According to NBC’s own Olympics site, swimming would be starting at 3:30 PM today on the main NBC network; imagine our surprise when we found that Michael Phelps’s first qualifying heat was broadcast at 2:56 PM (when NBC’s schedule says they’d be broadcasting road racing). Fortunately for us, we came home before our DVR had erased the 2:00 hour from its buffer, so we were able to see it, but seriously, NBC: whisky tango foxtrot?!? If you’re going to put up a f@#!ing schedule, you should f@#!ing adhere to it.

I wonder if anyone has used the Writers Guild of America’s “Report a Scab” page to report Jay Leno for last night’s monologue, which probably broke the strike rules (since Leno is a WGA member, and the WGA specifically warned Leno and Conan about their monologues).

I have to say, I really enjoyed reading Mark Pilgrim’s post on the roots of Sesame Street (and the reason for the oft-discussed disclaimer on the recently-released DVDs of the first ten years’ worth of episodes).

Tonight brings a few short takes, since I’ve had a few tabs open in my browser for days now waiting for a chance to get ‘em posted.

  • The New York Times published an incredible article last week about the ways the Karitiana Indians feel they have been misled and abused by various medical research teams who have visited the tribe and made promises in return for participation in research. The Karitiana are a tribe from western Brazil and have historically remained relatively isolated and close-knit, and both in the 1970s and 1990s, both these traits led American medical teams to ask for blood in order to study how disease penetrates through generations of families, promising access to modern medicines and care in return. The tribe never received the promised returns on their participation, though, and recently learned that the collected blood and DNA are now being sold by private companies in the United States and France. Needless to say, they’re not pleased.
  • It seems that DirecTV is about to introduce a sorely-needed feature to their high-def DVRs — autocorrection after fast-forwarding, similar to what TiVos have had pretty much forever. This is, bar none, the biggest annoyance of using the HR20 DVR after having had a TiVo for the last seven years, so I’m certainly thrilled that the feature looks to be coming soon! (I’m also excited about next week’s scheduled launch of the DirecTV-10 satellite, which promises to bring a slew of new HD programming to DirecTV users as soon as they’re able to put it through it’s paces in orbit.)
  • A study was published in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine looking at the effect of doctors talking about themselves during patient visits, and as I’ve come to expect, most of the news coverage misses the nuance and makes sweeping and indefensible conclusions. The study used fake patients and judged their subjective reactions to physicians talking about themselves during first visits; unsurprisingly, most of the “patients” didn’t feel that the physician’s personal chitchat added much value to that visit. Reuters more or less blew off the “first-time patient” detail in its coverage, implying that there wasn’t really ever a place for that kind of doctor-patient conversation during visits, but the study doesn’t say that, and my personal experience is that with longer-term, established patients who might see you once (or more!) a week, there’s certainly a place for occasional personal comments or observations, all of which can help keep the therapeutic team (doctor, patient, nurse, psychosocial providers, etc.) intact and functioning at its best.
  • Finally, I’m really getting excited about Movable Type 4, which is now in beta — damn, are there some great features lurking in there! If I didn’t have such a complicated setup, I’d migrate over this very second. As it is, though, I probably have an hour or two of work ahead of me before I can get my site into MT4 exactly as I want it to be, so I’ll probably wait a week or two, when I can carve a chunk of time out to make the move. I can’t wait!

Am I the only person who didn’t know that the Addams Family started out as a series of cartoons in The New Yorker? In 1938?!? That’s pretty damn cool.

I can’t even begin to imagine the gall it takes for a television network that broadcasts a scant three to six hours of live, relevant programming a week to begin demanding that cable companies offer the network in their lowest-tier basic programming packages… but that’s exactly what the NFL Network is doing this year, and quite a few cable companies are telling the network to go screw itself. And that means that with this Thursday’s first of eight prime-time games that are being shunted onto the NFL Network, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s television-containing homes won’t be able to watch. In that news story, NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky says that these eight games are “the most valuable programming a cable company can offer, and a cable company not carrying live NFL games is like a grocery store not carrying milk”; I’m pretty sure a more accurate analogy would be that the grocery stores are refusing to do business with a single dairy company that only deigns to bottle its product for three hours on eight random days of the year, and the rest of the year distributes three-month-old yogurt and cottage cheese.

Fun fun fun — since Shannon and I will be in the heart of southern New Jersey for the holiday (and almost certainly won’t have access to the NFL Network), I guess we’ll be watching the primetime game via DirecTV and the SlingBox…

OK, this makes me pretty happy: the folks at Sling Media announced three new versions of the Slingbox today, and after a bunch of delays, are also promising the public release of SlingPlayer for the Mac within the next month. (Well, I bet it’ll be a beta version, but whatever — I’ll be able to use something to view our Slingbox TV feed from my Macs.) It’s great that the company is also finally adding HDTV support, although I’m not terribly ecstatic about that support coming as a vaporware add-on that isn’t being released until the fall, will cost more, and will only plug into the most expensive of the new Slingbox models. I guess I can’t have everything…

Is there an single person anywhere who thinks that Pink’s NBC Sunday Night Football intro are sexy, or anything but supremely disturbing? I can’t figure out what part of the NFL demographic she’s supposed to appeal to; she’s just gross, and the intro bit makes her even nastier.

Only Skot can take a show so abhorrently awful as CSI: Miami and revel in it.

You see, it has morphed from a disastrous, insulting failure — not to mention a criminal waste of talents like Emily Procter and Khandi Alexander — into possibly the most overwrought, over-the-top, hilariously ridiculous spectacle since… I don’t know. The Piltdown Man? Any Cirque Du Soleil show? This show is so awesomely misguided and bizarre and campy that it could only top itself by having everyone perform in drag. And I feel bad saying that, because I have friends who are drag queens, and I don’t want them to feel insulted.

Every time I’ve been subjected to even sixty seconds of CSI: Miami, I’ve found myself wondering (a) how its existence is justified, and (b) why someone (anyone!) hasn’t sent the gift of actual acting lessons to David Caruso. I guess a partial answer to the first query is that, without the show, we wouldn’t have the awesome experience of reading Skot ripping it to pieces, something that’s almost worth the pain of watching it in the first place.

As if people needed another reason to hate the monopolistic practices of cable companies, Matt Haughey has been kind enough to point in the direction of Time Warner Cable’s attempt to decree that it won’t provide CableCards to customers who use the upcoming Series 3 TiVos. (For those who don’t know, CableCards are cable tuners that are reduced to the size of small PC cards, and which slide into slots in other pieces of equipment that can control them and provide additional services. Quite a few HDTVs sold today have CableCard slots on them; the goal would then be that you could get a CableCard from your cable company, install it directly into your TV, and not need an additional cable box.) Obviously, TiVos and other digital video recorders compete with the DVRs that Time Warner sells rents to its customers, and the company’s argument is that it doesn’t have to provide equipment that then can be used in a way which takes (potential) money out of its pockets. Fortunately, it appears that rather than a dead-end, this represents more of an idiotic obstacle; Federal law actually dictates that TWC has to provide the cards to customers with any CableCard-certified equipment, and the Series 3 TiVos achieved that certification.

In his NBA column over at Yahoo Sports, Dan Wetzel says that ABC and the NBA got what they deserved for scheduling the worst playoff game yesterday during the best television time slot. Because of the Pistons and the Cavs getting the prime 3:30 PM slot, the Spurs and the Mavericks were relegated to a 1 PM tipoff; this meant that much of the country wasn’t able to tune in to see two 60-game-winning teams (one of which is the defending champion!) facing off in what was predictably a great game, and another chunk of NBA fans were able to turn on — and quickly turn back off — a total blowout of a contest in a series that nobody’s predicting will last beyond four or five games. Alas.

Lately, RCN has been running commercials in the Brookline market that involve a guy coming on-screen and explaining ways that RCN feels people can get more out of their cable internet connections. The guy runs through the steps needed to complete some task that RCN has determined will make using a broadband connection better; the commercials are pretty hysterical, if only because they’re both totally low-rent and pathetically simple-minded. (And better yet, they’re about 50% louder than the content that precedes and follows them, meaning that the guy is always shouting at you.) You’d at least figure that RCN would use the opportunities to address the threats that today’s internet (and specifically broadband) users face — phishing attacks, viruses, port scanning and security exploitation — but in fact, you’d be wrong. The first commercial we saw involved the guy literally explaining — in as rapid-fire a way as posisble — how to set up Outlook Express for an RCN account; the next one actually walked people through power cycling their cable modems. (Shannon turned to me during the tenth or so time we’d seen the power-cycling commercial and asked, “Do you think RCN is aware that they’re the ones responsible for people having to power cycle their cable modems in the first place?” Alas, no, they’re totally unaware of that fact.)

I’m sure that the idea of RCN using its own television bandwidth in a combined effort to promote its service and educate its users looked great on paper, but on the implementation side, it’s pretty awful.

It looks like TiVo is starting off a partnership with Yahoo today by adding the ability to record shows to your TiVo from the Yahoo TV listings pages. (To use the new feature, you need to log into your Yahoo account, go to the TV listings page, register to link up your Yahoo! and TiVo accounts, and then you’ll see “Record to my TiVo box” links on all the individual program pages.) I’m pretty stoked about this, if only because I find TiVo’s own online recording interface (TiVo Central Online) to be painful to use, replete with functionality buried underneath needless layers of links and verification steps. The only thing I can see missing from the Yahoo interface is the ability to set up season passes; otherwise, I’m sold on the new partnership. (PVRblog has more on the deal, including info about future services Yahoo plans to bring to the TiVo platform.)

Warning: the following text contains the spoiler to tonight’s Dancing with the Stars grand finale! Highlight the text if you’re OK reading it…

I’m embarrassed to admit that the first reality competition show I’ve gotten into is Dancing with the Stars — but I have to admit it to be able to then say that this is the most rigged piece of crap I could possibly imagine putting on television. I mean, nevermind that Kelly Monaco — who is pretty much a stripper out there — actually got to the finals, but then she got three tens (the only tens given in the entire competition) for her dance in which there were at least two obvious mistakes?!? And then they win it all?!?!? Total, complete horseshit, I tell ya’; they got their asses handed to them out there every night, and the finals were no different. But I guess the 50% of the votes that came from the viewers saw her breasts rather than her dancing. I guess that’s what I get for tuning into reality shows!

Am I the only one who felt that the ending to tonight’s Law & Order just felt cheap and weird? (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about and want to, the spoiler is below; you have to highlight the text below to reveal it.)

DA Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson) sat Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Rohm) down to tell her that she’s being fired. Her response: “Is it because I’m a lesbian?” How is this an appropriate piece of information to introduce, for the very first time, in the last five seconds of Rohm’s L&O life?

Jerry Orbach has died. This makes me sad.

Jack McCoy will certainly get to the bottom of this.