Miscellaneous and Useless Information

TV and radio

Once again, it’s pledge time on PBS, when they bring out all their special shows, including reunions of soul and doo-wop singers from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Which means that when I’m in my 60s, I’m looking forward to a pledge special of hip-hop and R&B. Picture it now: a PBS special featuring Ice T, Ludacris, Salt-N-Pepa, 50 Cent, Destiny’s Child (“for the first time in 30 years”), Snoop Dog, Missy Elliott, … After all, if the Smithsonian can exhibit hip-hop, surely PBS can.

I saw MythBusters on the Discovery Channel for the first time last Saturday and again tonight. It has instantly become one of my favorite TV shows. Tonight they fired handguns and rifles, including a 50-caliber, into a pool to see how deep underwater you would have to be to avoid getting hurt (at 30 degrees, only about 3 feet).

They also found that a person cannot go 360 degrees on a chain swing under his or her own power. But it is possible—if you strap a rocket to the person (or dummy, in this case) at 40 degrees.

Sweeeeeet. All in the name of science…

This is the first year I watching the last two weeks of the Tour every day. On the west coast it’s perfect timing: wake up at 7, watch the last hour of the stage on OLN, then get to work by my usual time. And I got totally sucked in — even when it was clear that Lance Armstrong would win his 7th, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen did a good job of keeping each individual stage interesting, and it gave them a chance to talk about riders besides Lance.

Diehard cycling fans foam at the mouth over OLN’s coverage (see the discussion boards at VeloNews). But I’m not diehard (otherwise I would have been waking up at 4:30), so I enjoyed it. So I’m set for next year’s tour, since the field will be wide open, and now I know the names of cyclists to look out for.

Steven Johnson argues that over the years, audiences have become much more sophisticated in their TV watching. Today, we have no problem watching shows like “The West Wing,” “E.R.,” and “The Sopranos,” which have multiple subplots weaved throughout several episodes, whereas in the past, most TV shows like “Bonanza” or “Dragnet” would consist of one main plot and maybe one subplot. That’s right: feel good about being addicted to “24!”

NBC is airing an American version of the British comedy The Office, a faux documentary about a seriously dysfunctional workplace. So far, TV critics are saying the NBC version is actually good! But this sentence from a BBC article really grabbed my attention:

In the 1970s, US remakes of well-loved British series Till Death Do Us Part, Steptoe and Son, and Man About the House all became huge hits with American audiences.

But what were the remakes? I found out, thanks to Google (and the BBC): All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Three’s Company. No kidding.

Lately my family has been watching a South Korean TV drama series called Dae Jang Geum, aka Jewel of the Palace. The main character is based on a real person, Seo Jang-Geum, who is the only female doctor for the king in Korea’s history. But so little is known about her real life that the producers made up most of the plot.

When it first aired, more than half of South Korea watched it, and now it’s sweeping across Asia like wildfire. Tourists from all over Asia are going to South Korea just to see Dae Jang Geum-related stuff. Now there’s a theme park based on Dae Jang Geum, which is the restored set where the series was taped. It’s somewhat like the lots at Universal Studios, but this park is based around one TV series. I can’t think of anything quite like it in the U.S.

This is more substantive than my previous KCBS posts (about the new jingle, etc.). KCBS started simultaneously streaming audio over the web today, along with 10 other Infinity radio stations. WCBS 880 started in December. I was pleasantly surprised, since Infinity (which is part of Viacom, the owner of CBS) has banned webcasts since late 1997, because there was no viable business model at the time; WCBS had to drop its RealAudio stream.

But a lot has changed in seven years. A lot more people are online, with higher-speed connections. Terrestrial radio stations now have more competition both from Internet radio and satellite radio. The radio stations can sell ads specifically for the webcast, boosting their revenue. Reception is less of an issue: webcasts allow WCBS and WINS to finally be heard within Manhattan skyscrapers.

Oh, and the head of Infinity who made the “no-streaming” policy is now the CEO of one of Infinity’s competitors, Sirius Radio.

I never thought I’d see this: CBS’ new series, NUMB3RS, is a drama where a math whiz helps his detective brother solve police crime cases. To make sure the math stays realistic, the head of Caltech’s math department, Gary Lorden, is consulting for the show. Also, the fictitious school in the show, “Cal Sci,” is based on Caltech, where part of the show is taped.

Caltech dons thinking cap for CBS • Pasadena Star News • January 10, 2005

Crime and Computation • Caltech News • Vol. 39, No. 1, 2005

I finally got a chance to watch the Iron Chef America specials that first aired on Food Network back in April. I really enjoyed it: it captures the atmosphere and the attitude of the original Japanese series. And it looks like a lot of people agree with me: it’s becoming a full series starting on January 16. Woohoo! There are a few things I would change though.

  • As good as Alton Brown is as a commentator, he needs someone to talk with, just like Mr. Fukui bantered with Dr. Hattori on the original.
  • They should never get another judge who is afraid of raw food.

By the way, the chairman of Iron Chef America is the real-life nephew of the original Chairman Kaga.

The new weather jingle lasted one day — sometime during the day yesterday, KCBS switched back to the old one, which its sister TV station KPIX 5 also uses for its weather. Overall, I like the new set of jingles — they sound more optimistic. But since I’m not yet used to them, I think I’m in another city when I hear them. I gotta find something else to blog about…

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