Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

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Profile – Bill Hicks

June 24, 2010

“It’s always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s just hilarious.”

Our new, long overdue profile is one of those classic examples of an artist completely underrated in his time: Bill Hicks.

It looks like his time has come due; a new documentary called American: The Bill Hicks Story is playing to rave reviews over in the UK and the trailer (below) has me struggling to contain my excitement.

Bill Hicks is not so much a comedian as an orator. His act can be hard to swallow because so much of it, especially later in his career, is designed to upend the status quo regarding politics and media. He attacks these establishments with such precise doses of seething venom that bearing witness to it runs the risk of generating terror instead of laughs. In fact, he delivers very few jokes onstage, instead substituting observations on the evils hiding in plain sight which happen to be hilarious despite their tragic absurdity.

His was a life spent performing; he started in his teens in venues he wasn’t legally allowed to be in, then sharpened his act through experiments with drugs and alcohol. Later he struggled publicly with censorship and cigarettes, and just when it seemed he’d finally cross over to the mainstream audience he was desperate to reach, pancreatic cancer stopped him in his tracks at the painfully young age of 32.

16 years later, as the political/corporate machine rages out of control in large parts of the world and advertising is as ubiquitous as oxygen, Bill Hicks’ ideas stand the test of time and hopefully will be heard by a new generation that sorely needs exposure to them.

If you have a spare hour, this public access interview from his native Texas where Hicks answers caller’s questions and is given carte blanche to say on TV what no mainstream outlet would dare put on the airwaves is a prime example of who he was: abrasive, cynical and an unapologetic thinker.

(Note: David Letterman – who is referred to above by Hicks while recounting how we was excised from the Late Show after recording one of his last bits – did try to make amends five years later, apologizing to Hicks’ mom on the show and airing his full set.)

There is no North American release date for the documentary yet so I suggest you all cozy up with a copy of Rants in E-Minor or Sane Man. Or you could just scour YouTube for gems like the one below.

Enjoy!

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R.I.P. Cable TV – 1948 – 2009

September 2, 2009

On the heels of an announcement earlier this month warning Canadians to prepare for higher monthly cable fees, this week the CRTC has announced that it will no longer limit the amount of advertising networks are allowed to air.

So while the cable industry struggles to compete with online and digital alternatives in the midst of a fragile economy, the CRTC in all its brilliance has decided to authorize providers to charge consumers more for the privilege of watching more ads (a large percentage of which extol American companies that don’t exist here).

Dare I predict the imminent end of cable television?

The irony is that the CRTC is also at the forefront of combating pirated media which is by definition free, available on demand, and contains no advertising. The simple truth is they need a much better game plan if they’re to save an anachronistic method of transmission.

Hint: Wasting people’s time and money ain’t it.

ITunes has already proven along with several other studies that pirates will pay for their media so long as they feel they’re getting value for their dollar. Pirated media is often of questionable quality and harder to find than a competitively priced corporate alternative. And however unlikely, no one wants to be made an example of in a courtroom while politicians try and figure out the legality of p2p software.

So how the CRTC is getting it so completely and utterly wrong remains baffling but in the meantime it’s once again up to consumer ire to send a powerful message by reducing or completely canceling cable packages. My fiancĂ© used to insist we maintain a cable package so she could watch NHL games, however with TSN.ca and CBC.ca showing the majority of Canadian games between them, that argument is no longer valid. Besides that, most networks host their most popular series’ online for free (with a fraction of the advertising content).

Another nail in the cable coffin is the fact that viewing habits have changed with the advent of TV on DVD. Marathon viewings of series is becoming quite the popular form of consumption (who hasn’t taken in a season of 24 in real time or passed out trying at least once?) Furthermore, by not having cable, I only consume what I’m actually interested in watching, rather than mindless channel surfing and background noise. Who knows, the CRTC may end up encouraging me to read more books…

Now’s the time to take bold action, failure to do so will only embolden the CRTC to make more foolish decisions. There’s a difference between ad-supported content that’s free (ie. most legitimate online media) and reckless price-gouging which is what’s happening with cable.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some original programming to take in courtesy of Current.com and fora.tv.