that, hell no, Netflix did not create an “art form” (ugh) that predates it.

Just because you make it “easier” to do something doesn’t mean you “accidentally invent” that something.

Ford did not invent transportation.
Apple did not invent mobile communications.
Netflix did not invent binge-watching (or, as we used to call it in the good old days, TV marathons).

Hold on. Something else is coming back to me…

I remember… I remember watching X-Files episodes back-to-back on VHS in the 90s.


2. Netflix thinks more in terms of seasons than of episodes


Should I really bother talking, yet again, about the concept of “bigger picture” in television?
ABC renewed Lost for three seasons in 2007.
We can all move on now.

3. But the 10-hour story is still a new craft — and an imperfect one

And film is in its infancy compared to literature.

Truth is “10-hour stories” are older than American Idol.

Ever heard of a show called Roots? Or HBO’s Band of Brothers? Or Sci-Fi’s Taken?
I hadn’t, and then I googled “mini-series”.

“Mini-series”, “limited series”, “event series”, “anthology seasons”. Call them what you want. It’s all semantics.
Roots and True Detective are, at the end of the day, close-ended 8-hour narratives.

But then, you tell me, this isn’t about anthology seasons. It’s about shorter seasons!
And, once again, I’ll point you to a distant post from the distant past.

The year was 2008.

Here are nine ideas to save television“, I bravely claimed. And one was about shorter seasons:

Remember Dirty Sexy Money? Probably not, because it only had 13 episodes last season.
But that’s okay.
Less is definitely more when it comes to shows like Lost. A radically shorter season definitely helped the show to condense its mythology and get on with the answers instead of waiting around for 5 other episodes.
It might not be that good for the Big Five in terms of cash but in a qualitative way, it’s certainly a game-changer.

Now, combine shorter seasons with 55-minute long shows around the year available for free whenever wherever on VOD.
Welcome to the new world, Networks.


Look. I understand the temptation to be right about “the future of television” or the desperation to be the first to “call” something. We’re all guilty of this. But if you really want to do that, at least have something new to say.
Why are you shocked HBO is going into sports (“Inside the NFL” anyone?) or that Netflix is doing–gasp!–original programming.

We all know Ted Sarandos’ provocative statement about how Netflix’s goal “is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”
That was three years ago.

And this brings us full-circle to the reason of this entire post–or rant.
Maybe I needed to air my frustration about TV circlejerking.
Maybe I needed to point out how ridiculously narrow these echo chambers have become.
Or, maybe, I needed to quote this actual statement about HBO Now and Netflix:

If, as The Awl’s John Hermann argues, “the next Internet is TV,” then subscription-based streaming services are the next Facebook.

I thought orange was the new black? Wait, what is this again?
Oh. Now I remember.
It’s not TV, it’s articles about TV.

Seven Years of Featured Posts

Let’s begin the celebration of seven years with some of our classic TV Calling featured posts.

It used to be you’d pin a post to the top of your blog, and call it featured. Well–
“Featured Post” is somewhat of an outdated concept with this site, especially since we’ve never really had a slider to begin with (*shudder*). TV Calling has been a mostly linear design, with a few in-depth articles highlighted occasionally. And since I now only post worthwhile content, everything is highlighted (i.e. everything is a de-facto featured post).

We’ll take a closer look at the TV writing and TV business sides in more details (starting tomorrow), but in the meantime, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few forgotten gems from our earlier days.

Our very first featured post was, unsurprisingly, a crazy rant of mine on why I hate French “television”.
Although the French TV industry still has a lot of catching up to do, it’s refreshing to see the amount of progress from 2008. In fact, I’m writing this very post from Paris (not the one in Texas) so I’m getting to see a few recent French TV shows. Not the worst.
It’s also funny to see that a few French shows have even made waves in the US (namely Les revenants).
I also attended last October at the Writers Guild Theater the second edition of “Direct to Series”, a “showcase dedicated to French television series”. No, I didn’t bawl my eyes out.
Speaking of International fanfare, a few of my other earlier featured posts were about visa/green card issues. We’ll get back to those when I post about “Seven Years of My Life 101 (or Life of Alex)” on Saturday.

When it comes to story issues, I wrote back in 2008 about mythic structures and hero psychology.
The instigating post was mainly focused on The Dark Knight (I had just seen it), in relation to the concept of flawed (super)heroes.
The second one, still an off-shoot about hero psychology, was on Joseph Campbell’s books–and how others have tackled a variety of issues through the prism of screenwriting.

Vices, virtues and dilemmas should also not be forgotten in the world of screenwriting. Identifying the “moral premise” behind a story is essential to understanding why this particular story touches us, affects us. It is also what will ultimately give dimension and consistency to a great story. Few books deal with this in direct correlation with screenwriting. The Moral Premise by Stanley D Williams appears to be right on target by clearly and easily linking past and present stories, both in theory and practice.

On the other side of mythical stories and structures we have what is inside the character’s head, the character’s psychology. A lot of books have been written on the subject but few aimed at screenwriters. William Indick’s Psychology for Screenwriters seems to be one of the only books I have come across dealing exclusively with this. Comprehending the psyche of your characters can only benefit your writing and your story, especially in the television medium where characters are the medium.

Deep stuff.

As pointed out previously, the concept of “featured post” has been phased out, with most articles now relating to TV writing or the TV business. We did have occasional floaters to mark events.

In 2009, Lordy had a series of very interesting guest posts on unsung artists (at the time): Don Bluth and Craig Ferguson. Of course, Craig Ferguson has since become more well-known, but Lordy’s posts are still worth the read.

I talked about technology, with the iPhone, the iPad, and the future of eBook readers.
I had a one-off interview with CSI:NY’s Hill Harper. Because why not.
I ranted about the unsavory televised spectacle that was Michael Jackson’s funeral.

During the first year of TV Calling, I wrote 11 movie reviews (8 based off of the screenplay).
My most popular was The Cabin in the Woods, which finally came out in theaters over three years after my article.
Others include The Box, Watchmen, Star Trek (the reboot), Inglorious Basterds (Cannes 2009 version), Buried, Prisoners (four years before it came out), Orbit (still waiting on production), Unknown White Male (two years before release), MacGruber, and Paul.

Movie talk still continued after. In the days of Ed Norton’s Bruce Banner, I took a look at “The latest about Marvel and DC Movies” and I brought up “five under-the-radar movies you should watch.” (A few of those have since gained notoriety.)
Given Hollywood’s fascination with IP, I had a talk about “Hollywood’s Trivial Pursuit of Games” (get it?), and most recently how “You die a brand or live long enough to become an IP“.
I also wrote about the advent of 3D (and Avatar) in a big way with three dedicated posts on the issue.

And, for some reason, there were these two amazing posts about: the Weinstein Company being on the verge of bankruptcy while doing a movie adaptation of the 1970 Broadway musical Pippin (“Pippin my studio: The Weinstein way of dealing with problems“); and Taylor Lautner trying to be Stretch Armstrong (“Taylor Lautner: Badder, Bulkier, and Sparklier“).

Good times. I can’t wait for the TV writing advice.

Long story short, I hate plagiarism.

Yesterday, I came across this video, which is an episode of a web-series called Long Story Short.
It was posted a couple of weeks ago on reddit, under the title “This youtube series is really good. It has everything it takes to be popular except the popularity“.
I immediately recognized the concept and execution of the series from a similar identical French show on Canal+ named Bref.
Here’s a sample episode:

It was interesting seeing an American version of this very popular French series.
Except for the part where this American version was actually plagiarizing the very popular French series.

I’m already hearing the complaints about my plagiarism complaints:[list]

  • Didn’t Picasso say “great artists steal”? (spoiler alert: he wasn’t talking about plagiarism)
  • Are voice-overs copyrightable now?!
  • Isn’t every creation actually recreation?
  • Dude, chillax, we’re all made from the same star junk, right? Isn’t our life, like, really about copying each other? You know? Like if you think about it, we’re all just one big gooey mess. Right?


According to a comment they made, the “creators” were not ripping off Bref, but were actually “inspired” by a similar Israeli show/concept. This one.
The thing is, they forgot to mention the part about how the Israeli show is actually an official remake of Bref. And by official, I mean it has the complete blessing of the original creators, et al.

Long Story Short is more than the cover of a song. (Which, by the way, would still have to be credited to its original author.)
It is more than just “inspired by”.
If anything, the lack of acknowledgement towards Bref or its Israeli counterpart in an official capacity (i.e. in the show’s credits) is, well, completely disingenuous.
To quote a reddit comment on the subject:

I’m all for official adaptations of this format and style but the original creators did something really specific and special and to just steal it for an American knockoff without crediting (or getting the blessing of) the original filmmakers isn’t cool.

Now, I’m not saying you should pay royalties to Lost every time you use flashforwards, but there are times when “inspiration” is just a code-word for plagiarism.
This is one of them.
Because I’m not just talking about copying a format. Or just copying a voice-over. Or just copying pacing. Or just copying characters. Or just copying jokes.
I’m talking about copying all of the above. At once. Not just about copying the idea, but copying the execution and the content.
You know, pulling a LaBeouf.

Long Story Short is a blatant disrespect to both the original material and original creators it is stealing from.
It is plagiarism, pure and simple. And it needs to be known.

P.S.: If you’re curious about the original version of Bref, with English subtitles, check this channel out.