Ox Notes: January 6, 2009

If you were planning on getting a government rebate check to cover the cost of buying a converter box so that your old analog TV set will work after the switch to digital on February 17, act quickly: the program is running out of money.

HBO is working on an adaptation of the British comedy series Shameless. The first season of the British version is the only one available in US DVD format.

Dancing with the Stars cohost Samantha Harris has joined The Insider as a correspondent (thanks for the tip, Jen C). You can now stop watching The Insider.

The Chicago Tribune’s The Watcher blog has a handy list of shows debuting or returning in January.

A fascinating new series premiered last night on PBS. The Story of India is a six-part series that traces the history of Indian civilization, which has surprising ties to the West both culturally and linguistically. The show looks beautiful in HD, too.

The first hour of Superstars of Dance finished in third place in the Sunday night ratings, while the show moved in to first place during its second hour. It averaged just over 10 million viewers across both hours, but we’ll see if those numbers hold up in the coming weeks.

After watching last night’s episode, I’ve decided to bail on Superstars of Dance. There’s not enough content to justify the two-hour run time, and the editing of the dance numbers is so poor that it makes them hard to enjoy.

Take for example the Indian group bhangra dance. The routine lasted for 2 minutes 50 seconds. During that time, there were at least 49 different camera shots (I may have missed a few). That averages less than four seconds per shot.

With each cut, the angles changed drastically, from closeup to long shot to face to feet to group to individual to audience, and so on. It was impossible to get an overall sense of the dance. DwtS has quick-cuts, too, but that show almost always keeps the entire couple/group/individual in frame throughout the dance, so you really get a feel for the routine.

In addition to the contextually worthless shots of individual dancers’ faces and feet and the studio audience, the routine was occasionally shown from a viewpoint above or behind the dancers, even though the routine was choreographed for a front-seated studio audience. Why can’t we just see the performance from the studio audience’s perspective, the way the routine is choreographed?

During the longest continual shots (which were maybe ten seconds long), the camera moved from one side of the stage to the other, sometimes in the opposite direction of the dancers. That made it hard to get any sense of where the dancers were on stage or where they were going, and it made the choreography appear less impressive. Again, why can’t we just watch the performances the way they were meant to be watched?

Superstars of Dance seems to be edited for people with exceptionally short attention spans (shorter than three minutes, evidently), for whom constant motion is more important than continuity — as if the constant motion of the dancers isn’t visually stimulating enough. I’m not one of those people, so I’m out.