Monday, September 25, 2006

More New Shows

First episode of Heroes was on tonight, NBC's new series about modern day superheroes appearing in the "real world." I actually watched it online over the weekend, though, which was pretty awesome in itself. I have a friend who basically never watches TV anymore. He either downloads Torrents or rents DVD sets off of Netflix or buys them outright if it's a show he really likes. Don't know what this does to the economics of TV long-term, but I got a little thrill of coolness being able to watch a show being streamed on-demand instead of broadcast. Of course, thanks to the protections on the streaming, I couldn't rewind and watch scenes again, so it wasn't totally cool.

Show-wise, it was OK. There's an awesome money shot right up front (and by money shot, I don't mean ejaculation but the equivalent on a show like this - a cool effects sequence of someone using their powers). It's really early in the show, and it was in the trailer, so no spoiler warning. Basically, this cheerleader (played by Hayden Panettiere) takes a 30-40 foot fall onto the ground. The shot is set up to look like it's being filmed by a friend with a videocam, so we see in one continuous take the girl climbing the stairs, jumping off and falling to strike the dirt face-first, the POV jumping as the cameraman runs over to see if she's okay as she climbs to her feet and yanks her dislocated shoulder back into place. All one seamless shot.

That pretty much kept my ass in the seat for the rest of the episode. It's not a great show, not as breathtaking as Lost was when it debuted, or as zingy as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but I like a couple of the characters pretty well. When the cheerleader's mom asks her what she did today, the girl answers, "I walked through fire and didn't get burned" (which is literally true). Mom, who's busy playing with her annoying little lapdog, gets all teary-eyed at her daughter's poetic summation of the human spirit, saying something like, "Haven't we all?" So the cheerleader and the teleporting Japanese sarariman I liked. The stripper on the run from the mob with her super-genius son (played by that annoying kid from My Wife and Kids, who's getting typecast as the precocious genius), I didn't like so much.

In the meantime, I also watched Vanished, which is apparently getting killed in the ratings. It's too bad, because I kind of like the show, although having a Masonic conspiracy at the heart of it all*? Sort of done. It feels a little like a cheap attempt to cash in on The Da Vinci Code. Plus, there was a real howler tonight. Pardon me while I digress into my former military area of expertise.

Last week, the FBI agents found this laptop that was set up to receive a wireless broadcast of a video feed that showed the kidnapped senator's wife (the 'vanished' of the title). So they try to track the signal.

Now, radio-direction finding is really simple in concept. In the old days, you would set up with a directional antenna and physically turn it around until you found the direction in which the signal was strongest; nowadays, they make special direction-finding antenna arrays that can calculate the same thing within seconds. So with one reading, you can basically draw a line from where you are to where the signal is originating from, and the signal could originate from anywhere along that line, up to the range of the transmitter. We call this a Line-of-Bearing, or LOB.

To pinpoint the transmitter's location, you want at least three receivers in different locations giving you those LOBs; where the lines intersect is the transmitter's true location. We call this triangulation.

On Vanished, they started out okay, with three direction-finding trucks moving out to take readings. However, the signal was cut off before they could get more than one reading. So the agent asks the tech what he can do with one reading, and the guy says the one reading has yielded not a LOB, but a "ten square mile area." Puh-leeze.

Okay, over it now. Studio 60 ep. 2 aired tonight. Man, this show frustrates me. I love backstage stories. I've done enough performing that I can really relate to them. But the show keeps wobbling back and forth between some fairly sharp character and dialogue and some really lazy potshots at Bush and the Christian right. Sorkin knows from experience that Christian outrage is great publicity, so he manufactures some by having his fictional show-within-a-show thumb its nose at its Christian viewers. I'm not a Christian anymore, but it's just so strident and tiresome, and I just hope he's gotten it out of his system, and that the show has more interesting places to go than this. Because I really like Amanda Peet and Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford.

*once again, not really a spoiler, since they've been hinting broadly at this for at least three episodes

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