Call For Help - Back on G4 in the US
When I moved to Boise about 2 and a half years ago we got cable (previously we went without TV or had rabbit ear reception) and for the first time I was exposed to a great network, TechTV. It was awesome, they had live shows offering tech help and fresh daily news (The Screen Savers, Call For Help), plus shows about video games (X-Play) and Internet Culture (Unscrewed) and other shows that were of general interest to techies (Nerd Nation, Invent This, etc.).
Call For Help and The Screen Savers were especially my favorite. CFH aired during my lunch hour, and it was low level enough where my wife wouldn't mind watching it with me, and every week they would have a Photoshop segment with PS guru Alex Lindsay from Pixel Corps. Host Leo Laporte was just amazing at helping people, and on the fly being able to explain tech to live callers.
Unfortunately TechTV was sold off to evil Comcast, which joined the successful TechTV with it's failing station G4 - a station devoted to video games - to form G4TechTV. And to make a long story semi-short... Immediately a number of shows were canceled from both TechTV and G4 (a necessity for combining two stations) - Call For Help was included in this group. TechTV moved it's filming from San Francisco to Los Angeles, The Screen Savers had its format changed... and after months of decline in quality Comcast thankfully dropped "TechTV" from the station's name and it returned back to plain old G4. TSS became Attack Of The Show and I pretty much stopped watching G4 altogether.
At some point after that, Leo was approach by TechTV Canada (different from the US station that was sold to Comcast) and was told something like "CFH is one of our most successful shows, we have a budget to produce CFH if you do it in Canada with a Canadian crew". And so Call For Help 2.0 was born.
It wasn't until about 2 months ago when I found a nice site to get CFH2.0 episodes via BitTorrent. But now I watch it on a regular basis. In some ways it's better than before, I really like the new co-hosts Amber and Andy, and the show still gets visits from Photoshop guy Alex Lindsay - as well as Excel segments from Mr. Excel.
But in other ways its not as good. Because Leo lives in California with his family, and the show is taped in Canada, they don't do live daily filming's any more. Instead they film it like a game show, where they record once a whole month, filming 15 episodes in just 4 days. So they can't do daily news segments, and when they do refer to something "new" or "just breaking", it is usually days or weeks old. Combine this with the fact that I am getting the shows off of BitTorrent, which means there is a delay from when they air to when they get put on-line (Note: Big network shows like Alias and Lost will appear on BitTorrent sites within hours, CFH episodes appear to take days, and are somewhat sporadic) - and then there might be an extra delay from when actually I watch the show (I have 5 episodes downloaded that I haven't watched yet). This week I had the worst experienced delay to date. I was watching Episode 236 which had an original air date of August 19th (I was watching it on August 29th) and there was a segment showing off the "new" iTunes 4.9 that "just came out" - a product that had been released on June 28th! This is an example of how "off" things can be.
But that wouldn't make me not suggest others to watch it. Not at all, I highly suggest the show.
Now as of this past Monday, August 29th, G4 here in the states has started airing the Canadian version of CFH on their station. So now I have the choice to get it on the TV or to continue to download via BitTorrent. For the heck of it I decided to setup my DVR to record CFH, but unfortunately the G4 guide has not been updated to show the new schedule.
But even still, I have adopted the lifestyle of watching CFH, in a window on my screen while I work - commercial free. I have had a big shift in my life from listening solely to music while I work, to getting a variety of Podcasts and Vidcasts (what they refer to as IPTV - Internet Protocol TV) and indulging in tech while I work. I no longer want to be on the couch while I watch my Tech. I like being able to immediate try out a new Excel tip, or visit the site of a free software application that was reviewed. I can even accept that the show is delayed an extra week.
IPTV is supposed to be the next big thing. Over the past several months Podcasts and Vidcasts are gaining huge popularity. Plus the practice of downloading network shows from the Internet is wide scale being down by 1000's if not 10's of 1000's (100's maybe). Leo once commented in an interview that TiVo paved the way for users to be "OK" with not watching shows at their actual airtime - that society has gotten used to subscribing to content, and then watching it on their own terms. This is exactly what Podcasts and Vidcasts are all about.
I think as more and more home entertainment systems become integrated with the home computer this will really take off and be widespread. I currently used a networked notebook to output video from my home office desktop to our TV. The setup works great for content I want to watch on the TV. I know a family nearby where their computer monitor is their TV. And then, like I said, there is a great deal of content that I prefer to consume on my computer, and not on the couch - which is perfect for IPTV.
So in closing (something that must be said at the end of such a long post with random loosely coupled ramblings), I am glad Call For Help is back on in the US, hopefully it continues to do well (I hear their US time slot sucks) - but as for me I am going to sick with my downloadable versions of the show. I plan on setting up a recording schedule on my DVR for the show, just to give them some stats (I assume that recording the show with my DVR helps them - do I need to actually watch it?).