Monday, April 20, 2009

Two Minutes, Seventeen Seconds

2009-2010 Pilot Round-Up, Part 1

ABC has a lot of fine prospects for the 2009-2010 season, but one of the most exciting is a pilot called Flash Forward, based on the Robert J. Sawyer novel of the same name. (I don't love that title, but that's neither here nor there.)

The story begins with a worldwide event: the population of the world blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds, during which everyone experiences a vision of his or her future. FBI agent Mark Benford, horrified by what he sees, assembles a team to figure out what the event means and how to prevent the future it projected. The team assembles a vast mosaic of visions as they ask people the same question: "What did you see?"

It's an ambitious premise that could set off a tangled, enigmatic plot in the vein of Lost. And I'm all for shows with serialized storylines, as I consider them to be more worthwhile and rewarding than many procedurals. (There are a lot of cop/lawyer/doctor shows on the slate for next season.) Indeed, this show seems like one that will take some mightily attentive viewing but could also be fiendishly addictive—assuming it remains on the air long enough.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An Elegy for the Remote-Free


One of my favorite practices this season was Fox's "remote-free TV" model, in which the networks aired fewer commercials during each episode of Fringe and Dollhousewhile charging advertisers more for the exclusivityin an effort to keep viewers watching live, instead of recording the shows and fast-forwarding through the commercials. I liked it because, as a result, each episode's running time was 49 or 50 minutes, instead of just 42 or 43 minutes.

Unfortunately, the experiment had its share of setbacks, according to this article at Airlock Alpha. Even though viewers paid more attention to the ads, many companies were reluctant to shell out the extra bucks. Also, each episode was more expensive to produceand the extra minutes of each episode would be cut if the show was ever to air on another network.

I have to confess that I did nothing to help save the venture. I rarely watching anything live, unless it's some sort of viewing get-together with friends. The reduced number of ads simply meant less time through which to fast-forward.

However, I propose remote-free TV could work (and should be implemented) for shows like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol for a number of reasons: a) advertisers would gladly pay more since DWTS and Idol are huge ratings successes, b) it would reduce the running time of the show, especially if the producers trimmed some of the padding to fit those shows into an hour-long time slot, and, assuming that happened, c) other shows could be added to the lineup to fill those now-vacant time slots.

Networks, please have faith in remote-free TVif not for me and my selfish desires, then for the sake of packing more into your primetime hours.