Posts tagged “television”

Mike Rowe & Mike Huckabee

December 21st, 2017

I’ve always enjoyed Mike Rowe’s television series Dirty Jobs. It was a celebration of the working class, and was presented with just the right amount of light-hearted, gross-out humor.

That’s why I was disappointed to see Rowe’s new series, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, being hawked by Republican politician and Christian con-man Mike Huckabee. Perhaps best known for his failed 2016 presidential candidacy, Huckabee holds pretty much every far-right political position you would expect: he opposes abortion, universal health care, marriage equality, and the teaching of evolution. He is truly odious.

Huckabee does not appear in Somebody’s Gotta Do It, which seems similar to Dirty Jobs minus the “dirty” theme, but the show airs on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and Huckabee hosts one of its most popular programs. (A previous incarnation of Somebody’s Gotta Do It, with a different format, aired on CNN until it was cancelled last year in favor of increased coverage of the aforementioned presidential race.)

I was gratified, then, to learn that Rowe had addressed the issue on his blog, in response to a reader who raised concerns about his affiliation with Huckabee and TBN:

Somebody’s Gotta Do It is a non-religious, non-partisan, family friendly show. Like Dirty Jobs, it celebrates the kind of Americans I most admire—hardworking, passionate, ambitious individuals who make our country a better place.

Isn’t this the sort of content you’d like to see more of? I get that you despise TBN. I get that you despise Mike Huckabee. But given your affection for me, your fondness for the shows I produce, and your admiration for my charitable work—I would think you’d want my message to reach as many people as possible. Well, TBN reaches 98% of the country. Wouldn’t you like their audience to see Somebody’s Gotta Do It? Moreover, wouldn’t you like TBN to purchase more shows like this, and maybe evolve into the kind of network you don’t despise?

Here’s the thing, Carsen—I don’t have my own network, or my own channel. I make the programs I like, and hope someone buys them.

Rowe goes on to note, not with a little irony, that he received a similar response from the other side of the fence when his more conservative fans learned that the previous version of the show was going to air on CNN.

The idea of TBN transforming that much by broadcasting more areligious programming is frankly laughable. The problems with the network, its programming, and its audience, are too fundamental.

But the rest of Rowe’s point is well made. I’m disappointed to see a host I otherwise admire end up on a network like TBN, but I’m glad he’s been able to find a home for a show he’s clearly passionate about, and bring it to an audience who might otherwise never have been exposed to it.

Bullshit! Bullshit

June 9th, 2010

I’ve gushed about comedian-magician duo Penn & Teller before. And I usually list atheism, libertarianism, and skepticism as my three primary interests. So it’s no surprise that one of my favorite televisions shows is the one Penn & Teller host that’s about atheism, libertarianism, and skepticism: Penn & Teller: Bullshit! It’s a documentary series championing freedom, liberty, science, and rationality in a fun, light-hearted fashion It’s that focus on freedom and liberty that makes all the more disappointing the recent DVD release of the show’s seventh season, which is missing a controversial episode.

The episode in question is “The Vatican,” the season finale in which Penn & Teller berate the Catholic Church for its anti-homosexuality activism, condemnation of condom use, and cover-up of the priest sex abuse scandal. It also highlights Sabina Guzzanti, a comedian who was threatened with criminal charges for criticizing the Pope. It tackles some important issues, and it’s one of the series’ better episodes.

The Vatican

Unfortunately, no longer can viewers see that for themselves, as the episode has not appeared in Apple’s iTunes store (all other episodes are available), and is omitted from last month’s DVD release. In fact, the episode is no longer listed on Showtime’s official Bullshit! website. To be fair, the DVD’s packaging notes that the episode is not included (it’s also advertised as containing “The Seventh Season,” rather than as “The Complete Seventh Season,” as it was referred to in an earlier version of the packaging), and the remaining episodes retain their original opening titles, which list on-screen the subjects covered during the season, including “The Vatican.” So it’s not as if Showtime is trying to completely erase all evidence that the episode ever existed. Nevertheless, it’s extremely disappointing that the episode is unavailable.

Penn & Teller:  Bullshit!  Season Seven DVD

What’s especially bothersome is that, as far as I can tell, nobody actually knows why the episode is unavailable in the first place! The popular assumption seems to be that Showtime or Paramount (who distributes Bullshit! on DVD) caved to pressure from the Catholic Church. That’s quite cowardly of them, if true, and especially ironic considering how strongly the show champions free speech (it even touts “The Right to Free Speech” right there on the DVD cover!). But no one affiliated with the show has actually commented on the issue. I even posed the question to executive producer Star Price via Twitter, to no avail (he’d previously answered a different question I’d asked about the series, so he’s at least willing to respond to fans online). Without any answers about the episode’s omission, I’m reluctant to call anyone out for it. A lot of fans have been quick to trash Penn & Teller themselves over the issue, but it’s not like Penn & Teller personally authored the DVDs—I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t even know that the episode was omitted. And even if they did know, we still don’t know the reason for the omission; it could even be that Penn & Teller were dissatisfied with the episode in some way and didn’t feel it worthy of inclusion alongside the others. That seems unlikely, I admit, but the point is that without knowing why the episode was omitted, I don’t feel comfortable chiding anyone for the omission. And yet, it’s frustrating to have no answers after the DVD has been out for a month. I wish someone would give viewers an explanation. Even if that explanation was just, “Yeah, the Church pressured us to remove the episode and we complied,” then we’d at least have the comfort of knowing.

Surely someone out there must have some information about the missing “Vatican” episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!?

Lost, Finished

May 24th, 2010

Last night, ABC aired the much-hyped final episode of its hit series Lost, which I’ve followed since the first season in 2004-2005. The finale had some pretty overt religious themes, and though I consider myself a man of science, not a man of faith, I think they worked within the context of the show. Unlike some viewers, I don’t have any serious issues with the way Lost wrapped up last night.

Lost, Season 6

However, I am pessimistic about how the series will come to be viewed as a whole. Television series today, much more so than before the days of the Internet and the DVD box set, are judged as a whole. And while there were a lot of great individual episodes of Lost (“The Constant” and “Ab Aeterno” in particular), the series overall seems disjointed to me.

During the early episodes of the show, the writers seemed to be spinning their wheels a lot. There was an early first-season which ends with a character discovering a mysterious hatch buried in the ground. I was pretty excited to see the next episode and discover the contents of said hatch. But the mystery of the hatch was dragged out for more than a dozen episodes, and its contents weren’t revealed until the second-season premier. Many plot points followed the same model, being introduced as intriguing mysteries, then left unresolved for many episodes or even seasons. It was kind of frustrating, but I ultimately came to accept it as simply the way Lost was made.

Lost, Season 1

More recently, though, the show began to wind down, and I presume the writers realized they had to actually wrap up the myriad loose ends they’d been creating, because things moved at an appreciably quicker pace during the last season or two. Plot elements were introduced in the last few episodes which, had they been part of the first season, would surely have spanned the better part of an entire season, but which now had to be resolved in only two or three episodes. I appreciated that Lost was finally being more forthcoming in answering the questions it posed, but it didn’t really feel like the same show I’d been watching back in 2004 and 2005.

Having watched the show week-by-week over the course of six years, it’s hard to say whether that perceived change is due to a real shift in the show itself, or simply a change in the way I’ve come to view it. With the last season still fresh in my mind, it’s difficult to judge it in the same way I do the earlier seasons, with which I’m much more familiar. Now that Lost is a completed work, I’d like to get the whole series on Blu-ray and revisit it in a few years with a fresh perspective. I wonder how it will play out as a whole—will it be a satisfyingly cohesive, or will it be flawed and disjointed?

The Dirty Jobs DVD Buying Guide

May 12th, 2010

I previously explained how frustratingly difficult it is to collect the entire Mythbusters series on DVD. There’s another Discovery Channel series that I enjoy almost as much as Mythbusters, and whose DVD release strategy is almost as confusing: Dirty Jobs.

Like Mythbusters, the most widely-available commercial DVD releases of Dirty Jobs are individual “best of” collections. Like Mythbusters, season sets are available exclusively through the Discovery Channel Store. And like Mythbusters, many episodes are inexplicably missing from those seasons sets.

As of this writing, four season sets are available, as are a whole bunch of individual one- and two-episode DVD releases of early episodes of the show. Curiously, it looks like the season one DVD is actually just a repackaging of the first five two-episode DVDs, as it’s the only season set with such a low episode-per-disc count, and it doesn’t even actually say “season one” anywhere on the discs or the packaging (but it is advertised that way by Discovery). And since, by most accounts (again like Mythbusters, there doesn’t appear to be any consistent way of grouping Dirty Jobs episodes into seasons), the first season had only nine episodes (including three pilots from 2003), the season one DVD also includes the first episode of season two.

Dirty Jobs Season One DVD

The oddest thing, though, is the huge block of episodes that aired between those included on the first- and second-season DVD sets. There are 31 such episodes, of which six are themed specials highlighting dirty jobs from previous episodes. We’ll come back to those specials; meanwhile, you’ll have to purchase 14 of the individual-episode DVDs to get the 25 remaining episodes:

  • “Ostrich Farmer” / “Cheese Maker” *
  • “Shrimper” / “Bio-Diesel Man” *
  • “Micro-Algae Man” / “Chimney Sweeper” *
  • “Avian Vomitologist” / “Turkey Farmer”
  • “Alligator Farmer”
  • “Mushroom Farmer” / “Plumber”
  • “Termite Controller” / “Casino Food Recycler”
  • “Rose Parade Float Dismantler” / “Garbage Pit Technician”
  • “Skull Cleaner” / “Coal Miner”
  • “Geoduck Farmer” / “Fuel Tank Cleaner”
  • “Jobs That Bite” / “Jobs That Bite…Harder” *
  • “Hoof Cleaner” *
  • “Alpaca Shearer” / “Monkey Caretaker”
  • “100th Dirty Job Special”

Unfortunately, only five of these 14 DVDs, marked with an asterisk (*) above, are currently available at the Discovery Channel Store. The rest you’ll likely have to pick up second-hand. Several are available used through Amazon, and there are usually a few for sale on eBay, often several in a single auction. Also note that eight of these episodes (plus two first-season episodes) are available on the Collection 1 “best of” release. However, except for “Alpaca Shearer,” “Monkey Caretaker” and “100th Dirty Job Special,” the individual release of each pairs it with an episode which isn’t on Collection 1, so if you plan to get all the episodes, you’ll have to buy those individual releases anyway, duplicating many of the Collection 1 episodes. There have also been four subsequent Collection releases, but none include any episodes that aren’t on the regular season sets.

Mike Rowe

After this block of inexplicably-omitted episodes, the season sets include almost every episode aired as of February, 2010. The chief exceptions are various “special” episodes. Most of these episodes take the form of “clip shows,” in which segments from previous episodes are re-purposed. I suppose they were omitted from the season sets because the producer’s didn’t want to include segments twice on a single release, but many of them also include new introductory footage with host Mike Rowe, and some of them include additional footage originally cut from the segments themselves, so it’s disappointing that they weren’t included in spite of the redundant material.

Additionally, a couple of the specials, like “Mike’s Day Off” and “Crew Unemployment,” aren’t just clip shows, so it’s not clear why they’re not included on the DVD sets. I guess “special” episodes don’t count as part of the series proper, but since they haven’t been released on DVD individually, it would be nice for them to have been included. Whatever the reason, here’s the list of episodes you can’t get on DVD:

  • “Dirtiest Animals”
  • “Dirtiest Water Jobs”
  • “Creepy Critters”
  • “Dirtiest Tools & Machines”
  • “Super Dirty”
  • “Viewer’s Choice”
  • “Really Dirty Animals”
  • “Dirtiest Machines on the Planet”
  • “Crew’s Cruise”
  • “Creepy, Slimy and Just Plain Weird”
  • “Dirty Innovators”
  • “Tight Spaces”
  • “Brown Plate Special”
  • “Animal Barber”
  • “Brown Before Green”
  • “Dirty Presidents”
  • “Brown Before Green 2”
  • “Mike’s Day Off”
  • “Safety Third”
  • “Tight Spaces 2”
  • “Crew Unemployment”

There might be one exception to this list, though. It’s my understanding that “Mike’s Day Off” was originally not aired on the Discovery Channel, and instead issued exclusively on a promotional DVD (which also included the “Skull Cleaner” episode). Though the episode eventually aired during the fourth season, again, it’s not included on the season four DVD set. I’ve scoured Amazon, eBay, and all the usual sources of second-hand DVDs, but have been unable to find a copy of the “Mike’s Day Off” DVD.

Ignoring that special episode, though, owning the most complete Dirty Jobs DVD collection entails purchasing the four season sets, plus the 14 individual releases listed above. That’ll net you every episode aired so far except the 21 specials, which will have to suffice until the Discovery Channel sees fit to release its series on DVD in the sensible manner adopted by practically every other studio.

The Mythbusters DVD Buying Guide

April 26th, 2010

As a fan of science and skeptical thinking, I consider Mythbusters one of the best shows on television right now. And as an anal-retentive collector, I want to get the whole series on DVD. Most current shows are available in complete-season box sets, making this endeavor easy. Unfortunately, the Discovery Channel has made things a little more complicated for their flagship series.

For starters, the most widely-available Mythbusters DVDs are the much-maligned “best of” collections or themed sets. These are of little interest to the completist, who’d prefer more logically-organized complete releases over cherry-picked episodes. Fortunately, season-by-season box sets of Mythbusters, up to season six, are available exclusively through the Discovery Channel Store. Unfortunately, the organization of the episodes on these sets leaves a lot to be desired, and many episodes are not included.

The first problem is that there doesn’t appear to be any consistent way of organizing Mythbusters episodes into seasons. Every episode list I’ve found breaks them up in different ways. The official Mythbusters site foregoes organizing its list by season altogether, instead grouping episodes by calendar year. One would expect the DVD releases to be the definitive word on the subject, but in some cases, episodes that originally aired on consecutive weeks are included on two different DVD season sets. There’s even one instance in which the first episode included on one season set aired before the final episode of the previous season set!

The other major issue is the handling of the episodes that have been designated “specials.” These special episodes aired during the show’s regular time-slot, and are mostly of normal length (although there are a couple of double-length specials), so it isn’t exactly clear what differentiates them from “regular” episodes (they generally cover a number of myths connected by a common theme, but then so do several episodes that aren’t considered specials). There are over a dozen specials among Mythbusters’ first six seasons, and most of them are absent from the DVD season sets. Some, but not all, of the missing specials are available on individual DVD releases through the Discovery Channel Store. Strangely, the season five DVD set includes all of the specials from that season except one, and the season six DVD set includes some, but not all of the season-six specials. No logic or consistency seems to have gone into the determination of which episodes would be included and which would be omitted.

Mythbusters

Frustrated by the Discovery Channel’s DVD release strategy for Mythbusters, I finally just took a complete list of Mythbusters episodes organized by airdate, and compared it, episode-by-episode, to the list of episodes included in each season DVD box set to come up with a list of the missing episodes, and on which individual DVD releases, if any, they could be found. I know that other fans of the show are similarly frustrated, so I hope that they might find this research useful. If you purchase the six seasons sets that Discovery offers, you’ll get all of the episodes that aired through November 18, 2009 except for the following:

  • “Jet-Assisted Chevy”
  • “Biscuit Bazooka”
  • “Poppy-Seed Drug Test”
  • “Best Animals Myths”
  • “Best Electric Myths”
  • “Best Explosions”
  • “Christmas Special”
  • “Buster Special”
  • “Ultimate Mythbuster”
  • “MythBusters Outtakes”
  • “Shop ‘til You Drop”
  • “Mythbusters Revealed”
  • “Hollywood on Trial”
  • “Jaws Special”
  • “Mega Movie Myths”
  • “Supersized Myths”
  • “Young Scientist Special”
  • “Shark Week Special”
  • “Alcohol Myths”
  • “Demolition Derby”

The first three episodes on this list (“Jet-Assisted Chevy,” “Biscuit Bazooka,” and “Poppy-Seed Drug Test”) are the show’s three pilot episodes that originally aired in early 2003. All of them are available on the The Pilots DVD release. The next three episodes (“Best Animals Myths,” “Best Electric Myths,” and “Best Explosions”) are essentially clip shows—they highlight themed myths from previous episodes, and include no new footage. None of them appears to be available on DVD, but since they contain no original content, I’m not going to worry about them. Heck, the official Mythbusters episode list doesn’t even include these three “best-of” shows.

“Buster Special,” “Shop ‘til You Drop,” “Hollywood on Trial,” “Jaws Special,” and “Mega Movie Myths” are all available on individual DVD releases. As of this writing, the Discovery Channel Store carries all except “Buster Special.” That DVD appears to be out of print, so you’ll probably have to hunt down a used copy; after a bit of searching, I found one on eBay. Note that “Shop ‘til You Drop” and “Hollywood on Trial” (and “Mythbusters Revealed,” but more on that in a moment) are also available on the four-disc Mythbusters Collection 1 DVD set. You’ll get another 10 regular episodes that are duplicated in the season sets, but for under ten bucks at Amazon, the collection is still a better deal than the Discovery Channel’s individual releases, which are priced rather exorbitantly for single-episode DVDs. Three other Collection releases exist, but none contains any episodes that are missing from the season sets.

There is also an individual DVD release of “Mythbusters Revealed,” but that episode is additionally included alongside “Mythbusters Outtakes” on the two-episode Mythbusters DVD in the Discovery Channel Best Of Collection, Volume 4 DVD box set. Since “Mythbusters Outtakes” isn’t available on any other release, that’s the one you’ll want to pick up. It might seem a bit extreme to purchase a five-disc box set for just two episodes, but you ought to be able to find a pretty good deal on a used set; I actually found the set’s Mythbusters DVD for sale individually on eBay.

Mythbusters DVDs

That leaves “Christmas Special,” “Ultimate Mythbuster,” “Supersized Myths,” “Young Scientist Special,” “Shark Week Special,” “Alcohol Myths,” and “Demolition Derby.” None of them appears to be available on any U.S. DVD release. However, there are Australian releases of “Christmas Special” and “Ultimate Mythbuster”. Both are region-locked PAL releases, so they won’t play in a standard U.S. DVD player. But they are available to anyone determined enough to procure a region-free, PAL-compatible DVD player. “Christmas Special” is pretty easy to find; its DVD release is called Mythbusters Christmas Special, Volume 1 (there was a second Christmas-themed episode, available as Volume 2, but it’s included on season five DVD set), and there always seems to be a few copies available on eBay Australia.

“Ultimate Mythbuster” is a bit harder to get hold of. An individual DVD release of this episode (dubbed Mythbusters: Ultimate) was included as a freebie with an issue of the men’s magazine FHM in Australia a couple of years ago. That DVD is rather hard to come by now, but if you keep an eye out on eBay Australia, one’s bound to turn up eventually; that’s how I scored my copy. This episode is apparently also included in the Australian DVD release of season two; it should be easier to get it this way, since it’s a currently-available commercial release, but more expensive to do so since you’ll have to purchase a whole season set for just one episode. Of course, you could just go exclusively with the Australian DVD releases, since they contain at least some of the specials absent from the U.S. season sets, but they organize the episodes in yet another way, which matches neither the U.S. DVDs nor any episode list I’ve seen, and I’m not about to try comprehensively cataloguing the Australian releases, too. I believe that early episodes of the show also had Robert Lee’s voice-over narration replaced with the voice of an Australian-accented narrator (nothing against Australian accents; I’d just prefer to hear the standard U.S. narration that I’ve become accustomed to), though this practice was obviously dropped by the time they got to “Christmas Special” and “Ultimate Mythbuster,” the Australian DVD releases of which include Lee’s narration.

Having said that, one episode, the “Supersized Myths” special, appears to be availably only as part of an Australian season set—season four, to be specific. Again, the viewer will have to decide whether it’s worth buying an entire season set for a single episode, or consider just buying the Australian sets instead of the U.S. ones in the first place.

Unfortunately, it seems that “Young Scientist Special,” “Shark Week Special,” “Alcohol Myths,” and “Demolition Derby” haven’t been released on DVD anywhere in the world. They all aired during season six, the one most recently released on DVD, so I’m still hopeful that Discovery will put out individual releases of them at some point.

Mythbusters cast

In the meantime, here’s the complete list of DVDs you’ll have to acquire to get the first six seasons of Mythbusters—every episode through November 18, 2009—except for those three “best-of” episodes and the four aforementioned specials. Releases marked with an asterisk (*) contain episodes that are also included on the Collection 1 release, which, again, is the better deal.

  • Season 1
  • Season 2
  • Season 3
  • Season 4
  • Season 5
  • Season 6
  • The Pilots
  • Mythbusters Christmas Special, Volume 1 Australian release
  • Buster Special
  • Mythbusters: Ultimate Australian release or Season 4 Australian release
  • Outtakes and Revealed from the Discovery Channel Best Of Collection, Volume 4
  • Shop ‘til You Drop *
  • Hollywood on Trial *
  • Jaws Special
  • Mega Movie Myths
  • Season 4 Australian release
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