Interactive Boloney

I was planning on curling up on the couch with some good reading material today, but I bumped into something in my news feed this morning that raised my blood pressure and gave me the perfect excuse to get rid of another old note and vent some spleen (I like to keep it aired out).

The bitter irony is that what I see as a problem just doubled. It used to involve just one episode of a TV series I really like. Now it involves another episode of another TV series I like. Two episodes I will never, ever touch. If they were the last TV episodes in the world, I’d stop watching TV.

I’m talking about Netflix and their @#$%ing interactive videos.

I like Netflix. A lot. Going back to the DVD mailer days, they provided access to great movies and old TV shows. More recently they are producing original content, much of which is very good. Some of it is excellent.

Two very different excellent shows that captured my heart are Black Mirror and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

I’ve written about both shows before. The former became a much talked about cultural hit. The latter, perhaps less well known, is a fluffy delightful good time starring the unsinkable Ellie Kemper (one referred accurately to her “exhausting effervescence”).

Briefly, the setup is that Kimmy Schmidt (Kemper), a loving air-head, is kidnapped by The Reverend (Jon Hamm) and held captive for years, along with three other women, in his underground bunker as his “wives.” The women were ultimately rescued, and the show is about Kimmy’s re-entry to normal life.

Which sounds dark AF, but it’s a comedy by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (who did the excellent 30 Rock together), so it’s all played for laughs with moments of insight and depth shining through.

It’s fluff, but very well-written fluff, and certainly not something I’ve ever seen before (which gets big points with me). The show actually has fine brush work that just looks like it was applied with a roller. I thought it was a lot of fun.

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That said, I wasn’t brokenhearted when it ended. It told a good story in four seasons, but it had kind of said all it could say with those characters by then.

It was, in a strong sense, complete. An arc with a beginning, middle, and end.

Why we can’t leave stuff like that alone as a bright shining memory — a treasured moment (like an especially great vacation) — is one of the many common human characteristics that force me (unwillingly I might add) into my raging misanthropy. I just don’t get most people.

Anyway, the show ended last year, but now it’s back with an 80-minute interactive episode, Kimmy vs. The Reverend.

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Which I refuse to watch.

Just like I refused to watch the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch. (Which stung because I really do like Black Mirror, but I won’t compromise my principles over a taste treat.)

I am fundamentally, categorically, utterly and totally opposed to interactive TV. If I want to play a video game, I’ll play a video game. (I haven’t played video games in decades. Because, you know, I’m an adult. I put away my childish things.)

When I watch TV I want to be told a story. I want to see what the writer does, how they construct a plot and develop characters. I’m not interested in riding an amusement part ride where I have to pick “left” or “right” sometimes.

A story is about escaping to someone else’s world. I can’t do that if I’m constantly called upon to make choices about what happens next. For me that’s a game for little kids.

No thanks.

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It’s another damn gimmick to suck us in.

The sad thing is, even if we check it out and end up not caring for it, they still win, because we watched. (One of my gripes is that we watch what we know will be crap just to see how crappy it really is. But those are still views that bring us more crap. The trick is to ignore the crap.)

Remember 3D TV? Thankfully that seems to have died once manufacturers figured out it was another damn gimmick that people didn’t really want. The most recent attempt to push 3D movies hasn’t really taken off. The whole idea is kind of a pain in the ass for very little gain.

Bandersnatch got a lot of attention, in part because Black Mirror is such a hot property, but also because it was a (semi-) new idea. People spent a lot of time dissecting the different paths and discussing the whole thing.

This time around Netflix is testing the technology with a goofy comedy, so we’ll see if people take to it as they did Bandersnatch. Some reviewers thing the blush is already off the rose from that one, and that Kimmy won’t get much traction.

It might depend on how bored people are. Both in wanting something new to watch and in wanting something new to talk about.

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I think part of it is that I find it all a bit exhausting. Some shows have web content that informs the TV episodes. Marvel movies require one pay attention to dozens of movies spinning out the canon.

TV series routinely have season-long arcs, and many have series arcs. One can’t jump into the middle anymore, one has to watch it all.

Or skip it entirely.

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I’ve been meaning to rant about Bandersnatch since it aired in 2018. So one less note on my board now (hooray).

If you stuck with my rant this far, thank you (“you like me, you really like me” 🙂 ), I have a little reward for you, a couple of fun videos that have popped up in my YouTube feed. Both are callbacks to previous posts.

This first one is another video from the omozoc channel.

Last Wednesday I showed you a great card trick stop motion video he did. This one isn’t stop motion, it’s something else entirely — something kinda stunning and beautiful.

Have a watch (it’s under a minute-and-a-half):

This is not fake food (like the stop motion cooking videos); beko mochi is a legit Japanese treat. They are a kind of, as you see, easy to make rice cake. (The full recipe in the video’s description.)

Very creative. Beautiful food. The Japanese are just one of many cultures with a view of bringing beauty into everyday life. (The Navajo are very much another. Their whole way of life involves beauty and harmony.)

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Earlier this month, I posted about John Conway’s Game of Life. The other day, YouTube coughed up this nine-year-old video.

It features a Life War! (It’s short; just two minutes):

Very clever! Life is capable of doing just about anything you want, although it may take lots and lots of cells to accomplish it.

There are tools available on the ConwayLife site for exploring Life and creating your own scenarios. There is also a huge amount of information about Life in their LifeWiki. (The LifeWiki is especially interesting.)

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Regarding the interactive Kimmy Schmidt episode (which “dropped’ May 12), one reviewer wrote, “Fans of the show will surely welcome an opportunity to be reunited with these characters.”

Nope. I tender my regrets. I won’t attend that party.

That same reviewer goes on to say that, even so, the better choice might be to just re-watch the original series. I think that’s great advice.

Just say “No!” to interactive TV!

Stay effervescent, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

One response to “Interactive Boloney

  • Wyrd Smythe

    FWIW, the most recent run of my Python Life program:

    Probably the last for a while. The next step would be to make it more dynamic rather than just evolving from a starting condition. Having something randomly add new cells or shoot them in from the side would liven things up. As it stands, one just sort of watches is age and decay (which, admittedly, is the standard game of Life).

    ((In so many ways.))

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