Friday, March 25, 2016

How Cartoons Have Really Evolved: A Look at the Last 30 Years

It’s amazing how cartoons have really evolved over the last 30 years. We’ve gone from the weekly ritual of Saturday mornings to now being able to watch on-demand, virtually 24-7.

TV cartoons have also evolved for specific audiences, and are no longer just considered ‘kiddie fodder.’ Let’s take a look at how cartoons have really evolved through the past 3 decades:

TV Cartoons in the 80s

You might be too young to remember it, but there was a certain magic in the 80s to watching TV cartoons on Saturday mornings. It was roughly 5 hours straight of TV meant for children, but it was only once a week. A staggering 20 million viewers watched those cartoons.

A lot of the 80s cartoons were tied to toys, like Transformers and Care Bears for younger children, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the ‘tweens. Reagan’s repeal of toy advertising regulations allowed for tons of TV cartoons to be created for products.

At the same time, MTV videos started experimenting with cartoon crossovers for teens and adults. Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, for example, or A-ha’s Take on Me.

It wasn’t until ‘89 though, that a cartoon managed to unite the family as a TV-watching unit. The Simpsons hit the right notes for every age, from child to adult. And 25 years later, they’re still going strong.

TV Cartoons in the 90s

One of the biggest changes the 90s brought to TV cartoons was cable and satellite TV. Children of all ages were now able to watch cartoons daily, without waiting for Saturday. Families, too, were changing. With divorces becoming almost a norm, weekend visits were too important for 5-hour watch-a-thons of cartoons. Video games surged, taking up free time, while the Internet began growing at an astonishing rate.

It started in 1991, with FOX Kids airing TV cartoons 2 hours daily. NBC and CBS had drastically reduced cartoons. Then cable and satellite TVs trifecta (the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon) began airing cartoons and shows geared to children and teens almost non-stop. MTV also drifted away from a purely music video focus and began to add regular shows.

The 90s were good and bad for cartoons. They offered a lot of diversity and creativity in programming, but the overload also led to a large amount of ‘filler’ cartoons and poorer quality (My Little Pony Tales). They also added more ‘realism,’ with fast action, blood-and-guts and adult humor.

Cartoons for children included Pokemon and Rugrats; ‘tweens tastes went from Batman: The Animated Series and The Ren and Stimpy Show to Powerpuff Girls or Daria; and adult cartoons really expanded. The Critic, Family Guy, King of the Hill, South Park and Duckman, to name a few, were all popular.

TV Cartoons 2000s to Now

TV cartoons have- and are undergoing- another evolution in the 00s to now. Cable and Satellite TV are still used, but the Internet has taken over and improved on the cartoons 24-7 model. It’s also decreased the amount of viewers, because the audiences are so spread out.

Being able to stream, download entire series to watch at your convenience and binge-watch has almost brought watching cartoons full-circle from the 80s. It used to be a treat to watch cartoons Saturday mornings; now we can decide when to block a chunk of time to ‘treat’ ourselves.

Many people feel that children’s cartoon programming has been watered and dumbed-down, lacking educational value (Dora the Explorer is cited as an exception).

‘Tweens and what cartoons they watch have evolved differently. They’re much more discerning and individual with their choices, opting for smaller niches and mixing in a large dose of reality shows. Samurai Jack, Kim Possible and Ed, Edd, n Eddy are a few examples.

Teen and adult cartoons have morphed even further, into a cartoon channel of their own: Adult Swim. It offers some touches of nostalgia with Hanna-Barbera relaunches, anime series like Bleach and original series like The Venture Bros.

What's Next for TV Cartoons?

Looking back, it’s interesting how TV cartoons have really evolved over the last 30 years. We’ve gone from one specialized morning to non-stop cartoons, to being able to choose the tone, quality and amount of watching we (or our children) do. Who knows what the new form of cartoon evolution will be?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

TVSO PICKS: Top 5 Movies About Time Travel You've Never Seen (But Should)

Top 5 Movies about Time Travel
What is it about the premise of time travel that has captivated us for so long?   Certainly, we can look back to the great literature (books, ever read one?) of the 19th century for instances where time travel was used to catapult a narrative along.    There's a literal, physical time traveling that is features in science fiction, and then there's the metaphysical time-traveling--instances were our minds play tricks on us, or we are transported to another era through the power of our human minds.   Hollywood has never been shy about making time travel movies.  They've made science fiction films as early as the 1950s (maybe earlier, even) that transferred the science drama of HG Wells' The Time Machine--the book--into a successful movie starring Rod Taylor in the 1960s.    They have been time traveling television series, time traveling romantic movies, actioners, horror flicks, even time travel comedies--Hot Tub Time Machine, anyone?

So of the best remembered time travel movies would find a list that would include:  The Terminator, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Back To the Future, Interstellar, Groundhog Day, Planet of the Apes, the Austin Powers movies. There are also cult gems--movies that feature a revisionist take on time travel like The Butterfly Effect, Safety Not Guaranteed, Timecrimes or Donnie Darko, for example.    Even movies that ask us, the audience, to interpret the time traveling presented as being in the mind of the hero of the movie, like Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys.   There have also been lousy time travel movies like Jean Claude Van Damme's Time Cop for example (but let's not talk about that one.)

How A Lot of Us Can Relate To 'The Office'

There are many ways that people who work the “typical” 9 to 5 job can probably relate to the show, 'The Office' in many ways. From the relationship to your not-so-stable boss, to office rivalries to office romance, all of these things can happen in any office or business. Our lives around work produce many meaningful and funny story-lines and watching this show always brought them to the surface. The show was great because each of the characters presented something a viewer could relate to.

A Boss Who's Out of Touch
One of the best parts of the show is the behavior and antics of Michael Scott, the boss at the office. From holding meetings with no real purpose, to providing information that nobody really needs to know, Michael was the nucleus on which the show was built. He's relatable because everyone thinks their boss is a bit on the crazy side. From his infatuation with Ryan through his relationship with Jan, to his bankruptcy, Michael Scott keeps you laughing. It's partly the catchy dialogue but also it's the fact that we've been in uncomfortable work based gatherings, for training or for fun. A boss like Michael who acts alternately like a 10 yr old kid and someone without a clue brings a ton of situations we can relate to. We just wish we didn’t have to.

Annoying Coworkers 
Whenever there are people with different perspectives on life working together, there's a chance for someone to be annoying. You may not work with someone like Dwight Shrute but his antics probably remind you of what some of your coworkers can do. Jim Halpert was a likeable character because he was fighting the fight we all wish that we could. Many of us would like to pull pranks on our own Dwights. It'd be fun to send him messages from the future, wrap his desk in wrapping paper or just come to work dressed up like him. Dwight is the annoying, rule minding, suck up that we all have dealt with and with each prank against him, and we're all able to take pleasure in the payback for time wasted in our own work life. Jim provides the likeable jokester part of the equation that we all would like to be.

Dealing with Corporate Foolishness
Anyone who has ever worked for a large company understands the problems faced by all of the employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper. As the rules get sent down from the higher levels of management, the working class people have to implement them and make them work in real life. Sometimes it seems like things are going just fine and then a decree from one of the higher-ups comes to change everything. These changes seem to have very little to do with the reality of performing your job. So when Michael has to deal with the new policies that the New York Office sends, it's relatable. We'd all like to just ignore them and throw them away like Michael Scott but in the real world you've to follow the policy. No matter who you are, you can relate to having to deal with short sighted, difficult policy changes that're done for no good reason.

The Office supplied everyone who has ever worked in that type of situation a relatable visual experience. It provided a great escape from the mundane daily existence that work can be. Some of it might have been a bit unrealistic but in a world where things are constantly changing it was nice to be able to watch a group of people you care about deal with situations that you can relate to. Where we work's a huge part of our lives and the people we work with, good and bad are a part of it. That's why watching the office connects with so many people because it represents the modern version of the American Dream.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Top 3 TV Shows You Should Watch On St. Patty's Day

The luck of the Irish is around us. It's that time again to wear your green and raise a glass to the lads and lasses of the Irish land. However, while some of you will be hitting the bars, there are some of you who might like to celebrate the Irish day the Irish way from the comforts of your own home. So, kick back and relax as we share with you our quick Top 3 TV shows we think you should watch on St. Patty's Day!

St. Patty’s Day TV Show to Watch #3: Cheers
Like the theme song says, where everybody knows your name, you’ll have tons of laughs at this bar as everyone screams Norm as Norm walks in. They know how to treat their patrons with the old Irish manor and there's always plenty of beer to go around. That's the biggest thing you would expect of any pub at any time of year, but especially on St. Patty's Day. We feel you can't go wrong with this show.

St. Patty’s Day TV Show to Watch #2: Sons of Anarchy
You can always relax while watching Sons of Anarchy. Now, maybe laughter isn't your thing. If you’re a true Irishman, you’ll be ready to put up your dukes and lose your cool every now and then. You’ll get tons of that when you watch Sons of Anarchy, too. These guys like to stick to their crew and you better not mess with any of them or they will mess with you. So get ready to watch some bad-ass skills this St. Patrick's Day when you watch this show. Beware though, once you start watching it, it’ll be hard to turn it off. It’s gonna be a marathon, and you really won't want to watch it any other way....well, maybe with some green beer and some Irish food.

St. Patty’s Day TV Show to Watch #1: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The last show we’d suggest you watch on the tube if you’re looking for a good St. Patrick's Day show would be Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We know what you're thinking. What does Philly have to do with the Irish? It has plenty to do with the Irish. Just like the Irish, these characters had to go through plenty to get their day of fame. Together they run a pub which come on, this just screams Irish. Together they serve patrons who view this bar as family much like the Irish are known to do. And don’t forgot the comedy mischief these characters get into as well. Seriously, what can be more Irish than this show?

It's time to spend some time with the lads and lasses you love most on television. Wear your green and talk like the Irish as you watch these Irish favorites. They will have you on the edge of your seat and leave you feeling like the luck was with you this Saint Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 11, 2016

TVSO PICKS: Top 5 Sketch Comedy TV Shows You've Never Seen (But Should)

Top 5 Sketch Comedy Shows You've Never Seen
When everyone thinks of sketch comedy today the first thing that instantly comes to mind is the television show Saturday Night Live.   That, firstly, and then for a few, a minor few, Fox's long-running MadTV.    But what people fail to consider or seemingly always forgot, at least, those who great up in the early 1980s, even the mid/late 70s was that sketch comedy was even bigger on television in those days than it is today.    While some of these shows can come to DVD in recent years, others haven't--which is sad because it deprives fans of sketch comedy from experiencing the full scope of the televised sketch show zeitgeist as they should be able to.     What follows is our list of favorite 5 sketch comedy shows that you probably haven't seen (but should):

Carol Burnett Show
Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)
Perhaps the best sketch show in the history of television, and likely the main influence that inspired everything that came after it, The Carol Burnett Show (named as comedy great Carol Burnett, the show featured players Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicky Lawrence), after Saturday Night Live is the longest running sketch show in the history of television.  First hitting the air on CBS in 1967 running up until 1978, the Burnett Show earned several Emmy Awards and created the spin-off character for another long-running sitcom, Mama's Family, Mama.    Vicky Lawrence got her start on the Burnett Show right out of high school after writing Burnett a letter encouraging her to come and see her in a high school play.    What made the Burnett Show was that it didn't delve into contemporary political satire, but wished to stay within the parody of popular culture.    It never tried to be timely, political or a commentary, it was, in the purest sense, set to entertain only.  And it did, which is why TV Guide ranked it No. 17 on their list of the 60 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2013.

MTV The State
The State (1993-1995)
Running for what equated to just a mere year and a half on MTV in the middle of the grunge-alternative 1990s, The State featured a group of NYC improv actors who created surreal, yet edgy sketch comedy for the times that featured situations, culturally, of MTV's audience.   Well-known actors like Tom Lennon, Michael Ian Black, Ben Garrett, and Ken Marino all got their start in The State initially.

Fridays ABC Andy Kaufman
Fridays (1980-1982)
Put on the air to compete with the mega success that Saturday Night Live was enjoying since the mid/late 70s, Fridays was a shot in opposite of SNL, in that, while Saturday Night Live was shot in New York City, Fridays was a show that was shot on the West Coast in Los Angeles, CA.   Fridays had to work very hard to compete with SNL, and in the end, while they lost to Lorne Michael's brand, historically they attempted to be more edgy that SNL.  They did this by staging audience tricks courtesy of Andy Kaufman and edgy musical acts as special acts like: Devo, Kiss, and The Plasmatics.   Seinfeld's Michael Richards and Larry David were weekly cast members on the show on ABC. 

Julie Brown The Edge FOX Network
The Edge (1992-1993)
Running for a mere 6 months on the Fox Network, The Edge, while very funny and very "Los Angeles" had stiff competition with audiences already in love with Saturday Night Live (which was enjoying a resurgence with the success of Wayne's World at the box office), and those teens who were too hip for Saturday Night Live--who watched The State on MTV.   Running off the success that comic and actress Julie Brown had had previously with her series on MTV "Just Say Julie,"  Fox gave Brown and a collection of actors a sketch series.  Brown's collective featured: Seinfeld's Wayne Knight, Jennifer Aniston, and the voice of Spongebob Sqaurepants: Tom Kenny.

SCTV John Candy
SCTV (1976-1984)
Canada's version of Saturday Night Live, SCTV ran for 6 years on a hodge-podge of networks such as:  CNBC, NBC, and Cinemax.     While SCTV was a sketch series that featured some comedy legends: John Candy, Eugene Levy, Dan Thomas, Rick Moranis, Martin Short and several others, the show had a artsy premise which saw SCTV (Second City TV) located in the town of Melonville--ambiguously-suggested to be in the United States.    The show would air, as if you were watching a series of television network interruptions during a broadcast cast.  The satire was brilliant and the show was tackle parodies on sitcoms, movies, talk shows, commercials.   Perhaps, the best known sketch from SCTV was that of Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as "Bob & Doug Mackenzie," two hoser-Canadian beer drinking hockey lovers that still lived with their parents.   A movie would be made about the Mackenzie brothers called Strange Brew.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Deeper Meanings Behind Dr. Seuss' Works

Dr. Seuss has been a household name for decades. Dr. Seuss has created quite a large collection of children’s books. Many of these books are quite entertaining and they hold a much deeper meaning that most people are aware. 

Seuss Geisel is the creator of Dr. Seuss. In addition, Geisel did most of his own illustrations for his many books and publications. One of the most popular and most celebrated works of Dr. Seuss is the book “Green Eggs and Ham”. This publication has been a favorite of children for many years. 

What many people do not know is that Geisel wrote many of these books based on his experiences as a child as well as his later years. Seuss Geisel lived through wars, the great depression and other historical events. 

Geisel wrote many of these books to reflect the imagination of the child. Most children think of kind thoughts, happy times, and exciting events. Geisel in a way was seeking a form of escape from the unrest and difficulties that many faced during time of war and unrest. 

All of Dr. Seuss publications have a happy and pleasant ending. This is why most children enjoy reading Dr. Seuss. Life would be a much happier place if everything ended happily. These publications can make it seem as if all problems of every day are virtually non-existent. 

Nearly all of Geisel’s books reflect his days growing up and living in Springfield Mass. For example, “Mirror in Watercourses” makes reference to Springfield Park. Springfield Park is a place that Geisel frequented during his youth. This seemed to provide a perfect setting for much of his later work. 

“To Think I saw it on Mulberry Street” was one of Seuss more popular publications. This publication is filled with imagery from Springfield. A great deal of Geisel’s publications were inspired by his early life as well as his many experiences which shaped his life.

One of Geisel famous sayings was “there are places to go” “there are points to be scored”. Many of these sayings in addition to his books gave great inspiration to countless people. The publications not only added humor to a situation but it also helped children and adults to not take life so seriously. 

Generally, there are much deeper meanings behind the works of Geisel. He was able to take all his knowledge and experiences into account while creating some of his best works. It’s impossible to ever forget Dr. Seuss and his wonderful contributions.

Friday, March 4, 2016

TVSO PICKS: Best Movies About Golf

Top 5 Golf Movies
It used to be a game for gentleman, but at some point, it turned into an outing for guys to get together, get drunk, and storm across the field in a golf cart.   We all love golf, perhaps, we all don't enjoy watching it on television as much as we do physically playing it--there's something completely peaceful about it at the end of the day.    It's a test of man's will and concentration, out there, starring down an goal with obstacles in his way.   Golf is a metaphor for life. 
Since we love golf as much as the next person we thought we'd put together a list of our favorite golf movies (in no particular order):

Thursday, March 3, 2016

TVSO Picks: Top 5 Hockey Movies Of All-Time

Top 5 Hockey Movies
For years in the United States Hockey was a dirty word.   If you were in the know and proudly exclaimed your admiration for the sport back in the 80s, you were either made fun of or just outright ignored.   Certainly, Hockey is violent enough to be more popular than football, but what's more American than Football?  Nothing.   Maybe, baseball, but we American's love our violence, and there ain't much of that on the diamond across nine innings.   There isn't another sport that exists that you can see one man crash another man into a giant glass wall while the both of them are skating around on little, thin, steel blades.    Where else, but hockey, can you see a little, black, puck flying in the air at a zillion miles an hour, and a guy that is left to defend a net that looks like he's a stunt double for movie monster slasher Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies?   Only in hockey.

And as we're die-hard hockey fans here at TVSO we thought we'd list our Top 5 Favorite Hockey Movies (in no particular order):

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Athletes Appearing on TV Shows

Athletes are human just as us, but people love them. They’ve a huge fan base. However have you ever wondered about what they do when their season is over? Many of you know they make great money, but did you know there are more things they do besides just playing the game?

One of the common things many are finding are athletes appearing on TV shows. There has been a huge increase of this happening and the trends are changing. What used to be athletes appearing on sports news shows and reality television programs is not so much the case any longer. That's not to say they aren't still appearing on these reality television shows and talk shows, but more so, they are appearing in sitcoms and nightly drama series such as Law and Order SVU.

Some of you might wonder why this is. There are many reasons to have them air on such shows. One of the main things is that it boosts ratings. Think about if you saw your favorite athlete on a show that you watch or even don't watch? Would you tune in? Of course you would. 

Another thing that it does is that it helps them find people they don't need stunt doubles for and such. Many of the players who appear on such television shows are appearing as the athlete they are. They might have a different name in the script, but a basketball player would still play a basketball player. 

It's really a win-win situation. The player gets paid to appear which helps them to bring in money during the off season. It also allows fans a chance to see their favorite sports players during the off season which allows the athlete to keep their fan base. This looks good on resumes as athletes know they can't play the sport forever. 

Yet, they’re still making their faces known on the reality television shows talking about who they’re and their skill with the game of choice. Many are making their air time a bit more useful than just talking about themselves though. Another trend we have seen with these athletes in the spotlight is how they use this time to talk about charities they have either started or are an active part of. This allows them to bring awareness all across the United States. The thought is that we’ll be seeing more athletes on television in more roles than what we're accustomed to.