Tag Archives: TELEVISION

TV Watch: Yellowstone

 

What is known today as the Paramount Network has a long and winding history in cable television.

Founded way back in 1983, it was known originally as “The Nashville Network“, with programming geared around a country music theme through 2000. Over the next few years, the network changed names a number of times in an attempt to lure a younger audience.

In 2003, the network changed its name to “Spike TV“, moving away from the country genre and instead gearing its programming directly to a male audience. It eventually settled in as just plain, old “Spike” from 2006-18, with another change in 2010 emphasizing reality programming.

On January 18, 2018 the network re-launched as “Paramount Network“, moving its headquarters to the Paramount Pictures studio lot in Hollywood. The parent company, Viacom, is hoping to position it as a direct competitor to networks such as FX and AMC by highlighting original programming.

Much as AMC did with “Mad Men” in 2007 and “Breaking Bad” the following year, Paramount is hoping that its first original drama will catch the attention of viewers. That drama is “Yellowstone“, and as with those now classic AMC offerings, it absolutely hits the mark.

Yellowstone” initially drew me in with the star power of two-time Oscar winning motion picture legend Kevin Costner as the lead actor.

Now 64-years-old, Costner plays John Dutton, owner of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, a cattle ranch which is billed as “the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.” Dutton is also patriarch of a clan that includes his three children and a grandson.

Kayce Dutton is played by Luke Grimes. A former U.S. Navy Seal who lives on a neighboring Indian reservation as the series opens with his Native American wife, Monica, and their young son, Tate. Many will remember Grimes from his roles in the film “Sniper“, as well as the “Fifty Shades” film series and ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” series.

Wes Bentley portrays the other son, Jamie Dutton. He is a lawyer and politician who finds himself alternately loyal to and at odds with his family. Bentley is a familiar face who has starred in a number of high-profile roles, including in the “American Horror Story” series on AMC, as well as in films such as “American Beauty“, “Interstellar“, and “The Hunger Games.

Jamie is most frequently at odds with his sister, John’s lone daughter, Beth Dutton, played in an often scene-stealing role by Kelly Reilly. A veteran and acclaimed English actress, Reilly may be best known to American audiences for her role as Vince Vaughn’s wife in the second season of “True Detective” on HBO.

The fiery redhead is the financier of the brood and the most fiercely loyal to her father. However, she also flaunts her sexuality, and has a substance abuse issue which frequently overpowers her common sense.

Cole Hauser has a pivotal role as Rip Wheeler. A true cowboy in every sense, Rip is the longtime head of the Yellowstone ranch hands and a sometimes lover of Beth. He is the single most loyal person at the entire operation to John, the quintessential go-to guy who will literally do anything for his boss, and who is almost considered a fourth sibling.

The drams centers around the interactions of the main characters with one another, as well as their wider interpersonal and professional relationships. However, there is also much happening with the show’s other leading character as well – that being the ranch itself.

Set among the vast natural beauty of Montana and Utah, the Yellowstone Ranch is the center of a number of conflicts involving the neighboring ‘Broken Rock’ tribal Indian reservation, land developers looking to build homes and casinos, and the government looking to preserve and police the Yellowstone National Park.

David Hale, who portrayed a squeaky-clean deputy sheriff in the series “Sons of Anarchy” on FX, created this new series and directed all of the episodes in the first season, which premiered in June 2018. Season two then debuted almost exactly a year later.

The series has been renewed now for a third season, likely coming in early summer of 2020, and the already fantastic cast will be getting some new star power as well.

Josh Holloway, known to most for his award-winning role as James “Sawyer” Ford on the ABC drama “Lost” comes on board as an ambitious hedge fund manager.

Also joining the cast will be three-time Emmy Award-winning actress Jennifer Landon, daughter of famed star Michael Landon. She will portray a new female wrangler at the ranch.

In a wide-ranging interview with Mike Fleming Jr for Deadline back in May 2019, Costner commented on his role with “Yellowstone” moving forward:

“Yellowstone moves fast, and sometimes I am not privy to where it’s all going. It keeps with the promise you make, to create images and words that you never, ever forget. That’s what happens when movies are at their best.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT-PGjlNM-c

This is cinematic caliber television at its very best. Gorgeous landscapes framed beautifully serve as the backdrop for top-caliber acting at nearly every turn, and a major star as the series lead.

“Yellowstone” is television as it should be, and I highly recommend it for anyone who has not yet enjoyed the first two seasons and 19 episodes. You can stream them here at the Paramount Network website for free by logging in through your cable provider.

 

 

 

 

 

Are your kids – or even you – becoming a screen addict?

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Are you, or is someone you care about, an addict?

 
I’m not talking here about an addiction to some substance. Illicit drugs, prescription pain killers, alcohol.
 
I’m talking about something that many people in 21st century America, certainly among the younger generations, take part in as a daily activity – video gaming.
 
Jacob Passey with the New York Post has reported that at some point later this year the World Health Organization will come out with their 11th update to the International Classification of Diseases.
 
The ICD is a well-respected and referenced guidebook which describes a variety of diseases. It further notes causes, symptoms, and ramifications.
 
The Post reports that an early draft includes “Gaming Disorder”, essentially an addiction to video gaming. The disorder includes a behavior pattern which “is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
 
In a look into the possibility of gaming addictions back in 2016, CNN interviewed Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile. He stated: The first study I began in 1999, to basically try to show video game addiction isn’t a real thing, and it turns out I was wrong!
 
Gentile went on to further describe the results of his research as follows:
Even though different researchers across the world may define the problem somewhat differently, or ask different questions in different countries with differently aged kids, we find almost the same results across the world. The estimates perhaps vary somewhat, but they all seem to come out somewhere between about 4 and 10 percent: that’s the amount of gamers I would classify as addicted.
 
The Post column stated that the American Psychiatric Association had considered the disorder for DSM-5, which was released five years ago. 
 
However, that latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders did not include anything in regards to an Internet or gaming disorder, stating that more research was needed before formal inclusion.
 
It’s not just kids who are developing potentially harmful habits where the modern information, communication, and entertainment tech is concerned. A piece for MarketWatch by Quentin Fottrell in December 2016 stated that “parents with tweens and teens (children aged eight to 18 years) spend over nine hours with screen media each day.
 
That may sound like a lot of hours. Surely you don’t spend that amount of time in front of a screen? But consider your usage. 

Many spend time at work in front of a computer screen. Then add in time spent watching television. Factor in social networking on a laptop, home PC, and your phone. And there are parents also involved in video gaming. It all adds up.
 
Parents need to be concerned about the amount of time that their children spend watching television, on their phones with social media and other activities, and engaged with Internet gaming. Get them involved in activities outside the home, where they actually must learn to interact in person with peers and adults.

Of course, being a good example yourself goes a long way towards getting kids to buy in to your parenting. Make sure that you are spending time with other adults outside the home. And perhaps more importantly, that you are spending time with your family in both indoor and outdoor non-screen activities.
 
I’m not trying to tell anyone to unplug and give up gaming, or social media, or watching television. It was the ancient Roman playwright known as Terence who first wrote “moderation in all things.” Some 2,000 years later, that saying applies well once again to the amount of time we spend in front of a screen.

Day Baseball Vital to Game’s Popularity

The picture to the left comes from the 1984 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. It shows Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell taking a lead, with Padres 1st baseman Steve Garvey holding him close.

In Game #4 of that World Series, Trammell, a borderline Hall of Famer whose case will continue to correctly be argued moving forward, hit a pair of homeruns to lead the Tigers to a 4-2 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series that they would win a day later. Well, actually they would win it a night later. And that would be end end of World Series day baseball.

That Game #4 in which Trammell homered twice had a starting time of 1:30pm EDT. It would be the last World Series game played completely in natural daylight. The following day’s Game #5 had a start time of 4:30pm EDT, but by the time the Tigers were celebrating their victory it would be dark. That would be the last World Series game played in natural daylight at all.

I say “in natural daylight” because Game #6 of the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and Saint Louis Cardinals was played during daytime, but the game was indoors at the Metrodome, and thus was not the beneficiary of a natural daylight atmosphere. Still, at least that game was played at a time when most kids could stay up and watch the entirety.

So it has been 30 years since baseball fans have enjoyed the beauty of the game in a championship setting played when it was most meant to be played, in daylight on a beautiful afternoon under a sun-soaked sky. It has been almost those same 30 since most kids have been able to stay up and watch on TV as a World Series victory celebration takes place.

These days, thanks to more playoff rounds, the World Series is generally played during the last week of October. The average daytime high temperature for that week in Detroit and Boston is in the upper-50’s, in Saint Louis it is the low-60’s, even in climate-friendly Los Angeles the average daytime high is around 70 degrees.

However, the night temperatures at the normal game time for each of those location is about 20 degrees cooler. As anyone who has ever played the game, or sat outside to watch a game, can attest, baseball was most certainly not meant to be ideally played in temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s. But because of television network contracts, that is what we usually get – the championship of our national pastime decided in conditions not normally seen all during the rest of the playing season.

Not only is the quality of the experience diminished for the fans in attendance, and the game itself often made more of a challenge for the players in these conditions, but that aspect of growing the game by allowing young fans to experience the thrill of watching a full World Series game has been lost to at least a couple of generations. Who let’s their 10-year old stay up until midnight to watch the World Series, unless perhaps it’s their hometown team playing?

There is nothing like the experience of sitting outside on a nice, sunny afternoon watching baseball. That experience would certainly be better on a Saturday afternoon in Detroit or Boston or Philadelphia than it would on a Saturday night during the last week of October. It is time for baseball to recognize this vital aspect of their game, and build it into the next television contract, if not amend the current deal.

There should always be at least one World Series game played during full daylight hours. A 2:30pm EDT start time for all World Series games played on Saturday should be the norm, built into those TV deals. There should also be an effort by MLB to ensure that during the regular season, there are at least a handful of weekday games played during daylight hours, ideally with at least one such game every single day.

Day baseball is when many young fans get introduced to the game. There are also many MLB fans who have shift work, and who cannot watch and follow games during night hours. Opening up more opportunities for these fans, even on a limited basis, should be a priority for the folks running the game.

There are billions of dollars involved in these television contracts these days. Having a few dozen of the involved games played during daylight hours by contract would certainly not affect those big deals in any truly measurable way. Meanwhile, the accompanying good will and outreach would be appreciated by many fans currently restricted.

Baseball was meant to be played during the daylight hours, under cloudless skies with the sun shining brightly, on a green grass. The realities of television, and fans ability to follow the majority of the season after work hours during evening and nights is the new reality. That is understandable. But MLB should always be looking for opportunities to embrace more that ideal of the day baseball experience for it’s fans.

Rabbit Ears Have Digital Life

The full digital television revolution officially began a week ago on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Biloxi, Mississippi and Charlotte, North Carolina and Eugene, Oregon and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

On that date in these and many other American cities, the transition began from analog to digital television. It begins a revolution that will have spread to every American household with TV reception by no later than June 12th, 2009.

Ever since television sets became commercially available in the late 1930’s the signals transmitted to our homes and businesses have come to us in ‘analog’ form.

Technicality aside, the idea is that a number of images are drawn across the screen of your monitor in rapid succession. You were basically receiving a high-speed version of a flip-picture book, where each page of the book contained a slightly different image from the one on the previous page.

Your TV monitor would flip through the images to create the illusion of movement. Because of this process there were occasional image ‘skips’ and other distortions.

Then digital television began to be developed, and in 1996 the U.S. Congress ordered all broadcast networks to begin preparations to switch their broadcasts over to digital.

The digital signal has a couple of major benefits. First from a consumer standpoint, the quality of the pictures and sound that we receive is greater with digital broadcasting. There will be none of the ‘ghosts’ and ‘snow’ that we now receive from time to time.

Secondly from an industry standpoint, the former analog air space will now be freed up to be used by emergency responders and by advanced wireless services such as broadband.

The bottom line for those of us watching news and entertainment at home and work is that our picture quality will be greater in resolution, clarity, and color and our sound will be better with features such as Dolby surround sound.

Digital will also allow for the added quality of services such as HDTV, multi-casting, wide screen formatting and data streaming, depending on our particular home setup.

At home, you will still be able to use your ‘rabbit ears’, and you do not have to switch to cable television.

As of March 1st, 2007, the government required all TV’s being manufactured from that point on to include digital tuners. Manufacturers were allowed to continue to sell analog-tuning TV’s from their inventory, but had to do so with a disclaimer that told customers of the upcoming switch to digital.

For those folks who own digital-ready television sets and receive their signal via cable television or other pay services, there should be no changes that you need to make.

If you have an analog television, whether using those rabbit ears or an outside roof antenna or some combination, you will have to purchase a digital converter box in order to receive programming once your locality makes the switch.

It has been estimated that approximately 14% of American households continue to receive their TV signals exclusively ‘over the air’ for free rather than through these pay services.

The government has provided that each household with analog televisions be allotted two $40 coupons towards the purchase of these converter boxes, which are estimated to cost between $40-70 dollars per box.

By the summer time every house in America with a television will be receiving better picture and sound, and air space will have been freed up for vital services and even more technological advancements.

TV Watch: Mad Men

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The Showtime and HBO networks have become masters over this decade in developing and producing great television series, the best that TV has to offer.

HBO has led the way with the granddaddy of them all, “The Sopranos”, and they have also given us “Entourage”, “Sex & the City”, “The Wire”, “Big Love”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Rome”, “Deadwood”, “Carnivale” and more.

Showtime has given us programs like “Dexter”, “Brotherhood”, “The Tudors”, “Sleeper Cell”, “Weeds”, “Californication”, and “The L Word” among others. AMC has now gotten into the action, and their new drama “Mad Men” takes a back seat to none of the HBO/Showtime offerings.

The first season is set in 1960, and follows the lives of the office staff at the mid-level ‘Sterling Cooper’ Madison Avenue advertising agency. Jon Hamm stars as Donald Draper, an emerging superstar in the ad industry and the firm’s star employee.

The plot line largely revolves around Draper in his work and home lives, with January Jones as his wife Betty. Hamm and Jones do an outstanding job portraying a married couple with children at a crossroads in their own lives and in American history.

They are not the only memorable characters. Vincent Kartheiser as young budding ad man Pete Campbell, Peggy Olson as Draper’s newbie secretary Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery as firm partner Roger Sterling, and the spectacular Christina Hendricks (scene-stealing every time she appears) as office manager Joan Holloway all shine. They lead a tremendously deep supporting cast of office staff and family members that make Mad Men one of the best ensemble series to come along in years.

The actors aren’t the only excellent work being done on this show. The production staff does an outstanding job of recreating the world of America at the time just before Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’, before Vietnam became a dirty word, before anyone knew what a hippie was. It was a time when smoking and cocktails were in vogue, and when there was no such thing as political correctness.

This show is available on your OnDemand cable TV feature service, currently showing the full season one. Season 2 is scheduled to begin airing live in late July 2008.

As with most series, it takes watching 2-3 episodes before you really get hooked, but this AMC feature will absolutely pay off for you, as “Mad Men” is one of the finest television programs to come along in years.

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