Television

How ‘Twin Peaks’ Changed TV Forever, from ‘The X-Files’ to ‘Breaking Bad’

Arguably the greatest two hours of television aired on June 10, 1991, when ABC broadcast the finale to Twin Peaks’ second season—and, as it turned out, to the series as a whole. Having lost a hefty chunk of its viewership after revealing the culprit behind its initial mystery (Who Killed Laura Palmer?) and meandering through a subsequent narrative involving dull psychopath Windom Earle (Kenneth Walsh), the show closed out its run with a peerlessly surreal, convention-defying masterpiece courtesy of its co-creator, David Lynch. Back at the helm following a lengthy absence, Lynch thrust the show into a morass of dark, delirious, surrealistic madness, roundly dispatching with Earle and, at hallucinogenic fever dream’s end, having his protagonist, do-gooder FBI special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), become possessed by demonic evil. It was a cliffhanger send-off of astounding, perplexing terror and insanity—and, in the process, it paved the way for our current era of auteur-driven “prestige TV.”

No surprise, then, that Twin Peaks is being revived by Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, who’ve assembled most of the original cast for an 18-episode reboot, directed entirely by Lynch, premiering on Showtime beginning May 21. It’s a perfectly timed resurrection, given that the airwaves are now awash in shows that are spiritually, if not literally, indebted to Lynch’s TV masterpiece. From their visual daring, to their serialized whodunit narratives, to their distinctive directorial signatures, to their sprawling all-star casts, acclaimed series as varied as The Killing, The Knick, Mad Men, Fargo, Mr. Robot, and Breaking Bad all owe a debt to Twin Peaks, which illustrated the immense benefits of—and, to be fair, also the drawbacks to—giving visionary storytellers free reign to create an expansive small-screen world in which to operate.

At its best, Twin Peaks was like Days of Our Lives as filtered through a bad acid trip, and its trailblazing idiosyncrasy emerged immediately, with its two-hour pilot on Sunday, April 8, 1990. That debut focused on the discovery of the corpse of local teen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), and the start of an investigation carried out by Cooper alongside Twin Peaks sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean). Introducing a raft of wackadoo characters and their intertwined relationships, and full of sadistic murder and deviant sexual undertones, it was part murder mystery, part soap opera, and part eerie waking dream. As a tale about the strangeness, and ugliness, lurking beneath the cheery facade of every day American life, it resonated as a successor to Lynch’s own 1986 noir thriller Blue Velvet. And it became an instant phenomenon, notching the 1989-1990 season’s highest ratings for a TV…

Sony XBR-65X900E 4K TV Review – Great Pictures Without Breaking The Bank

13 Winning American Architecture Prize Designs

Unlike one or two other brands I could mention, Sony’s TV division actually seems to be listening to consumers these days.

For instance, after getting widely criticized last year for including poor-contrast IPS panels in its TV range, this year Sony’s range is an IPS-free zone. Even better, someone at Sony seems to have noticed that many TV reviewers (myself included) have come to believe that LCD TVs that use direct LED lighting, where the lights are placed directly behind the screen, are better placed to deliver a good high dynamic range picture than TVs that use LEDs placed around the picture’s edges.

In fact, Sony’s new X900E range (known as the XE9005 range in the UK) goes further than just using a direct LED lighting system; it also offers local dimming, where 20 separate LED zones can output different light levels independently of each other, to suit the demands of the picture.

The Sony 65X900E.

The Sony 65X900E.

Admittedly 20 is far from a ground-breaking number of dimming zones by today’s standards. But it’s better than nothing and, as we’ll see, it’s enough to help the 65-inch 65X900E we’re looking at here deliver a mostly very impressive picture.

As you’d expect these days, the 65X900E partners its direct-lighting with high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities and a native 4K resolution, while picture processing comes courtesy of Sony’s previously impressive X1 chipset.

Processing power

This chipset is not as powerful as the X1 Extreme one found in Sony’s step-up X930E, Z9D and OLED A1E models; it doesn’t carry a dual database system for improved HD-to-4K upscaling, and can’t have Dolby Vision HDR support added via a future firmware update. It’s still, though, got more going on than most TV processing systems.

In particular, it drives the local dimming system; Sony’s Triluminos technology for delivering a wider and more subtle color range; and Sony’s Super Bit Mapping feature for tackling HDR color banding problems.

The Sony 65XE900.

The Sony 65X900E.

As with all Sony’s mid-range and high-end TVs these days, the 65X900E’s smart features are delivered by Google’s Android TV platform. I’m no fan of Android TV for reasons detailed in this separate review of the platform. But it does run more stably and more quickly than it did when it first appeared, and it certainly carries a lot of content. Even if much of that content is pretty much pointless.

Fortunately Sony has sought to work round some of Android’s failings. You get full support for 4K HDR Amazon Video streaming as well as Netflix, while UK users will be pleased to find that Sony has drafted in the YouView platform to deliver the catch-up TV services for the main BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Channel 5 broadcasters.

Picture Quality

Firing the 65X900E into action with the best picture source available, a selection of Ultra HD Blu-rays, I initially felt slightly disappointed by what I was seeing. Why? Because the 65X900E’s pictures look much less bright than those of Sony’s step-up 55X930E.

Test measurements reveal the 65X900E managing around 880 nits of light output on a 10% white HDR window, versus the 55X930E’s huge 1450 nits.

To be clear, 875 nits is not actually a bad effort for a 65-inch 4K HDR TV available for $2,300 (or £2,300). But anyone hoping that the X900E range might deliver essentially the same HDR-friendly brightness as the X930E range but from a direct lighting system needs to readjust their expectations.

Sony 65X900E Stand detail.

Sony 65X900E stand detail.

Provided you’re willing to do that, though, the 65X900E is actually a pretty great TV for its money.

Pushing it hard with HDR shots containing bright objects against very dark backdrops, for instance, reveals both impressively deep black levels for LCD technology and, for the most part, fairly tame backlight clouding.

To be clear, faint backlight haloing can appear for a good few centimeters around the most extreme bright highlights (there are only 20 dimming zones, after all). Occasionally, too, this light blooming distractingly encroaches into the black bars you get above and below very wide aspect ratio images, and it also becomes far more pronounced…

Bicycle Company Disguises Their Shipments As Flat Screen TVs To Avoid Shipping Damage

It must be really frustrating to ship a product which the delivery companies see as unbreakable because they stop handling your package with care and therefore make you look bad to your customers.

So in order to make sure their shipments arrived unmarred the VanMoof cycling company of Amsterdam created a decoy box that makes the shipping companies think there’s a flat screen TV inside.

Sorry, Zuck: AR & VR won’t replace TVs or phones

Last week’s F8 conference is still generating a boatload of excitement, especially over CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of an era without smartphones or televisions. While Zuck is right to believe AR and VR will have an important place in tomorrow’s ecosystem, he may be missing where their replacement value will be. Even worse (and this is uniquely ironic, coming from the world’s largest social network), Facebook is completely missing the intrinsic social need that drives adoption of most high tech products.

The numbers behind virtual reality don’t add up

Zuckerberg hinted at his vision for a post-iPhone, post-TV future by unveiling Facebook’s plans for augmented reality at F8 and was even more explicit in an interview with USA Today, saying, “We don’t need a physical TV. We can buy a $1 app ‘TV’ and put it on the wall and watch it.”

“We all want glasses or eventually contact lenses that look and feel normal but let us overlay all kinds of information and digital objects on top of the real world,” he explained at the keynote, which I was fortunate enough to attend. But while everyone in the audience around me nodded enthusiastically, I squirmed in my chair, resisting the urge to facepalm. There’s little to no evidence many people want augmented reality glasses (let alone contacts!), and copious evidence to the contrary. Consider:

To be sure, Samsung Gear VR, which uses Oculus technology, is doing fairly well. However, many of its 5 million+ shipped units were given away for free, and 5 million is still a fraction of the 100 million or so Samsung smartphones the headset was designed to work with. While Snapchat Spectacles attracted much initial buzz, it’s way too early to know if they actually attract mass market sales. (And being sunglasses, they are explicitly designed for a narrow range of use cases — mainly, while outside — and aren’t ready…

Accenture: Preference for watching TV shows on televisions plummets from 52% to 23% as PCs take over

The percentage of people who prefer watching TV shows on televisions plummeted 55 percent from 52 percent to 23 percent in the past year, according a survey by Accenture.

Laptops and desktops have overtaken TVs as the preferred devices for watching TV shows, according to Accenture’s 2017 Digital Consumer Survey. That’s an astounding change in sentiment in just one year, and it reflects a years-long trend toward digital “anytime, anywhere” viewing. Accenture released the survey at the start of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas.

Above: TV show watching on TVs has plummeted.

The global online survey of 26,000 consumers in 26 countries revealed that consumers increasingly prefer to watch TV shows on devices such as laptop and desktop personal computers and smartphones. More than four in 10 consumers (42 percent) said they would rather view TV shows on a laptop or desktop, up from 32 percent in last year’s survey. 13 percent said they prefer watching TV shows on their smartphones, compared with 10 percent last year.

The decline in TV viewing over the past year is part of a four-year trend. As recently as 2014, the survey revealed that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of consumers preferred the TV set for viewing TV shows.

Above: Computers have overtaken TVs for watching TV shows..

The most-recent findings show that only one in five consumers (19 percent) now prefer to watch sports games on their TVs, down…

How to Get HD TV Channels for Free (Without Paying for Cable)

Remember TV antennas? Well, they still exist. A digital TV antenna allows you to watch local TV stations for free, all without paying a dime to a cable provider.

We’ve talked about cutting the cord by relying on Internet services, but this is yet another way to cut that TV bill and get more content to watch. Follow along as we run you through not only which antenna to buy and the differences between them, but also which local channels you can receive based on where you live, and how strong of a signal you can get in the first place.

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Discover Your Local Channels and Their Signal Strength

To find out which TV channels you can get over the air for free, we recommend visiting a site called TV Fool and using their signal locator tool. Simply enter your address and click on “Find Local Channels”.

Give it a few moments to load the next page. Once it loads, you’ll see what looks like a round diagram with various lines inside, as well as a list of channels off to the right, highlighted in different colors.

It can be a bit daunting trying to figure out what it all means, but the only thing you really need to pay the most attention to is the circular diagram. The lines you see are in various lengths, and each line represents a channel. The longer a line is and the closer it is to the center of the bullseye, the better the signal is for that channel based on your location.

The direction of the lines are important as well. The diagram’s cross represents north, south, east, and west. As you can see from my diagram above, most of the broadcast signals are coming from the northeast, which means I should ideally place my antenna in the northeast corner of my house so that I can get the best signal possible. (More on antenna selection in a moment.)

From the list of channels on the right-hand side, you really only need to focus on the distance of the broadcasts signals, which tells you how far away they are.

Since many of the signals that I can get are fairly close to my location (only 5-10 miles away), placement of my antenna isn’t super critical. However, if your broadcast signals are farther away, you’ll need to pay extra close attention to where and how you place your antenna.

TV Fool gives you a rough idea on this by using colors to highlight which channels you’ll easily receive and which ones would be more difficult. Channels in green are channels that you could get with a basic TV antenna, while channels highlighted in yellow and red will need a more powerful antenna and strategic placement.

The Different Types of Antennas

Which type of antenna you purchase largely depends on the information that you gathered from above diagram, and different antennas are available depending on how far away you are from the broadcast signals.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Antennas

Not all TV antennas are weatherproof, and many cheaper ones are only meant to be placed indoors. If broadcast signals are relatively easy to come by in your area, then you’re probably fine getting an indoor antenna.

If some of the broadcast signals are farther away, though, an indoor antenna may not be powerful enough. For that, you’ll need an outdoor antenna, built to take the grunt that mother nature provides, and reach much farther. Outdoor antennas are almost always more reliable, though they take a bit more work to set up.

Directional vs. Multi-Directional Antennas

You’ll also want to consider whether the antenna you get is directional (also called uni-directional) or multi-directional (also called omni-directional). As you can guess, directional antennas grab a signal from a single direction, while multi-directional antennas can fetch signals coming from any direction.

Multi-directional antennas are more convenient, but have a significant downside: their range is usually much weaker than directional antennas, which can put all of…