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April 08, 2006

The Internet. On TV!

Do you remember when TV shows featured actors and scripts and plots? Do you remember when TV delivered us nightly doses of heart-wrenching drama and side-splitting comedy?

Me neither.

However, if my research is correct, the television of yore was all about entertainment, whereas modern television is mostly about filling time as cheaply as possible. Contrary to popular belief, the rise of Reality TV wasn't due viewers actually preferring it to regular (ie. good) TV. People are stupid, but not that stupid. Reality TV dominates because it is so much cheaper to produce to than dramas and comedies. But Reality TV isn't the cheapest TV around. VH1 discovered they could generate hundreds of hours of time-filler TV with nothing more than stock footage, disembodied narration and an endless army of chattering magazine editors and 3rd rate stand up comics. Hey VH1, you know why *I* Loved the 80s? Because in the 80s NETWORKS SPENT REAL MONEY MAKING GOOD TELEVISION. One episode of Knight Rider was worth more than one million episodes of VH1's "Let's All Blather About Some Thing That Happened".

You would think that TV can't get any cheaper than this. WRONG WRONG WRONG. As it turns out, the cheapest way of making TV is to plug in the old 2400 baud modem, and put the internet on TV. I know, it sounds idiotic. Personally, I can't even say the phrase "put the internet on tv" while keeping a straight face - but that's what they're doing. Consider the following current and upcoming shows:

Outrageous and Contagious Viral Videos, Bravo

You know all those stupid videos people email to each other when they're supposed to be working? Now you can watch them on TV. Yay. Of course, you've already seen them on the internet (dozens of times). But you really haven't seen internet videos until you've seen them wedged between episodes of Queer Eye and Project Runway.

Webjunk_20, VH1

Hosted by comedian Patrice O'neal, Webjunk_20 is a show that features internet videos. Just like the one on Bravo. Except this one has a comedian introducing and commenting on the clips. Patrice O'neal is actually a pretty funny stand-up comic. I saw him promoting Webjunk on Late Night w/ David Letterman and he was hilarious. However, VH1 won't permit any comedian to be funny on their network... it violates their formula. Therefore, Patrice is forced to read lame jokes, and the show sucks living crap.

Clearly two internet-on-TV shows would be enough for anyone. That's why there are two more on the way!

First, there's Cyberhood, a web video show that's being produced by Carson Daly. Carson, if you happen to be reading this: you really don't need to produce a web clip show to prove that any random idiot can produce television. The fact that you host a talk show is proof enough.

Also, the USA network is developing a program with eBaum's World... one of the premiere destinations for humor animation clips on the net. EBaum's World has a can't-lose tecnique for viral web video success:

Step 1: Troll the internet for funny clips that other people have created.
Step 2: Add the magic "ebaumsworld.com" logo to the video, thereby claiming it as your own (and thereby taking a massive shit on the person who actually created it).
Step 3: Upload it to your own website and watch the ad revenues ROLL IN.

Like JOEYHEADSET always says, "Copyright Infringement is Your Best Entertainment Value". Actually, I stole that quote from the band Negativeland - but by posting it here and attaching my name to it, I have effectively claimed it as my own. This is much more cost/time effective than inventing my own clever slogans... plus the time I save developing slogans, I can spend promoting the slogans I've stolen from others.

This is the future of television. Well, "future" might be too generous a term. Perhaps "the last dying gasps of television" might be a better way of phrasing it. I'll break it down for you real simple: There are too many shows on too many channels, too many TIVOists blitzing through the ads that were supposed to PAY for the shows, and too many alternatives to tele-visual entertainment (video games, DVDs, internet porn) stealing eyeballs away from the TV screen. The system simply can't sustain itself. So TV gets cheaper and cheaper - a self-perpetuating crap-spiral.

Once popular culture has been degraded to the point where no one in their right mind would be willing to pay for it, thus begins the glorious age of Free Culture. Hey, if you don't want to pay for music, you don't have to. Just steal it until the whole music industry goes under. And after that... well, we'll just have to hope people will make decent music for free: hobbyists, retirees, high schoolers with pirated music software. I'm sure it will be just as good. And as for TV, if you want to dodge commercials on your TIVO or just download commercial-free shows over BitTorrent - that's cool. But guess what: all that slick genre TV you internet-people like: your Buffys and Losts and Fireflys, that shit ain't cheap to produce. If you stop paying for it, they'll stop making it.

You can get your culture for free... but it's going to look less like Battlestar Galactica, and more like a retarded kid lip-syncing into his webcam.


You really do get what you pay for.

Posted by Joey at April 8, 2006 05:31 AM

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Good point about the "you get what you pay for thing" That's why i don't illegaly download stuff

The reason i think all those internet on TV shows are coming up is becouse the internet is becoming to stong that TV can't compete with it. TV figures if people like the internet, Tv must become like the internet
And thus a bunch of crappy shows on 3 billion channels , all about the internet and it's crappy wonders

--- stew

Posted by: legendofstew at April 9, 2006 05:39 PM

Yeah, Stew, I think you are dead on about why all these shows are appearing. It's a special version of executive-think that goes like this:

A) Fewer people are watching TV because they are spending their time on the internet.

B) If we could make TV more like the Internet, then people will get up from their computers, and spend more time watching TV.

It seems like a reasonable strategy... if you're an idiot. In reality, there are some things that the internet does well and other things that the internet does well. If I want to see funny little internet videos, I'm not going to tune into VH1 at 7pm to watch The Funny Little Internet Video Show. Why should I... I can go watch those types of videos 24hrs a day, whenever the mood strikes me. When I sit down to watch TV, I don't want an internet-experience... I don't require interactivity. I want to see good looking people saying funny things and occasionally shooting each other in the face with guns. Or lasers, when appropriate.

Is that really too much to ask?

Posted by: joey at April 10, 2006 04:47 PM

I am disabled and trying to find how to get internet on my TV.Its hard to sit and for long periods of time and internet/TV would help me greatly.I have DSL.I fell you laughing as you read this but if you could steer me in the right place,I would be so grateful.Thankyou.Sincerly,Crystal.

Posted by: Crystal at August 19, 2006 06:48 AM

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