Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Destroy all critics! And enjoy your time at, my source.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Try to imagine the top of my head, as though you could see it. Thanks to Box Office Mojo .com!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Warning: More Posts About Cable Coming

I just got off the phone with someone in the Retention Department at Time Warner. They wanted to know why I canceled my cable service. As you read, I came to the conclusion that even $10 bucks a month was more than I thought TV was worth to me. So I told the nice Retention lady that I had no complaint with the service but I just didn't have any use for it.

After 45 minutes we agreed that I'm going to try again tomorrow, only with 200+ channels, and double the internet speed (200 Mbps) all for only $10 a month more. Basically the same $10 they got out of me when I tried it last week. Oh and I'll also be able to call Norway at local rates.

I will, of course, keep you updated on my experiences, because writing about television is way more interesting that watching it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Congratulations to anthropomorphism! And thanks to Box Office

All This And High School Volleyball Too

So, after five days wasted not watching my newly installed cable (or as I like to look at it, around $2.50) I finally had time to get her on the road, open her up, and take a spin. I switched to HDMI3, turned on the little black box and started channel surfing.

First impression: Look, it's Channel 2! OHMYGOD why is it so blocky? Let's try Channel 4. Same thing. I'm used to the raw HD feeds and cable is too, because that's what it uses as its first step before it compresses the signal to send it to you, the viewer. You might not notice if you get all your TV through cable, but it's really obvious when you compare. I kept changing all the way through the channels and eventually I found that there is another set of the same local channels starting the the 1200s, which looks better. Maybe down sampled from 1080p to 720p?  Who knows? The 1200s are in a slightly different order than they would be on the "dial" and for that matter, a different order than at the lower numbered versions. Why? WHY? Why.

Of course this is kind of a moot point because as far as I'm concerned, most high-def TV doesn't interest me. My viewing habits have developed into a kind of mid-century broadcast museum, and given the choice between an episode of Gotham and an Adam West BATMAN marathon I'll hit the marathon every time. And more likely I'll screw 'me both and look for public domain monster movies at Thus my next explorations involved finding this fun little subcarriers, all the stations that fill their programming days with 60's-70's sitcoms and adventure shows, like MeTV and COZI and The Works. The TWC package that I subscribed to, though, doesn't carry most of those.

On the plus side, there are a few things it offers that I can't get normally. 20 local radio stations, for example. Local sports is another. Hyper-local. Okay, it's actually high school girl's Volleyball. Probably interesting to people with high school girls - actually just THOSE high school girls.

I kinda also got fed up with having to deal with another remote. And that's why I looked into the box I already have, my Roku, to see if TWC has an app. It does! There's also one for the iPad. Unfortunately, the Roku app isn't licensed to play the radio stations, and there's no way to punch in a channel number, so you have to scroll through EVERYTHING to get to the channel you want.

As for the iPad app, it's better than the Roku in the sense that you can just jab your finger at a programming grid and there's your show. This seemed promising but I discovered that once you're out of the house, only two channels will display and they're both Home shopping channels. If my apartment wasn't a studio where you can see the TV from bed and the kitchen, I might have more uses for the iPad app.

But it IS a studio, Blanche. It is.

I'm a little long cutting to the chase here but you see what's coming - I determined that basic cable offered less channels and more complexity, all for only $14 more a month if you're smart and $24 if you're not. So this week I unhooked the whole magillah and returned it to TWC, and I'm happy to report that they accepted it and canceled my service with very little trouble.

Obviously the lowest tier of cable service is worthless but even once you start climbing and getting the 200 or 300 channel packages with the DVR it's a LOT more money than it's worth. If you pro-rate how much you're paying to watch each show, you'll surely opt for something else, or take up reading instead.

The internet has disrupted a lot of business models and Cable Television is certainly one of those. First broadcasting was eroded by cable, and now the internet is chewing away at them both. I don't know if it was ever EASY to make money in the TV business, but look for it to get a lot harder in the future. And look for both of these traditional models to shrink to quaint ghosts of their former selves.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Joan Crawford With Tom Bosley's Eyes

See previous entry for my negotiating adventure. Remember, you'll only get what you want in a deal if you're willing to walk away, and you're willing to take a REAL LONG TIME doing it.

So the next day I swung by the local TWC store to pick up my digital converter. Of course I was planning to install it myself. In fact, that was one of the chief reasons I signed up. I love getting new gadgets and installing them. If I'd only invest in a Lego set, my life might be a whole lost less complicated. It was pretty much what I expected - a box about the size of a Roku box (much like the one I already have!), a power supply, several cables and a little instruction booklet.

It was pleasantly complicated. I unhooked my modem, put the cable feed into a splitter, then ran one cable to the box and the other to the modem again, then ran an HDMI cable into the remaining HDMI port on my TV, which is pretty close to my computer. God only knows how I would have managed otherwise. Then, since I was squeezing this into my lunch hour, I ran back to work.

This is a fun detail about this whole story - I was crazy to attempt this last week. It was what they call Tech Week for The Importance of Being Earnest, which meant that I only had an hour a night between the end of work and the start of rehearsals. So when I got back I remotely activated the cable box online, blind, hoping there weren't error messages. After work I got home and while I was microwaving dinner I turned on the TV, and the box, and changed channels a few times. It worked! I had cable!

And then I got the hell outta there and didn't look at it again until Saturday, the first free time I had.

It's this crazy schedule that prompted me to come up with the stupid title up there. If you don't get it, look up the Night Gallery TV movie, the segment directed by Steven Spielberg. Not his best work but WAY better than you'd have done under the circumstances.

So, finally, basic cable. Is it worth it? Eh, I'll tell you next time.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Splicing the Cord

You know something, I ain't had cable in 8 years. I'm not consuming nearly enough TV to justify the price of a typical cable package. I loathe reality shows (even though I've been on a few of them!) and I'm happy to wait to stream a good dramatic series on Netflix a year after the buzz. I'm one of the original cord-cutters.

However, since I rely on Time Warner for my internet and telephone service, sometimes I look at my user profile and think something's missing. So with that feeling in mind, last week I made the impulsive leap and signed up for the most basic of basic cable.

For a little background, I live in Los Angeles and have a mighty decent TV. Thanks to digital multiplexing I get a ton of off the air channels, most of them in languages I don't understand or for religious organizations that I am skeptical of. However I know that Time Warner makes apps that will allow you to watch TV on your iPad with an account, and most of the networks have similar arrangements that allow you to watch as long as you have an active cable provider account.

So a week ago Monday I opened up a text box at work with TWC to explore their options. They offer a rock-bottom "local channel" package for just $10 (PROMOTIONAL ONLY FOR THE FIRST YEAR) and I figure let's look into that. The text box has the advantage that you can walk away from the conversation and not miss anything. This was useful because ultimately I was with them for about 1 1/2 hours.

My first concern was what they call the Digital Converter box. I took that name to mean that it takes HD and letterboxes it for your square granny TV but after a two transfers to different sales people and half-hour of texts it became clear it handled HD just fine.  I decided to go for it. Sign me up! I wrote. The text came back all right, your service will be $24.95 a month.

Wait, the deal is $10 a month I said. It's in big blue headline letters on your site.

Well, there's a monthly $3.75 licensing fee for the channels, they replied, and the box rental is $11.00 a month.

Oh, thanks anyway, I wrote.

Hold on, they said, and transferred me to someone else. I received a few invoices (or whatever I do for a living) and a new salesperson, with the unlikely name of "Betty" came on. And we started from scratch. I went along with it because it was kinda entertaining. I ultimately demurred and I was transferred again. And again. And again. And I kept writing no, I know it's not much but I just can't justify paying it; especially since I'd be paying more per month than the whole box had cost them, and finally they transferred me to "Jim". Jim said we'll give you the box for free if you'll pay for the service and licensing fee.