TV

How Text Messaging in House of Cards Captures the Zeitgeist

Cable and Satellite subscriptions are feeling somewhat irrelevant in the modern world, why do we need to spend over £50 a month for 300 channels of mind numbing garbage when a £5.99 subscription to Netflix gives you access to binge view high quality TV shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards.

Speaking of House of Cards, the show made a much anticipated return this week as the entire second season landed on Netflix and even prompted President Barack Obama to Tweet “No House Of Cards Spoilers Please.”

Although the first season was somewhat of a slow burner that rewarded those that invested their time, the second season exploded in the opening episode, but don’t worry, there are no spoilers to be found here.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the show is how they include the use of text messages with an overlay. A few years ago it had been notoriously difficult to convey to the viewer what a character was reading on their phone and the audience were left squinting trying to read quickly from a dull and dimly lit phone, normally of the Nokia variety. However we are all used to multitasking now and in these days where innovation is paramount, it’s great to see how House of Cards handles this subtle problem by showing little pop up bubbles on screen in real time as the character sends and receives text messages.

This audio-visual storytelling method of illustrating human interaction with devices such as computers and phones feels incredibly innovative and shows just how our brains have progressed in processing information on screen now.

house of cards

In our own lives, most people effortlessly hold conversations with people whilst also tap away on their smartphones sending messages to someone else, and although this may have been seen before in shows like Sherlock, the way in which the relatively new method is used in House of Cards works perfectly.

I believe this overlaying technique can be traced back to David Fincher’s Fight Club back in 1999 where Ed Norton talks about his obsessive shopping and as he flips through an Ikea catalogue, product descriptions pop up next to the actual product in his apartment giving the viewer a better understanding of the films character.

BBC’s Sherlock employed something very similar, using an overlay to provide the audience with a glimpse of text messages that allowed the audience an extra insight into both the character and the scene.

shrlock

I see what you did there…

I suspect there are many film-makers making notes and we will probably see this technique imitated and overused in the near future and a quick look at the trailer for the new Liam Neeson film Non-Stop seems to confirm that the use of text message overlaying in scenes is rapidly becoming ubiquitous but right now it seems that Netflix are pushing all the right buttons and more importantly boundaries that have restricted so many shows in the past.

Non-Stop jumps on the bandwagon...

Non-Stop jumps on the bandwagon…

How we view entertainment is evolving and the ability to watch high quality shows like House of Cards when you want, where you want and whatever device you want for £5.99 a month will ensure that this viewer will be turning away from conventional TV with its weekly offerings of soaps, reality shows, adverts and obsessions with Z-list celebrities.

You don’t need focus groups to tell you that there are a growing number of people who feel the same so let’s hope that they pay close attention to the constantly evolving medium and that change or clinging to business models of yesteryear will no longer work.

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The Simpsons Predicted 2014’s Super Bowl Teams in 2005

This Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII competitors were predicted by The Simpsons back in 2005 according to a picture posted on The Simpsons’ Twitter this week. The picture is taken from the Season 17 episode ‘Bonfire of the Manatees’ and shows the the final score displayed on Homer Simpsons TV as Denver Broncos, 19, Seattle Seahawks, 14

I guess we won’t know until after the big game whether this unlikely prediction comes true, but I’m sure there will be more than a few punters having a geeky and cheeky bet on the outcome of this years Super Bowl.

The Simpsons predicting the future since 1989...

The Simpsons predicting the future since 1989…

Fans of the show will quickly tell you that “The Simpsons” has been predicting world events and pop culture trends since it began in 1989 and there is even an infamous Buzzfeed list on this very subject.

Will Seahawks’ Richard Sherman keep everyone entertained with some good old fashioned smack talk, will the viral Super Bowl adverts overshadow the game itself? I guess we will have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday for all the answers.

James Gandolfini

The first time I saw James Gandolfini on the big screen was in the classic 1993 movie ‘True Romance’ where it has been said he defined the metamorphosis of cold blooded killer. It was easy to see that this guy had something special, especially considering this film was littered with unforgettable performances from Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman that is rich with trademark dialogue written by Quentin Tarantino.

Gandolfini portrayed the mob hitman Virgil, and later claimed on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” that he based his portrayal of Virgil on an old friend who worked as a mob hitman, which makes the performance all the more chilling.

 

Before the days of Netflix and binge viewing of your TV series,  TV shows were seen as an inferior medium of entertainment compared to movies but something was about to change all that when The Sopranos hit our screens with 86 episodes from 1999 to 2007.

Suddenly the bar was raised and this ground-breaking show paved the way for the high quality TV shows that followed, which we take for granted today. DVD Box sets quickly became the norm as viewers turned away from traditional forms of TV viewing and enjoyed The Sopranos like one long movie.

With an incredible high calibre of  writing, acting, directing and a killer soundtrack to boot, HBO had produced TV that was better than most movies, quality entertainment had arrived and the way we watched TV was about to change.

The secret to the show’s success was the outstanding bear like Tony Soprano played by Gandolfini who adopted a series of method acting techniques and always remained in character. “The heavy bathrobe that became Tony’s signature, transforming him into a kind of domestic bear, was murder under the lights in midsummer, but Gandolfini insisted on wearing it between takes.

A modest Gandolfini said “The character is a good fit, Obviously, I’m not a mobster. But in most of the ways that count, I have to say, yeah — the guy is me.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSJ4IDOcT-k]

 

More recently he had been seen in Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden; and a hit man in the 2012 crime thriller “Killing Them Softly.” but one thing is for sure we have lost one of the greatest character actors of our time  but his performances will last forever.

Maybe the time is right to revisit The Sopranos but I have a sad feeling that the series will now offer a whole new perspective on both Tony Soprano and James Gandolfini.

 

BAFTAS, Brits, Grammys, Oscars – All Award Ceremonies Are Stupid

Here we are in awards season, where there seems to be an award for anything and everything, as we watch an endless red carpet of desperate people wanting to be loved, accepted and respected in their chosen field. We all know that the real reason why there are so many of these award shows on our TV’s, is to simply boost the sales of entertainment media in a one big import/export global operation.

In a world where our lives are dominated by screens that will beam the latest must see acts everywhere you look, its quite interesting to see how we are all conditioned to buy what we are told and a quick look at post award sales shows that it works a treat.

However Jerry Seinfeld has a much better way of explaining exactly why all award ceremonies are stupid.

At least with the Oscars we have a respectable selection of the best critically acclaimed movies, but I struggle to understand the meaning behind our very own Brit Music Awards which just seems to be a celebration of everything that is bland to boost worldwide sales of music. Maybe I’m taking it all a little too seriously because we all know that all awards are stupid.

House of Cards: NetFlix Binge Viewing Has Arrived…

House of Cards, will probably go down in history as being the first show that is not being shown on any television channel.

As of today, all 13 episodes of the first series are available on www.netflix.com. If you have £5.99 and 13 hours at your disposal, you could watch the whole series in one sitting. No adverts, no waiting, just a full season ready to go, is this the future of TV as we know it?

The New York Times recently stated “Television producers have turned bingeing, hoarding and overeating into successful prime-time shows for years, but now they are having to turn their attention to another example of overindulgence — TV watching.”

It seems after a little peer pressure from our friends about the latest must see show, we are all cramming in our TV shows via boxsets and streaming services. After enjoying marathon sessions of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. Are these shows simply modern novels for a visually oriented generation?

It will be interesting to see  how Sky, Virgin etc adapt to this kind of medium, because a £5.99 a month NetFlix subscription is now looking much better value than 200 channels of garbage for £40 a month, especially if you prefer quality entertainment over quantity.

It is an interesting experiment and who knows if it will work or not, the strange aspect to all this, is that  it does not look or feel like a TV shows, which is probably down to David Fincher which gives this show a dark moody atmosphere that would sit right at home on HBO.

As a fan of the comedy show Miranda, I find it hard to take Kevin Spacey seriously when he breaks the fourth wall by talking to the camera, it’s an interesting technique that works well but I must admit now and again I think of Miranda Hart, Harry Hill or the Gary Shandling show and I can’t help but let out a childish giggle.

If you don’t like political dramas littered with rich dialogue and monologues to the camera, then House of Cards won’t be for you, however if the idea of kicking back with a single-malt scotch whilst watching everything unfold slowly before your eyes without the need for explosions, just top quality acting, then give this a try.

A recent review summed the show up in saying “This is a series for the patient, and the more time you invest in it, the more it will reward you as danger thickens. .

The beauty of NetFlix is that you can watch the show on your TV, go to bed and watch a little more on your tablet, and then during your commute to work in the morning you can continue where you left off and each time it remembers exactly where you were up to each time, no matter what device you use.

The traditional TV set-up and their strict one box rule, rapidly need to up their game or they could end up going down the same road of High Street stores like HMV and GAME, who were blinded by their own arrogance until it was too late. Whether you like House of Cards or not, is not important but what is certain is that we are now witnessing the future direction of entertainment and how we access it.