Netflix reboots Lost in Space

First, let me warn you, this contains spoilers.

Second, you need to understand this isn’t your father’s Lost in Space (in my case, I am your father, so this isn’t the LiS I grew up with). I liken this remake to the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The original BG was silly, yet a fun, lighthearted romp through the galaxy trying to find home while attacked by silvery robots with strobing eyes and cool voices. The remake was grittier and darker.

The same with LiS. The original was sometimes a silly, light-hearted, sickly-sweet pull-at-your-heartstrings family melodrama, that was still a fun adventure as they traveled through space trying to find Alpha-Centauri. And this new version is grittier and darker with a dysfunctional family.

Let’s compare the characters.

John Robinson. In the original, he’s Zorro and Father Knows Best rolled into one. He always has a great family speach ready after he just kicked some alien’s ass.

The new John Robinson is a U.S. Marine, but is a little self-absorbed, not very family-oriented, and is essentially a stranger to his wife and kids.

Maureen Robinson. June Lockhart was the all-American mom and essentially played the same apron-wearing, hand-wringing character she did in Lassie, merely swapping a collie for a robot, and spends every episode worrying about what sort of trouble her son and robot were getting into.

The new Mrs. Robonson seems a little angry, a little cold, and very much in charge where her family is concerned (and who can blame her since John seems like a selfish dick). She gets things done even if it means selling government secrets if she thinks it’s what’s best for her family (in this case, having Will’s rejection status to go to the new colony changed).

Judy Robinson. The original Judy was just eye-candy. Her part was to blend into the background, when she wasn’t helping her mom with domestic chores or being the love interest to Don West. Her and her sister Penny were often damsels-in-distress.

The new Judy is from Maureen’s previous marriage and is intelligent, is a doctor, and very self-sufficient and self-assured. When the Jupiter 2 sinks deep into glacial waters, John demands Will to jump in to get a battery pack they need to survive because Will is small-enough to fit in a hatch that was partially jammed open. Will is terrified, so Judy jumps in to both protect Will and to show her step-father up (or to show him she exists). The action almost gets her killed but it shows her head-strong attitude.

Penny Robinson. The original Penny was an annoying, whiny girl whose only purpose seemed to be the target of Will’s brotherly misogyny, “Girls!” She spent most of her time with the women being subservient to the men.

New Penny is a feisty red-head with a wonderfully sarcastic personality. When she gets it into her head that something needs to be done, she does it, consequences be damned. At one point, her parents are off exploring, having given orders to Judy and her to stay put. When she sees an impending storm heading where her parents are, she takes it upon herself to assemble the chariot and rush to their rescue. Easily my most favorite character.

Will Robinson. The original was a precocious child prodigy, and really, just a little too unbelievable for a 9-year-old. He was the focal point of the whole show. He and the robot were the main characters, always getting into some sort of jam because of Will’s curiosity.

New Will so far seems to think before acting, is aware of the dangers, and is a little more hesitant to rush headlong into a situation. He also acts more like his age, being afraid of situations he doesn’t understand or are out of his control. In other words, he’s a little more believable than old Will.

Don West. The original West was hot-tempered, ready to fight, and served no purpose on the flight except as pilot, or co-pilot as John always seemed in charge. He was also the only one on board who never trusted anything Dr. Smith did, unlike the rest of the family who all seemed to have short-term memory.

New West is scoundrel. He’s a mechanic and a petty smuggler. He is very much a narcissist, but despite his bad boy exterior, he is caring. He takes care of a chicken he saved from the crash, and later, despite the danger it puts him into, he carries an unconscious survivor over rough terrain to safety.

Dr. Smith. The original was a saboteur who became trapped on the Jupiter 2. His character slowly transformed from selfish and uncaring, willing to put everyone else’s life at risk just so he could return home into a selfish, uncaring, yet silly characture of himself.

The new Dr. Smith is a criminal on Earth, ineligible to be a member of the colonists heading to Alpha-Centauri and start a new life. Her real name is June Harris. She drugs her own sister and steals her identity to join the colonists. She makes it successfully onboard until her sister’s boy friend discovers who she is, threatens to expose her, and she promptly ejects him into space. In other words, she’s selfish and uncaring, willing to do anything (even commit murder and leave people to die) to achieve her own ends.

The Robot. The original robot, the B-9 Environmental Control robot, was programmed by saboteur Smith to destroy the Jupiter 2. “Crush! Kill! Destroy!” (One wonders why an environmental control robot would have such destructive military-capabilities in the first place). In later episodes, thanks to Will, the robot became sweet and lovable and protective of the family, except when Dr. Smith rewires him.

The new robot. It’s an alien robot, not something provided to the Robinsons for their journey. Will finds it after becoming separated from his father and getting caught in the middle of a forest fire. The robot is broken, torn in half when its own ship crashed, and is dying. Will helps it and in turn, it helps Will, even uttering the famous expression, “Danger. Will Robinson.” The robot then goes on to help Judy from her predicament (she was frozen in ice trying to bring back the battery pack), helps the family get the Jupiter 2 back into working order, and so on.

The premise. The original premise was the Robonsons were going to be the first family to colonize Alpha-Centauri. Why just one family? Who knows, but they were elected, and would spend the entire trip in suspended animation until they reached their destination. Dr. Smith programmed the robot to destroy the ship (never really explained why), but the ship blasts off before he can make his escape. The robot wakes up and starts smashing things, and because Dr. Smith can’t stop it, he wakes everyone up to help him. The robot’s rampage sends them zipping wildly off-course and out of control, unable to correct their course, becoming Lost, in space.

The new premise. Spoilers alert! Instead of just one colonist family, there is a whole colony of people seeking a new life on Alpha-Centauri, but only those who test in as worthy can go, while those left behind get to die from an impending extinction event on Earth. The Robinsons are but one family among many. They get to leave on the 24th colony ship. (The Jupiter crafts are essentially used as transport vessels to the planet’s surface once they reach their destination and also as their homes once there).

John is on another deployment when he gets a call from Maureen wanting him to sign permission slips for the kids to join the colony, without him. John, somehow, ends his deployment early and shows up at home, really pissing Maureen off, who wanted to start a new life without him.

Once in space, the colony mother ship is attacked by aliens, robots like the one Will finds and tames, and the Jupiters are ejected so they can reach safety. In the confusion, June/Dr. Smith escapes detention, meets the real Dr. Smith (played by Bill Mumy), who is wounded and needs help. She pretends to help him, but only steals his coat and I.D. She attempts to get on-board a Jupiter when she meets Don West and his companion. Don naively helps her into the Jupiter, and Smith invites them along realizing she has no training in flying. The escaping Jupiters end up crashing millions of light years from Alpha-Centaur. Now the surviving colonists must find each other to survive because they’re all lost, in space.

We learn much of this through flashbacks as the series progresses. In the first episode we know nothing of what’s going on as we first meet the Robinsons nonchalantly (or so it seems) playing a game of Go Fish.

Then all Hell breaks loose and doesn’t let up as the Robinsons go from one danger to the next, complete with episode ending cliff-hangers, just like the original.

Final Thoughts.

As I said in the beginning, this isn’t your father’s Lost in Space. In many ways, it’s so much better. For one thing, it has stunning special effects and breathtaking landscapes.

Now, I loved the original series. I was eight when the show debuted. There was no other show like it at the time. The ship, flying through space, the laser weapons, aliens (even if somewhat cheesy), and the robot all sparked my imagination unlike anything had up until that time.

I still have a soft spot for that show. And I often get very upset when someone remakes something I used to love as a child and turns it into a complete mockery of the original (intentioned or not) as if they had never watched an episode. I can think of several movies that angered me no end, such as Wild,Wild West, Dark Shadows, and Starsky and Hutch. Those movies were lampoonish and offended me.

This reboot, however, doesn’t do that. It doesn’t seem like a cash grab at the expense of our childhood memories.

In many ways, while it’s a completely new, and updated version, it is also an homage (complete with Easter eggs) to the original. The real name of the Dr. Smith character, for instance, June Harris is a nod to the original Dr. Smith actor, Jonathan Harris. At one point, Don West is wearing a flight jacket with “Goddard” embroidered on it, a nod to the original actor Mark Goddard. Plus, if you listen carefully, you’ll catch some refrains from the original show’s music score, which had been written by the great John Williams.

At first blush, the new LiS might seem dark and cold with unlikable characters but as the series progresses however, they flesh-out, we learn their motivations, and they become more of a real caring family, with heart-warming moments, and we begin to see that this new show also has it’s own charms.

I’m enjoying it and I hope it has a successful run.

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Writing Wednesday

This weekend that just passed, Decades TV had their weekend binge, where they show an old television show all weekend long. This time around they showed whatever it is — 40 hours? — of Lost in Space, one of the great sci-fi television programs of all time.

OF ALL TIME!

There is no argument about that.

151120-lost-in-space

But seriously, if you grew up in the 60s, the first sci-fi space adventure television program that aired was Lost in Space. I was at the perfect age where I was mesmerized by lasers, force fields, the Jupiter 2, and of course, the greatest robot ever created, the Robot, or B9 as some of us call him.

Jupiter-2 168 10-9-11

And because I had fallen in love with the concept — a family of space pioneers setting off to colonize Alpha Centauri, who were unfortunately sent astray by a saboteur, who they then welcomed into their family with open arms — I was able to simply accept the fanciful silliness .

It’s been many years since I’ve watched it. I caught an episode now and then when MeTV was airing it several years ago, but not since they changed their lineup. When Decades aired it this past weekend, we had our television tuned to it for the duration.

And you know what? I still love that show. Even with all the pseudoscience and over-the-top fantasy elements of pirates, knights in shining armor, hillbillies, and a talking carrot, I still found the show very enjoyable to watch.

In fact, something strange happened while watching it.

I started to get the itch to write about it. I mean, if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, for example, there are tons of authorized novels out there to satisfy even the most voracious reader.

But Lost in Space? Nothing.

Well, OK, there was one book, published back in 1967 or so, which I read when I was 10.

Novel

But that’s it.

And without even consciously thinking about it, a story, a novel of Lost in Space has begun to formulate in my imagination.

Personally? I’d rather it just go away because what could I do with it? Who would buy a novel about a television show that only aired 83 episodes and went off the air in 1968?

I’d rather write something marketable.

I’d rather start the final polish on my own urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or start working on the sequel to my urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or even finish up my two weird westerns.

Anything!

But so far, all I can think about is Lost in Space, and the story keeps growing and growing and at this rate, it won’t be denied.

Maybe I should write it just to make it go away.

Lost in Space is suited to my writing style, however, because it is as much fantasy as science fiction and it’s science is often somewhat fudged. In that way, Lost in Space is more akin to Star Wars than Star Trek.

Lost in Space can best be described as pulp fiction style space opera. More ray guns and monsters than quarks and string theory.

So in that regard, Lost in Space is almost a perfect venture for me.

Let me mull it over some more.

Stay tuned. Same time! Same channel!

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Friday randomyness

A Friday Haiku

Star Trek: Discovery
I saw just one episode
I won’t pay blackmail

Growing up blond

I was a towhead kid. Very light-colored hair. Most of my friends had dark hair. I hated them for it.

Why? Because all the cool television characters at that time had dark hair and the dorks had blond. So when we’d get together on the playground and oretend we were, say, The Monkees, all my friends were Davy, or Micky, or Mike, the cool guys. So who got stuck being the idiotic Peter? Yes. Me.

Starsky and Hutch? Starsky was the cool guy who drove the cool Torino. I got stuck being the sappy Hutch.

All the shows we watched, the cool guy always had dark or black hair. Captain Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea? Black hair. Jim West on Wild, Wild West? Black hair. Don West on Lost in Space? Black hair. Jim Kirk on Star Trek? Not black, but a darker brown than blond and then as T.J. Hooker, it was black.

OK. OK. Sergeant Saunders (Vic Marrow’s character) on Combat! had blond hair, but it was always covered by an Army helmet. So although Saunders was cool as hell, he was an outlier.

My point is, for role models, us blond kids didn’t really have any. And yes, it still bothers me all these years later. Woukd it have killed TV to have a few more blond heroic characters for us to identify with?

The Silver Age: Thor

I’m current reading the very first stories of The Might Thor. The original ones plotted by Stan Lee, written by his brother Larry Lieber, and drawn by Jack Kirby. These first few stories are almost laughable in their simplicity. In Journey into Mystery #83, we are introduced to the lame Dr. Don Blake, who is vacationing in Norway. He is hiking (with a bum leg and a cane) in some wilderness and comes across an advance scout party of aliens from Saturn here to invade Earth.

He steps on a twig, which the rock creatures hear and chase him. On his bum leg. In the pursuit, he loses his cane, but manages to climb some rocks and hides in a cave.

In the cave, he finds an old gnarly stick, which he uses to try to move a boulder blocking the back exit of the cave before the aliens find him. He strikes the boulder in anger and he us transformed into Thor, the Norse god of thunder and his stick is now Mjolnir, the enchanted uru hammer.

On the hammer are inscribed the words, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of… Thor.” Words I don’t believe we ever see again. One also wonders, does this mean anyone could have picked up the cane and become Thor?

Now Dr. Blake has all the immortal powers of the thunder god until he strikes the hammer and resumes his mortal form again. However, if he is separated from his hammer for longer than 60 seconds, he becomes the frail doctor again.

So as you can guess, many of the early stories use that weakness to create tension. “It’s almost been 60 seconds! If I don’t touch my hammer soon, I’ll be at their mercy as Dr. Blake.”

In the third issue, Journey into Mystery #85, we meet Loki and some of the other gods of Asgard. But Thor himself doesn’t appear in Asgard until the tenth issue, Journey in Mystery #92.

So far, I’ve noticed several interesting things. First, Dr. Blake and Thor aren’t two different people. Blake becomes Thor when he strikes the cane, but he just seems like Don Blake with muscles and powers.

So the question becomes, where was Thor all this time? Odin, Loki, Heimdall all exist on Asgard, but what about Thor? And why was Mjolnir disguised as a stick in that cave?

When Blake becomes Thor, he still thinks and talks like Blake. They haven’t yet introduced the strained Shakespearean speech Thor is known for, with thees and thous and anon.

As Dr. Blake, he’s very much in love with his nurse, Jane Foster, except he’s afraid to profess his love for fear as she will either laugh because he’s frail and handicapped, like a grown-up Tiny Tim, or he fears she’ll only pretend to love him back out of pity. So he says nothing. All the while Jane Foster is in love with Dr. Blake, but thinks he beyond reach because he’s cold and impersonal. Then Thor appears and she’s all, whata guy! If only Blake was that exciting.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of the Clark Kent/Superman/Lois Lane schtick.

I grew up a child of the Silver Age, but I didn’t become aware of Marvel Comics until 1965 or so, three or four years after these stories came out. By then, many of Marvel’s characters had already gone through their growing pains.

I was more familiar with DC, which was better established and had a stranglehold on the distribution system, making it difficult for Marvel to reach many markets. I can’t even recall seeing their comics early on, just DC, Gold Key, and Dell.

So, I’m finding these early stories fascinating from a historical perspective and I can’t wait to watch how Thor evolves into the character I remember reading in the late 60s and early 70s. Verily.

I might also mention that, in the comics at least, there were several blond role models for a kid to look up to, including Thor and Captain America/Steve Rogers.

Weigh-In Friday

I didn’t. It was a busy week, workwise. I only ran once, on Sunday. So, it’s probably just as well I didn’t step upon the scale.

The Orville

I admit, I wasn’t going to watch this. It just didn’t seem interesting. Most sci-fi comedies are more corny than interesting. I also have no idea who this Seth McFarland guy was, so that didn’t pull me in.

But, given the fact that CBS fucked us over with Star Trek: Discovery, I decided to give The Orville a shot.

I was going to DVR an episode to watch, but discovered that there is this thing called Fox OnDemand. I can watch all the episodes.

I gave the first episode a shot at impressing me.

And you know what? It was good. I mean, really good. Sure, it had it’s flaws, but overall, I was impressed.

The special effects are as decent as any serious sci-fi show out there. The story took a while to build, but it entertained. The acting was good. The characters, although at times their parts seemed a bit forced, were relatable and likable.

I’d say, overall, The Orville is a very good sci-fi program and unlike the first (and only free!) episode of Star Trek: Discovery, it managed to make me want to see more. (I’ve already posted why I didn’t care for ST:D.)

I will be making The Orville a regular viewing habit. Good for Fox. Shame on CBS.

Halloween at Frankenstein’s Castle

Every Halloween, one of WTMJ-AM radio personalities, Jonathan Green, would play a recording from Armed Forces Radio of a Halloween prank recorded in “Frankenstein’s castle.” Green retired many years ago, but I found the recording on YouTube.

The premise is that Armed Forces Radio program director Hunt Downs took three announcers to spend the night in the castle, explaining the myth that the monster’s ghost returns to haunt the castle every 100 years and this was that night.

Each was given a small flashlight and a walkie-talkie and sent to different parts of the castle.

The following recording was unscripted and are the true reactions of those announcers.

Enjoy.

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Forgot to title this

A Friday Haiku

The weather is nice
73 degrees out
Is this October?

My viewing habits

I don’t know why I have cable, except for baseball and basketball seasons. I enjoy watching the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks and unfortunately, they aren’t shown on over-the-air TV any more. Not like the good old days when Channel 18 had broadcast rights. We can only see them on Fox Sports Wisconsin on Spectrum. Which means, we have to have cable.

(I’ll refrain from a rant on how tje greed within professional sports has pushed the common man out so they can’t even watch it for free any longer.)

Outside of baseball and basketball, there isn’t much on cable that interests me. Nothing new, that is.

I pretty much enjoy mostly old classic reruns from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. And those programs all appear on all those over-the-air channels that cropped up when television went digital and more bandwidth meant say, Channel 6 could now also have a Channel 6.1 and 6.2 and so on. My cable provider hides them all up in the 980s.

Channels like Decades TV, Heroes and Icons, Laff, Comet TV, Grit, MeTV and so on, which feature some of my favorite old shows and allow me to discover new old shows I hadn’t seen before.

Favorites like Combat! which is a great WWII drama which aired from 1962 to 1967. It is a realistic portrayal of the grim reality of war as experienced by a squad of Americans in France after D-Day. Most of the cast were actual veterans.

Vic Marrow as Sgt. Saunders

Combat! is one of the best war series ever produced. Sadly, Heroes & Icons only shows it once a week.

Another WWII show H&I airs is Rat Patrol, which is silly in concept and execution. It follows the adventures of the Rat Patrol, four soldiers (three American, one British), who drive two jeeps around the Sahara Desert harassing the Germans.

Coming over a dune machine-guns ablaze

Its silly because you have these two standard jeeps armed with mounted machine guns battling entire convoys of Germans including halftracks, armoured cars, and the occasional panzer tank and winning! They often leave the convoy vehicles in smoking ruin while they come away nearly unscathed despite all bullets and artillary shells the Germans fire at them. We are to believe, no matter how implausible, the jeeps are just too fast and agile.

In fact, only one Rat Patrol member was ever killed and that was in the first episode, which brought in the Brit soldier as his replacement.

Yet, despite, or because of, the silliness, it is my guilty pleasure show.

H&I also features the entire lineup of Star Trek shows every night except Saturday. They also air Tarzan with Ron Ely, Batman with Adam West, the Adventure of Superman with the greatest Superman of all, George Reeves, and several classic westerns, such as Have Gun, Will Travel, Cheyenne, Rawhide, Wagon Train, the Cisco Kid and many others.

Without cable, H&I alone would be enough to satisfy my entertainment needa, but I need my Brewers.

Weigh-In Friday

OK. Now I’m pissed. I gained 2.1 pounds this week.

I’m going back to tracking calories. I stopped that because 1) it’s a pain in the ass, and 2) I figured I eat pretty much the same thing every day except for dinner, so what was the point. My calorie consumption doesn’t vary the significantly.

Bit I snack at night. It’s my one weakness. Salty chips. Sometimes ice cream. And I don’t paynattention, but I need to. Using a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal (which now syncs with my Misfit–it didn’t used to), forces me to be aware of what I’m consuming.

Obviously, I can’t be trusted on my own.

Speaking of fat heads

Everyday, I get more and more outraged over another lie or other act of ignorance perpetrated by that big orange turd in the White House.

As a veteran, a lot of it has to do with his sheer stupidity involving military protocol. There’s a video, easily Googled, of TheRump being interviewed by Sean Hannity on military base and when Retreat is sounded (the solemn lowering if the flag at dusk), TheRump is heard saying, “Are they playing that for you or for me? [To the crowd] They’re playing that in honor of his ratings, did you see how good is ratings? He’s beating everybody!” Yes, they’re playing Retreat for you, dumbass.

OK, I get that he’s inside a hanger so he didn’t have to follow protocol, but I doubt he even knew what the protocol was! He certainly had no clue what the bugle was playing or what it meant. He has no respect for anything but money and himself.

He has no empathy or compassion. It took him 12 days to make any public acknowledgement of the fallen soldiers who died in the October 4, 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush in Niger. And then, only because he was oressed by a reporter. When he called the widow of Sgt. La David Jobnson, he said, “he knew what he signed up for.”

When his lack of tact was revealed by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (who was a mentor to the Sergeant and happened to be in Mrs. Johnson’s car at the time of the call), TheRump, had he any sort of compassion (or intelligence), could have simple admitted he misspoke, apologize for the error, reiterate that Johnson had served his country with pride and dignity, and moved on.

Instead, in typical TheRump fashion, he attacked the Congresswoman, attacked the “fake news,” essentially called Mrs. Johnson a liar, dragged General Kelly and his late son into the whole mess, and had another twitter meltdown.

TheRump is a dangerous, unstable little man-child, who has a complete lack of understanding about government, the military, politics, society, international affairs, and and pretty much everything a President has to deal with on a daily basis.

He needs to be removed from office as quickly as possible.

That’s all for now

Enjoy the weekend. Punch a Nazi, if you can.

Resist.

I usually leave you with a song, but today I’ll leave you with a Public Service Announcement called, “How to Punch a Nazi.”

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Viggle is a poor substitute for TV Tag

So I’m trying, I really am, to like Viggle, the television app, as a replacement for TVTag, but it just isn’t the same.

For one thing, Viggle isn’t a social networking app. If it is, I don’t see where I’m supposed to connect with other lovers of the shows I’m watching.

For another, you have to physically check-in to each show, which means, you have to hold your smartphone near the TV so Viggle can “hear” the show, then it checks you in. But unlike TVTag, it has to be a current broadcast. Viggle won’t accept DVRed shows. It won’t acknowledge DVDed shows. It has to be on-the-air NOW. Which really limits its use for those of us who watch most of our TV either through the aforementioned methods or even via online sites like Netflix or Hulu.

So for that reason alone, Viggle is a big waste of my time.

But the real deal breaker for me is, it doesn’t recognize any of the shows I watch. I’ve tried “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Adam-12,” “Bat Masterson,” “Emergency!” and so on and so forth. The little Viggle timer spins around, listening, then it goes, “Hmm… Let’s try that again.” So you try it three times, then it gives up and lets you do a search for the show. Then, yes, it does have those shows, but you know what? It’s a pain in the ass to go through that process each and every check-in because their sound database is so restricted. Heck, it didn’t even recognize “Toy Hunter” on the Travel Channel and that’s a current show, not a classic from back in the dark ages of television.

So what is Viggle good for? I don’t know. Honestly. It bills itself as “rewards destination.” You get points for each check-in, for each minute you’re watching (how it knows this, I have no clue), or for each activity around the check-in, like watching their stupid ass ads. What do you do with the points? Hell if I know. To be honest, I have points coming out the yin-yang. I get points from Best Buy rewards. Points from some new Verizon Wireless thing. Points accumulating from Game Stop. And they all keep sending me emails saying how I should use them, but you know what? I’m not interested. It all seems like some foolish gimmick, like the old S&H Green Stamps my mom used to collect when she went grocery shopping. I don’t believe she ever got anything worthwhile when she redeemed hers either. So why bother?

And really, I don’t give a damn. I’m looking to replace TVTag, which is a social media networking site where I can discuss favorite television shows, not turn my television viewing into some sort of coupon-clipping-like job.

Viggle equals a great big Fail.

Edited to Add: Oh my God. The stupid program doesn’t even recognize the “M*A*S*H” theme song! What a waste of space.

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TVTag is closing

TVTag, for those few who might not know, is one of the best social networking sites for people who love to watch TV and share and discuss the shows they love. I’ve been on there for several years, starting back when it was called GetGlue, which I always thought was a stupid name because it didn’t give you any clue what it was for. At least TVTag made some sense, you’d tag the TV show you were watching and then you could see how it was trending (“A Charlie Brown Christmas” trended #1 on Wednesday), earn stickers, and have a conversation about it. It was kind of like FourSquare, except you didn’t have to leave the house.

GetGlue was acquired by i.TV late last year, changing it’s name to TVTag, and also messing with many of its features. It’s no wonder the service has lost customers and only us diehards remained.GetGlue was a groundbreaking networking service and according to Wikipedia: In January 2010, GetGlue reported 1.3 million check-ins. In January 2011, the service accumulated nearly 10 times that figure with 12.1 million check-ins and ratings. On February 27, 2011, GetGlue saw over 31,000 check-ins at the Oscars. In June 2011, the record for Most Check-Ins to a TV show was broken during the premiere of True Blood Season 4 on HBO. Over 38,000 people checked in and earned a sticker. The record was broken yet again by the season 2 premiere of “Once Upon a Time“, with 93,774 check-ins. In August 2012, GetGlue announced it has reached three million users, adding one million users since January 2012. GetGlue users had contributed a total of 500 million check-ins, likes and reviews on the site since its launch in 2008, with 100 million of those check-ins happening in 2011. During the 2013 Super Bowl, GetGlue had more than 200,000 check-ins and 400,000-plus total activities (likes, replies, votes, etc.). In addition, 15% of all Pepsi mentions on Twitter during the halftime show came from GetGlue. The 2013 Oscars saw 210,000 in total activity on GetGlue: 410,000 for Les Misérables, and 190,000 for Argo.

But despite the negatives of the buyout, TVTag was still the best at what it did: letting you check in to almost any TV show whether it was new, a rerun, or something that went off the air decades ago. It had a great database of shows and I could check-in to many of my childhood favorites, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Dragnet,” “Adam-12,” “Sea Hunt,” “The Whirlybirds,” and so on. You could also check into movies, sports events, and documentaries.

For me, TVTag’s closing is like losing an old friend, that special friend who understands your quirks and loves many of the same things you do. In this case, old television shows.

I’ve tried a few others, like Viggle and Beamly, but neither does what GetGlue or TVTag did. They aren’t social networking sites that let you connect with others like you or let you check-in to classic television shows.

I’m very disappointed with TVTag’s decision to close. Back in November 2013, when the merger was announced, Mashable said the merger was “a solid meld between two platforms with similar goals — helping users find and engage with the best TV content — but different strengths.” How wrong could they be?

Good-bye, TVTag. I hope like the Phoenix of mythology someone picks up the charred remains and creates a new television social networking site.

I won’t be holding my breathe.

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The Notice users are greeted with when they log-on to TVTag:

Breaking Bad. Lost. The Office. Friends. Good things come to an end.

Later this month, we will be shutting down tvtag.com and its supporting apps in order to refocus our efforts on other initiatives.

Effective January 1, tvtag.com will no longer be accessible and the tvtag mobile apps will cease to function. We recognize that some of you may want to save and archive your user data. If you’re interested in requesting a copy of your data, please email your username in the subject line to datarequest@tvtag.com.

We’re grateful for all of your support over the last four years. You’ve helped us build an incredible community of fellow TV fans. We’ll miss it dearly.

While this is a goodbye for now, we hope to say hello again soon. Until then, join the conversation about your favorite shows by following the tvtag Twitter accounts listed right here.

Thanks.

The tvtag Team

There was a time

There was a time when television united us. It was a communal experience. Before that, it was radio.

It was said that back during the peak of radio, on a warm summer evening, a person could walk down the street of any community in America and listen to an entire, uninterrupted episode of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” as it wafted out of the open windows of all the homes.

That’s what I mean by a communal experience. The next day, you could stop anyone on the street and ask, “Did you hear last night’s show?” and strike up a conversation about it.

The same could be said for movies, to a lesser degree. It was a shared experience.

When television took over, it became the dominant form of entertainment and everyone watched Uncle Miltie on “Texaco Star Theater.” They watched “Gunsmoke.” They talked about the Ponderosa and the Cartwright family on “Bonanza.”

All the kids at school talked about “Howdy Doody,” “Captain Kangaroo,” “the Mickey Mouse Club.” Family entertainment included “The Wonderful World of Disney” and “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” hosted by Marlin Perkins.

As a child of the 1960s, if I were to run into someone else who also grew up then, no matter what part of America they grew up in, we have television to unite us. Shared communal memories of “Lost in Space,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “My Three Sons,” “Rawhide,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Combat!” “The Addam’s Family,” “The Munsters,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and possibly even shows from the 1970s, like “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Carol Burnette,” “Dean Martin,” “All in the Family,” to name a few.

(As a sidebar, the same thing could be applied to music. In the 1960s — and before — music was fairly unified. Pop music was nearly universal. The radio played rock ‘n’ roll and British Invasion right along side Motown and country. In the space of an hour a person could hear the Beatles, Stones, Troggs, Elvis, Fifth Dimension, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Supremes, Kenny Rodgers, and Johnny Cash. Music was communal until they opened up the FM band, allowing more stations and more splintering of tastes.)

But in the 1970s television began to see a splintering of viewer-ship. Instead of just three major networks on VHF, more independent stations appeared on UHF. HBO started up, beaming into homes via these ugly metal antenna on a few homes. Then, cable started becoming wired into neighborhoods. More channels meant less communal viewing, a splintering of the audience.

Sometimes a show came along that encouraged communal viewing, like “Cheers.” But those were becoming fewer and fewer.

Today there are very few communal shows. Not everyone gets HBO or ShowTime, so although shows like “Game of Thrones” are popular, only a few really see them. Similarly, shows like AMC’s “Mad Men” or the BBC’s “Doctor Who” seems wildly popular, but really only cater to a specialized audience and are hardly universal.

And this situation will only grow more fragmented because today’s younger generation are abandoning cable for web-based services like Netflix and Hulu that cater to their desire to see the shows they want when they want for a lot less than cable charges.

Some will argue choice is a good thing, that we’re not a homogeneous peoples, but a collection of free-thinking individuals able to seek out their own form of entertainment instead of marching lockstep, following the herd.

Which is true. We are all individuals, but we’re also social animals who often seek commonality in order to understand, communicate, and associate. We need to relate to each other and without having a shared communal experience how can we possibly ever understand each other? Television once gave us those shared memories, but those have faded over the last few decades.

When the Internet and the world wide web burst upon the scene, many saw it as a great way to universally connect with people all over the world. It has, but unfortunately, it has also become a catalyst in increasing our distance from each other as more and more sites dedicated to each and every taste imaginable, good or bad, has sprung up. Instead of sharing our lives, we’re becoming more isolated.

The closest we come today to any shared communal thoughts are within politics where people identify themselves as either liberals or conservatives (or independents). And although the people within those groups do share common beliefs, the real problem is the bitter divide between one group and another.

Many people used to see television as a negative influence upon society, but now it appears it was what unified us, brought us together. Without its communal influence, we’ve seen a rise in anger, bitter animosity, and violence. There is a demonization going on and we’ve stopped seeing each other as fellow humans. Instead we’ve reduced each other to a faceless, derogatory name: neocon, libtard, teabagger. We’ve lost the capability to empathize, to care, to share experiences, and without this capacity to see our similarities that television brought to us, the senseless violence of today will only grow worse.

For those of us who grew up on Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” and his futuristic vision of a unified Federation of Planets where all mankind (and most alienkind) lived together in peace and harmony, then the Present, with all its splintered hatred and fragmented ugliness, sucks.

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