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Originally published at The Fast Money Round. You can comment here or there.

The History of Game Shows is an ongoing series of articles about the history of game shows from 1500 to the present. This week’s article is about the popular game show, Family Feud.

At the very least catch phrase fodder for American pop culture, Family Feud is one of the staples of game shows in America today. Originally a spin-off of the bonus round from Match Game, Family Feud has been surveying 100 people, with the top 5 answers on the board, for over 30 years.

Dawson1973’s Match Game was, in 2 words, da bomb. The combination of host Gene Rayburn, the massive amount of celebrities, and of course, the dirty questions, made for a ratings smash. One of the regular celebrities, Richard Dawson, shows an incredible amount of competence in playing the game, plus a charisma and likability that made for excellent television. Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, always the forward thinkers, decided to convert the Super Match portion of the Match Game into a new show, and cast Dickie Dawson in the starring role.

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Originally published at The Fast Money Round. You can comment here or there.

homer-loves-bufferingI’m an avid TV watcher. Yes, I like game shows, but my love of game shows is only a subsection of the half-hour joys of bite-size narrative digested weekly or daily.

As an aside, I once had a theory that movies and TV used to go through cycles: TV shows would generally be terrible while movies would be great, then once movies as a whole started to suck, those writers would move to TV and TV would get better, and on and on. I can’t prove that and I don’t have data to start, but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless.

My viewing habits, however, are piss-poor for such a TV fan. The cable I have is about to bite the dust (the cable box works when it feels like it) and I don’t want to have to go all the way upstairs just to watch some TV.

So, I’m investing my time in watching TV online. Everyone’s talking about how watching shows online is the wave of the future or what have you, and I’m more than happy to surf that crest. However, what’s the best place to watch shows online? I put different network’s offerings to the test to see where I can get my fix easiest. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m running a MacBook with Mac OS 10.5.7, with 1 GB memory and a 2.16 GHz processor, and I’m piping all this through a Verizon DSL line that isn’t very fast.

cbs66CBS.com/video is the Columbia Broadcasting System’s foray into online video. My experience with CBS wasn’t bad. Video won’t work with AdBlock Plus activated, and there’s no idea how loaded the video is (no indication on the play bar, no “buffering” indicator… nothing). Generally, starting the video and pausing it allows the video to load enough that, after a few minutes or so, the video starts to play. The commercials are unobtrusive and video quality is good, but no options exist for better (or worse) quality. They even have a 1080p HD channel, but neither my processor nor my connection could handle it. Their selection includes recent episodes from the entire CBS primetime lineup (I can watch the last full episode of How I Met Your Mother, the entirety of the 9th season of CSI, and episodes of 60 Minutes ranging as far back as January), recent episodes from the CBS daytime lineup (which is why I can watch The Price is Right and my girlfriend can catch up with the last two weeks of the Young and the Restless), episodes and clips from CBS’s late night shows and even classic full classic shows such as the Twilight Zone, the Love Boat and Family Ties. Overall, a pleasant experience.

nbc56NBC.com/video/library has a wide variety of videos available, and their video site is very well organized. No wonder NBC.com won the Webby Award for Broadband website. Full episodes include full runs of Miami Vice, Quantom Leap, and the most of the current seasons of shows like Kath & Kim, Southland and The Office, as well as recent episodes of Leno (soon to be Conan, fortunately) and Fallon. Their player is solidly built with some flaws. Just like CBS, there’s no way to know how much of the video is loaded at any given time. Also like CBS, there’s no quality settings. A fun feature of the NBC player was the almost instant access to any other show or episode via their ribbon-like interface at the bottom of each player page. By default, it gives you the option of different DVD-like “chapters” (which are portions between commercial breaks), but you can also browse other full episodes or other shows all together. When an episode ends, it’ll play another video or give you suggested options of what to watch next. That’s a handy feature for the bored viewer. On the thumbs down side, the way the advertisements work is a kind of a dealbreaker for me; I don’t like my advertisements to obtrude so much. The advertisements sometimes are larger than the video, a large pet peeve for me.

abc89ABC.com has only one feature going for it: automatic quality scaling. If your internet’s bandwidth starts to lag, the sound and video quality degrades so the stream can continue downloading. If your bandwidth picks up, the quality gets better. How does it do that? Well, in order to watch shows from ABC.com, you have to install a plug-in in order to watch it, which is annoying since everyone else allows you to watch shows via Flash. The fullscreen viewer is ugly, and the advertisements are intrusive and don’t automatically advance. Just to watch videos from ABC.com is a pain in the ass: video automatically plays when you login, and to watch full episodes, you have to open a pop-up window. To watch Scrubs online, ABC.com opens about 3 different pop-up windows just to get to the episode selection screen. Easily, the most annoying of the Big Three networks. As a matter of fact, instead of watching the Scrubs finale on ABC.com, I shelled out the $3.98 to download the shows from iTunes. Took longer to watch, but so very hassle-free, it was completely worth it. I’d rather watch Oprah eat a bushel of lobster in a bikini than have to watch TV on ABC.com ever again.

What’s my final verdict? Obviously, it’ll depend on what show you want to watch. In terms of user experience, you’ll get the most bang for your bandwidth at NBC’s website. CBS’s comes in a close second (and those HD videos, if you can get them to stream, are jaw-droppingly gorgeous), while ABC’s a distant 5th, behind not watching TV and gouging my eyes with soup spoons.

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Originally published at The Fast Money Round. You can comment here or there.

This article was started on September 16. Shows how much of a procrastinator I am. Enjoy, nonetheless.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to head up to New York and watch a taping of the new season of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? By the way, special thanks to Trisha, the audience coordinator and very gracious host, for dealing with me whilst I hung around the set all day.

I suppose this post will have two functions: one, to inform the reader of what exactly goes on at a taping of Millionaire; and two (and this point has two sub-points), to explain the changes that have been made to the show while explaining that no, they are not in fact gay, stupid, or ill-concieved.

First, a recap of the trip. I woke up at a bright and early hour and made my way to 30th Street Station. I booked a BoltBus the night before (thank you for fronting the money for me, Liz!) and waited patiently for the bus. Now, the stop for this bus isn’t special; there’s not a shelter or anything. It’s just a sign on the rickety 30th Street bridge between Market and Chestnut, behind the Post Office. When a truck passed on it, the whole thing rumbled. Eventually, the bus showed up and I sat down. Boy, I’m taking BoltBus more often. They have power outlets on every seat and WiFi on the bus. I should’ve taken my laptop, damnit.

Well, one Preston and Steve podcast later, I woke up in Manhattan at 6th and Canal, with 30 minutes to get to 67th and Columbus. Of course, that is when I realized that I was sorely under-prepared to traverse the Big Apple. All I knew was, I could catch the 1 uptown to Columbus Circle and maybe run from there. I managed to get above ground with 10 minutes at 66th and Columbus. So, the view that Manhattenites got was a fat kid running down 67th Street at a very, very slow pace. (As an aside, I think I skip faster than I can run, cementing my place as the world’s manliest 6-year-old girl.) Eventually, I reached ABC Studios where Kevin, a young man in a headset, assumed that the portly gentlemen lunging toward him was the one who was late for his guaranteed seat in Studio 2 and asked if I was Cory. I assured him, out of breath, that I was, and he signed me in and directed me to the studio.

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Originally published at The Fast Money Round. You can comment here or there.

pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-seth-grahame-smithThis paper was written for Prof. Phyllis Betz’s Pop Culture Literature class. It was rushed, it’s not terribly good, but since people want 15 pages on zombies, then by the grace of Wordpress, they’ll have 15 pages on zombies. I’m taking out all the parenthetical citations and just throwing the works cited in a comment below, since this thing is a shade under 4,000 words.

Literary Appropriation, Popular Culture, and
Brain-Eating Zombies

A wise sage from the Internet once stated that there were 7 main plots in storytelling: man vs. nature; man vs. man; man vs. the environment; man vs. technology; man vs. the supernatural; man vs. self; and man vs. God. Montana State University Professor Ronald B. Tobias, in his book 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them, increases the number to 20. Italian dramatist Count Carlo Gozzi, according to Georges Polti in the book The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, increases the number to 36. Rudyard Kipling is presumed to have had a list of 69 different plots. Cecil Adams, of the syndicated newspaper column The Straight Dope, narrows it down to one:

“…all stories can be summed up as Exposition/Rising Action/Climax/Falling Action/Denouement or to simplify it even further, Stuff Happens, although even at this level of generality we seem to have left out Proust.”

The number of plots in storytelling may be limited, but the amount of stories in the world seems limitless. Since the dawn of the printing press, authors have been transcribing their stories into novels, novellas, magazine installations, Reader’s Digest features, blogs and websites. Authors get ideas from different points in their life, whether it be Edgar Allan Poe and the wicked, dreary conditions of the city of Philadelphia, or J.R.R. Tolkien and the backdrop of the Second World War. Even the best storytellers sometimes run out of creative juices and rely heavily, either consciously or subconsciously, on the abilities of others for the words needed to continue. Famous African-American author Alex Haley, who wrote the novel Roots, settled a lawsuit out-of-court for $650,000 after an author claimed that Haley plagiarized over 80 passages from his novel published 9 years before Roots.

What if, however, a storyteller used an existing work and revised it in such a way to create an entirely new piece? Would it be wrong? Would it serve a purpose? Can a piece that is heavily appropriated from an original source to create a seemingly-new story serve to enhance and clarify the original work? It can. Literary appropriation serves many different functions, including satire and political statements. In the case of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a 2009 satire of the Regency classic, this appropriation not only creates a new story using a familiar story line, but the changes and additions made to the story help to amplify and clarify the intentions and the meanings behind Jane Austen’s work.

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