Category Archives: News

3 Ways the Writers’ Room is Changing

3 Ways the Writers’ Room is Changing

When it comes to television, the success of a show doesn’t hinge on the actors, the producers, or even the network. It’s the writers’ room.

The actors, the producers, and the network do contribute a great deal to a show dying a horrible death though. The last one on that list contributes the most. Anyone remember Firefly?

The point is, writers are what give the show it’s meat. The dialogue, the scenes, the action, the emotions, all of that is produced by the writers’ room.

The producers provide the money, and the director gives the whole production a goal. And the network makes the “smart decisions.” These smart decisions usually end a show. Anyone remember Almost Human?

Writers' RoomIt’s the writers that provide all the important parts that make a show a show.

The funny one-liners, the jokes, the turns of phrase, the speeches, and the list goes on. Without a writers’ room, the show wouldn’t exist.

Ironically, it’s the writers who get the least amount of credit.

This team of creatives sit down day after day and do the hard work of writing. While writing is seen as a creative endeavor, make no mistake, it involves hard work. I speak from experience.

And it’s so frustrating to see all the hard work of the writers get thrown away when a network decides a show “just isn’t right.”

Anyone remember Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?

Studio 60

It starts with a well-loved sketch comedy show, Studio 60, getting shaken up. To fix the public relations disaster, the showrunner hires a well-known producer-writer duo. Played by Matthew Perry, Matt Albie is the writer. He’s got awards, he’s proven himself, he’s what the producers think will save their show.

Albie, like most writers, is always battling his creative demons.

The first Monday after being hired, Albie is tasked with writing his first episode.

Walking into the head writer’s office, he sees the previous occupant put up a neon sign. Turning it on, he finds a famous quote there.

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

On top of it is a running clock, letting him know how much time he has until the next episode airs.

And the rest of the episode all his creative demons and writing problems are summed up with that running clock.

Should Have Gone With a Writer’s Room

The ironic part is this doesn’t accurately portray how a real television production works. And yet, it’s on television.Writers' Room

In a real studio, Albie would have leaned on his writers’ room. It was more dramatic to have him go it alone. But in real life, the less drama there is the better.

This writers’ room would have already had ideas they were working on and getting ready for them to test out. Ideas would have been bouncing around as multiple writers thought of different ways to convey an idea. Or how to make an idea better.

The writers’ room is an integral part of the production process.

Possibly the most integral part.

But it’s changing.

In this era of Peak TV, more and more shows are being produced. The vast majority of these shows are short and sometimes don’t last long.

Until recently, an idea would be pitched to a producer. If the producer liked the idea, that person would put together a budget and pull in writers to help write a pilot. The pilot would get produced and pitched to a network. If the network liked it, they’d order a set of shows along with the pilot and air it for the next season. If the show did well, it’d get picked up.

There’s a lot of “ifs” in that last paragraph.

Anywhere along the way, a show could have gotten derailed or canceled. This meant the loss of money and time invested to create it.

This was called the “pilot-model.”

Now shows are being created with more than just a pilot shot. Sometimes there is no pilot at all.

The choice for many production companies is to go with a mini-room.

Mini-Room?

Writers’ Rooms usually had a lot of writers in them.

Now the common trend is to have a room with four or five writers working on a single project to come up with possible scripts for episodes. Sometimes they hash out an overall arc. Other times its coming up with ideas to build upon for more shows and possibly later seasons.

Other times a mini-room means a group of writers will only be employed for a short time as they work to write out multiple scripts for a show so the producer has an idea of what the show will look like beyond a pilot.

Sometimes it means both.

The major complaint here is that mini-rooms do not provide a stable income for writers. By their nature, they will only last for a short time.

Another complaint is that the process doesn’t work for some producers. Either they’re used to the old way, or they’re not liking what’s coming out of the room.

On the upside, mini-rooms have their advantages.

Writers’ Rooms are Getting Smaller

An obvious point, but it bears mentioning.

With fewer writers in the room, the most common praise is “greater intimacy.” Meaning, they feel comfortable talking about heavy subject matter.

When writers feel comfortable with each other, they can get to some very deep issues and ideas. This isn’t as common with a large room of writers.

It also helps when a smaller group is hashing out ideas as it’s easier to manage. A cohesive storyline can form faster and work can pick up. What may have taken a season to write may take half or a quarter of the time.

More Writing Opportunities

With more writers’ rooms popping up, more writers are needed to fill them.Writers' Room

The pool of chances just got bigger.

Aspiring writers without the right connections would have a better shot of getting their work in front of a producer. And believe me, having connections in the business makes a world of difference when it comes to getting started.

Why do you think Miley Cyrus became famous? It couldn’t have been because her dad was Billy Ray Cyrus, right?

More Chances for Marginalized Voices

The push for more voices from different backgrounds is gaining steam.

Yet, there women and minorities are still only accounting for about a quarter of the content coming out of Hollywood.

With more writing opportunities available, through mini-rooms, more writers from these backgrounds have a chance. A chance to get their writing in front of producers.

Maybe the industry will finally shift?

We can hope.

Mini-Rooms Becoming the Norm

With any change in the industry, there are those who love and those who hate it.

The biggest argument against mini-rooms is they’re turning the industry into a gig economy.

There is some truth to that, but as more and more companies outsource and get leaner, it makes sense this would happen.

On the upside, there are more chances for aspiring writers to make an impact. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

With the wave of content still rolling strong, there will be a need for more and more writers. As well as people who will want to watch them. So make sure you have a reliable connection and decent download speed. Check out the best internet deals to save you some time and money.

As for Matt Albie of Studio 60, he did manage to pull off the show.

Though unrealistic, the ending had a touch of cosmic fate.

As he watches the audience applause and the cast bow, he smiles and walks away from the window.

Only to hear the sign click.

He looks back.

The timer has rolled over and it’s counting down to next week’s episode.

3 Reasons Cloud Gaming Will Be Awesome

3 Reasons Cloud Gaming Will Be Awesome

The promise of Cloud Gaming seemed to be a false promise. But now it appears Electronic Arts (EA) can revive that dream.

Back in June 2018, EA demonstrated they were able to stream high-quality games via a high-speed connection. The person on the other end simply needed a controller to hook up to the television, computer, or laptop, and they could play the game.

Just like Netflix brings movies and shows straight to the consumer, EA is working to launch their own game streaming service.

All players will need is a controller, a high-speed internet connection on their device, and of course, a subscription. Then they’ll have access to a huge array of games to play with.

This would have been nice if they’d come out with this technology a lot sooner.Cloud Gaming

That One Roommate

Before Cloud Gaming, before even Netflix streaming, I was a college student sharing a house with five other guys.

The house, affectionately dubbed “The Shack,” should have been condemned. There were roaches living there, not to mention the squirrels and cats too. The squirrels left us alone, but the roaches were constantly inciting a turf war.

The cats just used the place to procreate, and loudly.

Rent was cheap though.

Which was the point, I guess.

To make the situation more livable, TV’s were brought in, DVD players, huge selections of DVDs, and games.Cloud Gaming

One guy had an Xbox. Let’s call him Rick.

While I did my fair share of movie watching, Rick played video games.

Non. Stop.

I shouldn’t judge, he turned out to be a great guy.

And I did spend a few nights trying to beat Gears of War. I wasn’t totally immune.

Yet, if you were to walk in there, 99 times out of ten, it wasn’t me on the Xbox trying to level up in the hottest game to come out that year- Halo 3. It would have been Rick.

So the soundtrack of the house was a constant stream of explosions, gunfire, Rick shouting into his headset, and vulgar putdowns from other people playing the game as well.

This was college.

Since Rick played hours upon hours of Halo, he was good at the game. I wasn’t.

I would be lucky to get five kills in a multi-player match. And Rick wouldn’t hesitate to point this out to me any time I picked up a controller.

As if living in that cesspool wasn’t enough, I couldn’t prove myself in the last arena of true battle- online gaming.

I graduated college, got married, and soon found online gaming really wasn’t the measure of a true man.

But I digress.

I didn’t own a game console. Thus, I wasn’t good at gaming. In hindsight, this wasn’t a bad thing. I did, after all, get into books. And I couldn’t be happier.

Gaming, however, is going to change.Cloud Gaming

As more and more games come out that only emphasize their online gaming mode and not their story mode, the video game companies will need a better way to market their games.

Enter Cloud Gaming.

It’s not all bad.

And here are three reasons why.

No Consoles to Pay For

Part of the reason I never bought an Xbox or a PlayStation was the expensive price tag. And I was a poor college kid.

My parents were also not big into gaming. So I can’t blame them for not shelling out the cash to buy me one that one time I put it on my Christmas list.

With a streaming service, there’s no need to buy the console, or even the game itself. Just hook up the internet, plug in the controller, and away you go.

A streaming game service was attempted back at the start of the 2010’s.

Two companies, GoLive and Gaikai, each showed cloud gaming was a viable possibility.

The only problem was the technology required to make it work was expensive and not as available as it was today. There was also the widely accepted belief that one buys games and does not stream them. Streaming was for movies and wasn’t seen as a stable method for delivering a high-quality gaming experience.

EA has cracked that.

Now all they need is enough subscribers to make it profitable.

Subscriptions

With Cloud Gaming, you’ll only pay once a month, or once for the whole year.

Paying once a month and getting games cheaper is better than having to pay for the console and the games too. At least, I would think so. I’m no expert here, but I do know what I like. And I’d much rather pay a little bit at a time than a lot all at once.

It’s unclear if other game production companies will create their own subscription services like EA’s. But who am I kidding? Of course they will.

Once EA proves this will work, other companies are going to launch their own subscription services to make it happen and compete.

Soon the entertainment world will be one big subscription service, with subscription services to manage subscription services.

At least the games will be cheaper.

Availability to More Players

Rick, though a good guy, was still hogging the Xbox most of the time.Cloud Gaming

With a subscription service, this opens the door for even more people to plug in and play…so long as the internet speed is fast enough. There’s a way around that, just get the best internet bundles and you’ll be able to have multiple players, on multiple devices, all streaming their games at. The. Same. Time!

If there are not enough ports for the controllers, then pull out a laptop, computer, or just another TV with an internet connection. Players would then be able to join in the game and no one would have to wait their turn to play.

Cloud Gaming would make gaming accessible to a much wider audience.

When Is The Future?

EA’s Origin Access Premiere is still in its infancy.

There will still be some kinks to work out, but as of right now, it seems to be working well. This is good news for EA as they continue their domination of the video game industry.

For those who don’t enjoy video games, or don’t object to EA on principle, there are always books to read.

As for me, I don’t see myself getting involved with video games beyond the few apps I have on my phone. Maybe when I’m older and my life slows down just a little bit I’ll have some time to just waste on a game. But I doubt that will happen any time soon.

Rick, my old roomie, did give up gaming. I’m not sure when, but it must have been some time after he got married and started working a real job. Then he had kids.

Last I spoke with him he was getting his masters and taking care of yet another baby. How he manages kids and masters level courses, I don’t know. I barely made it through my masters’ level course with one child.

A few weeks ago I was near my alma mater and thought, just briefly, if that god-forsaken Shack was still there.

Low and behold, it was.

Some other poor sap decided they’d live with the roaches, the squirrels, and the cats, in that confined space. Hopefully, they have fast, reliable internet, and a streaming service.

4 Things to Know about CBS

4 Things to Know about CBS

CBS is experiencing some amazing growth…and a couple serious problems.

The Columbia Broadcasting Service, CBS, has been home to iconic shows. Their current content offering is no different.

Yet, they’ve made a couple of big mistakes.

But let’s talk about two pieces of good news first.

CBS News To Launch Local News Service

CBSN Local, as it will be called, is a new venture by CBS to connect local news providers with cord cutters.

This is a smart move on CBS’s part.

While customers are getting rid of cable and switching entirely to streaming services, the concern for local news stations have been “who will watch us?” To combat this, CBS News will have market-specific streaming news available. Local CBS affiliates will get to produce and stream their local news while alongside CBS’s original content. This streaming service will eventually be part of CBS All Access in the future.

CBSNot all affiliates are getting their own streaming services right now. Only the largest markets will get some first. Other cities will get their own as they roll out the service more and more.

It’s a great idea, but with a downside.

What if some people, namely the author of this post, are not CBS watchers? What if they get their news from somewhere else and are fine missing the local CBS newscast?

CBS may be up a creek with that one.

Then again, that may not be an issue.

CBS All Access and Showtime OTT Subscribers are Rising

CBS All Access, their exclusive streaming service, and their subsidiary, Showtime have been showing strong numbers.

These numbers are so strong that analysts have predicted they’ll break 8 million for All Access and 8 million for Showtime by 2022. Simple math means that will be 16 million new subscribers by 2022.

That’s a big number and something to get excited about.

That is if their forecasters aren’t mistaken like Netflix’s did last July.

The good news is that CBS is adapting to the era of Peak TV better than most of their competitors.

For a broadcast channel that produces shows watched mostly by the over-50 crowd, that’s pretty impressive.

Let’s hope it’s enough to outweigh their bad decisions.

More Star Trek Without Avery Brooks

CBS debuted Star Trek: Discovery exclusively on All Access.

This new show is supposed to be a prequel to the new Trek movies that have come out under JJ Abrams. I haven’t heard much about the show itself. Nor have I had any inclination to.

And for someone who grew up watching Star Trek, that should be shocking.

While it would be easy to blame JJ Abrams for this, in truth, it’s not his fault.

It’s the fault of the executives and producers who decided he’d be a good choice to take control of the franchise. Since I don’t know their names, it’s just easier to blame Abrams for my distaste with the current direction Star Trek has been going.

It wasn’t made any better when I learned that Patrick Stewart was getting another Trek show.

Now, I don’t hate Patrick Stewart. He’s a phenomenal actor.

As Jean-Luc Picard, he brought a certain panache and dignity to the role of a captain. You’ll notice there are very few Trekkie jokes that make fun of his talking style if there are any at all.

Not to mention he did a great job as Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, despite the horrible turn they took.

No, the issue here isn’t Patrick Stewart at all. Jean-Luc Picard was his role and he made the character what it is today. If he wants to go and make another show based on the character, then that’s his choice.

What I really want to see, and what I’ve been dying to see since 1999, is Avery Brooks step back into the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko.

Who’s Avery Brooks?

For those asking that question, I am deeply saddened.

Avery Brooks played Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space 9.

This spin-off came after The Next Generation, which is what Stewart is known for. Instead of being set on a ship, they set the show on a space station. And not just any space station, but the space station once held by an oppressive regime.

Deep Space 9 wasn’t like the other Star Trek’s, nor any others after it. It dealt with heavy issues like faith, war, and fatherhood, to name a few. DS9, as its called by its die-hard fans, also tossed out the episodic format and set up a mythic arc for the entire series. There were episodes that were “one-offs” like the time Bashir had “James Bond-like” adventure in one of the holosuites.

This idea was ahead of its time. It also made DS9 is perfect for binge-watching.

And yet, no movies, no reboots…nothing.

And why is that?

Just as Deep Space 9 was ending, I expected to see at least one movie where they brought back the entire cast, just like they did for The Next Generation. But they didn’t.

Instead, they made more movies with the TNG cast.

While those movies were fun to watch, I eagerly awaited them to finally give DS9 it’s big budget time on the screen.CBS

But they didn’t.

Instead, someone decided to never go that direction and junk all that story potential.

And for what?

A reboot of the tired old series where we see reinterpretations of characters that we’ve seen a lot of already.

Again, this has nothing to do with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, or the cast of the new Trek movies. They’re great actors, and this is not a reflection on them. Nor did I entirely hate the new Trek movies. They were entertaining at least.

It’s a reflection on the absurdity that’s allowed to reign at these production companies.

And it’s no more obvious than with this next bit of news

Les Moonves Is Still There

The CEO, who’s had multiple counts of sexual harassment against him, has been allowed to stay.

While there’s been a long list of offenders who’ve been kicked out for sexual misconduct, and even worse, Moonves name isn’t on that list.

The specifics of the case aside, it’s sending a message that with enough power, men like this can still be allowed to retain their positions of authority.

And I find that unacceptable.

While I didn’t watch a lot of CBS programming, to begin with, I doubt I’ll be doing much of it now.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to watching Patrick Stewart’s new Trek series, but I’m not forking over money to a company that refuses to do the right thing in the name of profits.

Nor will they make a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 movie.

Or reboot the series.

So much potential and such a waste.

Until then, I’ll have to make do with watching reruns of DS9 so I can see one of the best actors, nay, one of the best roll-models I’ve ever seen, get a chance to act on screen.

For the rest of us, it’s a free country. If you want to subscribe to CBS All Access, I’m okay with that. It is, after all, your right.

Just make sure you save some cash first by checking out the best cable and internet packages. Knowing that someone will be saving money will at least make me feel a little better.

And that will have to do until they finally make that Deep Space 9 movie.

Walmart V. Amazon: Is it Good for You?

Walmart V. Amazon: Is it Good for You?

Why would Walmart compete against Amazon? They’re both large companies that make a good profit. Walmart has dominated the big-box store competition. Amazon has dominated just about everything else.

But Amazon bought Whole Foods.

For a technology company that can deliver things so quickly and efficiently to buy a grocery store means Walmart’s going to have serious competition soon.

Reminds me of another epic rivalry.

Hi, I’m a Mac

Not too long ago, Apple ran this advertising campaign to highlight the differences between the two brands. Microsoft, who makes PCs, was played by the unassuming John Hodgman.

Hodgman was great as the embodiment of the PC computer who was terminally befuddled with problems. Some issues were legit, like Microsoft’s horrible Vista operating system. Most of the time it was about the identity of the brands.

Justin Long, the embodiment of the Mac, was the young and hip guy who casually took care of every problem and had no issues whatsoever with his operating systems.

As you can see from the clip above, they were hilarious. Superb comedy writing.

But they distracted from the real issue- buying a computer is more a personal choice than a rational one.

Mac or PC?

Microsoft makes great computers.

Apple makes great computers.

Which one is best comes down to a matter of personal choice.

Microsoft, who makes the PCs, are reliable computers. They may not be sleek or classy looking, but they do the job that’s required of them.

Apples are elegantly designed.

What makes Apples different from PCs, besides aesthetics, is that Apple has branded itself as the “different” computer company.

Those who want to see themselves as different, innovative, or an outsider, are usually going to buy a Mac. This stems from Steve Jobs prompting customers to “think different” when it came to buying a computer.

Macs were made to be simple to set up, easy to use, and intuitive.

PCs, however, were clunky and took a lot of work just to get turned on.

In the intervening years, PCs have come a long way in terms of their functionality and ease of use. It also helps that Microsoft Word works best on a PC, and Word is the industry standard for the publishing industry.

This article, in fact, was written on a PC…then copy and pasted onto our On The Download blog.

While there is a version of Word available for Macs, it’s not as sleek or easy to use. Somewhat ironic really.

So when it comes to a Mac or a PC, I go for the PC.

This doesn’t mean I don’t like Macs. I get more benefits out of a PC than I do Macs.

In the contest between Amazon and Walmart, it’s shaping up to look like the Mac v. PC commercials.

In the end, it’s a good thing for the consumer- you.

Hi, I’m Amazon

WalmartAmazon started out as just an online reseller of books.

It has since grown to become a behemoth in the online retail space.

Amazon has hundreds of warehouses and sorting centers across the world. It took years to build this up and cost a lot to pull off. But all that hard work has proven extremely advantageous as Amazon can ship things relatively easily across the world, sometimes getting something into your hands within a day.

You do have to pay extra for the service, but Amazon is the only one doing it right now.

With their huge warehouses of stuff, and third-party vendors able to sell their wares on the site as well, Amazon has a definitive edge when it comes to operating an online retail space.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though.

Their last Prime Day had a rocky start, and then there were the issues with Whole Foods.

When Amazon bought Whole Foods, it was expected they could start delivering grocery orders within hours.

That has not quite worked out.

Though Amazon has tried starting their own delivery service with sub-contractors, and even going as far as partnering with Uber and Lyft, the service hasn’t quite taken off.

This may be because grocery shopping is still a personal activity. I speak from experience as I would rather pick my groceries myself than have someone do it for me. It would save me on time but at the expense of getting the wrong cereal. And that’s a blow that’s hard to come back from.

Amazon is still working to iron out the kinks, but the food delivery issue is still unresolved as of this writing.

Hi, I’m Walmart

Walmart has the big-box chain thing down, pat!Walmart

The only issue with this is the world is becoming increasingly digital. Walmart’s method of delivering goods from warehouse to store, while efficient, is also costly. For this reason, Walmart may not have as big a profit margin as Amazon does.

What they do have, however, is brand recognition.

Drive through rural America and you’ll see a Walmart in any decent-sized town. It won’t be huge or flashy, but it will be busy.

Walmart’s brand of “saving you more” has stuck and people from far and wide will drive great distances to get a better deal on their weekly groceries.

Yet, the world is becoming more and more digital. As cities grow and rural communities shrink, Walmart’s advantage will shrink with it.

Walmart’s New Advantage

Unlike other companies who said “we’ve done things this way and it’s worked out for us so we’ll keep doing it this way,” Walmart is taking a different path.

Walmart is currently ramping up Vudu, the movie streaming service it owns, and will turn it into their personal entertainment streaming service completed with original content.

Walmart is also working on solving the grocery delivery and infrastructure problem.

To do this, they’ve created two tech incubators, one in San Bruno, California, and one in Austin, Texas.

A tech incubator is a shelter for startups. Incubators are geared for looking for a specific type of technology or process and then working on how to apply it to the parent organization. In this case, that’s Walmart. And Walmart is looking for the right startups, or even entrepreneurs, who might have solutions to their problems. Once those are identified, they’ll provide a workspace for them and money to work on their idea, process, or product.

Given Walmart has these two tech incubators in very tech-heavy markets is a sign they’re aggressively seeking solutions.

While Amazon has the brand image of creating new technology in-house, Walmart is working to bring in thinkers to solve its problems. That may not be part of Walmart’s overall brand, but it’s a wise move considering how business practices are changing.

On a minor note, Walmart could have saved itself some money and set up shop in San Antonio, TX, just an hour down the road from Austin. It would have still had access to all the tech genius of Austin but at far cheaper overhead.

Just saying.

Who Will Win?

In the coming contest for online retail dominance, Amazon appears to be frontrunner here.

They’ve been building their digital platform, they’ve already run into problems with delivering groceries so they’re farther ahead on solving them.

Walmart, however, isn’t sitting back and doing nothing.

They’ve invested in finding people who will come up with answers and then how to incorporate those answers. They may be proverbially late to the game, but they’re not showing up short-handed either.

The key to whole competition will be who will devise a better customer experience. Price will factor in too. Customers will overlook that if they like the customer interface enough.

A system may be more intuitive than the other or have more features, but if a customer does not like it, that will hurt the overall performance of each company.

In the end, it’s all about how well you take care of your customer.

Before that happens, however, you’ll need to have a decent internet connection. Check out the best internet bundles and save yourself a little bit of money too.

When Amazon and Walmart finally figure out how to get groceries to your front door, you don’t want your internet making that difficult.

2 Good and 2 Bad Things About Google’s New Data Journalism Feature

2 Good and 2 Bad Things About Google’s New Data Journalism Feature

Researching for articles is an integral part of my job. Searching through data and data is key to providing quality content. If I skip and try to pass off my work as accurate, I’m opening myself up for a major headache.

And I could possibly lose my job.

Despite hating research, I’ve come to love it.

Which is why I grit my teeth when it comes to finding the right data, then identifying which datasets to focus on, and after all that is finally completed, digging into the data to analyze it.

Along with improving grammar in their Docs, Google’s going to make research easier too.

How Google’s Going To Help With Data Journalism

Growing up my father would wake up at 4 am to go out into the wilderness and conduct research studies.Data

He wasn’t researching wolves or bears or even something interesting.

He was researching elk…elk. Just let that sink in for a minute.

Majestic though they may be, these things don’t do much beyond graze and walk around. At least, they didn’t when I was looking at them. Since my dad was a wildlife biologist, I got the “opportunity” to go out on these trips. Sometimes if I misbehaved my dad decided I needed another “opportunity” to go out and help with the research.

After staring at these dumb animals for untold hours, we’d go home and he’d start calculating the data.

It took him more than twenty years to complete the research and analysis before he felt he had enough to present his findings.

Thank god we have Google now. With a decent ISP, Google’s at my beck and call. Make sure you have taken the time to look through the best cable and internet packages in your area to cut down on twenty years of research.

Without a reliable connection, I don’t think I’d be able to finish a single article. Thankfully, I do. And with it, I can easily type in a term and Google will return the relevant information.

At least, in theory, that’s what it should do.

Data1. Save Time

I still dig through the information available there and suddenly I’m back in the field with my dad staring at a dumb animal that’s just chewing.

What Google is proposing is to highlight relevant data within articles and list them above the title. A sort of preview.

Already, I can feel the weight of researching getting lighter.

By seeing what data is contained with an article or a report right there on the Google search page, I could save a significant amount of time. How much time I would save is still undefined. To figure that out would probably take a good twenty years anyway.

This wouldn’t make research a blissful experience, it would just ease some of the headaches of hunting for data. I’m okay with that.

Because there’s nothing more frustrating than opening an article and reading through a considerable chunk of it only to find it’s irrelevant. While the mistake of reading it was mine, it would have helped to get a better picture of the data contained within before I even started reading.

And data previews would be a huge help in accomplishing that.

2. Refine Search Criteria

I’ll be honest, I have no master’s degree and I didn’t excel in school when it came to research. I got by well enough though.

Now, when it comes to research for an article, I start by guessing at the search terms I need to use. There are the few times when I have a clear idea of where to look. Other times, and it happens more than I would like, I shoot in the dark until I find the right combination of words and terms.

This works well enough most of the time.

The other day, however, I had to dig through stuff from the FCC.

Never in my life have I been so frustrated trying to find the relevant datasets. There was plenty of data to look at, I just didn’t have a clue what most of it meant.

They use a lot of numbers.

Possible Drawbacks

Getting data previewed will be a huge help.

1. But humans will be looking at the previews

By reviewing the data alone, information can get missed.Data

When just the numbers and the related terms are pulled out, data can be misunderstood. With no context, sometimes we can read the data in the wrong way and draw the wrong conclusions.

This may not be as bad as it seems. Professionals do research and still misinterpret data from time to time.

2. Dense Reports

The real concern is when there is a huge report. You know, the academic kind with stuffy language. The type of report where the abstract alone hurts the brain while its being read.

These dense tomes of collected data and aggregated information may defeat the algorithm of Google’s search engine.

I doubt even artificial intelligence could make sense of them.

Get Ready For It Now

Google’s developers have already prepared for this.

And they are asking that published articles are prepared in such a way that data is easy to identify. As Google searches far and wide through the internet it’ll be able to pluck the right stuff out of the text if it’s been easily labeled.

There’s guidelines, source and provenance best practices listed in the developer’s announcement.

Before all that, there’s a list of examples for how authors and journalists can prepare their data so Google’s algorithms will recognize it.Data

  • A table or a CSV file with some data
  • An organized collection of tables
  • A file in a proprietary format that contains data
  • A collection of files that together constitute some meaningful dataset
  • A structured object with data in some other format that you might want to load into a special tool for processing
  • Images capturing data
  • Files relating to machine learning, such as trained parameters or neural network structure definitions
  • Anything that looks like a dataset.

That last one seems a little bit confusing. Or maybe that’s just me as I’m a not research-minded.

The feature is still in the pilot phase. No news on when it will officially roll out.

It All Works Out in the End

Conducting research, as daunting as it is, is part of my job.

I do get paid to do this, so I shouldn’t complain too much. And what’s a little research to make sure I’m taken seriously as a writer?

At least I’m not having to drive out to the middle of nowhere and stare at elk for every article. There are times when it feels that way though.

For those special people, like my dad, they look forward to that stuff. As weird as it sounds, they enjoy the hard labor of trekking out into the wilderness and collecting data. Then they head back home to crunch numbers without the help of Google to streamline the process. Instead, it’s spreadsheets upon spreadsheets. Which is almost worse than the job of collecting the data itself.

But these strange people enjoy it.

It has worked out for my dad though. He’s a published author now.

I did get a mention in the acknowledgments section, so it was worth something for me too.

Until I’m able to finish my next book, that will have to do.

3 Ways Theater Chains Can Combat Netflix

3 Ways Theater Chains Can Combat Netflix

Theaters have been steadily losing to Netflix.

Even though the latest Mission: Impossible scored a record last week, I didn’t it see it.

If it wasn’t on Netflix, then I didn’t watch it.

I’m not lazy, I’m busy. There’s a difference.

As a father of two and gainfully employed, a lot of my time is already spoken for. So is a lot of my income.

Theater ticket prices are also a lot higher than they were when I was younger. And while I am getting a steady paycheck, with two growing children, I have less money available than I used to.

There’s also the fact that Hollywood has lost its luster for me. I used to be the first one in line to catch a movie I liked. I would happily dole out the cash for popcorn and a soda.

But most movies these days just aren’t doing it for me.

I think it happened when they let JJ Abrams reboot Star Trek.

There was hope that it wouldn’t be a repeat of Lost. It was worse.

After that, it just became easier to stay in and miss the latest blockbuster.

This had been happening with increasing frequency recently. Most “experts” point to rising ticket prices, concessions, and the increasing availability of streaming movies. Maybe JJ Abrams is to blame too.Theaters

When Netflix premiered Bright last December, it marked a subtle shift; a streaming service put serious money, got serious talent, and put out a serious movie.

The movie itself wasn’t truly groundbreaking. David Ayers, though a good director, has done similar movies like that. If you’ve seen Training Day and Sabotage, you’d see most of the plot twists coming from a mile away.

While no Oscar-worthy film, Bright signifies that Netflix, and quite possibly the rest of the streaming services, are changing more than just TV watching.

The Problem

Theaters were once an experience in and of themselves.

For those who grew up without streaming services or cable in their homes, going out to catch a movie was a big deal. Since most of the population, as of right now, grew up that way, theaters still hold sway.

But not for long.

As mentioned before, they’re expensive, and they’re crowded. Having to share a movie experience with strangers isn’t as appealing as it used to be. Especially when that stranger talks during the movie and took the best seat.

And, as previously mentioned, the movies themselves haven’t all been winners. While I blamed JJ Abrams for this, I think it signifies a systemic problem overall. But that’s another argument for another post.

Instead, let’s focus on what was keeping me at home.

Netflix offering shows and movies at my fingertips with its streaming service. And with the best internet deals available, why wouldn’t I? While I waited for the latest blockbuster to be released on DVD and sent to my home, I occupied myself with classics, or just read a book.

My world didn’t end if I didn’t see the latest hit in theaters.

And getting to enjoy a film for the first time from the comfort of my couch, where I could provide my own concessions, and not have to listen to strangers talk throughout, that was worth staying in for.

Then came the kids.

Getting babysitters to watch them while I went out only to worry if they were okay the whole time really took the excitement out of the whole thing for me. Besides, I work all day, I’d like to spend as much time with them as I can. I understand there are other parents who don’t share these feelings and that’s okay, parenting isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

So how can theaters combat the rising tide of streaming services?

Embrace It

TheatersThe simplest answer, yet the hardest, is for theater chains to embrace the change and find some way to get in on the action.

Maybe they can facilitate the viewing experience in some way. Since I haven’t been to a theater in almost a year, I’m not sure I can come up with any logical solutions this way.

Fight Back

Theater chains can fight the coming wave.

But not by taking on streaming services themselves.

Instead, they need to go after the Hollywood studios who are gouging them for prices.

It’s a little known fact that Hollywood isn’t playing fair with theaters. Most theaters are forced cut a deal with the studios to get the latest flicks. The studios set the terms and the terms usually go something like this; to get the film on opening weekend, the theater must hand over 90% of their ticket sales for said movie. The next week they’ll only take 85% and so on.

Concession prices have risen in response.

By dropping prices, theaters can draw in more crowds.

By drawing in more crowds, they can justify to the studios the lower prices due to the uptick in volume.

Yet, I highly doubt the theaters will do this.

Instead, as with all change, theaters must innovate.

Here’s how.

Innovate

Ever read Ready Player One?

There was the movie, but I’m talking about the book.

Ernest Cline had come up with the idea of “Flick-Syncs.” Don’t worry, this isn’t a major plot point, just go read the book and you’ll see I’m right.

The Flick-Syncs were interactive competitions where the player would step into a role from a film. If they delivered the line at the right time, they got points. If they managed to nail the inflection and emotion, they got bonuses.

Thanks to hologram technology advancing, this may not be too far into the future.

Theaters can get in on this technology in the early stages and really drive it forward by incorporating it into their movie-going experience. They could make their theaters fully interactive and immersive experiences.

Watching a movie could become a spectator sport.

Heck, you could even get involved in it and compete against friends.

Another way they could leverage this would be to have “blind” competitions, where theater attendees could step into a role they’d never seen before- like a new release- and flex their acting chops.

This could lead to a whole new wave in the casting industry- just check the leaderboards.

An added benefit would be Hollywood could just release classics and turn them into Flick-Syncs. This way we can stop the endless barrage of reboots and sequels. We can be saved from JJ Abrams “reimagining” classics. Going to the theater would become a truly social event.

TheaterWe would just act in the movies ourselves.

I’m on a roll now with these ideas…here’s another one.

These fully interactive Flick-Sync theaters could also pair with school districts.

Imagine a day where you’re taken to the theater to experience walking in a foreign country, exploring the depths of the ocean, or even the moon? Or how about learning a math lesson within an interactive environment?

No more papers and pencils! Think of all the trees we could save!

And it would turn lessons into a competition. That would make math much more fun to learn.

I could go on an on about it, but you’re getting the picture.

I hope we will soon see theaters start to innovate beyond “softer seats” and “tastier concessions,” and into true entertainment.

We may be waiting for a long time though.

That’s okay, there’s plenty of movies and TV shows available on Netflix and I’m always guaranteed a great seat to watch them!

 

The Future of Satellite Internet Hinges on 3 Factors

The Future of Satellite Internet Hinges on 3 Factors

There’s cable internet, DSL, fiber optics, and then there’s satellite. These are the most common means of connecting with the internet today. The best option, and usually the fastest, is fiber. But that involves installing the wires needed. Thus, fiber is mostly limited to urban areas.

Rural internet customers are left out, both figuratively and literally.

If DSL and cable are not installed nearby, then the only options left are satellite, or if you’re lucky, fixed wireless.

As cool as satellite internet is, the common complaint is that it’s too slow, or that weather interferes with the signal too easily.

There’s change on the horizon though.

Is there a way to make satellite internet more reliable?

Who’s working on new technology to decrease latency, and increase download speeds to be on par with fiber?

What if it wasn’t about technology at all?

As of this writing, there are companies out there working on just that. According to an article on PC Mag, it’s the “New Space Race.”

The Problems

To solve the issues plaguing satellite internet’s reliability and latency issues, both well-known and unknown companies have begun their own research into how to get around all the factors involved with transmitting internet signals from the earth’s surface up into space.

SatelliteWeather and Geography

DSL, fiber, and cable, all have the advantage of being installed on the ground. Satellites contend with about 310 miles, at least, of space between them and the transceiver they’re hooked up to.

That’s 310 miles, at least, of space that stuff can get in the way.

Storms, even some cloud cover, can have an effect on this signal. A satellite signal is, at its core, energy riding on waves. Clouds and storms have a way of breaking up that energy. Sometimes it’s a small disturbance, other times it’s a big one.

Geography, such as mountains and trees, have a more powerful effect on this energy. The signal can’t go around them, which is why satellite dishes need to have a relatively clear line of sight to the satellite itself.

Signal Strength

Tossing a football a short distance is easy.

Throwing it the length of a football field, and into the hands of an open receiver, is much more difficult. And while NFL quarterbacks are paid millions to do this, their accuracy is still on par with satellite signal strength.

I could name a few quarterbacks who’ve upset me in this way, but that would be too mean.

A satellite, in simplest terms, is throwing a football over 310 miles, at least, to a receiver. The receiver must be able to catch and throw it back. To extend the metaphor further, because of the distance and the among of energy needed to hurl something that far, the satellite can only throw a small football.

That football needs to go up to the satellite, and back, quickly. Which is why it’s kept so small. That’s why there are data caps involved in satellites.

The Players

To combat these issues, companies are trying new methods for getting around the issues.Satellite

SpaceX’s Elon Musk petitioned the FCC to send up over 7500 satellites for his endeavor, Starlight. These satellites would be placed at different altitudes above the earth, some in low orbit (310 miles), some in medium orbit (3,000 miles) and the rest in geostationary orbit (about 22,000 miles). The idea is to have more satellites to transmit the signal to resolve any latency and speed issues.

Google has Project Loon, which will use balloons instead of satellites. These balloons will be sent up to the stratosphere and will link up to transmit signals.

Then there’s OneWeb, similar to Starlight, only they’ll use a small number of satellites for their network. The key difference is the method in how they link the satellites together.

The short answer is; it’s complex. Both developers are using a different way to set up their networks.

Which one will do a better job?

3 Factors Deciding Satellite Internet’s Future

All this new technology will undoubtedly yield some benefits. The speed and reliability of satellite internet may remain at the level it is today for some time. But it’s good to see brilliant minds working to solve the issues. The more they work on it, the sooner we’ll see results.

The technology, however, is not what will be the deciding factor in who wins the New Space Race.

It’ll be because of these three factors.

1.      Who Will Create a Viable Infrastructure?

All the technology in the world will not solve the problem of increasing the speed and reliability of satellite internet. Sure, technology is great, it can connect us over great distances, but it needs to be structured in such a way to achieve that greatness.

Amazon didn’t perfect the book buying business, they found a better way to deliver the books to the customer. To do this they needed a warehouse and delivery system. They could have started with delivering toothpaste and it still would have come down to how well they were able to get that product into the hands of the person who ordered it.

Satellite internet, to be the next big thing, needs an infrastructure that maximizes the technology available. By streamlining the process, the satellites above can do a better job of sending and receiving signals.

2.      Who Will Adopt It First?

AS with any movement, there are the early adopters. These are the people who see the value in something that’s not been perfected yet. There will be bugs involved, frustration when it comes to incorporating it, and other problems.

These early adopters gladly take on that burden because they see this new technology as giving them a value far outweighing the problems.

The trick is getting those early adopters to see the opportunity, which leads us to point #3.

3.      Who Will Market It the Best?

Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, and Mark Zuckerberg have something in common.

They respectively did not invent the home computer, cheap flights, and social media.

They found a better way to market it to the consumer.

Jobs with his Apple II made his computers easier to use by taking out the need for the average joe to know the programming language.

Kelleher found a way to make buying flights simple, fun, and cheap.

Zuckerberg took the concept of a university-wide student directory and put it online along with the ability to message friends and share pictures.

There are other pioneers like these who didn’t invent something new, they just found a better way to market it to the individual.

For satellite internet to take off, it will not be because someone figured out a way to make it 100% reliable. Though that would be very important to the story, it will mean nothing if no one knows about it.

The Internet Will Change

The one constant in life is that there will always be change.Satellite

The internet is no different.

What will the next change be?

No one knows for certain.

Given that there are a lot of minds, and a lot of money, involved with improving satellite internet, satellite will play a bigger part in the future of it.

Until then, we’ll have to make do with what we have.

If you’re a rural customer or an urban one, save yourself some time and check out the best internet and cable packages. This way you don’t have to do all the work of finding the best deals in your area, and you can save some money too.

Saving Face: The New Facebook Birthday Donations Contribution Feature

Saving Face: The New Facebook Birthday Donations Contribution Feature

facebookIf any of your Facebook friends have celebrated their birthday recently, you may have noticed a shared birthday fundraiser post for a particular charity organization.  Just the other day, a friend of mine shared a post that read:

“For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to the American Diabetes Association.  I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me.  Every little bit will help me reach my goal.”

Another friend of mine posted a similar post just yesterday.  Interesting.  This Facebook feature has been around for a while, but I’ve only recently seen it used.  Turns out this is no mere coincidence.  Facebook is actively continuing its efforts to promote this feature.

Last year, Facebook introduced the feature, which allows users to select a charity organization, set a goal amount, and enter a custom message like the one above.

facebook

So why the sudden surge in popularity?  Recently, Facebook announced that it would donate $5 to every newly created fundraiser posted on a user’s birthday.  Users can select one of the 750,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations that have been vetted and approved for the platform.  There is no word on how long this contribution feature will remain in effect.

In November of 2017, Facebook eliminated the fees for nonprofits so that the full amount donated would go directly to the nonprofit.  This latest development comes at a critical time in the Facebook timeline of current events.  It comes on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the subsequent stock market plummet.

facebook
It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that this latest development is an attempt by Facebook to save face with its users and help get them back in good graces.  In that sense, this is simply a marketing ploy. Only time will tell the ultimate effect of these branding efforts.

 

5 Ways to Check Facebook Campaigns

5 Ways to Check Facebook Campaigns

On July 31st of this year, Facebook announced they’d found and banned thirty-two pages that coordinated, what they call, inauthentic behavior. These pages were linked to campaigns that were designed to influence the upcoming mid-term elections in November.

Back in March, Facebook had their Cambridge Analytica Scandal in which the political consulting firm had illegally gained private information from about 87 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica then used that information to plan ad campaigns.

To prevent something like that happening again, Facebook has begun working with the FBI and hired on more human fact checkers for ad campaigns and to weed out suspicious accounts.

This is reassuring to hear.

At the same time, it’s frustrating.

I read about these things happening and I get paranoid. It doesn’t help that I already get jittery for pointless reasons.

Gas Scare

FacebookI live in San Antonio, TX, and back in the fall of 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast. Houston bore the brunt of it. San Antonio was spared a lot of the flooding and destruction.

A week later, however, rumors spread that there was not enough gas to go around for the entire state of Texas, or at least San Antonio. A run on the pumps ensued. I saw lines of cars about a mile long to get to pumps because everyone thought gas was going to run out.

All these rumors turned out to be false.

There was a hitch in the supply chain, but San Antonio had enough reserves on hand to handle a normal amount of people getting gas for a weekend. When an above average amount of people ran to the pumps to top off their tanks, that’s when there was a problem.

Thanks to some misinformation, I had to put up with long lines at the pumps.

Campaigns like this, be they viral or engineered, make me paranoid. I never know when it’s going to happen.

When it comes to seeing ads or news stories on my Facebook feed, I am skeptical that they’re fabricated, or heavily skewed, to give the wrong impression. Sometimes the stories turn out to be true, other times they’re false. Like San Antonio running out of gas.

So how can I know?

Thanks to websites like factcheck.org, politifact.org, Washington Post’s Factchecker, snopes.com, and Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, there are ways to combat my paranoia. They’re also helpful for determining if the information contained within is true or not.

It’s not a process or a 100% effective method for ascertaining the validity of an article. These are helpful steps to keep me from reacting and doing something stupid…like all the idiots who drained San Antonio of gas in late August of 2017.Facebook

Check with Other Sources

I remember hearing about the gas scare as I left my house on a Thursday. I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I believed it to be false information.

When I saw other cars pulling into the nearest station, I began to wonder.

After some needless traffic, I arrived home and did a search. Come to find out, more than three news stations were running stories about the misinformation when it came to gas availability.

I was right.

By then, however, the scare had taken hold and gas stations went dry.

Doubt Your Assumptions

Hearing about the gas scare I first doubted it. When I saw the cars lining up, I could help but worry.

Since so many people believed the news that San Antonio was about to run dry, it must have some truth to it, right? I started to second-guess myself and was tempted to get in line for the nearest station and wait to fuel up.

When other people are reacting a certain way, it’s easy to assume they know what they’re doing.

In this case, my grandpa had some wise words to share. Most of what he said wasn’t always wise, but every now and then he hit the mark. If the subject was assumptions, it was one of those rare moments- “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

Another nugget of wisdom applied to this situation- “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in a large crowd.”

Take a Step Back

By checking other sources and taking a moment not to get caught up in the crowd, we’re giving ourselves a chance to clearly assess the situation. By distancing ourselves we’re able to get a better idea of what’s going on and see if there’s a real reason to worry.

This option isn’t always available. You may have an impending deadline or find yourself without the time to clearly assess your surroundings.

Assess the Source

FacebookOn Facebook, in the news, or when you’re hearing gossip from a friend, always—always—assess the source.

Usually, it’s from one person or outlet and others took it and ran with it. It may take some time to figure out who said what and where the “knowledge” came from. But do yourself a favor and stop yourself from jumping to the conclusion because one person said something.

Accept Your Own Biases

This one is difficult, especially for me.

After years of thinking a certain way, we’re going to look for sources that confirm what we’ve always believed to be true. Sometimes we’re correct in our thinking, something we’re not. But if only look to those sources that confirm what we want to hear, chances are high that we’ll make the situation worse.

For example; I loved rainbow sherbet. It was my favorite ice cream for a long time.

That is until my wife pointed out that it’s not ice cream.

After debating her, heatedly, for two hours, it turns out I was wrong.

I still like rainbow sherbet, but I’ve had to find a new favorite ice cream flavor.

Be Ready for an Answer You Don’t Like

When it came to the gas scare, I was right when I doubted there was a shortage of gas in the San Antonio area.

When it came to rainbow sherbet, I was wrong even though I heatedly defended my position that sherbet is a dairy-based desert, hence, it’s ice cream. Sherbet, as it turns out, is juice based.

It’s not ice cream.

I’m still married though, so that’s good news.

When it comes to something we believe—politically, ethically, religiously—there are those times when we’re proven wrong. It may be because we’re overconfident or doubt the validity of a counter-argument.

It’s not easy to accept there’s a truth out there other than our own.

It’s not the end of the world though.

Much like rainbow sherbet, there are other ice cream flavors out there that we can enjoy.

The Cause

As people work to influence a wider audience, it’s up to us to double-check the validity of their claims.

As for Facebook, we need to be aware of the amount of information that comes across our newsfeed and the fact that it’s not always 100% true. When it came to the gas scare of 2017, it turned out to be a viral post on Facebook that was completely unfounded.

This only illustrates the need to check out the truth of a story before we begin to believe it.

 

And as always, check out the best internet and cable packages so you’re at least saving some money. Feel free to double check our numbers as we’re always hunting for the bundle deals to fit any budget and we’d rather get it right than make a sale.

4 Great Things Coming to AMC Networks

4 Great Things Coming to AMC Networks

AMC Networks, owner of the eponymous channel that’s home to “The Walking Dead”, “Better Call Saul”, and “Preacher”, is working on acquiring RLJ Entertainment. RLJ owns Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, which means AMC is going to be getting bigger.

And offering more for their streaming customers!

RLJ has a huge library they’ll bring to the table. This means even more shows and movies that AMC customers will get to see through the networks bevy of channels.

The best part?

RLJ Entertainment owns 64% of the Agatha Christie Limited, the media rights and literary management company set up by the great author herself.

If this doesn’t excite you, here’s four reasons why it should.

Agatha Christie

Long hailed as the murder mystery writer, Agatha Christie wrote sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections.

Born in 1890, Agatha took up writing poems and short stories. It wasn’t until a cousin recommended a murder mystery that Agatha attempted to enter the genre. If there hadn’t been that one suggestion, the murder-mystery genre may not be what it is today.

Her writing style, use of tropes, red herrings, and characters have helped define what makes good murder mystery writing. She’s also credited with starting the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Her works, though dated, have been adapted and many authors are updating them to reflect more modern writing styles. At least one lucky author, Sophie Hannah, has been given authority to continue writing Hercule Poirot mysteries.

Of her sixty-six works, three detectives stand out.

Tommy and Tuppence

Lesser known of her famous detectives, Agatha enjoyed writing Tommy and Tuppence novels the most. These Partners in Crime were her first detectives, and the duo aged with her.

Partners in Crime follow Tommy and Tuppence Beresford as they find themselves constantly getting involved with dastardly plots. The pair didn’t set out to solve crimes at first. Because there were no other jobs, they started up Young Adventurers Ltd. “Willing to do anything. Go anywhere…No reasonable offer refused.”

Those reasonable offers came with a mystery to solve.

While I haven’t read or watched any of the works, if its Agatha Christie, then I at least know it’s good source material. As for the adaptations of the works themselves, again, I’m in the dark here.

Given there’s been multiple interpretations of the characters, it’s safe to say the crime-solving pair are entertaining to watch.

One novel was adapted into a silent movie in 1928 then a series of radio dramas on the BBC in 1953. The late Richard Attenborough provided the voice for Tommy too!

In 1984, Partners in Crime was finally adapted for the small screen. James Warwick and Francesca Annis took on the titular roles and reprised the roles again in 1985.

No new adaptations were made until 2005, this time in France. The names of the characters were changed, though the source material remained faithful to Christie’s original vision. In 2008, another French adaptation was made.

David Walliams and Jessica Raine took on the roles in the 2015 mini-series, Partners In Crime.

No news as to whether another adaptation is in the works.

Miss Marple

Miss Marple seems to sit quietly in the background, knitting away.

This turns out to only be deception, as the elderly spinster is quietly observing, assessing, and analyzing everyone and everything around her. This is what makes her a remarkably effective sleuth.

The list of actresses who’ve played Miss Marple is practically a “who’s-who” of classic acting; Gracie Fields, Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, Joan Hickson, and June Whitfield.

Most recently, Geraldine McEwan starred in the role in 2004 with Julia McKenzie assuming the role in 2009.

I haven’t had the chance to catch these adaptations, though I did see a stage production of A Murder is Announced when I was in college. Being a Division III school, they didn’t do too bad.

Hercule Poirot

The most well-known of Agatha’s sleuths was Hercule Poirot (pronounced “pwa-ro,” it’s Belgian French).

If it wasn’t because of his skills as a detective, then it was most definitely the mustache.

The idea for Hercule Poirot is said to not been based on any one person. There is speculation, however, that a specific Belgian refugee who fled to England and settled in the countryside is the true catalyst for Agatha’s most notable detective. There’s another claim that he was based on two other fictional detectives of the time, Hercule Popeau and Monsieur Poiret. And still another that he was based on Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery of who really inspired Agatha Christie to create the character will remain. When it comes to who did the best job of portraying the character, there is less speculation needed.

Who’s the Best Poirot?

From Charles Laughton to Hugh Laurie, there have been too many Poirot’s to list here.

In 2017 Kenneth Branagh stepped into the role for Murder on the Orient Express. Given the film’s high production budget and Branagh’s Shakespearean experience, the movie was amazing. Fun to watch, keeps you guessing (if you haven’t already read the book), and great performances by an all-star cast.

Yet, for me, the standard of Hercule Poirot will always be set by David Suchet.

True, Suchet’s mustache is more downplayed than Branagh’s. Branagh had the advantage of a big budget and having to only wear the titular facial hair for a relatively short time. Suchet, on the other hand, played the role for thirteen years. And yet, the mustache’s even more endearing than Branagh’s.

The ear-to-ear handlebars that Branagh sports are impressive, but only from a production standpoint. From a character standpoint, it’s just a defining feature. Suchet’s is where it’s at. Though subtler, his mustache adds the dramatic flair that is Poirot. To keep that kind of facial hair going for that long takes a rare level of commitment.

To get into the mindset of such a literary behemoth, Suchet took character notes. By the end of his run, he had over 90 traits written down that made Poirot Poirot. Branagh only had to stay in character for a few months.

And that closes that case.

Find Agatha Christie

It’s unclear if AMC Networks will just air reruns of the great Christie works or if they’re going to create original content from them.

Given the recent resurgence in her work, I would hope they’d opt to remake some of her work. They could even go the Holmes route and update her characters.

If that were to happen, then Vincent Cassel would be my first pick to step into the role of a new Poirot. Of course, Dame Judi Dench would be great as Miss Marple. For Tommy and Tuppence I’d name James Marsters and Lucy Davis. Hollywood may go a different direction, and they often do. It’s not the first time I’ve been ignored by Hollywood.

And it won’t be the last.

The good news is that getting access to current Agatha Christie works is simple. First, look for the best internet and cable packages. This way you’ll save money and headache when it comes to watching all the shows and movies based on Agatha Christie’s books.

Second, get to a library or a bookstore and go find Agatha’s actual work. Every library is bound to have at least one.

Third, if reading a book isn’t your thing, then get the Overdrive app or any number of audiobook apps. There’s a few that offer free titles as well.

This way you’ll get to read Murder on the Orient Express, and others, before watching the movie. This will enhance your viewing experience.

Once you’ve read an Agatha Christie, then watch a movie or a show, then it’ll be no mystery why her work has lasted so long.