Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall Television

Yesterday I was discussing the state of television with some good friends and how shows like Dexter and Mad Men, which I mentioned in the previous post "Another Credit Where Credit is Due" are the only thing that is really unmissable on TV.

That said, it's an interesting moment to be a TV fan. The recent writers' strike put everything on hold last season, forcing writers to work feverishly through the summer to get new scripts ready after the strike ended. I'm holding out hope that the strike and being away from their craft for so long forced some extra creativity and ideas. Shows that I used to enjoy, Grey's Anatomy, House, 24, etc., had all been lame in recent seasons. You could taste the stale crumble when biting into an episode of Grey's last year. That fresh, crisp taste that had started the show off had all but gone. Forced storylines, drama for drama's sake, instead of for the plot and character's sakes, engulfed the show's once proud doctors. Blah.

House was OK, but the formula was definitely getting old. Don't even get me started on 24.

So it's with great anticipation that I watch the new season premieres this fall. Here's to hoping that the depth of characters and storylines that you find in shows like Mad Men bleed over into the shows that used to entertain all emotions and be unmissable -- instead of the boring blahs of that make us say, "Well...there's nothing else on..."

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Credit Where Credit is Due

Somehow I left my new favorite show, Mad Men, off of the previous post, "Credits Where Credit is Due".

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Simple drawings of a man falling amid period advertisements shows the tension of the time and the industry portrayed within the show's plots. This introduction to the show is very reminiscent of Hitchcock's film openings, and indeed was inspired by the Vertigo Poster and the work of Saul Bass, one of my favorite artists.

Saul Bass put simple, artistic drawing into his work on movie posters and in so doing, captured the essence of the film with a perfect and graceful style. Check out to see some of his other work.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sleepy's Ad Makes Me Want to Weepy

So I just saw a TV commercial for Sleepy's, the mattress store. Now, I've always been a fan of Sleepy's. Their moderately clever slogan of "Trust Sleepy's for the Rest of Your Life" reminds us that there's always something lame you can say to make people say "Wait a minute...!" and feel smart.

But now they've gone too far. This commercial, full of RIDICULOUSLY happy people that are bouncing around on mattresses, is beyond absurdity. It says:

"There's nothing like the thrill of getting the perfect mattress for the perfect price!"

Seriously? NOTHING like the thrill of getting a new mattress at a deal? What the hell kind of people came up with this line? And what do they think of their audience? Presumably that they've been walled up inside a basement, chained to the wall watching TV for the last 20 years and have nothing better do be excited about. (For those of you who loved the Goonies as much as I did growing up, you'll appreciate that Sloth reference.)

Here's an idea -- don't treat your audience like they're fools and perhaps they'll return the favor and buy your product.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008


So I just saw a commercial for the BK Chick'n Crisp.

For now I'll ignore the fact that I deplore a corporation trying to look "hip" to its young audience by using incorrect grammar and word formation. Let's focus on the fact that it's actually made of chicken, and yet they call it "chick'n". Doesn't that seem like the type of thing that a company does to get around the government telling them they can't call their item by its name in nature? A somewhat similar example would be how they can't call baked potatoes "chips" because they're not fried, so they have to call them the relative yet less appetizing "crisps".

Perhaps it's the fact that I'm almost 30. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm settling into a career and getting married in less than a week. But "chick'n"? Seriously? It invokes the image of fake chicken grown on a tree in a huge warehouse owned by Burger King Corporation.

Or is that just me?

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Credits Where Credit is Due

Some of the most intriguing and evocative motion work of the last couple of decades has been done for the opening credits of movies and television shows. Designers like Kyle Cooper (formally of Imaginary Forces and now of Prologue) and the fine people at Digital Kitchen have produced some of my favorite opening credits in movies like "Se7en" and shows like "Six Feet Under". And of course who could forget Richard and Bob Greenberg's (R/GA) work on the opening credits for "Superman the Movie"? I couldn't. Of course I still wear Superman pjs and force a spit curl in the front of my forehead.

CBS' "Criminal Minds" has my favorite current opening credits (check them out on YouTube). There's nothing enormously original about the animation, but it's visually satisfying with its easing and rhythmic sliding. The red bar from the logo runs throughout the entire animation, pulling it all together. I think what I really like about it is the different segments of each screen each having their own agenda -- one piece has video of a crime scene, another of an actor, another of a case file -- and they're all moving independently of each other but in the same rhythm. They're uniform while at the same time acting independently. (Insert your own apropos metaphor here)


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Trash Can

Recently I took an inside look at the trash can because the pedal that pushed the lid open was no longer working. Being the perfect boyfriend that I am, I dropped everything I was doing and looked at it approximately 24 to 36 hours later.

Here's a pic of a similar trash can:

It's a nice design on the outside -- the usual trendy stainless steal deal in a cylindrical shape. Apart from the fact that you sometimes need two people to get the bag out of the can, we've always enjoyed it.

So I took the whole thing apart to see that it's a fairly simple mechanism that runs the whole thing. You step on the pedal and it twists and pushes a rod that in turn lifts the lid. The only problem is that the rod had a connection point where it went from the pedal to turn 90° and go up to the lid. And that connection point was made with a thin piece of plastic that I could have snapped easily between my thumb and index finger (being the tough guy that I am). The plastic piece was irreparable which rendered the entire pedal/lid mechanism dead.

I, beaten down and feeling useless, went back to my girlfriend to explain to her that the trash can we knew and loved for so many years had finally gone the way of all that trash that it had held for us. A sort of poetic justice, I explained. She just smiled. She's used to my absurdity.

Anyway, the lesson of the trash can was obvious: great design is only as strong as the behind-the-scenes mechanisms that hold it together and make it function.

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