Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Laxatives and Turnstiles: Long hiatuses and cable TV paywalls hurting good shows.

Is that you Mr. Poopybutthole?  It's me, Margret; Are we not doing "Phrasing" anymore?

Oh we are getting into some stuff.

If there is one thing Mr. Poopybutthole has shown himself to be, it's honest.  And so when rumblings of the potential "a year and a half, maybe longer" thing might not be so "longer" after all, Rick and Morty fans were quite enthused.  Well, so much for that.  With America about to be controlled by a hairpiece-wearing human-shaped condom, full of a combination of manure from the Four Horses of the Apocalypse and melted Creamsicle, we are needing all the laughs and meta-humor we can get, and they can't even figure out when the show is coming out although it's been 17 months since Mr. Poopybutthole said the words "a year and a half, maybe longer" to the audience.  We're now in "maybe longer" territory because there's no way the thing is coming out in just the next few weeks.

And what is the sinister force behind all this?  Well, you can argue about production setbacks but I think any setbacks that do exist are the result of Viacom executives not liking something and demanding changes.  Lets not forget that Viacom executives are the ones who kicked Legend of Korra off the air because Korrasami became a thing.  They're also wise to the South Park strategy of getting things in just under the wire, which then can't be altered because of deadline constraints. But you really can't do that with Rick and Morty so it's possible they are demanding to see the entire season before green-lighting anything.   Whoever is calling the shots over there is probably such a fossil that they are still using a Blackberry (and they're mad that their daughter is in college and going through, "the phase," so now everyone has to suffer).  But then again, this could have been a minor delay which caused real scheduling issues, and sometimes if you miss a window for a time-slot, the next one isn't just gonna show up right away.  I've been around enough to know that it's probably both that are happening.

Cancel that show!  No animated lesbians!  We're gonna make America Great Again!

Above is just half of the kick in the nuts though.  The other ball is getting slammed by the fact shows like Archer and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are getting punted over to FXX as well as their continued absence from most streaming services in terms of recent episodes (except the FXX website itself).  Additionally, it seems as if everyone involved in the creation and making of Archer in particular is intent on killing the show as hard as they can without actually canceling it. 

In addition to a delivery method and schedule that would be right at home in 2005, the show-runners themselves seem to think that pouring the main cast into a jar, shaking it up and then painting spiral pictures while on LSD which have patterns that only really make sense to them, is a great way to develop a show going into an 8th season.  It's kind of obvious that this whole season 8 is going to be some sort of coma-dream that Archer is having because of the way he ended up at the end season 7 (way to phone it in guys), and it might be that he's somehow reliving Woodhouse's life and we might actually see a loose end or two tied up for once, but I am not gonna count on it.  Conceptually, sticking a reset-button into a show as a plot device isn't a bad thing, it works great for Higurashi When They Cry, but that was built-in from the beginning, not smashed into an existing potentially incompatible template, because some creative type had an existential crisis and needs "new directions" and shit.  Just keep doing what you're doing, cash your giant check, and shut the fuck up.  The desire to just take your show in a "new direction" for your artistic needs or whatever shows contempt for an audience that made the show valuable in the first place.  It's not impossible to do, but it's easy to fuck up.  Audiences don't like being fucked with, especially when it comes to something like a plot-point regarding the identity of a main character's parentage.  Might want to talk to Matt Stone and Trey Parker about what happens when you do that.
TV never learns until it's taught a lesson. Remember that South Park cliffhanger that was supposed to reveal Cartman's dad? Remember how the show played April Fool and substituted the scatological Terrance and Phillip cartoon? Fans rioted. Some jumped ship and never came back. The lesson: Pay off our expectations, or you'll be sorry. Just because one show jumps off a cliff doesn't mean everybody has to do it.
 -July 13, 2000, By DIANE WERTS Newsday
This is still true.  Much like "Brevity is the soul of wit" and "drinking mercury will kill you" some things just stay true no matter how old they get.

Cord-cutters aren't a large percentage of TV viewers as a whole right now, but there are two important things about them that TV executives are going to ignore; #1 they are disproportionate in terms of their age and tastes in pop-culture/media entertainment, so a certain kind of advertiser is going to find value in targeting them, and #2 that's going to mean certain shows will have not only a higher demand to be available on other internet services, but an audience with both the know-how and willingness to seek out unlicensed sources because fuck you Time Warner I don't need Animal Planet, The Hallmark Channel, and 7 different ESPNs just to watch the like... five shows I wanna see - it's Torrent time!  Actually, I know a few people with full cable accounts so I just use their login info to watch shit straight from the website.  Remember when TV show websites didn't do that?  Ah, to be an early adopter.  Human nature works against agents of change in these situations because people rarely have lasting memories of instances in which things improved, but they will take the indelible memories of the times when things got even the slightest bit worse all the way to their grave.

Remember when she was ugly?  Probably not, but if she went uggo now you all would throw such a hissy-fit.

Right now there is someone who made the call to port everything over to FXX who is about to find out that entertainment brands really don't have draw anymore.  The only brands in the world that actually do have any significant draw left at all are sports teams, booze brands, somehow Lady Gaga, and the WWF (I will never call it the WWE you panda bastards!).  Millennials were just blamed for killing the paper napkin industry because of some distorted idea that we give a shit about the environment and not that you people don't pay us enough in general. People are going to behave with associated price points and expenses playing a much stronger role in dictating behavior than it did to you baby boomers in the 80's and 90's.  So the price hike for the needed extra channels in cable packages is not going to be met with a "whatevs, fine, now let me get back to my skinny jeans and artesinal mustache wax because I have important Millennial things to do."  It's going to be more like a "WTF, hell no, you already suck and now I have to pay more? Eat a dick."  When all of a sudden the expected migration of viewers/customers doesn't happen, there is going to be someone over at FX going... "I don't get it" and that's gonna fuck a whole lot of shit up by causing a panic. Meanwhile in the back of the office that 29 year old they pay $18 an hour to fix all the spreadsheets on their own computer which they had to bring from home, is thinking, "Yeah I could have told you that shit wasn't going to work."

 The best laid plans can still mean that no one wants your bullshit.

I think I used the wrong word in the previous paragraph.  "Migration" isn't applicable.  This isn't an attempt to get consumers to migrate.  Migrate would imply leaving something behind for something else.  No this is just a situation where the providers are simply saying "Buy more stuff if you want to see these titles."  It would be like Barnes & Noble putting all the anticipated best sellers behind a turnstile and then charging customers admission to the section just to be able to buy whatever book at full SRP.  At least Costco gives you bulk pricing discounts for something like that.

While I don't think the expansion of channels is going to have an impact as damaging and negative as paywalls, it is going to mean that programs that are closer to modern sensibilities are going to be marginalized and programs that currently exist that are too smart for your parents are going to end up on life-support long before they otherwise would.  The day when media entertainment embraces more progressive and cerebral concepts, jumping across mediums that the old guard would have refused to even accept the possibility of, will now be longer in coming.

 Phrasing. Boom.

And before you start thinking "Oh, but they already announced they're going to be ending whatever show you're talking about and blah blah blah" just get fuck your face off because that's a moot point.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Un-Doomed: Bethesda's healthy failure-acknowledgement and the cancelation of Doom 4

Doomed if you do, Doom-ed if you don't.

Bethesda, not just a town outside Washington D.C. where Boaty McBoatface's extended family lives and where you can possess one piece of spent shotgun ammunition without getting arrested, oh no it's so much more.  It's also a company that makes the video gameseses.  Not just teh video gamesezz, good vidjya games.  So it came as significant news when they announced that they were canceling the highly anticipated title they were working on, Doom 4.  Yes I know Id Software was making the game too, but it was Bethesda that made the announcement so that's why we're talking about them.

Unlike the sad death and inexplicable release of the lifeless corpse of Duke Nukem Forever, the construction and intended release of Doom 4 was undertaken by a team which not only had a clear goal they wanted to achieve, but a very strong understanding of the benchmarks they were setting out to meet said goal.  Additionally, there was obviously very effective communication during that process, and an important divestment of personal feelings and cognitive identity from the concept of Doom itself.

The professional detachment that allowed for this self-titled "right decision" is such a valuable asset for an entertainment media company.  This implies, healthy amounts of flexibility within management, abilities of setting realistic goals, and also the capacity for failure-acknowledgement. Now, failure-acknowledgement is a very important quality for just about any company to have.  It is not the same as sunk costs, but the two do go hand in hand in that they can and do cause poor decision making from people who's decisions are ones that impact projects and possibly the entire company in significant ways.  Sometimes those decisions are to delay an announced (and pre-ordered by retailers) release to fix quality issues that a later patch, to surrounding yourself with no one brave enough to say "no George, Jar Jar is a terrible idea and shouldn't be part of this," and the results are often so obviously apparent to everyone except the person with their hands on the wheel.

There are a number of well known disasters ranging from animated movies to full corporate  insolvency brought about by the lack of failure-acknowledgement.  Notice the term is not failure-recognition.  Recognition is what you do to a failure that you're not involved in.  Failure-acknowledgement is what you have to do when it's your own, and sooner rather than later is always good.  A CEO or other executive being able to say to themselves "well, swing and a miss" is so very important to the health of any company that has the intention of existing for more than 12 months (seriously the quick-buck investment bank mentality has really hurt knowledge assets in many countries and will probably continue to wreak havoc for years).

A look at what is happening to SEARS right now shows that a brand and entity can be around for over a century and still be destroyed by a dumb-ass who insists they're not driving the wrong-way down a one-way street, and powerful enough to make sure no one else questions his assertions even as that truck is barrelling straight towards them.  Here's a nice way to visualize the difference of what it probably is like between Bethesda and SEARS in therms of simple internal communication and environment:



I am using SEARS, but this could just as easily be Samsung, Toshiba, Sony, or Dentsu, but with so much being published in English language news media about the toxic Organizational Behavior at Sears, and how their CEO Eddie Lampert seems to be doing a flawless job of running it straight into the ground, it just seemed like the easiest example to use, even though they are not really an entertainment media company.  That is, unless you take into account their continued flaming death-spiral shenanigans because that's some pretty entertaining stuff.  Kmart and even Sears itself were once significant forces in packaged media retail, but even if they were doing great, but that's a dying industry all by itself unless you're (just ask Best Buy). 

Not being open in interdepartmental communication and further open to the ideas of others when it comes to whether or not the crow's nest can see something coming that the bridge can't, does not necessarily mean any media company is going to do poorly just because of that one fact.  Look at Disney, they have one way of doing things and probably a literal dungeon where they throw people who step out of line in there.

That works for some, so if you're a company that's found what works and can just use your money to buy more money, then you may not need failure-acknowledgement.  Very few entities fall into that category however, with Bethesda being smart enough to realize they are light-years away from it.  However they have generated some serious elements/assets during the development process.  Will they make it into something great, or simply ham-fist it into another existing property where it might not be helpful?  Only time will tell on that one.  I actually trust them not to fuck it up too bad, even though;

I'm actually still angry at Bethesda for their lack of action as a licensor in the whole Jones Soda Target exclusive disaster where Target managers and employees ended up purchasing all the bottles of Nuka Cola (a beverage product based on the popular Fallout franchise from Bethesda) before they were ever made available to the public.  This happened twice, and first time is understandable, but second time they could have been more involved.  But if anything it shows that Bethesda is smart enough to wisely pick its battles, and the majority of the responsibility and subsequent fault, lies with Jones Soda and Target,  So that's just more smart decision making.  And wage-slaves are going to take every chance they get to make extra money on the side, and if selling collectables to people willing to pay for them is what it takes, then just plan on them to do that).  Target isn't known as the nicest place to work, and Target customers aren't the nicest people to be around, so for some abused clock-puncher there's no incentive not to hoard the stuff.


It's never pleasing all of the people of the time, just remember that sometimes it about not pleasing all of your people all of the time either.

...fucking soup.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Problem With Vampires: How estate law and technology are about to impact the entertainment industry.

So Carrie Fisher died.  (oh, IRL spoiler alert).  People are scratching their heads saying "oh but she was just 60 and people live way longer than that now" which is true, but there are two important factors that come into play in this case; #1 it was a heart attack on a flight from London to LA so the amount of immediate treatment that allows for people to survive heart attacks was most likely extremely limited, and #2, she did have pure cocaine for breakfast 20 years straight so that will probably take some miles off the ole' odometer in the long run.  

Anime-wise, this in and of itself isn't significant until we come to the fallout.  That being, posthumous use of any and all of her images as an actor, whether it be pre-recorded material/archive-footage, or (more importantly) future use created digitally.  There is already a movement to tell Disney to please DON'T use a CGI Carrie Fisher in any more Star Wars movies they plan on making.  See where we're about to go with this?  But hey, as long as the check clears... right?

No... just, no.

Seiyuu Seimee, Sei it together, that's the way it should be.
Fans and casual consumers alike often voice distaste for the idea of using within a film, a CGI version of a deceased actor, or even a very much still living actor (Tron suck-fest anyone?), because of quality issues.  As humans, we are so attuned to looking at other human faces and gaining non-verbal implicit information from them that we can't shut that off. It just never looks right.  This is something that will most likely be surmounted as technology continues to become more capable, but as of now, it's not really there yet

But what about voices?  The voices!  Well, that's not as hard to pull off, and things like that go back pretty far.  Granted, examples like the Thief and the Cobbler have had their principal recording of their own specific lines while the actor was still alive and simply released posthumously, but with sound technology being what it is, as long as you have a large enough phonetic base to work from, you can make almost anything digitally without the actor present, or even aware, that it's being done.

The more astute among you will undoubtedly already be aware that this type of use has already happened to a living actor, one Crispin Glover, who very much did not appreciate it (see Crispin Glover vs Universal Pictures, via Hollywood Reporter).  So much so, that there is existing legal precedent regarding this type of thing and SAG terms covering use of likeness and pre-recorded media.  It is not enough to cover everything out there, but it can at least serve as the cornerstone for an entire body of new legal protections for actors and performers when it comes to synthesized use, posthumous or otherwise.

 Can ya hear me now bitch?

Allowed unless prohibited, or prohibited unless allowed? 
Notice how those two aren't exactly the same... (right now I am sure there's some contract law student going "HOLY FUCK OF COURSE THEY'RE NOT THE SAME YOU RETARDED RETARD!").  But for the rest of us normies, the latter is usually how entertainment and service contracts work, if it's not in there, it's not allowed until it is.  But this doesn't mean that synthesized voice performances aren't a potential reality.  Living actors might jump at the chance to receive 2 paychecks at once while they work on project A and project B simply uses the database to get most of the same work done at the exact same time.  Sure one check might be less than the other but getting both was never an option before so why the hell not?  This might actually be an enticing incentive to currently living voice actors.

Additionally, wills and estates will undoubtedly cover any such likeness or performance use for all posthumous purposes.  If actors actually like their kids, why not keep them on the gravy train by allowing for your voice to be continuously used for future productions, all while generating revenue at the same time?  Hate your kids, hell you can still earn money from your long dead voice and just have it go to some charity, or to pay someone to come around and kick your kids in the baby-maker once a month.  There will even be the oh so humble ones that simply allow for free use, making any future synthesized use, completely public domain.

This is all bad.  The reason is that this industry is competitive enough.  If all of a sudden as an actor, you're competing with dead people, then you might as well just start showing up to your auditions with a hatchet.  Think about it, they are never going to try to renegotiate halfway through a gig, miss a recording session because of a dentist appointment or traffic, age too much, clash over "creative differences," get pregnant, they are never going to get a cold, and they can be in 100 places at once. 

If vampires actually existed, upward mobility in society would be basically impossible.  They'd be around forever, hanging on to what they have and never letting it go, ensuring any future generations had no access to the same opportunities and resources they had (kind of like what the baby boomers are doing but times a million).   Thanks to the abilities of media technology, voice actors are going to be facing such a situation without the causal factors of the un-dead.  This means that 30+ years from now Megumi Hiyashibara might still be voicing new characters for whatever the hell kind of anime that they beam straight into your brain or however they're gonna do that, all the while the new talent sits on the sidelines, trying to get noticed online while their own work is stolen out from under them thanks to terms and conditions that give internet outlets ownership over "acoustic re-purpose rights" or whatever they are going to call it.

Welcome to the future.  It sucks here.