BBC America Sucks

I’ve been taking the high road on this issue. Not complaining overly-much publicly, and keeping a stiff upper lip. But the time for decency has passed, and this must be said.

BBC America sucks.


And sucks hard.

It used to be a great channel. Back when it first started, it was a very niche channel, with shows like How Clean is Your House?, Changing Rooms, Ground Force, Coupling, and various other BBC, shows, as well as some from other UK broadcasters. As time went on, they added edgier programing, like Skins and Law and Order: UK, and then really hit their stride with Top Gear, Orphan Black and Doctor Who. These days they tend to have lots of nature documentaries.

But do you know what 36 percent of BBC America’s programing for this week is? From today, October 5th, to Tuesday, October 11th, we see that 36 percent of their programming is that fantastic classic British show, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Yes, really. 36% of the programming on BBC America is, this week, made up with TNG. That’s down from one week where I saw closer to 50%. There were entire twenty-four hour blocks where only four hours were not TNG.

This is not a joke. This is not something I have made up. This is a terrible state of affairs.

Now a certain amount of leeway could be granted, I suppose, if you squint hard enough. After all, the series is headed-up by a British actor, and has another one in a major supporting role. This is harder to justify when we get to shows like the original Star Trek, and very hard to justify with, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, CSI Miami.

Yes, CSI Miami is now broadcast on BBC America.

Now, look, I haven’t watched the show, so maybe it has some hidden, secret British connection that I’m unaware of. It’s possible. But it’s still pretty bad as far as programming choices go.

Now let’s be honest here: the cause of this is that they’re chasing ratings. That’s perfectly fine and reasonable, up to a point. Broadcasters have to make money from advertisers, after all, and the only way you’re going to get those advertisers is by showing that you have lots of viewers. So you have to program shows those viewers want to see.

I get that, but, frankly, I can go elsewhere for basically all of these non-British shows and movies (including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which is about as British as I am), they’re broadcasting. Star Trek is available on two different over-the-air TV stations that I’m aware of, one of which has a several-hour long programing block with ever Trek series including the animated one. This means I can also get TNG that way.

Of course, not everyone uses an over-the-air antenna these days. No worries. You can also get all the Trek shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Or you can buy the DVDs. Or the blu-rays. In a pinch, you might even find some old VHS copies.

So it baffles me that these things are pulling enough of an audience for BBC America to broadcast them when there’s so many other options for viewing them and so few options for viewing various British programs. I mean, clearly they wouldn’t be alienating their core audience if they weren’t getting the ratings.

Therefore it falls on us, the audience, to make them change. To lower the ratings so that they stop broadcasting all this crap and go back to showing only British programming.

This means an end to watching BBC America. Yes, stop entirely. Stop watching it “just for Doctor Who and Top Gear”. You can buy the episodes of those shows from Amazon, Vudu, and iTunes for a pittance the day after they’re broadcast.

This is the only way to get BBC America to go back to showing British TV shows again. You know, to make them live up to their original purpose. I know that’s what I want.


I Can’t Wait

There are certain things I just can’t wait to have happen. I anticipate them eagerly. And around this time every year, I’m reminded of one of them.

I can’t wait for 9/11 to disappear from living memory.

I really, really look forward to the day when most people don’t remember it, weren’t alive for it, and care about it roughly as much as I care about Pearl Harbor, ie: it was a sad, depressing event, that doesn’t matter to me one way or another, or affect how I view the world today.

This will apparently begin to happen in roughly twenty years, and I really welcome it. It’s bad that we’re still so obsessed with something that happened fifteen years ago. We never really moved on as a nation, and we should. This terrible event completely distorts our national political scene, and it needs to stop doing that.

It’s healthy to move on from trauma, and we really, really need to do that here.

Trust Issues

You should never trust anyone who uses either religion or patriotism to sell you something. It’s their way of saying their product sucks, and sucks hard, but they’re hoping you’ll forget about that and instead just focus on God or America.

This is really, really terrible. I mean, does anyone actually allow themselves to be motivated to buy more Budweiser simply because it’s temporarily named “America”? If you do, you’re stupid; please stop reading my blog.

By contrast, here’s an ad for the only beer I’ve ever actually kind of liked. It’s called Budvar, or sometimes Czechvar, and it’s made in a Czech city whose German name is Budweis. Guess what it’s called in the non-English world?

Their ad is…strange. But makes more interested in having a Budvar than a can of America.

A Failure of Imagination

Last night I watched the first episode of Killjoys. It’s a new show airing on Syfy and it’s actually science fiction. That’s something I want to encourage more of, especially since there was also an ad for Sharknado 3: No, We Don’t Have a Sense of Shame, Why Do You Ask?.

Killjoys was entertaining enough, I suppose. I have no interest in watching it again, but if it were on and I had nothing better to point my eyes at, I would be fine with watching it. It seems constructed largely of tropes and stereotypes, though to be fair, at least the Asian guy hasn’t shown himself to be a martial arts expert. Yet. Though, hey, at least in that one episode I saw more Asians than an the entire run of Firefly

Anyhow, the program also displayed something else that caught my attention. It’s something I’ve noticed with a lot of science fiction over the last few years, especially that which you see on television. It showed an incredible lack of imagination in depicting the future.

I don’t know how far into the future the series took place, but it was far enough away that hyperlight travel seemed to exist, as do large spaceships and colony worlds that are very far from Earth. Are those colony worlds somewhat lawless places ruled over by an entity simply called “The Corporation”? Of course they are, because apparently it’s still 1988.

But ignoring that, and ignoring the somewhat dodgy special effects that frankly paled next to those of Red Dwarf, what really caught my attention was how much like “now” this future looked. People dressed basically the same, there was a guy riding a Vespa, and all the props and buildings looked pretty much the same. This future was, essentially, the present, but with spaceships.

If this was something largely confined to this one show, I wouldn’t have noticed or cared, and it is something that can be used to great effect in some programs (Battlestar Galactica, for example), but here, as in so many other programs, including Firefly, and my beloved Doctor Who, which does this all the time lately, it just comes across as corner-cutting and a complete lack of vision

Even movies suffer from this problem. I quite liked Interstellar, but despite taking place 20 minutes into the future, we never really got much of a sense that it was happening at any time other than roughly now.

This hasn’t always been the case. Look back at sci-fi TV and movies during the 1970s. Logan’s Run, Space: 1999, Star Trek (in all its incarnations), Blake’s 7, and even the original Doctor Who frequently depicted futures that were very different and looked and felt almost nothing like here and now. There was exceptions within the programs, it’s true, but the bridge of any of the starships Enterprise looks far more interesting and futuristic than anything I’ve seen on most TV or movies lately.

Now all of those shows and movies haven’t aged especially well when it comes to certain design elements, but I’m willing to bet that 30 or 40 years from now, if anyone remembers Killjoys, it won’t have aged particularly well, either. But at least the other TV programs and movies mentioned here were trying to show something interesting and new and different. Killjoys, and so many other shows like it, seem to just want to show us the current world, with nothing especially interesting to it. That’s sad, and it’s a shame. Science fiction should try to showcase the different, the strange, the alien, the future, and do so with some real vision to it. But good luck finding that these days.

Jurassic Nope

I don’t quite understand why the Jurassic Park franchise has such a warm place in some peoples’ hearts. The first one was pretty good, for what it was. An entertaining little popcorn film, with some great effects and a decent story.

The second one wasn’t very good. It was rather confusing, had some impressive plot holes, and a completely unnecessary third act.

The last said about the third movie, the better. It really was quite awful.

Then there’s the most recent one. It’s basically about as good as the first one.

So we have two decent, entertaining, but far from great, movies, one that was really “meh” and one that was utter shit. So at best a 50% success rate.

So why all the love for the franchise? It hasn’t done really anything to earn that love. I’m sure this is mostly just nostalgia filters at work, but it’s probably time to take those filters off and be a bit more critical.

A Dream Under Copyright

I thought I’d post up something nice for Martin Luther King, Jr Day. Perhaps the text of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Or perhaps not, since as it turns out, that’s copyrighted. In fact, pretty much every speech King gave while working for civil rights is copyrighted.

This is fucking stupid. Yes, the King estate deserves to make some money for his work. Absolutely they do. But as I’ve said before, copyright law in this country is insanely stupid, and the fact that something like the “I Have a Dream” speech is considered copyrighted material over 50 years after it was produced is silly.

As it stands now the copyright on anything is life of the author plus 70 years. Seventy. Years. If I live to be 95, and die in the year 2067, my writings will be under copyright until the year 2137. So this article, the one you’re reading right now, won’t be in the public domain until more than 120 years from now. That’s just stupid.

As I’ve said before, life of the creator plus 20 years is reasonable. The King estate would have had until 1988 to make all the money they wanted, and after that point, everything would be public domain, and that’s as it should be.

Why I Can’t Wait for 2014 to End

2014 has been, according to many, a lousy year. I’ll explain tomorrow exactly why it wasn’t actually as bad as all that, and for the world as a whole, can be considered a good year. But it sucked crap for me. Why?

2014 is the first year in many where I’ve made less than $10,000.

2014 is the first year since 1998 where I had to go on food stamps.

In 2014 my last grandfather died, followed not long after by my step-grandmother. They were preceeded in death by Paul Spragg, my contact at Big Finish.

In 2014 my sister wound up in the hospital with Legionnaire’s Disease.

In 2014 my efforts at continuing college came to a halt, at least for now, and I find myself owing $42,000 without even a two-year degree to show for it.

2014 marked the first time in several years where I had to skip the Gallifrey convention.

2014 is the year where I passed the 280 lbs mark. Yikes!

2014 is the year continued to be stuck in a job that I, as a British diplomat would say, “rather dislike”.

Do I have much reason to assume that 2015 will be better? Perhaps not. But on the plus side, almost every single thing listed above is something that can happen to me only once. So perhaps the future will be better. I know I’ll certainly try to make it that way.