Paying to watch Game of Thrones

March 31, 2013 ~ 02:53pm

For fans of the show, it should be no surprise that Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2012. Though I had absolutely NO interest whatsoever, during my seasonal cable usage I received 3 months free of HBO and decided to watch Game of Thrones. And ... now I'm hooked. I surprised myself, as I didn't expect to enjoy this genre of television.

So today (3/31/13) is the premiere of Season 3 of Game of Thrones. I do want to watch it, but subscribing for HBO (and the update to my cable) does not sound appealing. I thought through my options:

  • Subscribe to cable and HBO for 10 weeks. This comes out to apx $75 total.
  • Wait for the Bluray: This comes out to apx $45. However I have to wait till apx 1 month before the next season. So that would be around February/March of 2014.
  • I could purchase it through some streaming method (Amazon VOD/iTunes). This comes out to about $40 and has a similar delay as the Bluray.

The down sides to each of those options:

  • The cable companies are downright evil. Paying for cable annoys me.
  • I personally don't like to own unnecessary physical items. If I had Blurays I doubt I would actually ever watch them more than once.
  • Streaming, while great in general, is lower quality video. (Though to be fair some cable providers do a poor job encoding their HD television broadcasts.)

So my compromise is to sign up for HBO only for the last half of the season. Since Comcast provides OnDemand playback of episodes of the current season, I can easily watch all 10 episodes over the course of a month or so. The cost would be closer to $25-35 depending on when exactly I sign up. And overall, the delay of another month or so seems reasonable.

I'm not sure why I didn't consider this in the past. I've been paying for Showtime for 10 weeks out of the year to watch Dexter and probably will do the same.

Yes, I know that I could join the piracy, but I choose not to.

The Box Set

September 7, 2011 ~ 10:42pm

I recently went through the Sopranos Box Set (83 hrs over 30 dvd's). I could write novels on the subject matter, but this post has nothing to do with that. Rather I would like to share a greater frustration: Swapping so many discs is the most annoying experience when watching a full television show.

I would have rather spent a few days ripping all discs to some home networked media server or even paid $$ to have the episodes streamed online (but I can't since I have to subscribe to HBO). Swapping discs at the end of every 2-3 episodes created an artificial boundary to stop or continue watching. If there was 1 more episode on the disc I might continue but if I was at the last one, I would have to flip through the catalog to find it. Furthermore if I ever wanted to go back to an old episode - not even worth the hassle. Worse yet, when I was traveling I had to have the physical discs and managed to lose (and later recover) them on more than one occasion.

Compare this to Lost which is actually worse: 84+ hrs over 38 discs. But I never went that route, instead I watched all 120 episodes via Netflix. Some nights on a binge I could watch 4 or 5 episodes in succession. Other times I might start watching on my PS3 and continue days later on my laptop (if I were still watching now, I can even use my cell phone).

Watching a complete television show after it is complete in my opinion is much more satisfying than waiting till next week after a good episode or next season after a cliff hanger. You can set your pace. If you have all (or almost all) the seasons in front of you it can be pretty easy to just ignore cable and just watch a few episodes a night, like you can do with Netflix.

Currently I am subscribing to Comcast Cable, just so I can subscribe to Showtime, just so I can watch Dexter. I hate the arrangement. I will cancel cable after the season ends (but most likely repeat again next year). However with Comcast, you get "On Demand" where I can watch every past episode of Dexter for free with my Showtime subscription. Sounds great, BUT ... I can only watch it on my single Comcast HD box. I have to scroll through dozens of menus to get to the later episodes, then repeat those steps to get to the next episode. I can only pause for 1 day and fast forward at 1 speed. ALL using an interface that was outdated 5 years ago!

Watching On Demand cable shows are frustrating.

DVD Box Sets are a further relic of the past.

Sadly Netflix Streaming lacks the catalog of DVD's and the new releases of On Demand, but the experience and convenience are leaps and bounds ahead of either alternative. Netflix recently increased prices for customers with both DVD and Streaming subscriptions, but decreased prices for customers with streaming only. As annoying as price change is, it pales in comparison to the yearly price hikes I've endured from Comcast (e.g. "HD Technology Fee: $8.95/mo").

Imperfect as Netflix is, it is the future. I don't see a future in the DVD Box Set or Cable subscriptions. They both are becoming obsolete.

Star Trek

May 23, 2009 ~ 12:18pm

I saw the new Star Trek movie over a week ago, but I was too busy to post a review (or rant).

The movie by itself was an entertaining movie. It opened with a really well-done amazing epic scene and from there it flowed smoothly and didn't have too many dull points or lags in the story. I think as a science fiction movie, it was definitely above average, and in that you had semi-decent actors with countless cheesy lines, massive special effects, plot that almost kinda makes sense and of course a perfect setting for sequels. Perfect for a summer action flick.

Now, as a "Trekkie", who has watched every show and movie since the mid-80's, I was greatly disappointed. Anyone who has watched as much as I have is completely knowledgeable that none of the history really makes sense. Each show and movie was made in such different times that none of the time lines really make any sense and there are countless inconsistencies about how the "future" is supposed to play out. So in all fairness anyone trying to make such a movie would run in to these problems. So I ask: "Why bother?" Can we please stop with the prequels?

The story itself from the "Star Trek" universe essentially is a "fork" from the original story. So basically employing the most over used technique: time travel, a new "time line" was created, thus allowing the writers to do what ever they wanted. For 2 basic reasons: 1. bring in a new generation of fans and 2. make it more sexy. Or maybe they want sexy new fans? Hmmm, I don't know but in any event, I think this is the perfect formula for failure.

So what happens in the movie? I don't want to spoil it, but I will spoil one thing: my impression of the main characters.

  • Sulu - had no real role, a Japanese character played by a Chinese actor? ("Harold" nonetheless)
  • Checkov - what a terribly annoying fake accent and goofy acting as well, also did I mention the bad accent?
  • Uhura - the slight romantic subplot was quite disconcerting
  • Scotty - quite entertaining and great comic relief, but I don't see how he could end up to be our loveable "Mr. Scott"
  • McCoy - well done and really fit nicely

Which brings us to our final two: Kirk and Spock. I personally think Spock was the most annoying role. There was a bit too much emphasis on him and the acting was so flat and his wannabe Vulcan Voice was very vexing to my ears. And our man Kirk. I must admit he was the only redeeming aspect. He was totally refreshing and still completely believable. I liked his dynamic with probably everyone except Spock. Overall mixed casting for the whole crew, but I guess acceptable.

Anyways, I think I was a bit more satisfied with my older Star Trek, warps and all (laugh its a joke). I don't have very positive view of seeing "Star Trek Action Figures" or "Star Trek Happy Meals" at McDonald's. If this is the resurrection of the Star Trek franchise, I think I might just check out here. When the obvious sequels come out, I don't think I will care to watch them. ... Unless maybe, just maybe, if someone forces me into a theater and pays for my ticket.

Battlestar Galactica is Bad Fiction

April 29, 2008 ~ 08:15am

I've been watching BSG since it premiered as a mini-series. I admit that the show is entertaining and has just enough mystery/curiosity in it to keep me watching it. What I do find horribly annoying is that it's science-fiction is nonsensical (they have FTL, but nothing else). They try to merge in some quasi-allusion to religion (Neo in Matrix was bad enough). And the worst thing is that the characters have nothing concrete about them, they keep changing dynamically from a show-to-show basis. And somehow all the "critics" say that the show is sooo edgy and provocative. Hmmm, would they say that about a Soap-Opera???

I saw this post about "clues" being hinted in the recent episodes, and out of all the fanboys only one commenter wrote reply that made sense:

But seriously, what would I call this other than "hard sci-fi"? Bad fiction for one. The stories are so damn pat, and they've been following the "Issue of the Week" formula since half way through the second season. It's like some after school special in space, except with angsty speeches. Their idea of character development is to have people wake up one day and say "I'm going to cause unexpected, out of character mayhem today because dagnabit; everything's going to be back to normal tomorrow anyway." People need to stop mistaking conflict , emphatic voices, deus ex machinas and self-righteousness for good writing.

Yes, I'll bet he'll keep watching the show till the finale as will I. And while some fans have already admitted being immensely "sad" about the impending culmination, I, for one, will feel relieved that I have one less obligatory sci-fi show to watch.

Stargate: SG-1 Finale

June 25, 2007 ~ 07:24pm

Well as most science fiction fans know last friday was the series finale for Stargate: SG-1, ending the longest running sci-fi series ever. (Yes, longer than the X-Files - which was very lame to begin with) In any event, it was incredibly disappointing. On so many levels.

First of all let's ignore the issue that the series should have culminated at the end of season 8 when all the "bad guys" were defeated and every unique plot line and character seemed to have some closure. But NO, they introduced a new villian in season 9, bumped off several main characters, added new ones and just dragged it on.

Back to the point. The biggest issue is that the finale did not really finalize anything at all. Several big plot changes occured in the second half of this season alone. IMDB tells me that 2 straight to DVD movies will be made for Stargate. The first of which will conclude the plotline and after that who knows? Am I really anxious? No. But I would still like to know how it all ends. And if they were going to make 2 movies anyways, why not just end the show and create some cool movies that potentially newcomers could watch (perhaps something like Serenity)?

And how did it all end? ... The problem with many science fiction storylines is their over-dependence on time travel. Stargate ended (I don't care if I spoil it) with a scenario playing out where every main character ran the full extent of their lives. Probably something like the finale of Six Feet Under but with less satisfaction. Well here they were "trapped" but of course it "didn't happen" because they can go back in time and fix it! Yeah, how convenient.

Well anyways, I'm glad the show is over now. Once upon a time friday night could mean 3 or 4 different sci-fi shows to catch up on. Tough life for a geek. I'm glad there's one less. So now, I'll wait for the DVD's.

In all fairness, Stargate: SG-1 was a great show in its prime with the original cast. Highly entertaining, not too much mumbo-jumbo and great characters. Next to ST:TNG, it was probably one of the best sci-fi shows ever. I'll miss it. But after 10 years, its time to move onto something else.