Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vampires on TV

CBS has a new show about a vampire detective. How original. This has almost become a genre. Here are some previous shows with a similar premise:

Forever Knight
Nick Knight has been a vampire for 800 years and regretted it for most of that time. In the 20th century he decided to help people by becoming a policeman. The show started as a 1989 movie called Nick Knight staring Rick Springfield. In 1992 it was picked up as a series under the new name and with a new cast.

The show swiped a lot of its format from the better Highlander. As Nick investigated crimes in the present he would remember something from his past that had some bearing on the current case.

As a vampire, Nick could fly (usually implied by a shaky camera), had supernatural strength and could hypnotize people. He was immortal but had to avoid the sun. He got his blood supply from a pretty coroner who was trying to cure him.

Despite the main character, the show was primarily a detective show, not a vampire show.

A spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel was a vampire who, after more than a century of depravity, had been cursed by having his soul returned. Feeling regret for all of his past sins, he sought redemption by helping people. He ended up founding a detective agency with some friends.

The show ran for five seasons on WB. It changed focus a few times. A principal character was killed off half-way through the first season and replaced with another Buffy alumni. Other characters came and went.

Unlike Forever Knight, Angel's premise was saving the world from the supernatural and an evil law firm.

As a vampire, Angel was immortal and had supernatural strength. He had to keep out of the sun or burst into flames. He drank animal blood.

Blood Ties
This series is still running on Lifetime TV with the first season starting last March. It is based on a series of books by Tanya Huff featuring a private detective, Vicki Nelson who keeps running into supernatural cases and enlists the vampire Henry Fitzroy to help her.

Henry was strong and fast and fell asleep during the day. The sun could kill him. He got his blood supply from willing donors. In the book he was bi-sexual but in the TV series he is hetro and little is said about his source of blood. Henry is the illegitimate son of Henry VIII.

The focus of the series is solving supernatural crimes. Henry's main motivation for getting involved is his relationship with Vicki.

That brings us to Nightlife.
The vampire is a private detective. We don't learn why in the pilot. He is 90 years old and immortal. He get blood from a contact in the coroner's office. The sun makes him feel ill. He can move quickly and can identify people by scent.

The focus seems to be a detective show featuring a vampire. This brings up full circle back to Forever Knight which also started on CBS.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A look Back at Heroes

The second season of Heroes starts tonight. While this became one of the best shows on TV last season, it got off to a rocky start. I'm hoping that they don't repeat that this year.

The show managed to ride the popularity of last year's X-Men release. The premise is pretty similar - people suddenly discover that they have super powers. In the X-Men they are mutants. In Heroes, they are "heroes".

The first few episodes were pretty grim and the characters were unlikeable. We had an arrogant politician, his bitchy mother, and his wimpy brother. There was an internet stripper who killed people in grisly ways. There was a junkie who painted disturbing visions of the future There was a serial killer who cut people's heads off and skooped out their brains. And there was a cheerleader who was apparently trying to kill herself and failing. The gore factor was the highest in any regular show I can remember. This reached a peak when Claire, the cheerleader, woke up in the morgue after an autopsy had cut open her chest (it was also the least convincing effect since the latex appliance didn't bent right when she sat up).

The main redeeming feature was Hiro - a Japanese office worker who discovered that he could affect time and space. After turning a clock back one second, he decided that he had a duty to help the world. Soon after, he traveled to New York's future and saw a major explosion. He quickly made it his mission to prevent the blast, dragging his co-worker along.

Ironically, Hiro has yet to accomplish any of his missions. He did not save the cheerleader, Peter did. He didn't stop the explosion, Nathan did. He hurt but didn't kill Sylar. He didn't even save a doomed waitress although he did make her last months more pleasant.

Several of the character's story threads never jelled. The telepathic cop started out as a major character but faded into the background. His main contribution was to show that making a loser telepathic doesn't change the fact that he's a loser. The same is true for Nikki and her family. One month she's hiding bodies, the next she's hunting her husband and child, then she's in jail, then she's a hired assassin, then she's trying to get her son back.

On the other hand, Peter became much more interesting as the show progressed. Besides Hiro, he is the only one who tries to help others with his gifts. Unlike Hiro, he did save the cheerleader.

The producers say that they listened to fan complaints and will address them in the new season. Story arcs will be shorter and fewer characters will be appearing per episode allowing more time for the characters who do appear. I hope that they got the right message. Lost claims to have heard viewer complaints about reruns but they got it wrong. We didn't want the show taken off the air except for new episodes, we just wanted more new episodes in a row.

We will see how Heroes does in season two.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Sept. 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I'll use this as an excuse to comment on the Summer movies, one last time. The top three were Spider-Man 3, Shrek 3, and Pirates 3 in that order - domestically. Internationally, they switch. Pirates came in at number one. Granted it's box office was $50 million less than Pirates 2 but that doesn't seem very important when the total take is around $950 million vs around $1 billion for the previous release.

I'm mainly bringing this up because various critics called Pirates a disappointment because its domestic take was down quite a bit. This was meant as a reflection on both movies. Since the overall take was up, that means that overseas ticket sales made up the difference.

Consider that a shot over the bow to the critics.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The iFiasco

I know a couple of people with iPhones. One of them stood in line on opening day to get it.

They are proud of their gadgets. They show them off. They pull up YouTube videos or take your picture and show how they can link it to your phone number so it will show when you call. Sometimes they even make phone calls with the things.

I was never interested. At $600, I could buy a new PC and a new MP3 player and possibly have money left over for a low-end digital camera. None of those would obligate me to sign up for an expensive phone service (and pay a cancellation fee for my current service).

The iPhone owners didn't care about any of these things. They had their toys. But some discontent bubbled out out out the masses of iPhone owners. It turns out that the iPhone is a lousy phone. My dedicated phone is small, the battery lasts all day, and I can operate it one-handed. For commonly called numbers I can turn it on with my thumb, hit a button with my middle finger and tell the phone who I want to call and it will dial for me. With the iPhone, you have to use both hands and go through several motions.

Then there is AT&T. Their Internet service is dead slow, possibly too slow to be usable for many web pages. Their reputation took a major hit when it got out how poor their coverage is. Some states don't have any coverage to speak of. Others do but suffer from dropped calls (a columnist at Huffington complained that his conversations always ended with "Hello?" "Hello?")

Some people were buying the iPhone just to use as a wi-fi Internet device. I thought that it might be useful like that but the price was still much too high.

It turns out that a lot of people think like I do. Apple just introduced an iPod that is an iPhone without the phone part and it is only $300. That's still a lot of money to me but it is no longer out of the question.

It also appears that sales must have spiked then dropped fast because Apple dropped the price by $200. The phone that cost you $600 in June now costs $400. That has a lot of loyal Apple customers upset.

Everyone knows that technology changes. What is on the market today will either be cheaper next year or replaced by something more powerful. People accept that and factor in the cost of waiting when deciding to buy. The thing is, people expect these drops to take a year or more, not a few weeks. Apple has always charges a premium price but this time they admitted that the price was in the gouging range.

Keep in mind that Apple could sell the iPhone below cost and still come out ahead. They get a cut from AT&T's monthly bill so you continue to pay Apple as long as you keep your phone contract.

Apple set the original price too high. They want to attract the people who are not willing to pay $600 for a poor phone with a great interface.

There is no graceful way out of this. It only took a day for them to announce that current customers would get a $100 credit. Considering their margins, that probably will cost them at most $50 per phone. That's not very generous. And the group they offended includes the hard-core Apple fans. It's a wonder that their stock only dropped a little.