Terriers on FX
From the “Best TV Shows You Probably Aren’t Watching” file comes Terriers.
The show isn’t full of flashy action sequences. It isn’t full of sex. It’s about solving crimes, but it isn’t a procedural. It has no teens, no supernatural elements, no super spies or super powers. What it does have is excellent writing, great stories, and fantastic performances. There is action, and sex, and crime solving, but the show is really about the characters. In just six episodes I’ve gotten to know these characters better than some shows manage in entire seasons. The style of the show is like an old noir detective film. Scrappy underdog characters with huge character flaws. And snappy dialog.
Terriers is about Hank Dolworth. He’s an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic. He flushed his career and his marriage down the toilet, and now with his best friend Britt Pollack, a reformed criminal, the two of them are making ends meet by running an unlicensed private investigation business. Basically what you’ve got is an ex-cop who knows the law and where the edges are, and an ex-con who is good at breaking and entering and other less than lawful pursuits trying to do the right thing, even when they aren’t exactly sure what that is or how they should go about doing it. It begins with an old drinking buddy of Hank’s asking for a favor. This leads them into some dealings with corruption in local businesses and forms the story arc for the first five episodes. One of the best parts about the show is that it doesn’t divide it’s focus. Many shows like to have a case of the week for the episode and fill the background with character arcs. Terriers manages to actually use the case of the week as part of the character arcs and overall story arc. It all blends together instead of feeling like each scene is part of one or the other.
It’s just really good.
If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Full episodes are available on Hulu. If you like it, tell a friend.
Yesterday, Hulu announced the details of their Hulu Plus plan. Of course, being the Internet, it was immediately filled with people saying it was too expensive, not enough content, and that the inclusion of ads was a deal breaker.
You know, on the content end, they are probably right, but that it something that will get better over time. But the price and ads… Think about your cable service if you have it. You pay XX for TV and XX for Internet access. In my case, with Comcast, those prices would be about $50 and $45 respectively (it varies based on the package you get). Personally, due to issues with Comcast not having a DVR capable of letting me record 6 shows at a time and their OnDemand service not having everything I already pay for for free, I kicked the TV part to the curb and just pay for Internet now. At the moment, I torrent, but it means I watch shows a day or two late — minimum (someone has to upload it before I can download it). But if Hulu were to give me access to even half of those shows on a completely OnDemand basis for $10 a month, even with commercials, I’ll take it.
And about those commercials… oddly enough, Ctrl+Alt+Del ran a related comic and rant. Are commercials really that bad? Yeah, sometimes they are annoying, but in general they are informative, about products or shows that might interest me, and then, if I want, I can go buy them. Since switching to torrenting, where they always edit out the commercials, I’ve been missing my advertising. New shows will pop up out of the woodwork and be a few episodes in before I’ve even heard of them (you know, because I don’t spend my time trolling TV Network and entertainment gossip websites). I’ll go to the store and see a product on the shelf and say, “Hey! This is great!” and find out that it’s been available for months, only I’d never seen an ad for it so I didn’t know it existed. And seriously, why is Hulu for $10 with commercials bad but cable TV for $50+ with commercials okay?
Personally, I’m excited. This sort of OnDemand a la carte TV watching is exactly what I want. Sure, torrenting is free, but I’d much rather support the shows I watch in some way AND not have to deal with the annoying limitations of cable TV providers. I just wish the Xbox version wasn’t being delayed to 2011.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about theft and piracy. Mainly because some people I know have been tossing around invites to various torrent sites, and while I don’t join most of them, I don’t mind scanning the content just to see what’s out there.
For me, there are lines I won’t cross.
Movies: I will not pirate movies. I’ll go to free screenings, I’ll pay for in the theater, I’ll wait for the DVD or Netflix. I won’t buy one ticket and then see multiple movies at the theater. In part, I think this is because I want to work in the industry some day, and I would hope if I was trying to make my living off movies that people wouldn’t be stealing my work.
Books: Nope, don’t steal them, don’t download pirated eBooks. Again, I think this is because I want to be a published author and I wouldn’t want people stealing my stuff.
Games: Way way back in the day, I admit, I pirated some games. I was 12, maybe 13. Ever since I could afford to buy them, I’ve stopped pirating. Once again, an industry I want to work in.
Music: By and large, I don’t pirate. I say “by and large” because while the majority of my collection comes from ripping my own CDs (some of which I have since sold at garage sales), I have also ripped CDs from other people, or been given mixes from friends that I’ve ripped. I will say, however, that the majority of my music theft is limited to CDs that are no longer available. I’d buy them if I could, but I can’t. This is changing as music companies are finally embracing digital distribution and it doesn’t cost them much to cart out old catalogs and put them up for sale.
TV: On the other hand, I torrent TV shows like there is no tomorrow. Mostly though, I do this because of the roadblocks they (the networks and cable companies and everyone else) put in my way from enjoying all the shows I want to see. All I want is a 100% OnDemand service where the episodes are available “on time”. No holding shows back for a week to try to get me to watch the broadcast. You can even leave the commercials in. (Unlike some people, I don’t mind commercials at all, it’s how I learn about other shows, upcoming movies, products, etc. I don’t record/torrent TV so I can skip commercials.) The Upfronts are this week and so later I’ll be doing my usual rundown of the fall season and like every year I will illustrate why I have to record/torrent shows. Things are getting better with services like Hulu out there, but they still don’t have everything. And frankly, cable TV charges WAY too much to their hostages, I mean, customers. I’ll happily stop torrenting when I’m given unlimited undelayed time shifting.
Anyway… just thoughts in my head. Are there lines you cross? Do you try to justify it? How?
If you frequent my blog, you may have read about my war with Comcast. The end result of everything is that I built my father a PVR using digital tuners, and he’s able to record six programs at a time on the channels broadcast in the clear (essentially 2 thru 78 plus a handful of other random channels, plus the HD versions of all the local channels), while I, not able to afford to replace my PVR, canceled cable TV in favor of various streaming sources. With Hulu, network websites, Netflix, and the occasional torrent, I can watch pretty much every show I care to watch. Yeah, it is always a day late, but I was recording and watching most of them a day late anyway.
The main reason behind this decision wasn’t just to save the $60 a month that cable TV cost me, although that is nice, but mostly in that cable TV isn’t serving me properly as a consumer. To me, the single most important thing is to be able to watch the shows on my schedule. Since networks insist on putting good shows on opposite each other, and I don’t want to not watch good shows, recording shows has always been something I needed to do. And while recording shows for later viewing meant I could fast forward through commercials, that was always a side effect and never the point. Time shifting was the point. Right now, if for that same $60 a month, Comcast were to offer me the ability to watch any program at any time, even if I was forced to watch the commercials and couldn’t skip them, I’d do it.
On Demand programming is where the future is, and networks need to catch up. And charging me $3 or $5 per episode in addition to my cable bill just to watch it without commercials isn’t the answer. Leave the commercials in and let me watch it for free, just like when it is broadcast, but on my own schedule.
I want to watch your shows. I even want to watch your commercials (they help me discover more shows and sometimes even products to buy). But I just can’t do it on your schedule.
Either the networks need to jump on On Demand, or the cable companies need to invent the 10 tuner DVR that works with ALL their channels so people can create their own On Demand.
Recently, I’ve gone to “war” with Comcast. This year marked the final turnover to digital and the end of analog broadcast. For the past 18 months, I had kept in contact with Comcast about the effect this would have on my analog cable. See, the basic cable – channels 2 thru 78 – are all I really watch, so that’s all we have, and you don’t need set top boxes for that, which allowed me to build Medusa, my 6-tuner PVR running Snapstream’s software. I admit I watch a lot of TV, but the main problem is that quite often even if I only watch three or four shows on a single night, they’ll always air at the same time. Years ago I managed this by having four VCRs, but times have changed and I upgraded. In any event, Comcast assured me that nothing would change, my analog devices would continue to work just fine. On many occasions over this time period, I inquired about the future of analog service, and every single time I was assured that Comcast had no plans to end analog service for the cable package of channels 2 thru 78.
So, one day there was a problem with my cable. It seemed I was only getting channels 2 thru 29 or 30, everything above that was gone. I called in to Comcast customer service and asked what was going on. They explained it was an outage, and regular service would return soon. Seeing as I already had them on the phone, I again inquired about the future of analog services. I asked if this division of 2 thru 30 and 31 thru 78 was a precursor to them moving 31 thru 78 to digital only. I was assured that there were no changes planned. None. Channels 2 thru 78 would continue to be available for all analog users.
In the meantime, over the past couple of years, I have watched with anticipation the development of digital tuner cards for PCs. At first the support was iffy, but now pretty much all software supports them, and given a good enough PC they’ll even watch and record HD channels broadcast “in the clear”, like your local network affiliates. I’ve been budgeting my money in plans to upgrade my PVR so that I could take advantage of digital, but its not exactly cheap to do, and besides, I still had time.
Imagine my surprise when, the day after the outage above and being assured that analog was not going to change, I received a letter in the mail explaining that channels 31 thru 78 were being moved to digital only on August 11th of this year. That couldn’t be right since just the day before I was told it wouldn’t change, and mailings like this take weeks to plan out. So I called customer service again, and with letter in hand was told again that there was no planned change for analog service, channels 2 thru 78 would continue to be available. But a quick search of the Internet found several locations, including Comcast’s own website, telling people about the future and channels being moved off analog.
Now, here we come to the “war”. See, I’m not actually upset by the digital switch. I expected it would come eventually, hence why I’ve been planning to upgrade my PC… next year, when my budget can afford it. And I completely understand and even agree with the need for change: when you move analog to digital it takes far less bandwidth and allows you to have more channels and services. My problem is that I was lied to. As far as I can see, one of two things had happened.
- Failure of Management: The customer service group was not properly trained or informed about the August 11th channel moves to digital, and therefore the reps I spoke to were telling me what they believed to be true.
- Failure of Employee: The customer service reps, not wanting to deal with a possibly irate customer, chose to not inform me of the digital change, on which they had been fully informed and trained.
There is no other possibility. Either the reps lied to me, or the reps were not properly trained.
I decided, for the first time in my life, to actually write a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. I wrote in detail about my 18 months of contact and the day of the outage and the mailer I received. I even wrote that I understood why the change was being made and that Comcast had every right to do so, but that I was lied to through one of the reasons above and I would like something done about it.
Since writing this complaint, the case has gone back and forth between Comcast and myself. I have been called on several occasions and emailed a number of times. Every time they contact me, I get a spiel about how there were two digital changes (the government mandated change and the Comcast channel moves) and this lead to confusion (despite my most recent calls being AFTER the government mandated change), and that I can continue getting all my channels by simply getting a set top box, which they will provide, or replace my analog tuners with digital tuners, which I will have to do myself. Every time, I report the resolution as unsatisfactory because there is only one thing I want: Admission of fault.
I want someone from Comcast to call me and tell me the staff was improperly trained, or tell me that reps have been found lying to customers to avoid confrontation. I want Comcast to admit that the failure existed on their end, in their processes or with their people, and to apologize for it having happened. I want someone to say they are sorry and that the customer service department should have informed me of the impending channel moves on all calls made after some date. This is the one thing I have not heard from Comcast. And I probably never will.
It is not just them, of course, its systemic. Companies do everything in their power to never admit fault. Well, I’m tired of it, and this time, in my only piddling and puny way, I’m fighting back. this case through the BBB will never be resolved until someone from Comcast admits fault.
As for my personal resolution for Comcast’s change of service, since my budget will not allow for rebuilding my PC (not only do I need new tuners, since the best ones are PCI Express and my PC is old enough to only have PCI, I have to get a new motherboard, processor, memory, video card, etc… the hard drive is IDE, not SATA… in fact the only thing I can keep is the case), and with budget being the main concern in this economy, I’ll be canceling my cable TV service. Thanks to Hulu and individual network web pages, everything I want to watch is online anyway. In the end, Comcast’s refusal to admit fault is probably going to wind up saving me over $50 a month.