The Worst Time For Your Product To Fail

D and I have the Time-Warner provided Scientific Atlanta 8000HD hi-def DVR cable box. When we first got it, it was the only way to get HD cable DVR service. Our existing TiVo couldn’t do hi-def, was single tuner, etc. The only HD TiVos that were out there were for satellite or for over-the-air, neither of which was useful to us.
We toyed with getting a new Series3 TiVo a couple times in the last few weeks. We both missed the TiVo interface — its ease of use, the way it always “just worked” for us…. But it always came down to “Is now the right time to do this? The Time-Warner box is doing the job, even if we don’t like it all that much,” especially with a list price of $800 for the box.
Two years, and two cable-boxes later, it had started to act… quirky. Just the other day it mysteriously deleted some programming way before it was necessary to do so. But still we persevered. Maybe there was some bizarre “pre-delete” logic happening. After all, it had about six hours of hi-def programming scheduled for the following evening as it would be recording a whole bunch of finales.
Fast forward a little bit to this evening…. The unit has a whopping total of three hours of low-def programming stored on it, set to “do not delete”. It had another two hours of today’s programming (D has a daily recording of Dr. Phil and Oprah), neither of which had been watched yet. It has held a lot more on it. Tons.
It had two simple tasks:

  1. Record American Idol Finale.
  2. Record Lost Finale.

As we were watching Idol (on delay), around 9:06 I decided to sanity-check the “currently recording” list… and found it NOT recording Lost. Worse, when I quickly bailed out of the “watching the recorded A.I.”, and jumped to ABC-HD live, no matter how much I told it to record it, and it said “OK”, it failed to do so. It continued to show “Lost 9:00-11:00” in the “Scheduled Recordings” column, but completely failed to act on it. Also, the Oprah and Dr. Phil episodes were gone, deleted as thought it needed room for them, but that couldn’t possibly have been the case.
I told D I was going to watch Lost in HD, Live, while Idol recorded, since it was recording Idol. Five minutes into this, though, I realized I would never hear the end of it if we watched Lost live, and she lost her Idol finale because of the flaky box. So I retired to the office to watch Lost live (giving D updates every commercial… again Lost is more “my” show than hers, but she has a passing interest in it). D is now out in the living room watching Idol on delay. We keep each other updated on “what’s going on”. It’s pathetic and annoying but the only option this piece of junk has left us with.
And so I decided there and then that — when we get back from the honeymoon — that piece of shit is heading out the door and TiVo is getting some cash from us. It’s just that simple.
You put a lot of trust in a DVR. You trust that you can leave it to record your shows and they’ll be there when you get home. The Time-Warner box betrayed that trust at the worst possible time, and signed its own death warrant in the process.

There’s No Crying In Counterterrorism

What the hell did those Chinese bastards do to Jack Muthafuckin Bauer, eh? He breaks down crying cuz he had to shoot somebody? Christ, wasn’t it just last season that he executed a fellow CTU employee just to have a chance at getting some information, and now he gets all skinned-knee girly-crying because he had to shoot Curtis in the shoulder?
I thought Jack was back, better than ever, last night, when he went all The Lost Boys on that guy, ripping his carotid artery out with his bare teeth, but now he’s gone completely 180ยบ in reverse, pansy-style.
Also, seriously, a note for future government officials – Jack Bauer is never fucking wrong. Any time you find yourself wanting to second-guess him, could you please just remember that he’s saved the world more times than you’ve had sex, and quite probably he’s saved your life, personally, at least once. And every time a government official has ever doubted him, it’s always made the government look incompetent. SO, if you find yourself doubting him, just remember that the last fifty or so government officials to doubt him looked like retards later.
D and I were joking that “every time Jack crawls out of whatever hole he’s been in, the world goes to hell,” and that if I were President, there’d be an executive order that “If Jack Bauer turns up on the radar, today is an excellent day to test whether the NAOC is really fully functional, and to get me there toot-sweet.
All that said, though, it looks like it’s gonna be a really exciting “day”.

Seven Years Of West Wing

Last night, almost certainly crushed in the ratings by the Survivor three-hour finale, West Wing took its final bow from the television screen.
Nobody, I think, will sit around and say that it is likely that any president would face all the troubles that Jed Bartlet went through (an assassination attempt reminiscent of Reagan’s, a Vice President who resigns in shame, a kidnapping of his daughter that causes him to invoke the 25th Amendment and put the Speaker of the House from the other side of the aisle in charge for a few days, and his former chief of staff becoming a winning VP candidate who dies in the middle of election day).
Yes, there were unbelievabilities about it, but that is television drama. What was more important about West Wing was that it showed that — by and large — even crazy situations like that, the government has processes to work through damned near everything. Last night’s finale was a classic example of that, showing something that is fairly rare still in our global society: the ritualized and orderly transition of power from one elected official to another.
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t actually get to see Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), or Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfeld), especially since Toby’s now a free man, pardoned by Bartlet in the final minutes of power.
Peter David said it best when he said: If the first rule of show biz is “Always leave them wanting more,” then West Wing succeeded beyond all imagining. Despite D’s complete lack of enthusiasm for the show, I always wanted to tune in every week to see what was going to happen. It was one of a handful of shows I almost always insisted on watching live, not on DVR, because I simply couldn’t wait, and would suffer through having to watch commercials if I had to in order to avoid that waiting.
Bartlet was always the kind of President I wanted. This is not — at all — to say that I agreed with him on all of his policies during his television tenure, but you at least realized that he felt like he was doing the right thing. By and large, his actions were rarely controlled by an opinion poll, or by how public opinion would change afterwards. They even hammered that point home for those who couldn’t figure it out, having him spend a good six months being that typical politician, and the White House became a political mess. Only when they got back to the guiding principle of “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet”, did governance return to its normal path.
West Wing left itself completely open-ended for its finale. If it wanted to, it could come back for a Season Eight, and have a good dozen storylines to pick up and run with. It’s disappointing to me as a viewer to know that we’ll never see what happens there, except insofar as we can infer them from “future shots” shown occasionally during the series, but it’s also realistic, because life doesn’t just tie up neatly at the end of one President’s term.
It looks like Sorkin has a new show starting next fall, with some of the same actors (Bradley Whitford) as well as actors who had great runs of their own, but wanted desperately to join the West Wing cast (Matthew Perry). With any luck, it’ll get another long run, and not get double-tapped the way Sports Night was….

Battlestar Finale

Holy frackin’ crap!
I’ve gushed before about how good this show is. Last night’s season finale turned the entire series on its ear, and left us with a completely changed world. The interesting part is that, even though the story is completely torqued, it all “works”.
And, of course, leaves me waiting breathlessly for next season to start.

West Wing Speculation

OK, with a proper amount of time given for the John Spencer news to kick in, now it’s time to speculate a little on “where West Wing will go” since Leo McGarry was pretty central to current plotlines.
There’s a couple different “general” directions it can go, depending on how things were already being written…

  • If Vinnick was going to be the Presidential winner.
    If Vinnick was always going to be the Presidential winner, then the impact on the show is really minimal, aside from tying up any loose ends in Leo’s storylines (which, right now, there don’t appear to be any, but I can’t speak for episodes in the can already). If Vinnick wins, there’s no need for a recurring “used to be chief-of-staff, used to be VP candidate” character, and McGarry goes gentle into that good night.
    Also, potentially, a Vinnick win ends the series entirely, wrapping up neatly a “democrat’s term in office”.
  • If Santos was going to win…
    Well, if Santos was going to win, there’s a lot of problems… first of which is how do you write out Leo, and do you do it before or after the election? Probably the way which makes the most sense, given both the character’s history (he had a heart attack in the show several years ago) and as a tip of the hat to the real life actor, is to have Leo suffer a fatal heart attack.
    Now the interesting part of this is what do you do after that? Who do you fill the VP role with? You need a Democrat who can be taken seriously in the context of the show. Sure, you could fill it with “random actor” who goes off into recurring-character mode (just as Tim Matheson and Gary Cole did), or you can do something interesting… something that will breathe new life and interest into the show. What character can you put into the VP slot who is both credible as well as potentially show-worthy?
    Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe’s character). He’s got the political clout, especially after he gave it a good showing in the California 47th. The current presidential team — headed by Josh and Donna — certainly trust him and would be willing to extol his merits to Santos. It could be both a believable move, as well as the fact that Rob Lowe returning would give a ratings boost to a show that’s slipped a little this season in the ratings, if the contractual issues could all be quickly and sensibly resolved.
    But, assume for the moment that they don’t… Bob Russell wouldn’t necessarily make a bad VP candidate again, so long as he’s willing to continue to play second-fiddle, and Gary Cole is almost always great television as well.
    Crazy idea mentioned by someone else (not by me) : Vinnick as VP. Would never happen, though.