- “I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for the day. . . . I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”
Newton N. Minow, FCC chairman (May 9, 1961)
An audience substantially lower than the supposed 20 million viewers that Al Gore’s new network Current supposedly reaches tuned in early Monday morning and witnessed what a network devoted to re-immortalizing Minow’s famous observation.
Current’s inauspicious debut, while probably only seen by close relatives of staff member and a few handfuls of the curious, bring to mind the early 80’s debut of MTV. Contrary to popular belief MTV was not an immediate hit – it’s early days were a mess of experimentation and awkwardness as MTV video jockeys (mostly former radio DJ’s) struggled to learn a new format. MTV had one big advantage over the new Current, people actually wanted to see music video while no one is clamoring to see a 5 minute video about a young couple having a baby (their family excepted), thinking about suicide, or other such nonsense.
In the interest of television history I logged as much of the first hour as I could stomach – which wasn’t too much.
The fist thing you notice is the hosts, they’re young, preachy, and entirely too excited about the significance of any of the America’s Unfunniest Home Videos they’re about to show you. The videottes have something in the lower left part of the screen which looks like a mini-TiVo timeline or camcorder timer. As near as I can tell the progress bar is there to let you know how long your misery will last before one of the slicky boy VJ’s get all up in your grill from a bizarre camera angle again. When the hosts come back on telling you how wonderful the whiny video you just saw was they’ll also remind you how cool they are for being on Current, and how cool you are for watching. Of course they’re blogging their coolness…
The centerpiece of the network is something called, I kid you not, Google Current which purports to let you know about trends real time. The host of that segment is perhaps the networks version of Martha Quinn, Kinga Philipps (picture 1, 2). If the editions of Google Current I saw are any indication the network showpiece is in serious trouble. The top 10 “revolutions”? They give you top searches for terms or concepts no one is really searching for.
Current is a big giant mess of viewer contributed content only slightly more entertaining that a test pattern, but they’ve got a long way to go even to rise to the level of an infomercials. At 2:00am when the TiVo service information download started and the tuner changed to a blank channel I was, frankly, relieved…