The year 2011 was all about the tablet computer, we saw the first ever affordable (and good) Android options launch, and people went gaga over the idea of 4G and LTE and the BlackBerry PlayBook. This year, the atmosphere was a little different on the show floor. Yes, we did have a lot of new products coming out, but the main points seemed to be more about the long term trends than any particular product per se. I found this new way of assessing technology pretty interesting however as ways in which the average consumer could integrate some of the trends slowly started to emerge. Here’s my overview of the top five tech trends at CES 2012- let’s see if any of these make it into your home or work this year.
The year of the connected TV
We’ve heard mumblings about connected TVs for some time now (and you can read my article on future predictions here) but there generally have been two barriers to them going mainstream. One has been the pricepoint as most people simply aren’t ready to invest in a new LCD TV so soon, and the second barrier has been confusion over the services offered and the many complex buttons on the remote controls. This year is a little different, as not only were all the big names (SHARP, LG, and SAMSUNG) offering up web ready televisions but they’d also started integrating some pretty helpful features.
I’m talking about TVs that come with an integrated forward facing camera installed, TV’s that feature an upgradeable card slot so that you don’t need to replace the hardware and TV’s that offer remote assistance where the helpdesk can actually program your TV for you if you’re struggling (Sharp Aquos is offering this service). We’re also seeing super slim bezels on offer from a lot of brands, with some a mere 3mm thick- very gasp worthy. One of the new TV areas I’m intrigued by is the increase in peripheral devices, as these allow you to upgrade your TV without buying a new one- such as snap on cameras for Skypeing. Read more…
‘Bridesmaids is brilliant!’, said Zoe Williams from The Guardian . ‘Its set-piece scenes retain a charming spontaneity far from the usual contrivances of studio comedies,’ said Jason Solomons (also for The Guardian). ‘Bridesmaids is a terrifically funny, smart and tender ensemble comedy ‘, says Peter Bradshaw, in a full hat trick for The Guardian and the David Edwards from The Mirror echoes this with ‘Beg, steal or borrow, just make sure you get to see this film.’ Either it was an incredibly slow week at The Guardian head office, or all three writers genuinely loved the film and thought it was worth adding their tuppence to the film section.
Even taking a fairly jaded view of all the sources (the Times agrees, but it sits behind a paywall) I figured the film should still be quite fun. Taking it as an an archetypal ‘Hangover for her’ jaunt (their words, not mine), I figured I’d get some laughs, some sweetness and an overall sense of female bonding and friendship. I love a good chick flick, and with praise oozing from every broadsheet in Britain I thought that Bridesmaids would have to be something fairly special. It failed however- failed rather spectacularly.
The majority of chick flicks have fairly shaky premises- awkward girl likes unsuitable guy, gets good guy after she grows and realizes they’re better- cue awkward contrived situations to that effect anyways. The movie Bridesmaids was meant to shake up this traditional formula, and take a feminist step forward, a refreshing view where women were happy flying solo, and where friendship was valued above all.
To be fair, so some extent this did occur, with the frazzled Annie hysterical over her best friends nuptials and acting out because of the presumed loss. There was high jinks, there was comedy moments, there was absolutely unfucking unbelievable moments of toddler style behaviour from the adults, that would justifiable get Annie banned from that wedding and any wedding ever. Like, no forgiveness, no sweet reconciliation scene, just lawyers, a big bill and restraining order. This mental behaviour was blamed on the jealousy Annie felt towards Lillian’s new friend Helen- who is richer, prettier, oozing glamour and confidence (think stereotypical country club girl with pearls and a line in bodycon workwear).
Naturally Annie decided to hate her, and Helen’s competitive friendship one-upness didn’t help their relationship. Destroying the cake at the wedding shower and throwing things over was not the best or sanest way to demonstrate Annie’s hatred, but this public display of insanity and cruelty (doing this at her friends wedding shower!) was sort of shrugged away– oh isn’t she kooky/cute. Read more…
I adore a good TV show, and as I’ve been having a fair bit of downtime lately have been watching a variety of them. I could harp on about great ones of yesteryear, but I figure you all know just how awesome Buffy/ Arrested Development/ My So Called Life are, so belabouring that point would just be fruitless. Instead I’ll draw your attention to some new (ish) TV shows that have been breaking new ground in terms of humour, originality and content. Put these on your Torrent list/Sky + box and prepare for some fun nights in on the sofa.
When you’re young, waitressing is something you do to make some cash till the real job comes along. What if that never happens and you end up 35 and still working silver service? Party Down is a show focused around the ‘Party Down’ catering company, which is staffed by wannabe writers, actors etc- people still all trying to make their big break. The cast has amazing chemistry, from the awkward romance between Adam Scott (Henry) and Lizzy Caplan( Casey), to the now famous Jane Lynch from Glee! Look at the credits and you’ll be extra impressed as Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars producer) was involved, and the show zips along from the start. Filmed in an oddly appealing documentary manner, the camera work gives you a feeling of being in the action and the hapless Ken Marino (Ron) is superb at playing the team leader, unhappily trying to motivate his crew of disenfranchised self serving reprobates. You’ll notice the odd cameo from famous people pop up, and there are two seasons to enjoy (2009, 2010).
United States of Tara
Using mental illness as the basis for a comedic series storyline is a risky premise and one that fortunately took off for United States of Tara. Tara (the amazing Toni Collete) suffers from D.I.D (dissociative personality disorder) more commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. She is not only a mum of two and an artist; but also a beer swilling man, a repressed forties housewife, an angry fifteen year old- and more. What’s amazing about this show is not the high profile mania she suffers from but the interpersonal relationships. Her eldest daughter, Kate (the feisty Brie Larson who is one to watch) deals with her Mum’s actions by being brash and outspoken whilst her youngest son battles with his sexuality and schooling. The husband is an interesting role, loving Tara relentlessly despite her actions and their love story supersedes all the craziness. There are extra characters in the selfish sister and alienated parents and the whole messy family infrastructure neatly captures how you don’t have to be ‘crazy’ to actually be crazy. It’s funny, heartwarming and you never quite know what will happen. Read more…
The premise of Bridalplasty is in the name, and I can’t decide whether I’m appalled or amazed by this blatant over marketing of such a preposterous but authentically real concept. Seriously, you have to give some kudos to the creators of this show, if only for the sheer balls it must have taken to successfully pitch and then bring this idea to fruition, as I imagine that the concept was littered with red tape from the start.
Take everything you know about reality TV, and highlight the worst possible aspects of it. Forget the life affirming journeys and the people who learn to love each other and head 180 degrees in the other direction. Look at people who are so desperate for attention they’ll do anything to be on TV, add in some serious backstabbing, a therapist surgery’s worth of mental health problems and a bunch of eating disorders for some extra zest. Add a dash of the gruesome (achieved with doctors in masks and some surgery action) and you have the bare bones a Bridalplasty- where the aim of the show is to change the bride to be into someone her future husband won’t recognize.
Who cares if he loves you, if you don’t love yourself? Let Bridalplasty change you into somebody you can love– but only if you’ll bare your soul on national TV, sharing your deep secrets, sexual proclivities and backstab any girls you befriend. OK with that? Great, you’re the perfect candidate …
I’ll start by describing the bare bones of the show to you, so your mind can circle the various points of disbelief.
-12 women, all engaged to be married in one house.
-Each week, the women battle it out Top Model style to be the ‘Top bride’.
-Each bride to be gets something each week (a ring/cake/dress) that goes in her ‘bridal closet’ to be claimed if she wins the show.
-The Top bride gets to have the surgery of her choice and go to the ‘recovery room’ (pause where all other brides to be look sad and wistful).
-The three bottom brides spend the next 20 minutes (it’s a 1 hour show) convincing the other brides to be why they should stay in the show. (Formula changes a little as the contestant numbers decrease).
-Showdown at the RSVP ceremony where girls sit at the Bottom Brides tables. The other brides to be make a speech ‘This is sooo hard, etc’, and go sit at a table. The one with least votes goes home to the refrain of “Your wedding will still go ahead. It just won’t be perfect.” Oh no you didn’t!
The show is designed to make all the contestant objects of ridicule, as even when you feel the merest smidgeon of sympathy for them (one is an army bride and sobs about her fiancé being in danger) they then follow that up with talking about how perfect having their nose/boobs/stomach changed would completely improve and alter their life. Some girls are twiglets and talk longingly about liposuction whilst others basically seem to want to tear their skin off and stand inside someone else’s. Read more…
The idea of engaging a third sense in the televisual world is a not a new one, but one which as never been done with any great degree of authority. My last memory of this type of integration harks back to 2003 when the Rugrats Go Wild Movie was released on the big screen, complete with scratch and sniff cards (called Odorama cards) that had to be used during the film. At various moments in the animated movie you were given visual cues (such as the number one) and then would scratch the corresponding number on your sheet and anything from strawberry lollipops or smelly socks would be inhaled. The idea is that adding smell to a movie will give you a richer all round experience, but I’ve yet to see anything that could cope with today’s demands. Read more…
There are a lot of new shows available at the moment, but just because something is new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth wasting 30 precious minutes of your time. I realize the ones I select won’t be to every-one’s taste, but seeing as I have penchant for streaming niche US shows, at least your attention will be drawn to a wider variety. I tend to favour eclectic, eccentric shows, that are clever, insightful, and if there’s a little bit of fantasy in there as well, so much the better.
The new ones:
These have either just been released in the UK, or are on Season 1 in the USA.
A high school show based around musical numbers may sound like your idea of hell, but let me explain! This is no soppy High School Musical spin off, it’s a cynical satirical look at a high school Glee club, complete with bumbling energetic teacher and OCD therapist. It’s sharp, smart and witty, and yes, there is some singing and dancing. Enjoy watching stereotypes disintegrate (the chaste cheerleader becomes pregnant and plans to sell the baby) and they even have Joss Whedon on board to direct an episode. Yes, the WHEDON man, creator of Dollhouse and Buffy. The cheerleaders are called the ‘Cheerios’, there’s a fabulous gay kid, and somehow the show manages to really hit home with tangible points. Should be coming to the UK soon, but the first 5 episodes or so are available online *cough*. Read more…
We all have some embarrassing skeletons from our childhood, and the ones that used to be plastered all over our walls are a good reminder of how far we’ve come. Here are the childhood crushes that make me blush- feel free to share yours!
Number 1: Zack Morris a.k.a Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Zack Morris was my reason to get up early every Sunday morning. His goofy smile, gorgeous blonde locks and cute quiff made Saved by the Bell a riveting watch, and I grew up wishing I could be Kelly so I could take him in my arms. I could forgive him anything, even his rather stupid name, and the fact that his acting skills never quite matched up to the perfection of his face. At 35 he’s now kinda off the radar, but I’ll always have a soft spot for him.. and that great theme tune! Read more…