Pass the Ritalin, Al Gore’s Current TV has Arrived!

by on August 2nd, 2005

It’s not boring.. not very. It’s slick.. kind of. It’s cerebral.. not really. It’s Al Gore’s Current cable TV Network. Dude, I think I just had a seizure!

Last nite, I managed to endure about 45 mins of the Current Network, Gore’s new cable channel targeted to reach the web generation. And the verdict is in: I’m either way too old or I have good taste. You be the judge. The former is, unfortunately, the case. The latter depends upon who you ask. Don’t ask. But also don’t be dissuaded my friends. If you haven’t already checked it out, check it out; both the channel and the updated in real-time site. Do so, because it is at the very least a pioneering and innovative foray into what might just become the long heralded interactive TV, though admittedly still a bit lacking in the interactivity dept.

Short on the interactive, long on the hyperactive. The format itself consists a rapid-fire stream of five to nine minute segments coming at you bullet train-like and punctuated by phrenetic graphical segways – think wired magazine only animated. The effect is not unlike reading billboards along the highway from the back seat of a speeding car. One wonders if this format isn’t calculated to keep the attention challenged gen Y eyes glued to the screen long enough to satisfy wary advertisers. Seven minutes of following a narrative any more abstract than the featured Hottie segments, for instance, may indeed be a stretch for a demographic more accustomed to watching MTV while talking on the cell, playing game boy, surfing the web and listening to tunes all at the same time. And some of the content like the journalistic pieces, though brief, are indeed thought provoking. Thus the interspersed fluff segments like Hottie are likely needed for some facile, if not comic, relief. Included of course are the requisite tech segments and even a Google search tie-in as a bone for the more geeky viewers; the latter not surprising given Gore’s own Google tie in as a senior adviser. It must be refreshing for the retired politician to maintain these professional inter, if not incestuous, relationships and not have to worry about concocting any anti-conflict of interest spin.

At least some of the best content was, apparently, uploaded to the site by budding young independent producers around the globe and selected for broadcast. Interestingly, the network opted for a net savvy “long tail” style of promotion for these productions where submitted video can be viewed then recommended by the site’s studio registered visitors. Those that survive that process are then vetted by network staff for airing. A very cool idea and one from which I think, or at least hope, the content will benefit.

But what about this “vetting”? Though Current is billed as a non-partisan, apolitical venue, few are buying that line; especially from the likes of ol’ Al. The content aired thus far has been consistent with a pro diversity and tolerance stance. So, could a clean cut, militantly Christian Young Republican get his or her polemic on heathen communist baby-killers aired? The answer’s not clear given this submission policy from the site:

    You may not post, upload or transmit to the Site, or to the Current servers, any communications, text, graphics or other information or Materials that: (1) is unlawful, obscene, fraudulent, indecent or that defames, abuses, harasses, or threatens others, or is hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable; (2) contains any software viruses, Trojan horses, worms, bombs, or any other computer code, files or programs designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer software or hardware or telecommunications equipment or that may damage, detrimentally interfere with, surreptitiously intercept, or expropriate any system, data, or personal information; (3) advocates or encourages any illegal activity; (4) infringes on the copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, right of publicity or other intellectual property, proprietary, contracted, personal or other right of any third party; (5) violates the privacy of inpiduals, including other users of the Site; or (6) violates any applicable local, state, national or international law. You agree not to use bots, spiders or intelligent agent software (or other methods) for any purpose other than accessing publicly posted portions of the Site and then only for the purposes consistent with the limited license hereunder and these Terms of Use. You agree not to, or attempt to, circumvent any access or use restrictions, data encryption or content protection related to the Site; not to data mine the Site and not to in any way cause harm to or burden the Site.

Hmm, that likely leaves out a significant percentage of prospective right-wing producers right off the bat. There’s always FOX, though. Still, the question remains whether a slickly produced piece with a veiled, or not so veiled, conservative slant would make the cut. One can imagine that it will be tried; it’s the ultimate troll challenge, after all: get some good ol’ god-fearin Amarican (typo intentional) propaganda onto the “devils” network. Perhaps they’ll let a few of the least provocative pieces thru so Current can maintain the nonpartisan posture. We’ll see, but they may well just be counting on the recommendation process to weed out any reactionary plants before they would have to even consider filtering them, ala Daily Kos.

So, yeah, the Ringmaster’s too freakin old. So’s your old man (lady, person..). But be that as it may, I actually think that on the whole Current is a good thing. I respect and applaud risk takers, even if that risk is of being all flash and no substance. Perhaps if the flash can capture the audience’s attention, then a healthy dollop of creative independent commentary, art and journalism might just manage to inform it. And if that audience is watching a little more TV, then maybe they’ll be playing a little less Grand Theft Auto, even if only because they need the boob tube to play it on. GTA the Game Boy version? Hmm..

Kit Robinson