Interactive Television

Back in the 1990s, when I worked at DDB Needham, Kevin, my boss and friend, knew that I was interested in screenwriting and he suggested I create a show for Viacom, which had three networks: MTV, VH1 and at least one other channel at the time (whose name I don’t remember). This show would emulate an interactive book where at different stages a choice would be posed to the viewers and they’d have to decide what the character should do. Then they’d be directed to change the channel to see the consequences of that decision. I designed some stories. Kevin knew someone at MTV and soon we were in contact.

The executive was a bit curious, but didn’t understand what technology was needed. The answer was simple: their remote. People would just change the channel to see the consequences of their decision.

Well, fast forward to today. HBO and Steven Soderbergh have come up with Mosaic, an interactive story which uses people’s phones and an app to view this show. Soderbergh’s got a reputation for good story telling so it should be well written and more than just a gimmick. Computer games have been around long enough so people expect quality. However, I’m not a big fan of HBO’s cursing and dark view of life so I’m not sure I’ll watch. Well, maybe if friends say it’s worthwhile.

VEEP, Season 2 – Finale

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I finished watching season 2 of VEEP, starring Julia Louis Dreyfes as a frantic Vice President. Created by Armando Iannucci of In the Thick of It fame, this season’s fast-paced wit and craziness equaled season 1. Gary Cole appeared regularly as an officious data-addict, who vexes Selina, the VEEP and her staff. Occasionally, Selina’s ex-husband was on hand to unnerve the staff as they’d like to see this unpredictable schemer as little as possible.

While I enjoyed this season, VEEP isn’t the same caliber as In the Thick of It. The dialogue is great, but they don’t have the creative swearing that you’d find in the British show. Round and round, the characters scheme, mainly to advance their careers rather than to attain any goal for public good. That’s not the problem. I’m not sure what’s missing, but my best guess is that there’s not enough story. None of the people rise or fall. Also, I don’t think Iannucci offers an original critique of American politics the way he does for the UK. That’s essential for satire. He lampoons politicians, but the episodes don’t say anything crucial about politics.

Nonetheless, Julia Louis-Dreyfess is my choice for Best Actress in a Comedy for the 2013 Emmys. For 2014, I hope the show has more meat for her entire cast.

VEEP

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer

I think I’ve got a new favorite comedy, HBO’s Veep. Created by Armando Iannucci, who wrote and directed In The Loop, Veep offers us the outrageous fortunes of Washington egos.  In her best role since Seinfeld, Louis-Dreyfus portrays a vain, ambitious, narcissist, who could give Dan Quail a run for his money in terms of cluelessness.

Completely snubbed by the President, who never calls her, Selina jockeys for power trying to get her place in the limelight, while always managing to make a situation worse.  Giving the simplest speech is sure to result in a fiasco and all attempts to make things better with the insulted parties is sure to go awry. How can a simple photo op at a frozen yoghurt shop go awry?

Backing her up in their way is a group of smart support staff, who despite their obvious intelligence always seem to make exactly the wrong choice. They’d all be hopeless on Let’s Make a Deal. I particularly enjoy Anna Chlumsky, the young staffer who tries to help while deflecting annoying come-ons from the geeks and jerks who populate DC.

I saw three episodes on my flight to China and hope Netflix gets the series. I don’t subscribe to HBO so I’m left hanging, wanting more soon.