Many TV Series Finales

| by Ken | in Admin No Comments »

You can’t blame COVID-19 for the end of lots of TV series this spring. The decisions were made ages ago and the finales have been in progress for a while. So it really just is coincidence that so many TV shows that I watch regularly have now ended their runs. I’m not going to describe any plot in detail and in a few cases, I’ll be intentionally vague to not give things away but if you are worried about spoilers for a particular show, it’s probably wise to skip over that series’ summary below.

The first to sign off was a show that I never really intended to care about, The Good Place. My wife thought it sounded good and suggested we watch. It was clear in the first episode that it was a different kind of show and I realized soon into it that it was going to be a good “different” sort of like how Pushing Daises was a good “different” (also a show that my wife had encouraged me to watch). But as the first season went on, it became clear that The Good Place was a supremely well-written show and had more going for it than the gimmick of showing a possible view of the afterlife. Exceptionally clever and witty, the show was both engaging to watch and laugh out loud funny. There were only 4 seasons and some of them were somewhat short but the creators realized they had gotten to where they needed to be and had said what they wanted to say. The finale was more satisfying than I usually find finales to be. It didn’t tie everything up or answer all of the questions – in fact I’m not sure it really answered any. But the final scene with people just sort of leaving was really sort of zen-like calming.

The next to sign off was Schitt’s Creek. For my wife and I this was sort of the opposite from The Good Place. Early on the characters were difficult to have in your house – that was sort of the point where they were unpleasant people brought to a pleasant place and they didn’t fit in. This one was my choice and I watched on my own for a season or two until my wife was gradually drawn in as the characters became less cartoonishly annoying. You began to care about them and see them with more depth. My wife is more discerning in her TV choices so when she started getting sucked in, it was a sign that the show was maturing well. It didn’t hurt that the cast was so strong too. Favorites for my wife and I were Jocelyn, the mayor’s wife, Stevie, the hotel worker/owner, Ted, Alexis’s boyfriend, and Patrick, David’s partner. There were also awesome side characters like Ronnie, Twyla, Bob, and Ray. And the main cast was awesome too including Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara who were the main reasons I started watching in the first place. The show was on for 6 seasons which seemed about right. Even though the show’s writing was really just hitting its stride and the show was reaching its widest audience, I think the story had pretty much run its course. From the first episode, the question was whether the Rose family would return to wealth and glory or would they realize they were better off in Schitt’s Creek. As the characters developed and you understood how they were evolving, you could see how either possible result might work. And in the finale, when you realize that the family doesn’t end up going together to the same place, it’s actually good that the adult children have finally become adults and are going off on their own adventures. That finale was one of the most satisfying finales I’ve seen in a while – as a regular viewer, it was nice to get a sense of where the characters were headed and feel like you got some closure on the open questions without needing to see glimpses of their future.

After 11 seasons, Modern Family ended its run. From the get-go, the show was genius. In a lot of ways it was standard sitcom fare with multiple story arcs in each show. But the stories were very clever and frequently worked together to tell a single point. And the way the stories wove together was often a work of art. After a few years and lots of Emmys, the show did lose some thrill for me and for others. I think I watched all of the episodes through the years though I may have missed some. I don’t know that the show changed or the writing diminished so much as sometimes it felt like the characters were becoming a bit too cartoonish in an attempt to not repeat what had been done before. And Mrs. Katharsys got a little tired of how mean the couples ended up becoming towards each other. But whenever I saw it waiting on the DVR to watch and thought about just deleting, I’d begin watching and was drawn right back in by the great writing. As the final season was wrapping up, there were some obvious plot manipulations to help drive the characters to where they needed to be at the finale. But it was worth it so that the finale had the ability to settle the story and the characters. The show ended with a satisfying finale that gave you enough about what the future held for the characters but also didn’t blow up anything to make you feel cheated by what had happened before. It’s a bit easier with a show like Modern Family with a focus on family than for a drama, but still, Modern Family managed to stick the landing and left me satisfied with how it all wrapped up.

Will & Grace ended it’s run for the second time. It ran for 8 seasons initially and then returned for 3 more starting in 2017. From what I remember of the original run, it was very clever and very funny. And from what I remember of the initial finale, it was not very satisfying – it sort of blew up where the characters had gotten to and didn’t leave you feeling like you knew what had happened. I was skeptical when the show restarted in 2017 but it immediately proved itself worthy of the restart. Plenty of pointed commentary on the current politics of the day made the show feel relevant and the writing was still as sharp as ever which made it enjoyable to watch. However it had lost some of its mojo by the third restarted season so for it to call it quits seemed like the right choice. It spent less time on current events and how the characters fit in the new world and more on the two lead characters expecting children (separately). I get that the show wanted to undo the prior finale disaster and I get that they wanted to give both Will & Grace something more in their lives than their various failed romantic relationships. But I’m not sure that I ever really bought into either of the self-absorbed characters being able to be a parent. And while the final storylines for Jack (buying a gay bar and being happily married) and Karen (accidentally successfully leading a minor league team to a championship) seemed satisfying and the writing was still clever, the way Will & Grace ended up buying a house together for the future children didn’t really make sense to me. The finale felt like a regular episode right up until the last few minutes when it felt rushed.

Lastly, the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-O ended it’s 10 year run. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with this incarnation of Hawaii Five-O. I love the Hawaii set drama but I hate the routine “world-is-ending” scripts. I loved the diverse characters the show created but found some plots to be mindnumbingly stupid with holes you could fit a volcano through. I liked the new characters they created to replace the originals who didn’t return due to contract disputes but I thought they handled the departure of the original characters poorly and the introduction of new ones well in some cases (Junior) and poorly in others (Tani). They tackled some important topics well including substance abuse, military service veterans, importance of ohana (both that you are born with and that you choose), women’s equality, domestic abuse, etc. but they also waded into useless areas like the challenge of opening a restaurant. They had a deep stable of recurring characters that were fun to see pop up and that you felt like you got to know as much as the main characters but sometimes you ended up wondering what became of the recurring characters. I liked the technology they used on the show but sometimes it got a little over-the-top in terms of what could be accomplished with the tech and the show fetishized weapons too much – it isn’t uncommon and many of the characters were formerly military, but a bit less Michael Bay and more police detective show would have been better. As for how the show ended, returning to the original season’s question of what happened to Steve’s father was a decent premise but considering what Steve had been through during the run of the show (and previously), it seemed a bit out of character for him to decided he’d had enough. And I always thought one of the weakest characters to have been on the show was Catherine – points for creating a military wiz who happens to be a woman but points deducted for casting the wrong person in that role (the actress who was brought in the last season as Quinn Liu would have made a way better Catherine, for example) – so including her in Steve’s future made the ending even less satisfying for me. (Some of the characters may pop up in the reboot of Magnum PI and it will be good to seem them there but that show has some serious issues too.)

My MythTV setup has been humming along for years now. It still beats what you can get from cable companies primarily because of the commercial skip capabilities. But there’s also other good stuff like being able to archive a recording. I have previously moved copies of recorded TV to an SD card for portable viewing, for example. For years, I’ve wanted an easy way to make a recorded TV show leave the ephemeral recordings section and move to the video library for permanent storage. Today, I finally got that to happen.

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Impeach Trump? Now?

| by Ken | in Politics No Comments »

I’ve never been a fan of Nancy Pelosi. She isn’t a great public speaker with many hesitancy quirks and frequently seems ill-prepared in her press conferences. She has presided over a House of Representatives twice when she has seemed unable to coral her unruly peers into governing together rather than fighting with each other. I was disappointed to see that she was going to be Speaker of the House a second time and was optimistic about somebody else and her second tenure has turned out to be as bad as the first.

And now, her handling of to-impeach or not-to-impeach has dragged on for way too long. For years, Trump has been doing things that are illegal and easily proven but she has maintained that it isn’t enough for impeachment. And Trump seems to have taken that as a challenge: ‘Oh, if that wasn’t then how about this? Still no? Then I can do this.’ Like a toddler testing limits. Actually, I take that back – he *is* a toddler testing limits. And his parent Nancy is failing to push back. And the toddler President is getting away with more and more. Every day that Trump remains President is another 2 that it will take to fix. Or maybe the time to fix things is going up logarithmically and we are now at a point where 1 year of Trump equals 10 years to fix.

Granted, impeachment seemed unlikely to succeed in the senate so the President would very likely remain in office. But if the House was able to be decisive, hold people accountable, get the sins out into the daylight, there was a chance that Republican Congress might have not wanted to continue working with Trump as much as they have. Or it might even have helped put a fence around Trump that would either have limited his damage or maybe even helped him realize that his powers were not unlimited. (George Will article on the benefits of impeachment) But dragging on for years now meant the public became numb to the idea and Pelosi and her her party seemed feckless.

As of the end of September 2019, Pelosi is now on board with impeachment. Why now? Does she think that she will now get Republicans to vote with her to impeach? Maybe there is some strategic thinking going on behind the scenes – maybe she feels like she can get evidence public that she could not have gotten before and that impeachment will then be supported by the public and possibly even congressional Republicans where it was not before?

But I remain concerned. Because it’s quite possible that the impeachment inquiry that has now begun will not go anywhere, that it will drag on for months with no visible progress, that it will become unpopular, and that it will ultimately leave the Democrats looking worse than if they had continued to not fight back at all. The only thing worse than not standing up to a bully is to try to stand up to the bully but fall down in the process. Pity doesn’t win elections.

Kraft stupid? No, evil

| by Ken | in Soapbox No Comments »

As a father of a young and crazy Patriots fan, I’ve been avoiding this story. I haven’t wanted to think about what Kraft did and I sure as hell don’t want to talk to my son about it. And I’ve read and heard a number of people talking about how Kraft was stupid – with the infinite amount of money he has, he could have paid for anybody at any time anywhere – i.e. go the Heidi Fleiss route instead of the strip mall with a Publix. Therefore, the prevailing wisdom is that Kraft was both stupid and really stupid.

I’ve been puzzling over how Kraft could have been so stupid and I have come to the grim conclusion that he was not. I think he realized that going with high-paid escorts would mean lots of people in positions of power would have awareness of what he was doing. Instead, going the seedy strip mall parlor route would mean no one would know – especially since the women who worked there would be unable to share that knowledge due to their situation. And that’s when I realized that his patronage of a place like that was specifically because he knew that the women who worked there were in no position to disclose what was going on. And the fact that the owner of the business had previously been arrested in Massachusetts for human trafficking means that Kraft could have gone to this business in Florida because of prior visits to one in Massachusetts. Which means Kraft’s choice was not stupid, it was evil. And the only reason he was busted is because of some awesome police work. While he was right that he didn’t need to worry about powerful people leaking information about what he was doing, he was wrong that nobody was on the side of the victims.

While my first try at putting a doc for my iPhone in my Volvo XC90 was, strictly speaking, successful, it wasn’t as good as I wanted.  I had thought it would be cool to have the dock out of sight when the phone was unplugged so as not to mar the beautiful interior with an unsightly growth.  So I figured out how to get it in the front bin of the console.  However, I realized pretty quickly that the phone just wasn’t visible there which makes it only slightly better than the factory version of connecting it in the main console bin.  I eventually accepted that I would need to get a mount for the dashboard and that it would be permanently visible.  But I still wanted to keep things as clean as possible.  Here’s what I did. 

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Republicans vs. Facts

| by Ken | in Admin No Comments »

The recent Congressional hearing with Sundar Pichai provided some useful insight into how many Republican congressional members’ brains work – or don’t work as the case may be. 

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The current generation Volvo XC90 has a USB jack in the center console bin that you can connect your phone to.  And then your phone could charge and participate in the infotainment system through either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.  While that is pretty cool that your phone can be connected to the car, it is clunky to use every time you get in a car.  And to think that your phone can be tucked out of sight while you are driving is naive – at least given the current state of CarPlay and Android Auto.  In the future, maybe the car’s main screen can do everything that the phone can but in a smart and safe way.  But for now, there’s too much that the phone does that isn’t part of the car’s screen so having the phone out is important.  No I’m not texting and driving and no, I’m not playing Candy Crush while driving.  But an occasional look down to see that a text has arrived or the second screen for the map application, etc. are things that make having the phone out useful and less dangerous than having it tucked away.  And that makes the USB jack in the center console inconvenient at best.  It’s also frequently damned annoying when the wire that comes out of the center console and snakes along the cup holders to in front of the shifter gets tangled up in whatever beverage I’ve placed there.  Last week the wire broke and rather than just replace the wire, I figured it was time for me to do something better.  It was (past) time to figure out how to dock the phone in the car.

In the end, I did get a dock successfully installed in the car which is a definite improvement over the aforementioned wire-in-the-cupholders situation.  However, I’m not completely thrilled with the result.  I now have a Lightning connector sticking out of the storage bin in front of the shifter (the optional ashtray) and the phone does connect to it.  But despite my best efforts to simulate what it was going to look like there before I started, it didn’t end up the best of placements.  It is behind the shifter knob when the car is in Park – I can take the phone out of the dock when it is in Park but that defeats the purpose.  It is too low to really access the phone’s home button at the bottom.  And it is lower than I wanted considering where my eyes are – i.e. too far to look down from the road.  That means I’m going to need to work on an alternate location at some point.  But for now, since it does work and it is an improvement, I figured I would document at least that for now.

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Volvo XC90 Center Console Removal

| by Ken | in Automotive 3 Comments »

As detailed in another post, I wanted to add an iPhone dock to my Volvo XC90.  Ordinarily, I’d post all the info in one post but as it turned out, maybe 80% of the challenge was in disassembling the center console.  And since there may be other reasons to disassemble the center console in the future, I’ve broken out the center console assembly here.  It was a considerable challenge and it is worthy of its own post anyway.

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Updating MythTV Channel Lineup

| by Ken | in Admin No Comments »

Updating the MythTV channel lineup shouldn’t need to be so confusing but based on some misinformation on the Internet, I wasted a lot of time heading down wrong paths.  The upshot is mythfilldatabase does do the right thing but it may not be clear initially.  And if you don’t care about channel numbers at all, and you have only one source, then just run “mythfilldatabase –do-channel-updates” and you are done.  If you do care about channel numbers (which can be useful when watching live TV switching between sports programs on neighboring channels, for example) or you have more than one source, read on.

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Removing Alarm from 2001 Camry

| by Ken | in Automotive No Comments »

In 2001, an alarm may have seemed like a useful feature for a Toyota Camry.  But now 17 years later, the car is a pretty low theft target.  And more importantly, the alarm always behaved strangely.  And as of today, it shorted out due to water getting inside the car so the alarm was constantly sounding – at 5:30am in a crowded neighborhood.  So it was now time for the alarm system to leave the car.

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