As I write this, June 12, 2009, analog television in these here United States is enjoying its last minutes on the air. For the first time in 60 years, all TV broadcasting will be -- or has been -- converted to digital. By the end of today, analog television will be no more. There is no set time of day, all affiliates pick their own time. In Tampa, WFLA Channel 8/NBC turned off their analog signal at 5:00am. WTVT Channel 13/FOX (formerly a CBS affiliate), turned off their analog signal at the end of their noontime talk show by announcing "the studio engineer is standing by." Then at the stroke of 12:59:45pm, the picture on a studio rabbit-ear TV -- perched on a stool -- went to snow.
Those on cable or satellite TV saw no difference, nor did those with the notorious set-top converter boxes like the one employed by Ye Olde Editor. I've had mine for a little over a year. It took a bit of getting used to -- and I still have problems getting all the stations in reliably -- but, all in all, I digitized comfortably.
During the above-mentioned noontime talk show (Your Turn), a popular conspiracy theory was addressed about this all being to force consumers to buy cable or brand-new HDTVs. While this is plausible to my conspiracy-prone cerebellum, the official version is three-fold: 1.) It's to catch up with the rest of the world that's been digital for years. 2.) The now-unused analog frequencies are going to the government for emergency channels, also to cellphone providers who are increasingly desperate for bandwidth to grow (one commentator heard values in the trillions for these signal bandwidths), and 3.) HDTV is not the same as DTV. Despite the similarity in initials, "HD" stands for High-Definition (aka, Hi-Def) and the "D" in DTV merely stands for "digital". In fact, WTVT's local origination programs aren't even Hi-Def yet, but are expected to be by the end of this month.
The awareness campaign for this transition has been admirable, with non-stop announcements and advisories televised over the past two years and especially in the past few weeks. The original target date for switch-over was February 17 of this year, but was delayed until June 12 to allow more viewers to buy converter boxes (or cable or digital TVs or whatever).
The biggest annoyance of digital TV broadcasts -- and this includes all types, not just converter box -- is the signal has to be strong and perfect at all times, or the picture breaks up into an unintelligible mess, or more frequently, degrades into no picture at all. With analog, you could at least get a crappy, snowy, but acceptable picture and sound even on the worst stormy days. This is especially a concern for Floridians with hurricane season already upon us.
But there is no turning back now, the future is here. On my next trip to the pawn shop, I must make a note of how the used TV section is going.
Although I am on record as saying Land of the Lost would likely be near the top of my "not interested" list of the summer movies to see, a surprise invite from FX maestro Corey Castellano who was taking his 9-year-old son, Nicholas, to see it -- and who especially wanted me along for the ride -- softened my attitude. I so rarely see the little guy, how could Uncle Nolan say no?
It was great for Nicholas, I'm sure, but I found it to be just as awful as I as afraid it would be. A prolonged SNL stunt mixed with the barest minimum of the original Sid & Marty Kroft original series, this was purely a vehicle for Will Ferrell and his patented mugging and little else.
The few pleasant surprises were mostly in the effects department, with an imaginative layout for the lost land. Loved the background sets of our pop culture past buried in deep sand. That's about it.
Not recommended for adults, even if former fans of the TV series, but the kids will probably get a kick out of it.
Last seen and officially pronounced dead in 2006, Brandon Jones' fan column Splash Page makes its return in this issue of PCR.
Brandon has been getting more than a few knocks for concentrating solely on politics with his comeback column State of the Nation, which I think brings some interesting news onto the stage, but not everyone agrees. After numerous requests and much discussion between us about another pop column with a new title, Brandon decided to simply resurrect Splash Page as the best solution. Sporting its original slogan, "Where the comics and movie world collide," Splash Page, with its valuable news and op-ed on these topics, is a valuable addition to the PCR.
Brandon intends to continue State of the Nation, so he will be penning two separate columns a week -- something only Mike Smith has ever done before and pulled off with admirable consistency. Mr. Jones seems to be up to the challenge, and I wish him good luck with this endeavor.
Last seen at the end of 2008, The PCR Lettercol was once the main avenue of interaction between the staff writers and our readers here at PCR. Gradually, the Message Board and Readers' Comments provided such a convenient path to instant gratification for this purpose, there wasn't a need to knock myself out hand-formatting the Letters column for the odd email that would still come in the usual way (and almost always asking for info on Retro TV episode availability or celebrity contacts). I decided to post Letters only occasionally to take care of those strays, then I discontinued it altogether. But that may have been premature.
Lisa FANGRRL Ciurro and were talking recently about the fact that we still get some interesting emails occasionally that we'd like to share with our readers. I'm sure the other staff writers get them, too (I can't believe Will Moriaty's fan club abandoned him, haha). But I remarked there is NO time for me to hand-code the Lettercol the old-fashioned way, which was the main reason it was discontinued.
However....with the development of the Content Management System I personally built for this website (and continue to tinker with), I figured we could hijack some blog-like code -- say, along the lines of the Indie Film News page -- that would allow the writers to access the Lettercol from their personal accounts and upload interesting emails throughout the year on an ongoing basis. I'll be working on this over the next week or so, and it should be ready to test sometime soon after that.