Unlike other media genres, classic games age with the least grace. Part of this is the very nature of a developing medium. When you look at the technological leaps that have been made in the last 20 years, it’s no wonder people don’t revisit old games. For the most part, they were pretty awful. It’s not just the graphics, though that’s the most obvious barometer, but remember the days of no saves? No story in 95% of games. Control schemes that felt like you were trying to drive a dead elephant? Computer A.I. that was either mysteriously omniscent or functionally retarded (my favorite were enemies that you could lure into walking off cliffs by moving your character a certain way)? If you mark the beginning of modern video gaming with the debut of the original NES, we’re 25 years into this still-burgeoning form of entertainment. Do you harken back to yesteryear and play any classic games? They’re more accessible than they used to be a few years ago. “Best of” discs containing dozens of games from old systems can be had or you can download old classics off of individual system networks. My wife and I were ripping through Golden Axe the other day (a prime example of enemies on whom you can use the lemming effect) and this question came to me. As far as I go, I still bust out Sonic the Hedgehog 1-3. Tetris will never get old. The original Zelda and Mario games are timeless as well. How about you? Any old favorites pry you away from Halo?
Answer: THE FREAKING AMAZING RACE, BABY!!!
I have total and complete disdain for the genre of reality TV. I do watch a lot of the cooking themed shows (initially as part of the remote sharing compact that comes with all relationships, but I do like a lot of the Food Network ones), but aside from that, “reality TV” as a buzz phrase is second only to “filmed in 3D” in causing Dave facial tics. Why is TAR different? It’s the world! It’s the whole world as the canvas for a exploratory journey. Yes, it’s frantic and rushed, but instead of sitting in a studio or in a house slathered with cameras, these people get to race around the world. Ever since I was a little boy reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, this idea has captured my imagination and this show allows its contestants to live that (in roughly half the time Verne gave Phineas Fogg). The race consists of 10-12 teams of two people with a prior relationship (spouses, siblings, friends, etc) who have to travel to different checkpoints around the globe using clues they gain as a result of completing tasks in order to find their destination. At it’s best, the show exposes teams to life in other countries, many impoverished compared to the lives we know here in the States, and the best teams are truly affected and find it a transformative experience. Of course there are always the idiot ugly American teams or the stunt cast teams (please no midgets or goths this year….ohhh the midget), but the proportion of good to dreck is so mightily outweighed compared to the rest of the genre, that it’s no wonder TAR won the first seven Emmys given for Best Reality Show. My wife and I are huge fans, owning all 16 seasons on DVD and will be there tonight for the 90 minute premiere of season 17. You should be too!
This week is the beginning of the fall TV season and, as always, there are new shows vying for our attention. Traditionally, I watch TV on DVD/Blu Ray because I can’t stand commercials, but I do watch a lot of it and around this time of year, I get a lot of free pilots to check out of the new shows. Pilots have to serve a variety of purposes. They have to introduce you to the characters and the world of the show without overwhelming you with detail. They have to be somewhat self-contained, but open the door for the series to come. They have to, most of all, hook you so drastically that you’ll return time and time again. Here are the best pilots I’ve ever seen.
1. ER (NBC)
2. Lost (ABC)
3. Damages (FX)
4. The West Wing (NBC)
5. Homicide: Life on the Streets (NBC)