Dig Dugging Into a Cultural Phenomenon Do you remember the global love affair with a certain pellet-chomping yellow lady? Or toting sacks of quarters to the local video arcade? Did the Atari 2600 serve you endless hours of family room fun through games like "Pitfall" and "Space Invaders?" If so, Discovery Channel’s 5-part special "Rise of the Videogame" (Nov 21, 8pm) is a must-see. In fact, it even provides insight to Xbox and PS3 adherents that have never heard of Intellivision. Beginning with a focus on the military-based provenance of video games and completed with a look at the virtual gaming worlds so prevalent today, the special—true to Discovery form—offers eye-opening information and history of the industry while featuring unsurpassed experts. There’s Atari (formerly a Time Warner subsidiary) founder Nolan Bushnell, for example, and the Russian creator of Tetris. "Video games, much like TV shows and movies, found a niche with people who like a good story, or want to step out [from reality] for a while," said exec prod Tracy Rudolph. "The technology speaks to multiple generations." Fascinatingly, the generation that pressed the initial play button is that which endured the Cold War. Military equipment provided the 1st notions, chips and technological wherewithal, and potential war imparted the catchy theme of combat around which the first games—and many conventional titles—are built. Key subsequent introductions include Nintendo’s Mario, perhaps the most famous video gaming character ever, sports games (ever heard of Madden?), and extremely popular role-playing games. Americans today long for immersion in all media, and video games have delivered with online game play and salient storylines. Check the holiday wish lists of friends and family members, and you’ll be reminded that millions continue to eat up video games like Ms. Pac-Man swallowed pellets. CH Worth a Look "Frank TV," Tues, 11pm, TBS. Frank Caliendo is the impressionist whose John Madden scored during TBS MLB playoff coverage. Like Caliendo, his impressions are low key and amiable, and there’s nothing like this on TV. A "Seinfeld" reunion in 2027 is the opening sketch. That clever premise allows Caliendo to prove his versatility. He plays all the Seinfeld characters well, except for Elaine. Still, the writing’s flat. Ironically, his Bill Clinton—usually an easy mark— isn’t great, but the sketch about a visit to the Clinton library is great for late night. And Caliendo’s non-partisan; he skewers Bush and Cheney, too. — "Baghdad Diary," Sat, 10pm, History. This fine piece of news video and home movies makes the war in Iraq an intimate experience. Despite its strengths, its stories cover the early days of Shock and Awe, material covered elsewhere earlier. Far more intimate, raw and immediate content can be found at History’s Web site, where anonymous U.S. soldiers in Iraq blog. The worth of the posts vary, but it’s great primary sourcing (http://www.history.com/minisites/bandofbloggers). – "50 Greatest TV Icons," Fri, 8pm, TV Land. Another countdown show, but done well by TVL and "Ent Weekly" and loaded with warm nostalgia mostly (Lassie, Lucci, J.R., Carson and Cosby, but Simon Cowell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?). Good pre-show buzz, leaking the list to select media outlets. SA

The Daily


Some Operators Ending QAM Video, Forcing IPTV Switch

While many consumers are choosing to drop traditional cable video service, a few operators, including Cable One and GCI, are giving them a push to IP video.

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