The one thing Twitter provides its users that no other social network has been able to touch is instant connection. It takes barely any effort at all to send a tweet, telling the world and all your followers exactly how you feel about something. Football games, live news events, local festivals and anything else that can be experienced in the moment can be communicated on Twitter for everyone to share.

Now a new study by the Neilson Group and a company called SocialGuide proves that there is a direct, quantifiable correlation between the amount of chatter about a show on Twitter and the ratings that show receives across the non-Twitterverse.

It may not be the most noble of statistics. Certainly, many of us in the Twitter community would rather hear about our impact on politics or news. Our triumphs as a media community during natural disasters. Maybe even an Abby Wambach story. We might prefer less How I Met Your Mother and more Tahrir Square. But these things are soft targets, statistics are hard to come by, and the message Neilson discovered was straight-forward.

More chatter, more ratings:

 How well does Twitter align with TV program ratings? The recent Nielsen/SocialGuide study confirmed that increases in Twitter volume correlate to increases in TV ratings for varying age groups, revealing a stronger correlation for younger audiences. Specifically, the study found that for 18-34 year olds, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume corresponds to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes, and a 4.2% increase in Twitter volume corresponds with a 1% increase in ratings for midseason episodes. Additionally, a 14.0% increase in Twitter volume is associated with a 1% increase in TV program ratings for 35-49 year olds, reflecting a stronger relationship between Twitter and TV for younger audiences.

The report goes on to say that midseason ratings are even more closely reflected in Twitter chatter, which seems to suggest that if you’re still talking about it on Twitter, you must like it.

Is Twitter determinative of ratings? Or reflective of a wider interest? Does the fact that you’re talking about The Big Bang Theory on Twitter mean that you, as an influential member of your meat-based community, are turning your friends on to it? Or does the fact that you and your friends watch TBBT mean that you’re going to end up talking about it on Twitter more?

Either way, consider the Second Screen life to have officially begun in the minds of every television executive and entertainer out there. Look out Twitterinos: shit just got real.

It’s been an excellent week for getting your Sci-Fi fix in Rochester! That is, if you know where to look.

For starters, it’s Shark Week, and chances are, you’re one of two kinds of people: either you hold countdowns and make an unnecessarily large celebration out of this week-long television special, or you don’t understand the hype at all and think it’s ridiculous. I happen to fall into the first category, but as fate would have it, I do not have cable television and found myself wondering if I could watch some quality shark attacks at a local watering hole the same way I do for football games. The answer is yes. MacGregor’s on Jefferson Road has been airing Shark Week all, well, week.  Drinks and sharks all around! (Sidenote: if you find yourself wondering how Shark Week qualifies as Sci-Fi, I present you with Sharkzilla and How Jaws Changed the World. You’re welcome.)

Need some cheap quality Sci Fi entertainment? Henrietta’s Dollar Theater has you covered. Your choices this week are The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian coming of age and sticking it to the government series, or Prometheus, for those of you who prefer the traditional outer space and extraterrestrial type of science fiction film.  Both movies have received more than decent scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and hey – you can’t beat the price!

Finally, it’s Friday, and we all have the weekend on our minds. To wind down this fantastic week of Sci-Fi, head over to the Dryden to check out Steven Spielberg’s, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, another classic aliens-obsessed story from 1977 with epic special effects. Show times are tonight at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:00pm.

Know of any awesome science fiction book clubs, movie showings, or any kind of Sci-Fi production in Rochester that I’ve missed? We want to know about them! Comment below so we can check them out, too.

 

 

Admit it: you've felt like this a couple times watching Season 4

I don’t often use this space to rant about television, but I thought I’d just go ahead and do it on a Saturday morning. Its Labor Day weekend and I don’t feel like doing anything productive, anyway….

I wish I could be surprised or disappointed by the way True Blood is turning out, but the dreary truth is that Alan Ball has done it again. Fans of Six Feet Under must surely have worried that he might go and ruin his latest creation. And I think we can all now admit that he has. He’s gone and painted himself into a ridiculous corner out of which no easy escape remains. He’s gone and written so fast and furiously that he’s got a million subplots, all of them shitty and really none of them focused on what made the show a success in the first place.

Granted, they are two different things. Six Feet Under was a quirky, macabre and always interesting look at life through the eyes of those for whom dealing with death is a vocation. The opening sequences showing random deaths that had nothing to do with the plot (except to provide a corpse on which to work for the rest of the episode) were a real highlight of the show. They displayed life as fleeting and death as potentially silly, and with that as the amuse bouche, I was always eager to get into whatever crazy story line he was going to weave next.

But about season three, Ball decided to take the quirky and the funny and replace it with unendingly painful, shameful and ugly impostors. The show I used to watch for a light splash of death became a horrible burden of life. I enjoyed all the characters and wanted to see them do well, so I kept watching. I was invested. But soon enough, the sheer number of plotlines – David and the damned adopted kid, Nate and his emotional issues after the stroke thing, cute and funny Ruth suddenly becoming this horribly desperate character – overwhelmed my interest in the show. And anyway: what the hell happened to the funeral business?

With True Blood, we had vampires fucking. Remember the heavy metal Goth vamps speed-fucking willing human participants? Occasionally killing one, now and again? Gothic, sexy, raunchy, drug-fueled, nihilistic, funny, zero-sum Saturnalia, constantly filmed at night. It was everything I wanted my childhood to be. The simple yet completely implausible plot of vampires suddenly springing into the public eye – and humans blithely accepting it – was so silly that it made for great mind exercises. You just had to go on imagination and wonder what happens next.

Well, what happened next – about Season 3, if you recall – was Beverly Hills 90210 with expensive special effects. Oh, sure. There’s the occasional were-panther rape sequence. But that’s bad, like Brandon and his *one* fucking ecstasy trip. Pht. Remember when violent, doped-up supernatural sex was a good thing? Yeah, that’s gone.

Instead, the football team (The Vampires) has a beef with the lacrosse team (The Witches) and they’re duking it out for control of the lunch room (Merlots). The leather-bound, heavy metal hacker kids (Werewolves) are just waiting to see who loses so they can get their licks in and maybe steal some shit to fence out by the baseball diamond. Nobody but nobody gives a shit what the geeks and emos are doing (Shifters and god help us, Faeries, respectively), except the loser AV kid (Alan Ball). And everybody drops everything when the hot blond girl-next-door with the sweet ass who won’t put out comes into the room (Sookie).

I don’t give a rat’s ass in a red wheelbarrow about any of these plots. I want to see the vampires fucking. Goth music at Fangtasia, just like I’d like to remember Vertex. Freaked-out innocents and creepily-submissive tourists. Death and gore and sex and mind-bending intoxication and all the good things in life.

But no. Now we need to watch Jason the Fuck-Machine discuss his feelings with Jessica the Gorgeous Red-Headed, Nominally Uncontrollable Baby-Vamp. Are you kidding me? When do we go back to the fun?

There are now so many plots and subplots that there is no way to get back to the core of True Blood without jerking the wheel violently to the right and hitting a retaining wall. Which I admit: I’ve considered an acceptable plot-line, while watching the show. As it is, we had Russel in concrete and Queen Sophie-Anne about to do the Dance of the “True Death” with Bill at the end of Season 3, then we come back to Season 4 and its as if none of those plots happened. Did you feel a little cheated when the plot suddenly became about Faeries? Presumably living on one of the more cheaply-constructed Star Trek Voyager sets?

And oh, you just know those fucking Faeries are coming back at some unwelcome moment in the next two episodes, don’t you? Yes, you do.

Fucking Faeries.

If you haven’t been watching Game of Thrones, I have to say, I’m surprised by good it has been. HBO has turned its unique brand of moral relativism, sliding loyalties and gritty realism to the world of fantasy and given the old Dungeons and Dragons set something real to think about:

HBO: Game of Thrones: Homepage.

But as I watched last night, it finally struck me that fantasy writing is inherently racist. You would never expect Tolkien’s dwarves to ride horses, nor his elves to dig tunnels through the earth. Such things are simply not done by those races. They stay within their very narrow scope of definition.

The races in Game of Thrones are at least as unidimensional as anything you’re likely to see in other fantasy novels. What makes the whole thing stand out is that, in an attempt to make that world more real and less about dragons and fairies, the show drops all pretense of genuine genetic difference and merely makes each race a slightly modified version of some half-identifiable human nationality.

You could have at least understood that Ents would not have cross-bred with Elves. Nor Hobbits with Dwarves for that matter, despite the presumably much more compatible genital-to-toes scale. No, they’re just very different creatures and there’s no reason to suspect they would intermingle.

In Game of Thrones, races are even less distinct than the nasal-modified races of modern Star Trek series – and not from other planets, either. There’s every reason to believe that they could and should intermarry. But with rare exceptions, they do not. Everything stays within an orderly set of stereotypes which are not stereotypes: of course, these are not races of Earth, but a completely different thing!

And I call this type of racism “allegorical” because it is not generally thought of as racism, but rather a vector by which more profound truths are to be revealed. There’s no malice, just storytelling. By reducing each race to even less of a caricature than the worst Earthly stereotypes, the author provides a parable about human life. Tolkien’s dwarves are hard-working but riddled by avarice; his elves wise to the point of folly; humans are filled with limitless courage and not much else. Each tells the story of both the good and the bad of what are generally considered positive attributes. And in general, I feel like my early years are the better for having read Tolkien and Tad Williams and all the rest.

But I wonder if anyone else gets the same uneasy feeling watching Game of Thrones that I do?

I. Love. Boobs.

I really do. And while my tastes as a mid-thirties man have trended somewhat upwards on the age scale, I certainly have nothing against pictures of mid-to-late twenty-somethings, scantily clad and posing in sexually-provocative positions. No, sir. Not me. Especially not when the women in question (I’d prefer it be women, but you can look at whatever you like) happen to be as comely as Lea Michelle and Dianna Agron. Gorgeous women, well into adulthood, doing what adults do.

Wait. What do you mean, they’re on television playing high-schoolers? That can’t be right. They’re way too old. If you showed teenage girls full-developed adult women as examples of what they’re supposed to look like in their gawky teenage phase,… well, just imagine what that would do to their self-image!

No, that can’t be right. After all, Katie Couric says she watches the show every week. With her daughters. Parents Television Council says the pictures are borderline pedophilia. Don’t they know how old these girls are? And I thought we were done with this silliness after Beverly Hills 90210 and The OC proved you could use of-age actors in high-school dramas and be perfectly effective.

I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with women showing off their bodies – or men, for that matter. But man, if they ever started using adults to play child roles, THAT would be really bad.

Something saggy this way comes.  The television show about teenage high school students starring thirty-something actors that made me cringe throughout my high school career even as I watched it (in the vain hope that I would have something to talk to Jeannie Peirce about) is making a come back. . .  with the original stars:

The Associated Press: Shannen Doherty back in `90210′ ‘hood this fall

Brenda Walsh is all grown-up and returning to Beverly Hills, 90210, this fall.

But cast members of the new CW spin-off, “90210,” are speculating whether Shannen Doherty will be equally mature when she reprises her role as Walsh.

No more fresh fruit at the Peach Pit.  Gone are the episodes about Brendon getting his drink dosed with MDMA (Extasy for you kids out there) and wild, drug-laden nights in TJ.  In their place: episodes about prune juice spiked with Viagra and wild, Metamucil-fueled early evenings at The Pottery Barn.

Get those DVRs set!

Kodak’s technology blog, A Thousand Nerds, has an interesting post about the changing nature of consumer entertainment demand and how that will affect the way content gets delivered to its audience. It may be that we finally bridge the Television / PC divide by eliminating both from the equation:

A Thousand Nerds: A Kodak blog about innovation

What does this all mean? The TV and Internet as we know it are about to undergo massive change. TV will be replaced by connected displays able to deliver a full range of multimedia output. Sitting in front of the computer clicking away will also be replaced by new ways of interacting with these connected displays as the interaction transforms from passive consumption to two-way interaction. You can also expect more changes within the industry as companies consolidate, form new strategic partnerships, and realign offerings around multimedia.

Not that PCs will go away, or televisions either. But after decades of attempts to somehow merge the two (Windows Media Center, WebTV, etc), its seemed very clear that the two do not go together. The problem is largely one of furniture, however: people sit at desks to use their PCs and lounge on couches to watch TV, neither of which providing a comfortable environment to swap roles.
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