Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Web Secret #329: the Golden Age of Television

Growing up I was told over and over that there had been a Golden Age of Television. This always pissed me off because The Golden Age of Television began sometime in the late 1940s and extended to the late 1950s/early 60s, and I was just young enough that I missed it.

Thanks to YouTube, cable and Netflix, I can experience many of the programs from that golden age:

The Twilight Zone - the iconic sci fi series

Playhouse 90 - a weekly series of live hour-and-a-half dramas. Think "Requiem for a Heavyweight", "The Miracle Worker," and "Judgement at Nuremberg."

The Bell Telephone Hour - a long-run concert series which showcased the best in classical and Broadway music.

But to experience the essence of that era, all you need to do is watch "What's my line?." What’s My Line? was a guessing game in which four panelists attempted to determine the line (occupation), or in the case of a famous "mystery guest," the identity, of the contestant. It ran from 1950 to 1967.

They don't make'em like that anymore. The host, the panelist and the guests were beautifully attired. Men wore jackets and ties. The women were elegantly dressed, coiffed and bejeweled. The host John Daly was an American journalist, who had been the vice president of ABC during the 1950s. Panelists included various members of the intelligentsia, people like Louis Untermeyer, a poet and Poet Laureate, Bennett Cerf, one of the founders of the Random House publishing firm, and Fred Allen, a comedian who was famous for his absurdist, topically pointed radio show.

The guest list was not confined to movie stars like Groucho Marx, Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis Jr, but other major cultural and artistic figures. See:
The shows expected a great deal from its viewers. It expected them to appreciate smartly crafted, witty and literate questions from the panel. It expected them to know or want to learn about the major artists of the times.

When the Golden Age came to a close, we endured decades of increasingly inane television with some occasional breaths of fresh air.

Finally, with the 21st century came a second streaming golden age of television.  Welcome:
  • House of Cards
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Mad Men
  • Game of Thrones
These shows also expect a great deal from their viewers. They expect them to love a show in which the protagonists may be old, African-American, bisexual or transgendered. They expect them to see a bald, dying, female, Hispanic convict as a hero in the mold of Cool Hand Luke. They expect them to follow complicated plot threads. They expect them to tolerate stories with unhappy endings.

Both the first and the second golden age of television expect viewers to be intelligent.

Now that's subversive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Web Secret #328: Binge Watching

When I was a kid during the Sixties, my parents told me that TV was going to rot my brain.

Here's the thing, though: I watched way more TV this past summer than I ever did during the summers of my youth.

I binge watched:

Mad Men (6 seasons)

Dr. Who (7 seasons)

Orange is the New Black (2 seasons)

Torchwood (3 seasons)

Sherlock (3 seasons)

and House of Cards (2 seasons.)

The other thing is - I didn't watch any of these TV shows on my TV.

I streamed them on my ipad.

You can look at this two ways.

First, the good news: we are experiencing a Golden Age of television. NEVER has there been such intelligent, high quality, knock your socks off programs.


Now the maybe not so good news: I have virtually stopped going to the movie theater. Why should I pay $15 to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of badly behaved teenagers, on broken theater seats, eating unhealthy calorie laden candy and soda, watching a mediocre movie, when I can lounge on my leather Chesterfield sofa, sipping my favorite Sauvignon Blanc and eating sushi, while enjoying amazing, personally curated, commercial free TV shows?

I have also virtually stopped watching TV. With the exception of key World Cup soccer matches and Wimbledon, I did not watch any TV on my TV.

And while I have been a voracious reader my entire life, I did not read a single book this entire summer.

And though I pride myself on being very cutting edge in all of my activities, I know that I am not alone.

It bodes ill for the future of the movie theater. It bodes ill for conventional network TV. It bodes ill for the overall literacy of mankind.

And it is yet another rapidly evolving phenomenon which is changing the world around us.

So fast.

That we don't understand the implications.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Web Secret #327:

How would you like to unsubscribe from all the junk emails that accumulate in your inbox in a matter of minutes?

For free.


This is what you do:

1. Go to the web site and click on "get started".
2. Enter the email address and password for your e-mail account.
3. Wait a maximum of 2 minutes.
4. Get a list of all of the newsletters and junk you signed up for (or forgot that you signed up for) - in my case there were well over 80 such subscriptions.
5. Unsubscribe - with a single click of your mouse - from each of the ones you don't want to get anymore. (I can't even tell you how great and powerful that made me feel...)
6. You have the option to receive your remaining subscriptions in a single e-mail, once a day.

That's it.

They will ask you to publicize that you used the service on Facebook or some other social media channel. I did not have a problem with this because a. this app is amazing and b. all my friends wanted to use it as well.

Simple to use and effective.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Web Secret #326 - CrashCourse

Prepping to be a contestant on Jeopardy?

Trying to bolster your knowledge of US history so you can help your team win Trivial Pursuit?

Just looking to be entertained?

There is a CrashCourse for you.

CrashCourse is an educational YouTube channel launched on December 2, 2011. As of April 6, 2014, the CrashCourse YouTube channel had earned over 1.5 million subscribers and over 90 million video views.

The typical CrashCourse is a ten minute or so profiterole of knowledge, delivered in a visually cutting edge online video. A full course on US History, Psychology, or Literature may be made up of dozens of these intellectual concoctions.

Below, a tasting menu:

Before I Got My Eye Put Out - The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Crash Course English Lit #8

The French Revolution: Crash Course World History #29

That's Why Carbon Is A Tramp: Crash Course Biology #1

Monkeys and Morality: Crash Course Psychology #19

Wait - did I mention that all of this is FREE?!