Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Critique of "Weather Geeks", from The Weather Channel

In my last Fog Bank segment, I went off on a rant about "Weather Geeks", the new show on The Weather Channel.

I thought it might be worth while to go into details about the show.

First, the good things about the show. The host, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, is great. It's obvious that he's having a good time with the show, and talking with his guests. His guests are great. I think Dr. Shepherd's interviewing skills will improve, as well. That's the single issue I have with Dr. Shepherd; I think he takes a little too much time asking his questions, and could get to a question more quickly, rather than setting up so much background as he asks the question. That's a pretty minor issue, and one that others may disagree upon.

It's the video production of the show that irritates me.

I'll start with what isn't in the show. On a high definition TV, the Weather Channel shrinks this show down to about 3/4 of the screen. In the space made available, they have a bottom and side bar to show stuff.

The bottom bar is almost tolerable. It has The Weather Channel logo on the left hand side, with the time & temperature alternating above that.  To the right, the local conditions & forecast are displayed.
There is a crawler bar above the current conditions, that is a distraction, and nearly content free. It showed "information" such as "PollenCast" for El Paso, Game Day Kickoff temperatures for NFL games, and non-weather headlines. It is a waste of space.

The side of the screen is worse. This portion is divided into three sections. The top section says "Brought to you by The Weather Channel". Really? I'm SO glad you told me! I might have missed the logo on the bottom, and the fact that I TURNED ON THIS CHANNEL TO WATCH THIS SHOW!

The middle section of this bar is even worse. It's showing things like days until events (fall, winter, Halloween, Christmas), barometric pressure, temperature, dewpoint, and on and on. Some of the bits of information are not uninteresting, but could be shown (and may be shown) in the bottom section along with current conditions. What is inexcusable about this section is the way the information is presented. Every single infographic is animated, in a speedometer type graphic. As the temperature is displayed, a circular line winds around until it reaches a point on the scale to match the temp. Inside the circle, the numbers flash as if they're counting up to the value being shown. Even the days to an event get animated like this. This is just stupid.

In the lower section, they show the name of the next few items that are going to be displayed in the middle section.

This is a complete waste of space.

Onto the video of the show itself.

There's a large, opaque, bottom third, showing "WxGeeks", and a banner that describes the topic under discussion. When that banner changes, it's animated. The banner slides to the left, then slides back out with the new text. If the name of the guest is shown, that's shown on top of this bottom third, taking away even more of the screen real estate.

The set has a large green screen or monitor bank behind the desk where the participants sit. The graphics shown are constantly changing, with storm clouds rolling by, lightning flashing, numerical formulas scrolling around, animated charts, and on, and on, ad nauseum. Not one single bit of that information has anything to do with what is being discussed.

My final gripe (for now) concerns the switch from the in studio cameras to footage from other locations. For every single transition like that, the screen shows an animated (less than 1 second) Wx Geeks logo screen. The footage being shown, while usually slightly relevant to the discussion, is only rarely discussed by the participants, and provides very little value to the viewer. Coming back to the studio camera, the same animation is shown.

To the directors and producers of this show, I say that just because you have a production effect capability doesn't mean that you have to use it all the time. I'll stop short of saying that someone should take a fire ax to the control board ... but that thought is in the back of my mind.

I'll continue to watch, because Dr. Shepherd & his guests are great, and the discussions are great. I might watch the show online. Doing that gets rid of the bottom & side bar, and the small screen size on a computer or tablet make the junk shown behind the guest less obtrusive. The Weather Channel should make the show easier to find on the website, though.

To paraphrase an old insult, this TV show is perfect for radio.

I'll update this post with corrections or further observations after I watch episodes.

(@WXGeeksTWC tweeted a line to the online video of the show, which, as I mentioned, does not have the bottom or side bars. It still has all of the other issues I mention.)

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