Tag Archives: TV

The last episode of the last disc of the last season of West Wing

Wow! What a journey!

A few years ago, Wifey and I were looking for a new TV series to watch.  I can’t remember what we had just finished, maybe Alias, BSG, another season of 24, or something. 

A friend at work suggested West Wing.  I thought, “What? That show about politics?”  Sounds boring, probably won’t have the suspense of a law drama, or mystery of a police crime series, and definitely not the thrill of an action drama.

So we borrowed the first season on DVD from him – which was in 80s type colours and in 4:3 format!  Yes, not even widescreen.

But we were hooked.  The fantastic writing, getting a peak behind the scenes at the Whitehouse, the genuine acting and interplay between characters, the uplifting speeches, the dizzying single steadycam shots down corridors and through rooms (I’m sure they were walking around in circles sometimes!)   Wifey and I followed the characters so closely that, yes, we formed that strange one way bond with them that TV and movie shows allow.

We did stop at the beginning of Season 5 for a while – I’m not sure what, but the overall storyline stalled and it wasn’t engaging – was it Aaron Sorkin leaving as executive producer?  But other friends said we should persist, and it actually did get better.  I think the whole Santos campaign storyline is so overarching with that question of whether they’ll win or not at the end, that it hooked Wifey and me in until the end.

And last night, we just finished watching the second last episode of all.  7 Series X 22 episodes a series X ~40 minutes is nearly 102 HOURS OF TV!   This leaves the last episode of the last disc of the last season to watch tonight.    I sense a massive TV void about to appear. 

Wifey has already suggested we start all the way back at Season 1 and watch the whole thing again!!!  If so, maybe I should get the Complete Series Collection on DVD (http://www.amazon.com/West-Wing-Complete-Collection/dp/B000HC2LI0)!  For me, I’m thinking of starting Breaking Bad.
The West Wing Unofficial Guide – http://westwing.bewarne.com/

The West Wing Episode Guide – http://www.westwingepguide.com/

List of West Wing Episodes on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_West_Wing_episodes

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The TV and movies that your kids watch

What TV and movies do you bring your kids up on?

When I was a little kid (primary school age), I remember my family TV diet involved a lot of family shows like The Cosby Show and Family Ties.  I also recall sneaking in a bit of Dr Who and The Goodies on ABC after school.  I can’t remember exactly what type of videos/movies we used to watch regularly, but I do remember watching Annie, Star Wars or Dark Crystal on VHS everytime I was sick at home!

But with our own kids (now 7 and 9), our family TV diet includes mostly performing art reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Australian Idol. As for movies, the kids have been raised mostly on musicals and dancing shows.  The collection is expansive now, but early ones included The Wizard of Oz, Burn The Floor, Mary Poppins and Centre Stage, and current ones that have a lot of “airplay” include Cats, Dreamgirls and Hairspray.  I’m sure Mamma Mia would get regular rotation if/when we get it on DVD.

I wonder whether this has any long term effect.  I’m sure watching a whole stack of performance reality shows would mould the brain and subconcious in a different way to watching a whole lot of comedy and family relationship shows.  Hmmm… I guess we won’t know until a decade or two.

To Tivo or not to Tivo?

Tivo Logo

Some exciting news today – it is the official release date for the Tivo in Australia.

So what does that mean?  Aren’t there boxes out there that record TV already?

Yes there are.  But the thing about Tivo is not what it does (record TV), but the way it lets you do it.  It’s a paradigm shift.

The old VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders) and most of the PVRs (Personal Video Recorders – really a DVR) – out there now are basically dumb.  You, the viewer, need to know what show is coming up, what time it is, what channel it is on.  Then you can program the VCR/PVR to record that channel at the right time.

Sure, some are a bit smarter – they may show you a little of the TV guide, but in Australia, the TV networks don’t make proper use of the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) capabilities of DTV.  Some may allow you to configure a periodic recording – for example, record the same show every day at the same time, or each week.

These are not the same as a smart recorder – for example, a HTPC (Home Theatre PC), MythTV or Tivo type solution.  These recorders are different in the following ways:

* You select what to record by browsing the TV guide and choosing the program – no need to program the time or channel
* It allows you to record shows based on keywords – for example, record any program that stars Harrison Ford or has the word “Dance” in its title or description

These type of recorders are an example of technology assisting you rather than controlling you.

Three years ago, I started my attempt to get/build a smart recorder.   I evaluated importing a Tivo from the US and modifying it for Australia.  However, it seems that the US had moved on version 2 boxes.   I decided to resurrect my Linux project by using an old PC, installing Ubuntu (a Linux OS) and putting MythTV on it.  I bought a cheap DVICO Dual HDTV Tuner card.  For me, it took me HOURS to sort through Linux installation problems with my wireless card, video card and TV tuner.  Then setting up the EPG to read from a “free” EPG server in Australia.

But when it worked, it was magic – the entire TV guide was shown and colour coded by genre.  I could just click on a show and decide to record once, record each week, record anytime that show comes on, etc.  I had Formula 1 races, all the rally shows, episodes of Bob the Builder for the kids, ABC’s Compass every Sunday, Australian Idol, any program with the word “dance” as a keyword in it taping automatically.  In fact, it recorded too much TV for me to watch!  Unfortunately, my PC died (motherboard capacitors popped) and I couldn’t be bothered to start again.  Especially since it took hours to get it going.

What the Tivo does is bring that type of interface and usability to the mass market.  No Operating Software or hardware to install or tinker with.

Any downsides?

* If you’ve set up a MythTV box, then you probably don’t want to go to Tivo.  And you already know why.  For others – MythTV, being a custom application solution developed by a worldwide community has lots of extra functionality like automatic ad detection and removal, automatic recompression into other formats, remote controllable via a web browser (eg. tell MythTV to record a show from work), server/client architecture, plugins for web, DVDs, music, games (eg. MAME), etc.   I believe there are even plugins to get the closed captions and search on that.

* It won’t automatically detect and skip ads (see above).

* If you have a wireless network, then you have to fork out extra for the wireless card.  Of course, if you’re building your own HTPC, then you’ll have to buy all the hardware anyway.

* From the information I’ve read, the Tivo is fixed to using channel 7’s EPG.  The good news is that it’s legit.  However, I’m wondering if it will have as much information on each show as some of the community run EPG’s out there or ICE.

* May need to pay for upgrades to the firmware.  I hope not – but it’s a possibility.

So will I be rushing out to buy a Tivo today?  Hmmm…  I do know that I now have less free time than I used to, so I don’t really have the time to set up a MythTV box again.

But I’ll have to consult our household financial manager first 🙂

For more information, read:
Tivo home page – http://www.tivo.com.au
The Australian Tivo FAQ – http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/115698,the-australian-tivo-faq–what-it-does-will-it-skip-ads-when-it-launches-will-it-work-with-foxtel.aspx

Alternatives that I am also considering:
PlayTV on the PS3 – http://playstation.about.com/od/hardwareandaccessories/a/PlayTVPS3.htm
DViCO TVIX 5130 – http://www.cnet.com.au/dvdpvr/pvr/0,239035858,339283113,00.htm
Beyonwiz DP-S1 – http://www.cnet.com.au/dvdpvr/pvr/0,239035858,339279087,00.htm
Topfield TF7000HDPVRt – http://www.cnet.com.au/dvdpvr/pvr/0,239035858,339272283,00.htm

HTPC software alternatives I am also considering:
MythTV – http://www.mythtv.org/
Mythbuntu – http://www.mythbuntu.org/
MediaPortal – http://www.team-mediaportal.com/

Other resources:
Vista & XP Media Center Support Community – http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au/
The Green Button – http://thegreenbutton.com/default.aspx
Comparison of PVR software packages – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_PVR_software_packages

Kung Fu movies this week on SBS!

A little birdy told me about something on TV this week – keep your eyes glued on SBS every night this week as they are having a load of kungfu/fighting/Asian movies!   Must be to replace the Tour de France – I wonder if they think there is some strong intersection between cycling enthusiasts and kungfu movie lovers?

Monday 28th – The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Tuesday 29th – Beautiful Boxer

Wednesday 30th – The Smashing Machine

Thursday 31st – The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter

Friday 1st – Kung Fu Hustle

Saturday 2nd – New Police Story

I haven’t seen The 36th Chamber of Shaolin yet, but have been wanting to get the DVD for ages.  Many people regard it as one of the best kungfu movies of all time!  Better make sure there is enough space left on the PVR.