Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Feverish TV trend: Disease outbreak shows

At least five TV shows are airing or in production that attempt to portray somewhat realistic outbreaks of deadly diseases.
It’s a hot new trend for the entertainment medium.
In April, I posted a list of the best-reviewed disease outbreak movies and documentaries. My list included only those films going for relative realism, not ones about zombies or diseases from outer space.
What follows is a list of TV shows about disease outbreaks using the same criteria.


On Thursday, Netflix will premiere a new series called “Between.”
It’s a Canadian drama in which a mysterious disease kills every resident of a small town over the age of 21. The government quarantines the young survivors who must fend for themselves. The first season consists of six one-hour episodes. (See articles on Metacritic and Wikipedia.)

The Last Ship

The second season of “The Last Ship” will premiere on June 21 on TNT.
“The Last Ship” takes place after a global viral pandemic wipes out over 80% of the world’s population. The show centers on the crew of an unaffected U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer.


“Containment” is an upcoming series for the CW based on the Belgian TV series “Cordon.” It will air as a midseason replacement, most likely premiering in January or February next year.
“Containment” is a drama revolving around a flu-like epidemic that breaks out in Atlanta, leaving some people stuck in a city quarantine zone.

The Day After

Hulu is currently streaming a Russian TV drama called “The Day After” (or “Vyzhit posle”).
“In an attempt to create a new race of perfect humans – a drug company unleashes what turns out to be a deadly virus. Now as thousands are killed in Moscow, it’s up to 11 individuals to figure out the future of mankind,” the synopsis says.

The Hot Zone

Producer Lynda Obst and director-producer Ridley Scott are developing a mini-series about the Ebola virus based on Richard Preston’s 1994 nonfiction best-seller “The Hot Zone.”
The story likely will be update with information from last year’s deadly Ebola outbreak in Africa.
(See articles by the Hollywood Reporter and io9.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Best bets for upcoming TV shows: Blindspot, Containment, The Muppets

When it comes to TV shows, I like ones that surprise me. That explains why I prefer science-fiction and fantasy programs to police procedurals and lawyer dramas. Too many shows on television today have a been-there-done-that feel to them.
After previewing shows for the summer and fall TV seasons, I have selected a few that I think have a shot at making my must-watch list. My initial impressions are based on watching trailers and reading synopses and media reports.
Those shows are: “Blindspot” (NBC), “Containment” (CW), “The Expanse” (Syfy), “Fear the Walking Dead” (AMC), “Humans” (AMC) and “The Muppets” (ABC).
Some shows I currently watch likely will have to fall off my viewing list to accommodate them.
Here are the main shows now on my viewing list:

12 Monkeys (Syfy)
The 100 (CW)
Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
Dig (USA Network)
Extant (CBS)
Falling Skies (TNT)
Hannibal (NBC)
High Profits (CNN)
Homeland (Showtime)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Gold Rush: Alaska (Discovery)
iZombie (CW)
The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
The Last Ship (TNT)
Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC)
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
Orphan Black (BBC America)
The Strain (FX)
Supernatural (CW)
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Z Nation (Syfy)

Thankfully, they’re spaced out by different seasons.

Photo: Production photo from the NBC series “Blindspot”; promotional art for “The Muppets.” 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Electronics recycling still much too difficult

Last weekend, a church in Great Falls, Va., held an electronics recycling event. There I was able to get rid of a trunk load of old PCs, peripherals and consumer electronics that had been cluttering up my home office.
I had been looking for a while for a way to properly dispose of the gadgets. I didn’t want the toxic metals they contain to end up in a landfill or the water supply.
Based on my difficulty in trying to find a responsible method of disposing of electronics, I am convinced that most people just dump old PCs, mobile phones and other devices in the garbage.
Frankly it’s too much of a hassle to get rid of old electronics today. You usually have to find a store like Best Buy that’s willing to accept your items and then find an employee who can take them off your hands. Some locations will only take a couple of items at a time and not all kinds of devices.
I’ve said before that the best solution is to have curbside recycling of electronics, just like we do today for paper, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel. That’s the only way to make it easy and convenient.
The group holding the recycling event, the St. Francis Episcopal Church’s J2A Youth Pilgrimage, sorted through the PCs and accessories for items that could be reused and had the rest disposed of in “an environmentally safe manner.”
A local company called Shred Station Express, a mobile recycling service, was on hand to collect computers and other electronics for destruction.
I was happy to make a donation to the church group for organizing the event.

Photo: My trunk load of PCs, monitors, accessories and consumer electronics.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Rise up, my Twitter followers

I’ve always found the notion of Twitter followers to be a little odd.
I can understand why celebrities, politicians and other public figures would have followers on Twitter. People want to hear what they have to say: their opinions, witticisms and asides.
But not little old me.
Sure, I’m a technology business journalist at a national newspaper, but I have a separate Twitter account for work (See @IBD_PSeitz).
My personal Twitter account (@PatrickSeitz) is basically me just retweeting tech and pop culture articles that I find interesting. I’ll occasionally make a comment about something in the news or about a TV show I like. But that’s about it.
The other day I passed 800 followers on Twitter. Some cult leaders don’t have that many followers.
I’ve got a few ideas about who a lot of my followers are.

1. Spammers and scammers

A lot of shady businesses lurk around Twitter trying to entice users to click on their weblinks. Sometimes they’ll mention your Twitter name in a tweet that shows up in your Notifications. Other times they’ll follow you, hoping you’ll check out their profile to learn more about them.
A review of my Twitter Faker Score on Status People shows that 52% of my followers are “good” active users. But 9% of my followers are “fake” and 39% are “inactive.”
In January 2014, Status People reported that 76% of my followers were “good,” 8% fakers and 16% inactive. A big chunk of my followers went inactive on Twitter in a little over a year.
Meanwhile, Twitter Audit says 86% of my followers are “real.”
I would tend to believe Status People in this regard.

2. People hoping for a reciprocal follow

I have colleagues with many more Twitter followers than me, but they also follow hundreds of Twitter accounts.
There seems to be an unspoken etiquette on Twitter that if someone follows you, you should follow them back. That’s fine for casual Twitter users, but not for people like me who actively use Twitter as a news feed.
This behavior likely started with Facebook where people try to accumulate as many Facebook friends as possible to boost their image.

3. People mistaking me for anime voice actor Patrick Seitz

If you do a Google search for Patrick Seitz, the top results are for voice actor Patrick Seitz of Los Angeles.
He has many fans who occasionally mistake my Twitter account for his. For the record, his Twitter handle is @Seitz_Unseen.
What’s worse is that he isn’t even a true Googleganger. His full name is David Patrick Seitz, according to his Wikipedia page.
There can be only one!

Photos: Twitter headquarters in San Francisco at night; voice-over artist Patrick Seitz.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How my use of Twitter has changed in 6 years

I signed up for Twitter in April 2009 to see why so many of my media colleagues were talking about the new microblogging service.
I was intrigued by Twitter, a short-message social network built around 140-character posts called tweets. But I was skeptical about its prospects as a business.
I initially used Twitter to promote my articles on and my personal blogs. I later started documenting my travels, thoughts on TV shows, complaints about businesses, and random observations.
But always my main use of Twitter has been as a news feed.
I follow a limited set of news organizations, pop culture websites and pundits so I can have a manageable Twitter feed. I “follow” 25 Twitter accounts today. I legitimately follow them and scan just about every tweet they send.
Compare that to people who “follow” hundreds or thousands of Twitter accounts. They’re not following those accounts so much as liking them. That many accounts in a Twitter feed is unmanageable.
In the last year or so, I’ve noticed that I’ve done a lot less posting on Twitter. I still retweet a lot of posts with weblinks to interesting articles. But my use of Twitter for personal observations has gone down.
I still use Twitter to promote my IBD articles and blog posts. And I like to retweet and comment on others’ tweets. But I don’t write many standalone tweets any more.
There’s too much noise on Twitter already. I’d rather not add to it.

Photo: Twitter artwork in the company’s San Francisco headquarters. (Twitter photo)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrities who have quit Twitter

Yesterday the news media reported that movie director Joss Whedon and actor Jaden Smith each had quit Twitter.
It’s a common story: a celebrity gets fed up with social media because of the time suck and all the haters on the Internet and decides to quit posting. But usually those same celebrities end up crawling back to Twitter to promote their work and themselves.
(See Entertainment Weekly articles: “Joss Whedon just quit Twitter” and “Jaden Smith deletes his Twitter.”)
Singer Miley Cyrus famously quit Twitter in October 2009.
But she later returned and remains quite active on the site as @MileyCyrus.
What follows is a sampling of celebrities who have quit Twitter over the years. Most have returned. A few now have a PR person post on their behalf, such as Simon Pegg.

Celebrity Twitter quitters

Adele, singer
Alec Baldwin, actor
Ashton Kutcher, actor
Chris Brown, singer
Chrissy Teigen, model
Deadmau5, DJ and music producer
Demi Levato, singer and actress
Emma Roberts, actress
Iggy Azalea, rapper
Jaden Smith, actor
James Franco, actor
Jennifer Love Hewitt, actress
John Mayer, musician
Joss Whedon, writer-director
Kanye West, rapper
Lady Gaga, singer
LeAnn Rimes, singer
Lena Dunham, actress
Louis C.K., comedian
Lupe Fiasco, rapper
Megan Fox, actress
Minnie Driver, actress
Naya Rivera, singer and actress
Nicki Minaj, rapper
Patton Oswalt, actor and comedian
Stephen Fry, actor and comedian
William Shatner, actor
Zelda Williams, daughter of actor Robin Williams

Photo: Megan Fox joined Twitter on Jan. 3, 2013, and quit five days later. “What’s the point?” she said in her final tweet.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The best movies about disease outbreaks

Looking for an online list of the best movies about disease outbreaks, I once again came up short. No one had done a clean list of movies with at least somewhat realistic depictions of disease epidemics and pandemics.
Every list I found was loaded with science-fiction movies about diseases from outer space or zombie outbreaks.
So I searched Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and elsewhere online to compile my own list of the best-reviewed disease outbreak movies.
What follows is a listing of movies ranked by critics on Rotten Tomatoes and users on Internet Movie Database. I’ve also included the type of disease depicted and noted which films are documentaries.

Best-reviewed disease outbreak movies, by % of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes
  • And the Band Played On (1993), AIDS, 100%
  • Panic in the Streets (1950), pneumonic plague, 95%
  • The Normal Heart (2014), AIDS, 94%
  • Contagion (2011), influenza, 84%
  • I Remember Me (2000), chronic fatigue syndrome, documentary, 83%
  • Under Our Skin (2008), Lyme disease, documentary, 81%
  • Ever Since the World Ended (2001), unknown virus, 78%
  • Carriers (2009), airborne virus, 63%
  • Outbreak (1995), unknown virus, 59%
  • Flu (2013), influenza, 45%
Additional disease outbreak movies from IMDb, with user ratings
  • The Polio Crusade (2009), episode of “The American Experience”; polio, documentary, 8.2 out of 10
  • A Paralyzing Fear: The Story of Polio in America (1998), polio, documentary, 7.8
  • Pandemic: Facing AIDS (2003), AIDS, documentary, 7.7
  • The Plague (2005), a History Channel special; plague, documentary, 6.9
  • Yellow Jack (1938), yellow fever, 6.4
  • The Plague (aka “La Peste”) (1992), plague, 6.0
  • The Cleaner (aka “El Limpiador”) (2012), unknown epidemic, 6.0
  • Outbreak: Anatomy of a Plague (aka “La Variole: Anatomie D’un Fleau”) (2010), plague, 5.9
  • Plague City: SARS in Toronto (2005), plague, 5.6
  • Pandemic (2007), miniseries on the Hallmark Channel; bird flu, 5.3
Photos: Movie posters for “Contagion” and “Flu.”

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