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I'm not a Nielsen viewer (i.e., one of the families that AC Nielsen uses to sample television viewing), but there's no reason to think that Nielsen viewers wouldn't behave similarly to me when it comes to new shows. And when it comes to new, serialized dramas, the last thing you want to do is to watch a show, fall in love with it, and see it get cancelled after three episodes.
Now, sometimes you can just spot a complete loser show from the start and avoid it. Last year, one of the networks thought it could capitalize on the "Mad Men" 60s-retro nostalgia with "The Playboy Club." Um, yeah. (Maybe something like that would work on cable TV. Regular broadcast TV, though?!?) I was certain it was going to die a quick death, and indeed, it lasted just three episodes.
On the other hand, there have been new serials that critics have adored, but that the general audience has ignored. If you think airing just three episodes is pretty bad, take a look at "Lone Star," which lasted just two! (But the critics loved it!)
Knowing that networks sometimes have itchy trigger fingers when it comes to eating the sunk costs of a destined loser show, viewers like me have developed defense mechanisms . . . like not watching a new show until there's reason to believe it will survive the first season. (Even that is no guarantee, as "FlashForward" started off with an incredibly awesome pilot, steadily lost viewers and logic-comprehending writers or something, and devolved into a mess by the end of the first season, at which time ABC mercifully decided not to renew it.) Even shows that make it past the first season can disappoint, as "V" somehow got to two seasons, only to fail to get renewal, even as it ended on a massive cliffhanger. (Or not -- I guess the show ended with the Vs having won, and humanity on the road to enslavement or being cooked for dinner.)
Anyway, one of the new shows that the critics lavished praise on this season was ABC's "Last Resort," which, I gather, is something like the movie "Crimson Tide" crossed with the TV show "Lost." The premise is that a US Navy sub gets orders to launch its thermonuclear warheads at Pakistan, but the crew refuses to do so and ends up on the run from other US warships, eventually settling on an island run by a dictator. Wow! Nuclear weapons, military drama, island setting, and no doubt political intrigue and hints of conspiracies. Sounds great, sign me up!
Except, let me wait to see how it does before getting invested in it.
And how it's been doing is . . . not good. Actually, "not good" would be a pretty good showing for it, at this point. Its ratings have been disastrously bad. I'm surprised it hasn't been yanked from the schedule yet.
Now, in the pre-DVR days, I would've had to watch the show live and just accept the risk of being disappointed when a show I was invested in got cancelled. Or I could have saved it on videotape, but it wasn't always possible to record one show and watch a different one. (It depended on the cable set-up.) With TiVo or any other DVR, however, I can record "Last Resort" and save it on the DVR's hard drive while I watch other shows, either live or recorded.
So I now have 5 episodes of "Last Resort" saved up. You can see the vicious cycle at work here. If lots of people wait to see how the show does, then the show can't do well, because there aren't that many people actually watching it live for the ratings. And then the show gets cancelled . . . .
I don't know what the solution is, but I guess I am part of the problem. (Except I'm not, because I'm not a Nielsen viewer.)
Check out this election spam I got in the mail today, in support of the $35/person art tax that the city is proposing:
Wait, art teachers would make a bunch of kids disappear? Is that a reason to be voting FOR this proposal???
(Of course, note how racially diverse PPS kids seem to be! Out of ten kids, only two appear to be white. One wonders where in Portland you could come even close to such a distribution of students, given the city's demographics: 76% white, 9% Latino (of any race), 7% Asian-American, 6% African-American, and 10% mixed or other race. I get that it's important to show that PPS values diversity, but when it's this unrealistic it just comes across as heavy-handed. Much like this art tax itself.)
Today was the second year of the Zombie Apocalypse 5K race, a fun event where people could choose to run as "survivors" or as "zombies." Survivors were given a flag football-type belt with two velcro-ripaway red flags and a two minute headstart before the zombie horde was let loose. Last year's event took place at Lee Farms in Tualatin; this year, it was a much longer trek down to Heiser Farms in Dayton (about 30 miles away, but an hour's drive because no freeway went there directly).
Okay, first, here's my racing bib:
I was worried that it would be pretty miserable weather during the race, because that's what it was during my son's soccer match this morning: cold, damp, drizzly. But the sky sort of cleared up as I drove down highway 99 from Portland.
Race time was 5:30, but I arrived just after 4 pm. Like last year, the race organizers had really gone out of their way to create an apocalpytic atmosphere:
The military vehicle pictured above didn't move, but the tank below did!
Meanwhile, I found fellow Uberthon runners Eileen (who was running as a survivor) and Brent (who was watching). We chatted a bit about running and strategy, like where to arrange the survivor flags. (In front to make it more difficult to grab? In back, as a sign of confidence in one's speed?)
We also checked out this, which was something I haven't seen before: pumpkin firing cannons (what a waste!):
Okay, well around 5:20 or so, I headed over to the starting area of the course. Last year, it was just a gun-timed race, which given the large number of participants, was kind of dissatisfying. This year, the organizers got the excellent folks at Uberthons to do the timing. Yea for chip-timed races! Not only that, the organizers actually tried to arrange it so that the fastest people were at the front.
5ish mile pace? No, not me. 6ish? Uh, not quite. Still, even my estimated 7 minute/mile pace put me near the front:
The starting signal was a big boom from one of those pumpkin launching cannons. The first stretch was downhill, and I had to thread my way through some runners who'd started in front of me. Among the more notable costumed people I passed were a guy in a suit carrying a briefcase (but at least wearing running shoes), and two high school or college kids who had started off wearing gas masks. By the time I caught up to those two, one had already taken his mask off, and the other was in the process of doing so. "Man, it's so hard to breathe!" he gasped.
"What were you guys thinking?" I asked as I ran past.
The first 1/4 mile took me 1:26, according to RunKeeper, which was too fast, but what can you do about the combination of needing to get past people, and adrenaline, and fear of the zombie horde?
Half a minute later, the pumpkin cannon boomed again. The zombies were coming on the course.
A two minute headstart sounds pretty good. I mean, if I can run 7 minute miles, then at the two mile mark, 14 minutes will have elapsed. For a zombie to catch me by that point, he or she would have to run two miles in 12 minutes. Certainly doable, but not easy. On the other hand, when you consider that in those two minutes, I covered only 1/3 of mile, it doesn't sound like so much.
Anyway, the race course was filled with volunteer actors: some zombies hanging on tree branches, hiding in bushes, or hanging on the side of the trail; some military personnel armed with (fake) weapons. I wanted to tell the soldiers that they should go waste zombies just behind us. There was also a helicopter overhead that boomed through its loudspeakers, "Attention survivors . . . " and something about zombies.
My second mile was considerably slower. Some of that was the trail terrain -- soft, squishy dirt/mud in spots -- and some of it was probably just not having my best mental edge. It's been a couple of weeks since I've done real speedwork, and that week off to rest my foot didn't help on that front.
Part of the course had us doubling back a long straightaway that we had run earlier. When I hit this part, there were still zombies on the course headed out. Some of them were trying to steal our flags -- not cool. I had to speed up to evade one of them. (Others were just pretending to try.)
I got passed by a few runners, and every time as he or she was approaching, I had to turn to see if it was a zombie. It wasn't until just shy of 2 1/2 miles that a zombie finally caught up to me. Since I had two flags, I didn't bother trying to outrun him. (Good thing too, as it turns out that it was the guy who holds the Uberthon's 5K record!)
So he took the flag on my left side. I still had the flag on my right side, and I kept to the right side of the trail to make it more difficult for any other zombies to grab it.
At 2.47 miles, there was a 90 degree left turn, and a soldier who told us we were almost at the end, just 1/4 mile or so. Huh, I thought, how can we be almost done? But in fact, I could see the end of the course up ahead. I took a look back and didn't see any zombies nearby, so I picked up the pace a little (from 7:30ish to 6:45ish), and yes, crossed the finish line with my remaining flag intact! Chip time was 19:24, which sounds really awesome for me, but RunKeeper said the distance was 2.65 miles. Of course, I started RunKeeper a little late, as it clocked me in 19:08, so maybe the total distance was 2.7 or so miles. Anyway, far short of 3.1 miles.
There I am, holding up post-race proof of my survival! I finished 19th overall out of 580, which is my best percentile finish, but of course, this race attracted a lot of people who weren't in top running attire (i.e., some of those costumes were impossible to run in), so I wouldn't put too much stock into that result.
Four zombies ran faster than I did, but only one of those beat me by more than two minutes, so I did earn my survival. (There were survivors who ran slower than I did who finished with both flags; as I had surmised, running fast could subject you to being picked off by an even faster zombie, whereas running with a crowd could get you skipped.)
Anyway, all in all, a fun time. Looking forward to next year. I may run as a zombie.
UPDATE (10/15): Here's the race recap by the zombie who mauled me.
An Althouse observes and asks, "It's a miracle the fashion industry stays alive. If we — or I mean, you men — didn't have to get dressed up for work, what would you spend a year?"
Well, at my current running pace (30-35 miles per week), I can expect to burn through about 2-3 pairs of running shoes in a year, and those things run about $70-100 each. And then it's always hard to resist getting new running apparel, like moisture-wicking tech shirts and shorts. And running socks. And funny running-themed shirts, like the "zombies hate fast food" one that I have. And some cold weather outdoor running gear, like gloves and waterproof windbreakers.
So yeah, I'd still buy clothing if I didn't have to get suits, shirts, and ties for work. (Well, I don't really have to wear a suit to teach; that's a choice I make. But I feel better prepared to teach when I'm wearing a suit.)