What happened to the Discovery Channel and TLC? Trash TV, the New Norm

Television has been on a steady decline for many years now — not just fewer eyeballs watching glowing rectangles, but also due to a severe drop in content quality. There was a time, believe it or not, when there was intelligent and educational programming on TV. Unfortunately, those days have come and gone.

What happened to the Discover Channel and TLC?

Both the Discovery Channel and TLC have seen dramatic changes to their programming over the last decade or so, a dramatic shift from stimulating and educational to low-brow, sensationalist “reality TV”. There was a time when you might refer to TLC as The Learning Channel. Alas, that time is no more.

I grew up watching these channels, learning about the diversity of wildlife, history, science and technology and can honestly say that a good portion of what I know about the world came from these two channels that I used to watch religiously with my father. I cannot imagine what would happen to a child that were to grow up watching these channels now. Would they end up as a societal travesty like Honey Boo Boo?

TLC is undoubtedly the winner of the “Biggest Drop in Content Quality” award but Discovery comes in a close second with the History Channel as an honourable mention. While TLC has completely discarded any semblance of its former self, Discovery has tried to camouflage its content decline. While Discovery has kept a select few reasonable shows like Mythbusters, it has largely abandoned quality content as well with few shows that are not reality shows and car modification train wrecks.

Hilariously, Discovery will occasionally air a documentary to try and maintain this camouflage, however it recently blundered badly. Last month, on August 4th, 2013, Discovery aired a fake documentary about the Megalodon, a prehistoric shark that is believed to be extinct for the last 1.5 million years. They eventually confessed by adding a disclaimer at the beginning of the mockumentary the next time it was aired.

I still haven’t answered the main question posed in this post but the answer should be obvious. Discovery and TLC used to be extremely popular with intellectuals that love to learn about the world around them. Unfortunately, it seems intellectuals are too “niche”. So they have ditched their old high-brow content for something that appeals more to the “average” person.

What is truly unfortunate, is that they must be making more money as a result because they have not gone back to their previous ways yet. They pursued the dollar to the detriment of everything they used to stand for.

Thankfully, there is still one way out: Discovery World. It seems to have taken the place of the original Discovery Channel. It is still not the same, but the content is much closer to the way it used to be.

Unfortunately, it looks like intellectuals will be left to suffer in the new world of television. It’s okay, just close your eyes and do your best to block out the Honey Boo Boos and Jershey Shores in this new hell.

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The 2013 Oscars Were Great — Thanks to Seth MacFarlane!

Despite being an avid movie-goer, I usually don’t find myself caring about the Oscars very much. This year was certainly an exception.

Many people without a sense of humour, or those that are overly sensitive, claimed that Seth MacFarlane bombed. Everyone else loved it! Besides does that look like a face that cares? (see main image).

There are a number of reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed the Oscars this year:

1. Seth MacFarlane hosted

Seth MacFarlane was an amazing host for so many reasons. First and foremost, he was hilarious! He had jokes for everyone. Some zingers that crossed a line or two, some funny sketches and the usual poking and prodding at the stars in the audience. What was a surprise to many, I’m sure, is how talented Seth is. He writes brilliant comedy including several TV shows and a movie and sings as good as Frank Sinatra.

Fun fact: Seth MacFarlane vocally trained with Lee and Sally Sweetland — the coaches behind Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand.

Fun fact #2: Seth narrowly missed getting on one of the planes that ended up crashing into one of the twin towers.

I obviously adore the man but in trying to be objective, I think he was the overall best-suited for the job — perhaps ever. His comfort with comedy is no laughing matter and his vocal skills made for some great musical numbers. Combined, they killed (in a good way).

2. The nominees were amazing and the winners deserving

The Oscars can certainly be hit or miss. I can recall several years where I was thoroughly frustrated by both the movies nominated and the winners in each category. However, this year was not the case. The fact that I watch upwards of 52 movies a year means that I have seen almost all of the winning movies and found most of the winners to be deserving.

I thought Argo most deserved Best Picture and had entered the movie on my ballot but then changed my mind as the show went on thinking that they would give the award to Lincoln. It was very refreshing when Argo ended up winning (and very fortunate that my ballot was set in stone before I decided to change it).

3. There were many surprises

Surprises in the Academy Awards can be frustrating but during the 2013 Oscars most of the surprises were good ones (or neutral). The neutral surprise was the fact that both Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty won the award for sound editing — something I did not know was possible to do.

Seth MacFarlane’s jokes were often surprising. The best example was, when introducing Meryl Streep, he says “and now an actress that needs no introduction” and immediately bolts of the stage. It caught me by surprise and almost brought me to tears with the way he pulled it off.

Argo winning Best Picture was a surprise, presumably even to Ben Affleck. I was personally very pleased that a movie with broader appeal and more diversity won. There have been too many years when the honour goes to the most artsy period piece in the group — appealing only to the utmost movie snobs.

Normally I would say that if you missed the Oscars you wouldn’t have missed much but 2013 was definitely a stand-out year.

Louis C.k. Gets it Right with ‘Live at The Beacon Theatre’

We live in an age where downloading free movies, TV shows and music are as easy as the click of the mouse. Most labels just don’t get it but Louis C.K. certainly does.

Louis C.K. made his most recent comedy special, Live at the Beacon Theatre available for only $5. Not only is that a very affordable price but he also made it extremely simple to download or stream it – your choice. So not only are you getting it for cheap, you’re getting it easy and without region restrictions or DRM. And because Louis C.K. cut out the middle-men in the process, he has made more money. It’s win-win-lose. Of course, it’s only the publishers/labels/distributors that lose, and that’s okay.

Louis’ honest and new-age approach to releasing Live at the Beacon Theatre has been a huge success and should help pave the way for more artists to take it upon themselves to make their music/comedy available in this way. I am a proud supporter of this arrangement, and if you’re a Louis C.K. fan as I am, you can download Live at the Beacon theatre here.

Louis had the following to say about his “experiment”:Louis-CK-Live-at-the-Beacon-Theater

People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a shit about this): it’s been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money can be made by an individual in this manner?

It’s been 4 days. A lot of people are asking me how it’s going. I’ve been hesitant to share the actual figures, because there’s power in exclusive ownership of information. What I didn’t expect when I started this was that people would not only take part in this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be important to them. It’s been amazing to see people in large numbers advocating this idea. So I think it’s only fair that you get to know the results. Also, it’s just really cool and fun and I’m dying to tell everybody. I told my Mom, I told three friends, and that wasn’t nearly enough. So here it is.

First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself and the production of the video cost around $170,000. (This was largely paid for by the tickets bought by the audiences at both shows). The material in the video was developed over months on the road and has never been seen on my show (LOUIE) or on any other special. The risks were thus: every new generation of material I create is my income, it’s like a farmer’s annual crop. The time and effort on my part was far more than if I’d done it with a big company. If I’d done it with a big company, I would have a guarantee of a sizable fee, as opposed to this way, where I’m actually investing my own money.

The development of the website, which needed to be a very robust, reliable and carefully constructed website, was around $32,000. We worked for a number of weeks poring over the site to make sure every detail would give buyers a simple, optimal and humane experience for buying the video. I edited the video around the clock for the weeks between the show and the launch.

The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.

I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn’t many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.
(Of course i reserve the right to go back on all of this and sign a massive deal with a company that pays me fat coin and charges you straight up the ass.). (This is you: yes Louie. And we’ll all enjoy torrenting that content. You fat sweaty dolt).

I probably sound kind of crazy right now. It’s been a really fun and intense few days. This video was paid for by people who bought tickets, and then bought by people who wanted to see that same show. I got to do exactly the show I wanted, and exactly the show you wanted.

I also got an education. And everything i learned are things i was happy to learn.
I learned that people are interested in what happens and shit (i didn’t go to college)

I learned that money can be a lot of things. It can be something that is hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld. Or it can be like an energy, fueled by the desire, will, creative interest, need to laugh, of large groups of people. And it can be shuffled and pushed around and pooled together to fuel a common interest, jokes about garbage, penises and parenthood.

I want to thank Blair Breard who produced this video and produces my series LOUIE, and I want to thank Caspar and Giles at Version Industries, who created the website.

I hope with all of my heart that I stay funny. Otherwise this all goes to hell. Please have a safe and happy holiday, and thank you again for all this crazy shit.

Louis C.K.