Watched the 30-Rock last reunion special on NBC/Universal’s new streaming platform, Peacock. I was a huge fan of the original 30 Rock show, but the final season certainly wasn’t the best. The characters increasingly became a caricature of themselves which ultimately allowed for lazy writing because they all just had to act as we, the audience, expected and it was, well, just fine.
This tends to happen with all sitcoms and why they eventually fall out of favor… actors age, grow weary of playing the same role, writers struggle to come up with new wacky situations, and eventually (and hopefully) the show comes to a natural and graceful conclusion sometime between seasons 5 and 10.
It makes sense that Peacock would launch the free version of their streaming service with a 30-Rock reunion show as the show is perfectly set in a quasi-reality universe of NBC television. It is a sitcom about a variety show which airs on NBC but has fictional NBC executives, some real actors and some actors playing roles as actors on the show. Confused? It can be confusing but generally you just have to roll with it.
The reunion is essentially one big Peacock promotion, and is self-aware that it is exactly that. Fictional Head of NBC is now Kenneth Parcel, a role he assumed in the final season of the show. TGS has been off the air for years and the story involves Jack and Liz roping the TGS cast and crew back together to pitch a TGS reboot.
Filmed in the age of COVID-19, she show was entirely shot “at home” with each actor utilizing their own homes and household members as crew. While it’s quite obvious that no one is ever in the same room together (except for Lutz and Sue, who are married in the default world), they obscure this with the fact that most of the show is telephone and video calls. I can’t even imagine the Herculean effort the editing team must have put forward to piece this thing together.
So how is it? It’s fine. It’s not tremendously funny but it is satisfying in a the way that you feel after eating a delicious meal with old friends. These are the same characters you have known an loved for many years and it’s a fitting reunion and hits all the checkboxes you want.
In the mix of the show, you see a lot of marketing for other shows in the Peacock Lineup, some look interesting, A new series based on Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World looks interesting. And there are new comedies starring David Schwimmer and Ted Danson which look promising.
Why does the sound on everything stink today? TV’s, Tablets, computers, cells. (Corporate greed! Oh, buy this special sound component.) My Stupid Samsung Smart TV, brand new, on 100, the highest it goes, is just audible on some channels. And my hearing is perfectly normal.
Well, Dave, there are several factors. But it basically boils down to two: audio compression and format.
Almost all recorded audio today is compressed. CD-quality was established as an audio standard when CDs were first released. The quality is crystal clear and typically mixed to be presented as stereo sound with 2 channels (Left and Right). The problem is that the data files are really big and you can only fit about 80 minutes of music or 700mb. That’s about 35mb for a 3 minute song.
Then the Internet became a thing and people very quickly realized that downloading a song took FOREVER. So one guy said, hey, since humans can’t really hear EVERY frequency why don’t we remove some of that “extra data”? And so he set to chopping out the bits (compressing) HE deemed weren’t important. So now we have a whole generation of kids that only grew up hearing compressed audio (MP3’s) and don’t know any better.
This same compressed audio is used in streaming movies and television today because of the same logic. Some stations and streaming platforms compress the fuck out of the audio and/or picture. The only way to get really really good quality picture and sound is to buy the Blu-Ray versions and play them on a really good home theater system.
That’s the first thing: compression. The second thing is audio format.
Unless you have your smart TV connected to a fancy home theater audio system, you’re likely hearing plain old (compressed) stereo sound. If the source of that audio was originally mixed for stereo, it probably sounds fine. But if it was mixed for more than 2 speakers… such as Dolby 5.1 Surround, you are likely not hearing some of the mix.
5.1 refers to the number of speakers that an audio track is mixed to. In a typical 5.1 set up you would have Front L and R, Front Center, Side L and R, and a subwoofer. The Front Center would typically have the majority of dialogue where the sides and subwoofer would have music/Sfx and so on. This is how they create that “surround sound”.
The problem is, if you don’t have that center speaker, you’re probably missing much of the dialog audio. Most smart TVs attempt to compensate for this with some audio trickery but it is inconsistent because there are so many different ways the original audio can be formatted. It’s like if someone were to listen to early Beatles with all the treble down and all the bass up…it would totally sound fucked up.
Your smart TV likely has a few different audio settings (check your manual or look at your remote). You may try switching to a different format that sounds better to you for whatever you are watching at the time. Or you can start investing in a home theater system and spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours learning the finer points of audio engineering.
I recently watched the FX-produced “limited series” Devs on Hulu. It stars Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from “Parks & Recreation“) as the “mad genius” and Sonoya Mizuno as the protagonist trying to uncover the secret behind her boyfriend’s sudden and inexplicable disappearance. I might add that Sonoya Mizuno may very well be my new favorite actress. If you’re not familiar with her work, watch this: The Rise of Sonoya Mizuno
The roughly 8 hour show (broken into 8 segments) is the brainchild of writer/director Alex Garland, who also wrote and directed Annihilation and Ex-Machina and wrote 28 Days Later. Garland has been on my radar for several years and has brought some of the most intriguing science fiction to both the big and little screens in recent years. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook after seeing Annihilation a couple years ago:
After being a little late to the game on Devs, and despite the fact that I had seen the name pop up as recommended by several friends…I never went digging enough to find it. I saw it once on Apple TV+ but it wanted me to buy it…then I realized it was on Hulu for free! So I binged all 8 episodes in about 2 Covid quarantine days.
The story goes like this: A russian-born software security developer working for a Silicon Valley tech giant gets recruited by the company’s Founder/CEO, Forest (Offerman), to join an elite team within the company called “Devs”. Shortly after he joins Devs, he disappears and his girlfriend, Lily (Mizuno) suspects foul play, leading her on a journey that weaves international espionage, high-tech, quantum computing, determinism and the concept of a multiverse.
The Multiverse theory is a very real theory that has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy and basically postulates the multiverse is a hypothetical group of multiple universes. Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them. The different universes within the multiverse are called “parallel universes,” “other universes,” “alternate universes,” or “many worlds.”. The ideas of a Multiverse have been debated by physicists and philosophers alike, and has been the subject of many modern science fiction works, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, Family Guy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicles of Narnia…and many, many more.
In Devs, the multiverse is explored as a predictive tool. If every action has a cause, say you drop a pen, the pen will fall to the floor. It’s predictable and quantifiable. Devs takes it a step further by saying that if the pen is already on the floor, you can calculate how it got there, essentially peering back in time to the initial drop. Once you can visualize it being dropped, in theory, you can continue predicting backwards (and forwards) further and further, using massive computing power to predict all possible scenarios and accurately visualize the most likely outcomes.
It very quickly gets sticky and mired in the ethics of this technology…and the concepts of “free will”, determinism and quantum physics are all blended nicely in the Devs Universe. Forest is driven to build this technology due to a great loss he suffered and hopes to use it to recapture what he lost. Lily works for the same company and uncovers the mystery of her boyfriend’s disappearance and the truth behind Devs but begins to question her own thoughts and reality along the way.
The series is visually stunning, filled with religious imagery and themes of death and rebirth. The Devs soundtrack is fantastic as well, with one notable episode starting and ending with a song called Congregation by Low. Every episode starts and ends with a unique song. It’s quite a fun watch, and I highly recommend it. But…could it happen for real??? Some physicists say perhaps.
“It’s easy to take time’s arrow for granted – but the gears of physics actually work just as smoothly in reverse. Maybe that time machine is possible after all?
“An experiment from 2019 shows just how much wiggle room we can expect when it comes to distinguishing the past from the future, at least on a quantum scale. It might not allow us to relive the 1960s, but it could help us better understand why not.”
“The second law of thermodynamics is less a hard rule and more of a guiding principle for the Universe. It says hot things get colder over time as energy transforms and spreads out from areas where it’s most intense.
“It’s a principle that explains why your coffee won’t stay hot in a cold room, why it’s easier to scramble an egg than unscramble it, and why nobody will ever let you patent a perpetual motion machine.
“It’s also the closest we can get to a rule that tells us why we can remember what we had for dinner last night, but have no memory of next Christmas.
“That law is closely related to the notion of the arrow of time that posits the one-way direction of time from the past to the future,” said quantum physicist Gordey Lesovik from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
“Virtually every other rule in physics can be flipped and still make sense. For example, you could zoom in on a game of pool, and a single collision between any two balls won’t look weird if you happened to see it in reverse.
“On the other hand, if you watched balls roll out of pockets and reform the starting pyramid, it would be a sobering experience. That’s the second law at work for you.
“On the macro scale of omelettes and games of pool, we shouldn’t expect a lot of give in the laws of thermodynamics. But as we focus in on the tiny gears of reality – in this case, solitary electrons – loopholes appear.
“Electrons aren’t like tiny billiard balls, they’re more akin to information that occupies a space. Their details are defined by something called the Schrödinger equation, which represents the possibilities of an electron’s characteristics as a wave of chance.