I love “Lost” but I never rewatch it: The burden of the perfect ending in the streaming era

Does a popular mythology-laden TV show or film series need to stick the landing to be viable in the streaming world? This question came up around “Game of Thrones” in a recent “Binge Mode” episode.

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to my own viewing habits. Back in the day, when TV networks had all the juice and DVRs were still novelties, I wrote about “Lost.” It was a wonderful experience that connected me to people who shared my enthusiasm for the series. “Lost” meant a lot to me.

But here’s the weird thing: It’s been 10 years since “Lost” went off the air and I haven’t rewatched the show. Continue reading

5 reasons why “The Rewatchables” podcast works

Note: I’m fascinated by content forms. I love popping the hood on a piece of content to see how the creators put things together. What choices did they make? What structures did they use? This piece is part of an occasional series I call “content deconstructed.”

The Rewatchables” is a podcast from the folks at The Ringer that features lively conversations about films that are fun to watch over and over (hence the name). You might take issue with some of their selections—”Mr. Mom”?—but the execution is always strong.

The podcast’s consistency comes from five key attributes.

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We adapt

I’m sure you heard that Saturday Night Live returned last night and Tom Hanks served as a surprise guest host. Here’s the intro and Hanks’ opening monologue:


Everything about this makes me smile. It’s good to see Hanks up and about and looking well (he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-March). It’s good to feel that same SNL energy. And it’s great to have proof that during tough times, creative people still find a way to share their creativity.

If you’ll excuse an extreme transition …

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A mostly real-time review of “Killing Eve,” season 1

Jodie Comer in "Killing Eve"

Jodie Comer as Villanelle, an assassin who doesn’t mind standing out. Credit: BBC America

The following are notes and questions I jotted down as I watched the first season of “Killing Eve” on Hulu. There are loads of SPOILERS in this write-up. I don’t provide a lot of context, so this stuff won’t make much sense if you aren’t watching the show. Footnotes include a mix of random asides and follow-ups I posted after I finished the show.

What’s this show about?

Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is a British intelligence analyst. Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is an assassin working for a murky organization with murky goals. As each becomes aware of the other, mutual interest turns into mutual obsession / infatuation / attraction (maybe?). Hilarity and a substantial body count ensue. Also, the show has brilliant production, a spot-on cast, unexpected bursts of dark comedy, and a fantastic soundtrack. You should absolutely watch it.

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A mostly real-time review of “Money Heist” (“La Casa de Papel”), parts 1 and 2


The cast of “Money Heist” (“La Casa de Papel”).
Left to right: Rio, ??, The Professor, Nairobi, Tokyo, and Denver. Credit: Netflix.
1

The following are notes and questions I jotted down as I watched “Money Heist” on Netflix. There are loads of SPOILERS. I don’t provide a lot of context, so this stuff won’t make much sense if you aren’t watching the show. Footnotes include a mix of random asides and follow-ups I posted after I finished the show.

What’s this show about?

Eight thieves—each using a code name that corresponds to a city—break into the Royal Mint of Spain. Their goal isn’t to steal money, it’s to print money. Their most valuable resources are hostages, time, anonymity, and public support: they need all four to print billions in cash and get away. The intricate plan is overseen from outside the mint by The Professor, a mastermind who’s been planning this crime for most of his life.

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You can still find the group of people who care about the same weird thing you do

Reading through Farhad Manjoo’s piece “How Online Hobbyists Can Reaffirm Your Faith in the Internet,” I was reminded of one of the internet’s great gifts: frictionless affinity.

The ability to find a couple hundred people — maybe even a few thousand — who are interested in that one hobby, movie, TV show, team, etc. that you’re excited about is an amazing thing. I’ve experienced this a bunch of times, most notably with communities that formed around “The X-Files” and “Lost.” I had a blast writing and theorizing and talking about these shows. Those experiences wouldn’t have happened if I’d been limited by geography or time. My enthusiasm would have been stunted, and that’s just not right. If you love something, you should be able to really love it.

What’s important here is that the great things about the internet still exist. They’re still built in. And if we choose to emphasize those attributes, to double down on what’s good and avoid the pitfalls that are clearer now than ever before, it can continue to benefit us.

AI needs to tackle the dumb things

A glimpse of what’s to come? Image via: Beeki on Pixabay

Artificial intelligence (AI) should take on the mundane stuff in addition to the hard stuff. That’s a point Manuela Veloso drove home at MIT’s EmTech Next Conference. I love this line:

“Every time I enter a supermarket and I push this cart, I say, ‘Why can’t this cart follow me?’ These carts should all be automated.”

She’s right. Why can’t that cart follow me around? And why can’t it return itself to the drop-off area in the parking lot? That’s the kind of self-driving vehicle we really need.

And while we’re at it, why can’t AI improve other daily activities? Continue reading

Sometimes there’s a gap between the keyword you think you’re ranking for and the keyword you’re actually ranking for. And that’s okay.

I’ve been working on a keyword project. The idea is to identify high-volume keywords in areas where my company is invested. Specifically, we put on a bunch of events and each of these events aligns with a technical area. These areas revolve around unique technologies and techniques, and technologies and techniques just happen to map beautifully with keywords.

So, we’re building original content that’s constructed to rank well for target keywords. And we’re doing this in a non-sleazy way that’s editorially sound and won’t make my journalism degree burst into flames.

I’ve been using Google’s Search Console with this project. While poking around in this tool, I’ve discovered there’s sometimes a significant gap between the keyword I think I’m ranking for and the keyword I’m actually ranking for. Continue reading

Bill Simmons and Marc Maron discuss their early days with podcasting

Bill Simmons spoke with Marc Maron on a recent episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” It was fascinating to hear these two long-time podcasters discuss the evolution of the format.

Of particular note: It took a long time for Simmons and Maron to figure out how their podcasts would work and how they’d approach them. They tinkered and pushed until they landed on the right combination. It’s a reminder that when you have a nagging sense you’re on to something, persist until you can’t persist anymore.

Listen for: The embedded ads during the episode (no, really). Companies like Stamps.com and Squarespace are ubiquitous podcast advertisers—so much so, Maron was able to finish Simmons’ ad copy on the fly (“click the microphone in the upper-right corner …”).