Hulu Sort of Scores in the Superbowl

Hulu is a web site where you can watch TV shows, and some other content. It is free and ad-supported. It was one of the web success stories of 2008. Like many legal sources of content on the web, it violates the spirit of the “world wide web” by being unavailable to much of the world.

So Hulu, the web site where you can watch TV shows, ran a TV ad during the Superbowl. It was one of the more highly-rated Superbowl ads this year (sources for this include Fred Wilson), and so many people will want to see it.

Now, it would make sense for Hulu to make it easy for people to watch its ad. In fact, Hulu has a gallery of all the Superbowl ads. Perhaps it is to Hulu’s credit that its own ad doesn’t seem to be particularly prominent in the gallery. But that’s another way of saying that Hulu puts up barriers to its own ad.

So if you go to Hulu.com in order to watch the ad the web site paid to run on TV, you have to first watch… a regular ad. That’s if you are allowed to watch the Hulu ad. If you’re outside the Hulu zone, you won’t be able to watch the ad.

I know that there are contractual restrictions on making content available across borders. But it would make sense for Hulu to not impose such restrictions when the content is its own ad. You can see more at Erick’s TechCrunch post. The “more” includes the Hulu ad itself… but of course, people in the USA will see an ad before the ad, and most people outside the USA won’t see much of anything.

By the way, I think that the Hulu ad is pretty good. “They say TV will rot your brain. That’s absurd. TV only softens the brain, like a ripe banana” is one of Alec Baldwin’s better lines. The Superbowl itself wasn’t bad either.

Oliver Noggin Pops His Clogs

There’s a lot of very good TV for kids. I’m not saying that just to comfort my parent-self, but also because of most of the kids TV shows on WGBH TV: Word Girl, Arthur, etc.

When I think back to the TV I saw as a kid, my fondest memory is of Noggin the Nog. Oliver Postgate wrote and told the stories, while his partner Peter Firmin did the visuals. If I had to explain why storytelling is so wonderful, I’d play the introduction to Noggin.

Let’s enjoy some Noggin together now, and then meet again after the video in for more Oliver info.

Oliver just died, at age 83. I found out his death via Nicholas. The BBC obit emphasizes some of Oliver’s other creations, such as Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine, but it is for Noggin that I will always remember him. I don’t think he’d object to my use of the Brit expression to pop one’s clogs.

Juliana Hatfield Blogs About My So-Called Life

That’s My So-Called Life the TV show, which would be on any top 10 TV list I made. It starred a young Claire Danes. There was only one series.

The Christmas episode featured Juliana Hatfield, who is still making music. She’s also blogging, and recently wrote a very interesting post about her MSCL appearance (link via Stereogum).

She was originally approached to write a song for the episode. This, by the way, was back in the day when TV and indie music didn’t know each other well.

The song would need to be mournful but also kind of uplifting, somehow; to express the angel character’s tragic circumstances and ultimate end, but also the spirit of Christmas — rebirth, hope, love, compassion and all that jazz… Did I think I could give them something like that? Something that was mine — my own distinctive voice — but composed using their guidelines.

I was game. I thought it would be a fun exercise. To be given a task with a blueprint was, for me, exciting and challenging, and also a bit of a relief. Having rules or limitations can be very liberating just as having total freedom to do whatever you want, however you want, can be sort of paralyzing.

I like the way that Juliana embraces the constraints as helpful. I also like her realism about being a musician these days.

So don’t give me any grief if you ever hear a song of mine in a car/shampoo/steakhouse commercial, okay? Not very many people buy music anymore so I might have to find other ways to pay for the making and promotion of my future albums.

As I write this, I’m enjoying Accelerate, which sounds on first listening to be more interesting than REM have been in a while. Did I buy it? Sort of, I’m streaming it on Rhapsody. I’ll probably check out some recent Juliana Hatfield next…

Terminator: Sarah’s Chronicles, Summer’s Season

The only complete TV season I’ve watched for many a year is season one of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Due to the writers’ strike, there were only nine shows. I watched them online, on Hulu to be specific. There is of course a lot of online activity around the show: fan sites, petition for there to be a season two, and so on.

There’s also a wiki, which includes a polls page. Here are some of my votes, with some stats that were current around the time I voted.

  • Favorite character: Cameron (who’s the clear leader, with 69% of the votes cast).
  • Favorite cast member: Summer Glau (74%)
  • Favorite episode: Demon Hand (9%). At the time of this writing, it’s still available on Hulu.

“Demon Hand” is the 7th of the 9 that made up the first season. It probably won’t be a surprise that the reason I like “Demon Hand” so much centers on Cameron, and on Summer’s Glau’s performance. Cameron takes dancing lessons, since the gang need to track down the teacher’s brother.

Cameron attempts a pas de chat, which TV Sans Pity tells us means totally graceful spins and ballet shit. Teacher tells Cameron’s that her lower body is fine, but that her upper body is rather mechanical. Sorry, but I just can’t get enough of this sly Terminator humor.

At the end of the show, Cameron is practicing ballet. That is at once another Cameron wants to be human moment, a reason for Derek, who sees her dancing, to wonder if he’s being too suspicious of her, and a good use of Summer’s background as a dancer.

Moving back to a different episode, the best quote of the season came in episode 4: “Heavy Metal.” “If you’re gonna be a hero, you gotta learn how to drive stick,” concerned mother Sarah told John.

Hey, here’s that pas de chat:

The Hulu Chronicles

Online TV site Hulu will go live today. Most of what I’ve read about the launch is positive, although Mike at TechCrunch warned of excessive Hulu mania, and Om had to correct his implication that Hulu is Ready For The World (it’s ready for exactly one of the world’s many countries).

My favorite overview is Daniel Langendorf’s account of The Good, The Bad, The Achilles Heel. The good includes range of content. The bad includes the absence of content from ABC and from CBS (although Mashable Paul considers these networks likely to submit to Hulu partnerships of their own in short order).

The Achilles heel that Daniel describes is my own least favorite feature of Hulu. It’s that the content is patchy and unpredictable. For example, as soon as I signed up for the Hulu beta, I watched an episode of The Simpsons. I then used a handy feature of the Hulu player to make a clip from the show, in order to post the clip to a blog.

The clip is no longer available, because that episode is no longer available at Hulu. So I won’t be making and posting any more “hey, check this out” type clips.

Having said that, I think that Hulu will do well. The player is easy to use, and the ads don’t get in the way nearly as much as I feared they would. I watched and enjoyed all nine episodes of the Terminator show on Hulu (and will be posting my thoughts soon).

Terminator Starts

I’m currently catching up with Fox’s Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. The first episode was broadcast on Sunday, the second on Monday. Both are online at Fox on Demand, but not yet at Hulu.

Apparently the first episode did well with those who have the quaint habit of watching TV shows on TV. Summer Glau, who played River in Firefly/Serenity, shines.

More soon…

Catching Up With Lost

Interested in Lost, but never had time to watch it? That was my sorry plight, but about 8 minutes of online video fixed that.

Thanks to Taylor for the link. Credit to those involved in making the recap video, including the woman who does the narration.

The really amazing thing about the recap is that it’s official. Is ABC a real media company? Shouldn’t it wait for fans to do things like this, then sue them?

Hooked by Hulu

I remember reading about the online video service Hulu. I didn’t pay much attention to it until today, when several of the blogs to which I subscribe announced that they had invites to the private beta. I succumbed to what I think was the third such announcement: the one on ReadWriteWeb. It includes the word unimpressive, but it also includes Simpsons.

The first episode I watched was the most recent return of Sideshow Bob. Hulu allows you to embed a video, either in part or in the form of a clip you can define yourself. I clipped a minute or so toward the start of the show. The Simpsons have a Tivo, Marge has just been guilted into watching the ads rather than skipping over them, and then the main plotline of the episode gets under way.

Hulu includes ads, so my ad-related clip seems like an appropriate first selection. I’ve found the ads tolerable so far.

Due to WordPress.com policy, I can’t embed the clip in this post. By the way, the Hulu support/FAQ page explicitly addresses this aspect of WordPress.com, although it makes it sound as though the limitation applies to all WordPress blogs.

So I embedded it in a post at another blog. I’ve been meaning for a while to set up an annex to house embeds and other animals forbidden by the landlords of this blog. I just got round to it, in the form of Widget Way at Tumblr.

There are several limits on Hulu. One relates to what you can watch; for example, the current season of The Simpsons is there, but there’s nothing from previous seasons. Another limit relates to who can watch. The site is currently invite-only and US-only – but there are ways round that.

All in all, I’m glad to have bitten on the Hulu hook, although I wouldn’t say that I was hooked on Hulu.