Thursday, September 26, 2013

Studio tries to trademark ‘Dorothy,’ other public-domain Oz characters

My 7-year-old daughter got a Wizard of Oz toy with her McDonald’s Happy Meal the other day and I was shocked to see that Dorothy and other Oz characters were listed as trademarked.
The toys are to promote the Oct. 1 release of the musical “The Wizard of Oz” on DVD. And while that film is copyrighted, the characters from the original 1900 story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum are in the public domain. As such, artists, theater companies and others are free to produce versions of the original work.
Baum’s classic story included all the main characters used in the 1939 MGM movie starring Judy Garland. That movie is now owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Entertainment Co., both units of media conglomerate Time Warner.
The lawyers at Time Warner will make the case that how the characters look in their version of the story is copyrighted, such as Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers. (In the original book they were silver shoes.) But there’s no way they can trademark the names Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.
Those characters belong to everyone now because they are a part of the public domain.
It’s distressing to see the big TM trademark symbol next to their character names on the toys themselves and on McDonald’s Happy Meal website.

Art: Screenshots from the McDonald’s Happy Meal website showing the trademarked toys. Click photos for larger view.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lego ‘Gold Rush’ diorama

My son, Christopher, and I made a Lego diorama of the Discovery Channel series “Gold Rush.”
As readers of this blog know, we like making Lego dioramas of reality TV series. Most recently we did one on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”
The top photo shows Todd Hoffman panning for gold with crew member Dave Turin holding a gold bar and a giant gold nugget.
The photos below show the Hoffman mining operation and the wash plant or sluice at work.
Discovery Channel says season four of “Gold Rush” is “coming soon.”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was wrong about financial crisis documentaries

Netflix makes a big deal about how carefully it picks movies and other content for its subscription streaming video service.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings likes to say his company into a “curator of select programming,” including its own original series and specials.
In a manifesto on the future of television, called “Netflix Long Term View,” Hastings wrote that the company would select a wide variety of content and he offered a very specific example.
“As we’ve gained experience, we’ve realized that the 20th documentary about the financial crisis will mostly just take away viewing from the other 19 such docs, and instead of trying to have everything, we should strive to have the best in each category,” Hastings wrote. “As such, we are actively curating our service rather than carrying as many titles as we can.”
But it turns out that Hastings was wrong. There’s always room for another documentary about the financial crisis of 2008.
On Monday, a feature-length documentary on the financial crisis focused on then U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will begin streaming exclusively on Netflix. “Hank: Five Years From the Brink” was produced by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Related stories: 

To Recount the Financial Implosion, a Magazine Turns to Film. (New York Times; Sept. 8, 2013)

Editor’s Letter: Five Years From the Brink. (Bloomberg Businessweek; Sept. 12, 2013)

Image: Poster from “Hank: Five Years From the Brink.” 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

‘Do No Harm,’ ‘666 Park Avenue’ get fitting endings

Summer is often when broadcast television networks burn off episodes of cancelled TV shows.
On Saturday, NBC finished the 13-episode run of “Do No Harm,” a modern take on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The show was canceled in February after just two episodes aired. The premiere was the lowest-rated in-season broadcast scripted series debut in modern history, EW reported.
I caught up on the show when NBC aired the remaining episodes starting in June.
“Do No Harm” was an interesting failure. I enjoyed the intellectual aspects of the struggle between Dr. Jason Cole and Ian Price, the two alternate personalities of the character played by Steven Pasquale. But the show lacked a sense of fun. And I didn’t find the evil side of Pasquale’s character to be very entertaining.
Still, the show kept my interest and I found the twist ending quite satisfying.
ABC’s supernatural drama “666 Park Avenue” ended its 13-episode run in mid-July. The haunted condo series suffered from meandering plot lines, cheesy special effects and pulled punches. It needed to be much scarier to work. Being on broadcast TV didn’t help it any. Compared with FX channel’s superior “American Horror Story,” “666 Park Avenue” was tame.
But I still enjoyed “666 Park Avenue” and appreciated the finale, which reminded me of “Rosemary’s Baby.”
While ABC aired the final episodes of “666 Park Avenue,” it didn’t extend the same courtesy to edgy sitcom “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.” It canceled the show after airing 11 episodes of its second season. Eight remaining episodes remain unaired, although it did post them to and Hulu for a time. The episodes are still available for purchase from Apple’s iTunes.


“Do No Harm” page on Wikipedia.
NBC’s official “Do No Harm” website.
“666 Park Avenue” page on Wikipedia.
“Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23” page on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Samsung smartwatch evokes James Bond gadgets, without the lasers

Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch reminds quite a few people of the wristwatch gadgets used by secret agent James Bond in the long-running movie series.
Samsung unveiled the $299 smartwatch on Wednesday. The Galaxy Gear watch wirelessly connects to a user’s Samsung smartphone to display text messages, emails, incoming phone data and other glanceable information. Users also can place and receive phone calls through the device and take photos and videos with a camera embedded in the wrist strap. The smartwatch even responds to voice commands to place calls or give the weather forecast.
Unfortunately Samsung’s smartwatch doesn’t include the metal-cutting lasers featured in several Bond watches. That will have to wait until Galaxy Gear 2, I guess.
What follows is a list of gadget watches used in the Bond film series.

From Russia with Love (1963)

A wristwatch from which a wire garrote can be drawn. Used by henchman Red Grant to strangle his victims. Bond turned the weapon against Grant in the film’s climax.

Thunderball (1965)

Breitling “Top Time” Diver Chronometer watch with built-in Geiger counter.

Live and Let Die (1973)

Rolex Submariner watch equipped with an electromagnet powerful enough to deflect a bullet. It also featured a spinning bezel that acts as a rotating saw, which enabled Bond to cut his rope restraints and escape a pool full of man-eating sharks.

Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Seiko Quartz watch with a built-in telex that allowed MI6 to send important messages to Bond, printing them out like a miniature teleprinter.

Moonraker (1979)

Seiko watch containing a remote detonator and explosive charge and fuse inside the back compartment.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Seiko watch capable of receiving digital message read-outs and containing a two-way radio-transmitter for voice communications.

Octopussy (1983)

Seiko watch with homing device tracker and ability to receive live video feeds from surveillance cameras.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Rolex wristwatch equipped with a small laser beam cutting tool.

GoldenEye (1995)

Omega Seamaster Professional wristwatch with built-in laser cutter and a remote detonator.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Omega Seamaster watch with a small, detachable charge that can be detonated by turning the watch’s dial.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Omega Seamaster watch containing a grappling hook with 50 feet of high-tensile micro-filament and a high intensity lighted bezel.

Die Another Day (2002)

Omega wristwatch with an explosive detonator and laser beam cutter.


List of James Bond gadgets (Wikipedia)

James Bond Watches (

The 50 Coolest Bond Gadgets (Complex; Nov. 8, 2012)

James Bond watch with Geiger counter sells for $160,000. (Reuters; June 27, 2013)

Omega watches: James Bond (Omega)

Photos (from top down): 
Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch with “wild orange” color band; 
Wristwatch with retractable garrote wire from “From Russia with Love”; 
Watch with remote video surveillance display from “Octopussy”; 
Laser-equipped watch from “Never Say Never Again” and;
Laser-equipped watch from “GoldenEye.”