Friday, May 29, 2009

INTERVISION! with Kevin Pollak

"This is your show. It just has my name on it."

Boy this is embarrassing, huh? Let's just start with this bit of dirty laundry hanging on the clothesline, shall we? Full disclosure. That's not my motto, but it is when it serves my needs, or makes me laugh. Here we go.
This is my stupidity off Twitter. Imagine between "ten hours" and "three minutes" a night of sleeping in after a workweek of very little sleep and too much not sleeping.
  • ZachsMind @kevinpollack: "INTERVISION Give it a test drive See how you feel" 1st I laughed then I'm like omigod hes serious Now I just don't know about 11 hours ago
  • ZachsMind @kevinpollack seen Felicia Day interview. Enjoyable. Unsolicited constructive critique avail. upon req. Will sleep on "InterVision." about 10 hours ago
  • ZachsMind Dammit! I misspelled @kevinpollak last night. Twice. I blame a week of self-induced sleep deprivation. I'm awake now. Let's try this again. 3 minutes ago
  • ZachsMind @kevinpollak: "INTERVISION Give it a test drive See how you feel" 1st I laughed, then I'm like omigod hes serious. Now I just don't know. 2 minutes ago
  • ZachsMind @kevinpollak saw Felicia Day interview. Enjoyable. Unsolicited constructive critique avail. upon req. Will sleep on "InterVision." less than a minute ago
Okay, so the point of that is this. I'm about to launch into some unsolicited constructive criticism about Kevin Pollak's Chat Show which he will of course never see but I'm okay with that. Talk on Twitter is sometimes a two way street and sometimes one-sided. Some people can't tell the difference but I like to think I can. If you're talking to someone who is as much an unknown as you, you got a good chance to get a response. If you are telling @KirstieAlley to turn off her capslock? You'll be lucky if she responds by not sending you a tweet personally, but actually typing like the rest of us for a couple tweets BEFORE SHE STARTS YELLING AGAIN AT WHOEVER MIGHT BE READING HER FOR NO REASON AT ALL! I'd be okay if Pollak DID see it, but deep down I know he won't. So I ain't writing this for him, I'm writing it for me. I'm the Harry Knowles of Web Content. Well, not really, but if Justine Ezarik can call herself The Internet, I can call myself the Harry Knowles of Web Content. Dammit.
On second thought, maybe it's best if Kevin Pollak never sees this.

So why am I doing this if I do not anticipate my input ever being considered on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show, even though he says repeatedly that he wants input from his viewers in order to improve his show? Well I just don't believe in shit like that. I used to. Back when I still voted in elections, which wasn't too long ago. I don't do that anymore. I need something now and then to talk about on my "blog." This topic interests me. So there you go. This is the difference between making web content that might actually be successful and making web content that keeps one from going crazy and wearing tinfoil hats with potato salad inside them. Idle hands may not be the devil's workshop but they're what caused Britney Spears to go bald awhile back, if you catch my drift.

Why am I doing this? I need something to put on my Blog, which you are reading now. And let me be clear I have NEVER been satisfied with the word "blog." I come from The Old Days back in 1997 when we used to call them Online Diaries. I was a diarist. I still am a diarist. No one calls me that. Well, actually I'm not a diarist anymore because I don't really write about my personal life. That was a phase I went through over a decade ago now, when I was getting a divorce and my Dad passed away and a psychiatrist told me I was going through a midlife crisis twenty or thirty years before most people do. I went to him because I suffered from depression. His answer? "Dude, if you weren't depressed with your life, THEN I'd think there was something wrong with you!" So I got all better. My life's incredibly boring now and I don't talk about it online if I can help it - or unless it's funny.

I fancied myself a journaller for a time, not to be confused with journalist, which is actually a word... I digress. I'm not a blogger, or a bloggist. This is not a blog, but that's what the kids call it nowadays and so I'm stuck with that. Lewis Black won't ever look at what I do here solely because he thinks the word blog sounds like a medical issue that requires minor surgery. I had an umbilical hernia back in March and let me tell you - THAT was a blog! It hurt too! ...I digressed again, didn't I? Where were we? Oh! Kevin Pollak! And RIGHT THERE! I almost added a C again, and that's after several hours of sleep. Why do I keep wanting to put a C before the K there? I don't know what's wrong with my fingers today. Which reminds me. Felicia Day? Sweetheart? Apple of my eye? Queen of my Internets? When someone asks you "two fingers or touch type?" they are not talking about sexual excapades. Let's try "chicken pecking at the keyboard or do you actually know how to type?" I actually know how to type. Last time I checked it was 77wpm so when I add a C to a Pollak, it happens faster than I can think.

Kevin Pollak has a problem similar to my problem with the word "blog." He wants everyone to use the word "Intervision" instead of the phrase "Web TV." I understand. Everyone would like to be the one to coin a phrase. However, one cannot explode onto the scene as a celebrity years after the scene has already been and change the name. ...Well. You CAN. I don't recommend it. Kevin Pollak asked everyone watching his show to consider Intervision..

"INTERVISION! Give it a test drive. See how you feel."

I slept on it. I don't like it. I'm driving it around. Trying to use it in every day online talk. I feel like a douche saying it and I'll tell you why. Television's abbreviation is TV. So that means InterVision's abbreviation must be IV. IV is short for intravenous. It's also the roman numeral four. It's also a girls name (Ivy). IV is already busy enough. It doesn't need InterVision to come along and make its life harder. InterVision also reminds me of IntelliVision, which was a short-lived gaming platform that got beat out by the Atari 2600 which, in hindsight I can't understand how that happened. Did I just show off my geek chops cuz I know all that? Anyway, InterVision hurts my head. I'm still trying to slosh it around in my mouth though. Maybe the aftertaste won't make me gag. Like expensive white wine - the kind that doesn't come out of a box. I like the kind that comes out of a box. Ironically that kind doesn't make me gag.

Kevin Pollak doesn't like the phrase Web Content. Why I'm not sure. As of this writing I've only so far experienced his interview with Felicia Day, and his introduction to his first episode, which may or may not still be online when you read this. I want to see the LeVar Burton interview but I also want to type this, so I'm torn. I'll finish the Burton interview after I'm done here. Pollak is bravely venturing into what is to him uncharted territory. The fact many of us have been wallowing in it for some time is not important to him, because he's not here with us. He's over there with him. He's like someone who can't swim wading into a public swimming pool for the first time, and we are trying not to look directly at him while we snicker - only the problem is he WANTS us to look directly at him. He has a CHAT show, for crying out loud! So his discomfort and embarrassment at venturing into this new medium is part of the charm of his show, only sometimes not quite in the way he intends it to be. His show is what he wants it to be, but what we see is not what he wants it to be. That's the beauty of *ahem* ...InterVision.

For example when he talks to his "people" off camera, it's amusing but not how he thinks. He's comparing it to Regis Philbin having a "Gelman" to boss around. I compare it more to Marie Antoinette asking for a cleaner guilotine. I mean when I make my little "show" and post it to YouTube, my "people" off camera consist of a puppet and another puppet. And the occasional cockroach. Point of fact I've written the puppets out of my on camera fiascos because the general public sees a puppet and expects the show to be cute and kid-friendly which is precisely what I was trying to avoid. So I dropped the puppets from my act. I don't HAVE any people. Point of fact I don't have an act, but that's not why I'm doing it.

So right there, when Kevin Pollak is self-conscious because he's "not ready" for a live show and the people who work for him are not getting him ready fast enough to satisfy him? ...That's so cute.

"And for the fifth time, We're Not Ready."

All this means he's not ready, or perhaps he's too ready. Perhaps while simultaneously criticizing mainstream media and Hollywood marketing with his rapier sharp tongue, he's also too spoiled in the baggage and trappings of that world to realize that when you're making Professional Web Content for The InterVision, YOU DON'T NEED ALL THAT SHIT. Hell, The Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show was made in a residential backyard on a budget of duct tape and thrift store visits. By the way, when Felicia Day mentioned The Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show to Kevin Pollak and he looked back at her like he was doing a William Shatner doubletake? That was telling. Not only does Kevin Pollak need to set his ass down in a chair and watch every seizure-inducing episode of Kim Evey's (okay AND Greg Benson's) awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping little series, he needs to beg her to be on an episode. He needs to EXPERIENCE what it's like to be a part of that, as Ron Jeremy and Wil Wheaton and Adam Arkin have experienced it. THEN he will know. THEN he will have been baptised in the sanctity of all this silliness. Failing that, he has a long way to go.

Another problem I'm having with his show is the shizophrenic nature of it. They're learning as they go. We're all learning as we go. That's not the problem. I'm trying to figure out if Kevin Pollak is trying to be Kevin Pollak, or if his impersonation skills are bleeding into his efforts to be a talk show host.

First off, the black backdrop and the table. You're on the Internet. Why not put a greenscreen behind you and then use all that technology off camera to put the interview wherever the hell you want? Even if you want the interview to be a black backdrop with a table, using greenscreen allows you to start there and then go elsewhere when the mood strikes. The decision to go with a black backdrop and a table is not thinking "INTERVISION." It's boob toob thinking, and last I checked we were in the 21st century.

This screams Charlie Rose to me. Whether on purpose or accidentally, Kevin Pollak is channeling a little Charlie Rose and I don't even know if he knows how to impersonate Charlie Rose. I think perhaps this is financially motivated. Of all the talk show backdrops that have worked in the history of video, Charlie Rose's set is the most ideal. It doesn't draw attention to itself. It's cheap. It brings eye focus to the interviewer and the interviewee ...and the table. That's all you want! However, it screams to me that Pollak doesn't have his own look and his own vision here. He's going with what works for others. I can also see a little Tom Snyder in the setup and in Pollak's delivery. Snyder was always ingratiating himself to his audience and it was lovable. He was also trying to prove he was on the cutting edge of technology and then he would describe the airwaves and broadcast signal as if he were a beatnik poet. I can see a little Bill Maher slipping into Pollak's presentation, especially in the format of the opening bits where he introduces himself. There's also some Larry King in the friendly yet immediate nature of the interview. The five tweets thing reminds me too much of Craig Kilborn's Five Questions, and I see a lot of Kilborn's greatest tragic mistake in his interview skills which Pollak needs to watch: narcisism. Kilborn always made his interviews about him. Compare that to Jon Stewart, who makes the interviews he does about both himself and his interviewee of the moment. That's a very subtle but very powerful difference. Why? Because Kilborn is now "Craig who?" And Stewart is not. That's why.

"Hit me with it. I'll throw in a little Shatner."

Some things he's doing right? Well I don't know if this is right but I think I like it. Pollak's on the wrong side of the screen. He's on the left. Left to right. Not ALL, but many interview shows put the interviewer on the right side of the screen, looking right to left at the subject. Why? I don't know why. There's probably marketing gurus who could go into detail, but if the subject of the interview is on the right side of the screen, this means the interview subject is looking right to left at the interviewer. From the perspective of a viewer, this means the interviewer is comfortable and the interviewee is not. Unless the viewer has spent a lifetime reading farsi, which as I understand it is written right to left on the printed page.

In the western hemisphere at least, left to right is comfortable for the viewer, and therefore when they see that its ..comforting. Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Charlie Rose, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Craig Kilborn, Jimmy Kimmel across the board you'll see the interviewer on the right. However, Bill Moyers? Not always on the right. Oprah Winfrey? Not always on the right. And if you wanna break new ground and stand out and be something different? Kevin Pollak's on the right track here. I think. Or he may just unnecessarily be making it appear to the audience that his interviews are tougher than they should be, because it feels like the interviewee has to struggle with the interview when really s/he is just sitting there not struggling. It's all a mind thing. Very unconscious.

Also, if you put Kevin Pollak's name on something, you want Kevin Pollak. So he can't NOT be who he is. I wanna see his impressions, but I understand this is a CHAT show. His impressions are not why we're here, but they are. It's great when he slips a little in here and there. That's fun. It's spice tho. Too much of that distracts from the interviewee. However, too little and the audience is disappointed. He's managed thus far (to my satisfaction but it's early yet) to match that delicate balance. That's commendable.

The actual interview with Felicia Day kind of spun my mind around a bit, which could be the intent. I know her story already. Picking Felicia Day's interview to watch first wasn't random. Of those Pollak has interviewed thus far, she was my first choice (LeVar Burton a close second). In hindsight, I should be picking the interview subjects I DON'T know, and perhaps there's a wealth of questions and answers to mine in the fact I am looking at Pollak's list of interviews and going for the familar (Day. Burton. Perry.) when I should be seeking unfamiliar territory (Mallick. Gallo. Brewster.) with which to expand my knowledge and horizons.

"It's not your daddy's show! That's right! I can look right down the barrel, baby!"

I'm a geek. I adore Felicia Day. She's MY Queen of the Internet for the moment and has been since The Guild (ijustine eat your heart out). However, Pollak had her entire life story in front of him and seemed a little, dare I say, intimidated? She has already been where he's now venturing to go. So to go back to the pool metaphor, he's standing there on the steps in the kiddie section wearing boxer shorts and armband floaties, and Day pops her head out from the deep end with a mermaid fish tail flapping playfully behind her telling him the water's fine! Dive in!

His questions attempted to stay on topic, with the playful left turn at Alberquerque's Cat Sanctuary. That was fun. However when he got into the meat of her message, he seemed a little distracted by all the goody - like a kid in a candy store. What to talk about first? This girl has generated twenty million hits over a few years. He's still in the thousands and he's thirsty for more but fears drowning - which is entirely possible. Producing a show like his, or hers, takes thousand of little decisions that have to be made and you have to make those decisions and stick to 'em and you fret and fume and worry. There's one little decision that can't be made inhouse because I think the answer for the people making it might be no, cuz they're not gonna want this, and Pollak's not gonna want this, but Pollak shouldn't be the only member of The Pollak Chat Show who is miked.

What makes Pollak's show intriguing to me isn't his guests or him, but in the process for which he's placed himself. Pollak's self-consciousness when he realizes LeVar Burton's been sitting off camera for ten minutes and no one has thought to mike him yet. THAT is for me, priceless entertainment that money can't buy and you're never gonna see on David Frikkin Letterman.

Granted, a real interview show SHOULD be about the interview. However, let's face it. Pollak has an ego bigger than Cleveland. This is NOT going to be about a great interviewer. It's going to be a meeting of minds. Pollak's a great magnificent subject in his own right. Are you kidding me? The man's got an idbm page as long as my arm! Get out! I've half a mind to say this web series should be about people like Day and Wil Wheaton and myself going on his show so we can sit there for an hour and ASK HIM QUESTIONS. No. This ain't Charlie Rose. Nor should it be.

"I'll do this into my camera... Literally, MY camera."

Pollak's distractions with the nuts and bolts of making the show as the show is happening - I'm finding that just as - if not more - interesting. Pollak wants the show to be professional. He wants it to be able to compete with mainstream, so he wants it like mainstream and yet better. However the truth of the matter is what makes a show off the mainstream better than mainstream is that it is decidedly not mainstream and you have to embrace that.

His people shouldn't be his people. They should be our people: a part of the show. When he cuts to them, they should be able to turn their mike on and respond. If this is really more than just Kevin Pollak's chat show, then we should hear the "little people" making him look big. So he stops looking like Marie Antoinette asking for a cleaner guilotine.

No man is an island. Pollak, a man who has made a living being other people for laughs, should know that better than anybody.

. . .

Oh. And one more thing? I'm adding this at the bottom after having seen Kevin Pollak interview Mr. LeVar Burton. He AGREES with me! In the very first interview of this series, when Pollak was forced to admit several times "we're not ready" Mr. Burton in the amazing and prolific and poetic way that only he can illuminate so uniquely, underlined the importance of the people behind the scenes scrambling to put together Mr. Pollak's show not just because he's their boss but because they're his friends and they love the stuffings out of him - even though he probably pisses them off on a daily basis.

What really makes this show fun, is the stuff we ain't seeing! The stuff they are trying to hide from the camera is precisely what separates InterVision from the unevolved apes that have run TeleVision into the ground. We don't want Reality TV. We want Real TV. That's what InterVision has the potential to become.

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