Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Internet

I am fascinated with the brave new world of internet and Word Wide Web discourse. I am fascinated by it because it reveals so much about humans these day, not all of it, perhaps most of it, not very kind I am sorry to say. Take Miles from Nowhere's review post of the Downton Abbey series 1 DVD in February 2011 on Amazon.com:
"EDIT: I am revising my post and giving this 5 Stars instead of one as PartlyCloudy has kindly pointed out that my review of the PBS version has ended up under the "UK version". There is much confusion out there since the infamous Daily Mail article claimed that a full two hours of the original ITV series had been cut by PBS. Many claim the cuts are minor and unnoticeable. I'd venture to guess that about 35 minutes were edited out of the original, but more importantly, it was a hack job and many scenes do not play out as intended. Below is my slightly revised review of the PBS version which you should avoid at all costs:
Do not buy the so-called "dumbed down" PBS version of the outstanding British ITV series Downton Abbey. We watched the entire series with great joy while in the UK last year, and after excitedly telling our American friends to watch Downton Abbey on PBS, my husband and I looked at each other in horror and confusion as we watched one butchered scene after another. Don't be misled by those who recalculate the running time to account for the removal of commercials (from the ITV version) or the reformatting to shorten the series by increasing episode length (7 episodes in the UK, 4 longer episodes in the US). The fact is, SCENES WERE OMITTED AND OR TRUNCATED because as PBS Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton shamefully admitted, "American audiences demand a `different speed' to their shows." She also claimed that American audiences would have trouble understanding the complicated inheritance issues. Wow. This is an extraordinary admission from a PBS executive. Don't people turn to PBS for an intelligent alternative to the idiocy of American commercial television? I submit it is Rebecca Eaton who is dumb, not the PBS viewership.
There is apparently a Region 2 version of the unedited ITV series on Amazon (EDIT: and now we see there is an "unedited UK" version provided by PBS though I have not seen it and cannot attest that it's the actual ITV version), so just check your tech specs before buying or search elsewhere. And for the much anticipated season two of Downton Abbey when it premieres later this year, get a UK VPN and stream it from the ITV Player. Each episode remains available for streaming for several weeks after it airs. Note: Many inadvertently refer to this as a BBC series. It is in fact an ITV production.
Shame, shame, shame on Rebecca Eaton and PBS."

The problem with Miles from Nowhere's review post is that significant chunks of it are quite simply inaccurate, something which hasn't stopped most of those in the discussion thread it initiated believing what he or she wrote. What Miles from Nowhere's "research" has turned up is false and a bit more research on his or her part would have shown that it is false. First, all the Downton DVD's released by PBS in the US are the "original UK versions" (a mistake Miles corrects in a postscript added to the top of his "review").

Second, there were a few minor cuts made in Downton series one when it was broadcast on PBS. A significant proportion of these cuts involved the beginning credit sequence of the second episode, since an ITV episode and a half were stitched together for the series one PBS broadcast (see the Jace Lacob essay noted below) of Downton.

Third, the Daily Mail, aka, the Daily Fail, piece on the missing 120 minutes from Downton is utter fiction. If you want the real story read Jace Lacob's trashing of that fictional essay published in the moronic Mail, a newspaper whose target demographics appear to be the gullible and the xenophobic, an oxymoron I realise. It is right wing and knee jerkingly anti-BBC, after all.

Finally, I don't know what to say as there is so much that is inaccurate in Miles's comments. No I do know what to say, these inaccuracies could have been avoided simply by doing a bit of online research or by simply doing the math, by, in other words, adding together the total number of minutes of the PBS broadcast and comparing it to the total number of minutes of the ITV broadcast as listed on IMDb. This is not rocket science.

But hey, don't let me stop you from buying the Universal Playback Region 2 DVD even if it is exactly the same as the region 1 PBS version in terms of Downton Abbey content. The only difference between the two, by the way, is that there are commentaries by series creator Julian Fellowes on the UK version. If you buy the UK version don't forget to bring an all region DVD player.

And you gullible out there in Amazon tabloid land, don't forget to apologise to PBS and Rebecca Easton for swallowing the tripe the Daily Fail publishes...

And then there is TKO Tom who, in the same discussion thread on February 2013, offers a post that is full of inaccuracies as well:
"The BBC stands for British Broadcasting Company which is where the series originates (The United Kingdom). ITV is the name of the production company that distributes the series. SO- It is both!"

In actuality the BBC and ITV are television networks. The BBC is a public network. ITV is a commercial network that initially consisted of a number of regional license holders (LWT, Thames, ABC). ITV (now ITV 1) when it came on the air in 1955. Over the years ITV has broadcast The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Saint, The Prisoner, Upstairs Downstairs, The Naked Civil Servant (the first ITV show to be rebroadcast on the Beeb), Brideshead Revisited, Downton Abbey (Carnival, NBC Universal), Morse, Lewis, Mr. Selfridge, and The Bletchley Circle. Even an itty bitty bit of research online would have revealed these simple facts to TKO Tom if had just let his fingers do a little bit of typing on Google.

I really don't know what to make of the lack of research skills and the gullibility revealed in large quantities online in an era when research is so much easier than it was in the days before the internet and the World Wide Web, an era I know well. Is it the Michelle Rhee School of Education which treats students as automatons that need to be programmed solely for how to take a test but not how to think critically and do research? Is it a end product of a dumbing down process brought to us by the internet and the World Wide Web? Or is it simply a continuation of what we have seen in humans in the past, that tendency for humans to be lazy, physically and intellectually, that tendency of humans for to be one is born every minute suckers, and that tendency of humans not to think critically because they really aren't taught to think critically? They can't think critically? You tell me.

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