How TV directors call the shots at live events


I’ve always been kinda fascinated by how live TV broadcasts get put together. We’ve all seen depictions of the process, either fictionalized in movies, or in brief behind-the-scenes glimpses: there are people in a small dark control room, or a production trailer, staring at a bunch of TV monitors. One person, the director, calls out the numbers of the cameras whose shots he wants at particular moments. And that’s what we see on our single TV screen at home. 

This video of a marching band’s routine, from the Drum Corp International YouTube channel, of all places, includes two headset feeds from that control room. On the left channel is the voice of the director, calling the shots. On the right channel is the voice of an assistant, who is following the script of the marching band and telling the camera operators what to shoot, in anticipation of the shots the director will soon want. 

I don’t know if this was shot for broadcast on a cable network, or was perhaps commissioned by the promoters of the competition for a promo DVD. Either way, it doesn’t seem like a big production compared to, say, the broadcast of an NFL game, where there are probably three times as many cameras, plus instant replay and on-screen graphics to weave into the picture. Still, it seems plenty sophisticated, and for a nerd like me, it’s fascinating to listen to these pros as they work. 



The Super Bowl Commercials I Remember This Morning

I didn’t slavishly watch for the ads, but in this little unscientific survey, I dredge up the ones that are still top of mind this morning, which I figure has to count for something. If I tried, I’m sure I could remember more, but the point is that these are the ones I remembered without trying hard.

Clint Eastwood’s patriotic Chrysler pitch—I was in the kitchen getting a beer or something and just the sound of Clint’s voice brought me back to the TV. Almost made me want to go out and buy a Jeep, and I’m not a fan of Chrysler products. 

The weird commercial-within-a-commercial for VW that starts out with a dog on a crash weight loss plan and ends up in the Star Wars alien cantina. I thought it would’ve been more effective with just the dog. The Star Wars coda was just overkill.

The Chevy truck commercial that depicts a post-apocalyptic world where exclusively male Chevy truck owners are the only ones left alive, ensuring that they’ll have to sleep together, though they skipped over that little detail. 

The E-Trade baby commercial. They annoy me,  but I give them credit for staying on brand. Hey, I remember seeing it.

The obnoxious Doritos real life cartoons. These put me off.

The gross, craven Go Daddy commercials. Stay classy, Danica. Whatever. You don’t need to see an example of these.  

The Kia commercial with Motley Crue. I really liked where this one ended up. Funny and sweet.

Oh, yeah: The Fiat commercial with the vapid Italian model who drips coffee foam on her cleavage in an allusion to… well, gee, I’m not sure what it’s alluding to. I thought that detail was excessive sexist panderding , but I’m old school. And, hell, just plain old.


Burger King gets its widdle feewings huwt by bully Mickey D's.

Most civilians unaware of what goes on in the advertising trenches might be surprised that brands tend to be very careful about how they tweak other brands. But they do. McDonald’s went a tweak too far in this add for German TV and Burger King called them on it. 

Eater: Burger King Calls McDonald’s Commercial “Degrading”

Tip o’ the tweeter to @jamesrhenson for the item.


5 fresh, new sitcom premises


Transylvania Taxi—Alex and his lovable loser friends are the main drivers for Transylvania Cab, and are always at odds with Louie, the gruff, irascible taxi dispatcher. Adding to the madcap fun, everyone is a vampire!

Dracula & Son—Fred Dracula is the prideful, irascible owner of a junkyard. His son, Lamont, dreams of bigger things in life. But he has to put his dreams on hold to help Fred and his friend Grady get out of jams caused by Fred’s constant, harebrained get-rich-quick schemes. Plus, they are all vampires!

Vrohda—Vrohda is a loud, irascible window dresser at a downtown department store. Carlton is her harebrained doorman. Brenda and Ida are her sister and mom. Joe is her blue collar husband, and also sometimes irascible. And they’re all vampires!

VanHelsing—Jerry VanHelsing is a comedian who is frequently on the road. But when he’s at home, there’s never a dull moment. That’s because George, Kramer and Elaine, his harebrained, irascible friends, frequently barge into his apartment to unload about their latest neurotic crises, many of which center on the fact that they, like Jerry himself, are vampires!

Blood Buddies—Best pals Joey, Phoebe, Monica, Rachel, Ross and Chandler hang out in their favorite coffee shop and commiserate over their fraught lives as young singles who, oh, by the way, just happen to be vampires!



Worst commercial now? Guys asks lady vampire to Chili's

I don’t watch a ton of TV, so now that it’s the World Series, I’m being exposed to more TV commercials than I’ve seen all year. And I’m thrilled to be able to bring you the one I am loving to hate the most. 

Unfortunately, Chili’s has only posted the 30-second version. The 15-second version, which is all they show during the ballgames, features quicker, tighter shots of the actor’s faces. It really brings out the guy’s crazy bug-eyes and the lady’s fang-like incisors. She’s much prettier and a lot less freakish looking here. But the inanity of the whole thing is still wholly intact. I don’t know, is this some kind of coded message only Chili’s-heads get? ‘Cause it’s pretty whack, and not in no good kinda way. Look for fangs around :06. 



Sneak Peek at Upcoming Reality Shows


Dancing to the Orthopedic Surgeon
Join Dr. Herman Aarndt, AAOS, as he profiles former contestants of Dancing with the Stars in their epic rehabilitation struggles to live normal, pain-free lives.

Big Brothers’ Big Brother
10 reality show producers, a glass cage, a selection of blunt instruments, dozens of cameras. Each week viewers vote which corpses, if any, are removed from the cage.

Celebrity Enabler
Dr. Anthony Zipp, (M.D., University of Small Caribbean Nation), meets with troubled celebrities and helps them overcome their dependencies to prescription medications by prescribing similar, but slightly different, medications.

89 Ways to Sue a Game Show Production Company & Any or All Associated Parties Named or Unnamed
Each week a guest attorney takes on the case of a physically maimed and/or emotionally scarred former game show contestant to find material breaches in seemingly ironclad “hold-harmless” agreements in a race against a laches defense.

The Great Lowest Common Denominator Hunt
Contestants vie to conceive the most puerile, morally bankrupt reality show. Focus groups comprised of people kidnapped at random from Wal-Mart parking lots select their favorites, and viewers at home vote to choose a winner. The winning show’s creator gets a three-year contract to be TLC’s new Vice President of Programming.



Real nurses wearing Grey's Anatomy costume scrubs–what's next?

Sterility guaranteed, unless you snorgle your dog between appointmentsI went to the doctor this morning and noticed the nurse who took my vital signs was wearing scrubs with the Grey’s Anatomy logo on them. I really can’t remember another instance where a fictional show inspired a real product used by professionals, although I’m sure some of you will help me remember. But I did think of some other TV shows ripe for product licensing:

Law & Order Brand Video Textbooks—Screw Blackstone’s Commentaries. Become a practicing attorney the easy way. Learn by viewing lessons taken directly from the popular TV series. In other words, cases taken from actual events, but shaped and polished for neat resolution. Each 48 minute lesson includes frequent commercial breaks suitable for jotting down notes or grabbing a snack in the kitchen. (Not liable for disputes arising from failure to provide adequate representation.)

Mad Men Antacid—Formulated to overcome the effects of a 12-martini and filet mingon lunch, so it’s strong enough to tackle your measly missed deadline dyspepsia. Available in regular and menthol flavor.

Barksdale Brand Drug Vials—Slinging one-and-ones has never been so fun! Inspired by The Wire’s Avon Barksdale organization, fiends will line up early to buy your shit when it’s packaged in these classy containers. Available in red top, yellow top and green top versions, as well as many other jones-inducing colors. Order a G-pack today. 

The Official Lost Nowayfinder GPS—There’s no need to leave the island before you’ve exploited all of the commercial possibilities. Now with the Nowayfinder GPS, you don’t have to! Guaranteed to keep you stuck within an open narrative until you’re ready to go into syndication.

Swearingen’s Swearing Dictionary—Do you find it difficult to distinguish a bumfuzzled cocksucker from a cocksucking hooplehead? Let Al Swearingen, Deadwood’s premier purveyor of purple prose, teach you the finer points of the Dakota territory lexicon, you conniving cocksucker.

Screw it. Here's some videos of bad commercials

No time to create brilliant content this morning, so I thought I’d post a video of the “worst commercial ever,” which is such a totally arbitrary concept, but, hey, it’s the Internet, so whatever, right? Anyway, I couldn’t decide on just one, so I chose two; one to represent low budget local TV, and one to represent the bad old days of mainstream national advertising. I seriously doubt either one of these represents anything like “the worst,” but they suck, and they’re funny, so screw it. It’s a blog. What do you want? 

Mad Men Idiom Watch, episode 5 (Spoiler alert! Not! Psych!)

Heard three usages of idiom where I wondered, were they really used in 1965, or used that way? Season 4 is supposed to be ‘65, right?

My extensive etymological research—the American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, copyright © 1997, published by Houghton Mifflin via, if you must know— reveals:

“Have a good day.”—Said by the NYT reporter to Don. This and “have a nice day,” “have a good one,” etc., were first used as accepted phrases of parting in the 1920s. But widespread usage wasn’t until the 1950s. Point, Mad Men

“Bachelor pad”—Said by Betty to Don about his place. gives an etymology of 1959. I still don’t think Betty Draper is using that term in ‘65. Draw.

“Out of the loop”—What the other partners want to do with Roger vis-a-vis the Honda pitch. In her definition of “in the loop,” my new good friend Christine Ammer says the antonym “out of the loop” dates from the same period—the 1970s! Point, me!

Tie breaker!
The child psychiatrist says to Betty, “Sounds to me like it wouldn’t be bad for you to talk to someone.” Said very idiomatically, like. The etymology evades my extensive research, but I don’t know. I’m giving me the point.



Recap of some less prominent Emmy awards

Best actress in a crime drama where the tough but lovable squad commander turns out not to be secretly gay after all, but rather just lives with his mother: Sarah Lurkins, Cop Patrol

Reality show host most able to make it seem like he and everyone else involved, participants and viewers alike, are really having fun and not living empty, ethically and morally bankrupt lives: Bill Schunnel, Fat and Games

Best director of a show that got on the air only through a cynical calculus that determined just how much less could be spent on production values by spending less on story development, too, so the show would appeal to a less sophisticated, but wider audience who really only want moving pictures with some kind of sound: Verb Handling, St. Louis Grit

Best dramatic scene: Conan O’Brien