ABC Does It Right: ABC Player and ABC News For iPad

There was a time in my life when I would sit in front of a small black and white display and watched a legion of cartoons, Leave It To Beaver, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, The Art Linkletter Show, and, oddly enough, The Loretta Young Show and The Millionaire.

A kid watching most of the aforementioned shows would be considered normal. Even a kid watching The Millionaire might not be watched for telltale signs of aberrant social behavior, but no one, not even the adults in my life, watched The Loretta Young Show. I never understood why. Loretta Young was good looking for an older woman, but it was the stories she acted in that made the show worth watching. Far better than the silly soap operas my mother and aunts watched religiously.

Every show I watched, with the obvious and reasonable exception of cartoons, gave me something to think about. What would I do if some guy handed me a million bucks, no strings attached? How would I survive if I were the last person on Earth? Where would I run if we were invaded by aliens from the planet X? I watched The Beave because I identified with him; I had buck teeth too.

Most of today’s shows are mind numbingly boring and predictable. They don’t let us think or imagine. They use cheap tricks to stimulate a few emotions, then we move on to the next show.

There are notable exceptions. Lost, for instance, was fun because it did exactly what The Outer Limits did; it made you think and kept you guessing. The new incarnation of that campy 80’s alien lizards invasion series, V, has its moments, and Flash Forward is intriguing on many levels. (I guess, not intriguing enough since it got cancelled.)

Warehouse 13 is fun, so is Eureka, and Haven is turning out to be this decade’s X-Files.

Today’s TV programming leaves a lot to be desired, but, as I’ve showm, there are gems. The problem, of course, is getting to watch those few shows that you enjoy.

The way we get our news and be entertained is changing. Sitting in from of that old black and white TV set for hours was what I did when I was a kid, but I’m less inclined to do it now, even for the shows I do like. Stuff happens. Friends and/or family calls or visits, the tasks list that was made at the beginning of the year hasn’t gotten any shorter, the day is too beautiful to spend indoors, Muffy, your peekapoo, got sick after noshing on a toilet paper and leather sandal souffle and the vet closes at 5. All day, every day is prime time, not the antiquated notion of a special period when everyone sits and opens their brains for a heaping helping of home-grown commercialism.

If we are to consume what TV studios want to feed us then we at least want it on our terms. Just as we are accustomed to enjoying our music, conversations, and personal enrichment whenever and where ever we want, we now want to take along our video entertainment too.

One TV studio seems to understand that. Not long after the iPad was released ABC offered up an app that showcased its shows specifically on Apple’s shiny new iDevice. Sure, you could go to ABC’s website and watch, but having an app that cuts through the clutter and lets you watch shows, with commercials, for free is far better than any website. ABC seems to understand that it’s the user experience that helps make the app; hence, the shows popular.

The ABC Player app look great, runs great, and I’ve watched shows I wouldn’t normally brother watching because I’m off doing something else. Like they do on the website, they offer only four episodes, but that’s good enough to keep you caught up the happenings. Did I mention that this app is free?

And now ABC is offering a news app specifically designed for the iPad, and it rocks. It is free as well.

When you fire up the ABC News for iPad app, you are presented with an orb pasted over with news stories complete with pictures. Swipe your finger across the globe and it spins in the direction of the swipe revealing more stories. Touch a story and a small window displays the story photo, headline, and the first few lines of text of the story. Touch the window and you can read the full story.

If the orb interface bothers you, you’re not stuck with it, Touch the “Page” graphic in the upper right corner of the screen and the stories are displayed in a more conventional news page full of photos, headlines and text. Touch “Browse” in the up left corner of the screen and you get a menu letting you select the type of news items you want to see.

If you’re not sure what you want to read while in the orb interface, the ABC News app has that covered too. Tap the “Shuffle” button in the lower left corner of the screen and the articles randomly flick about, the one article centers, letting you select it.

But, the pièce de résistance are the news programs that are available in the Browse menu. Each program page lists the story shown on the most recent show, giving you photos, text, and videos of the show’s highlights. The only thing missing is a direct link to the news show.

ABC’s apps are done well, and they really shine on the iPad, and it makes me wish other studios would follow suit. I would love to see a SyFy app, or one from USA. Both are “cable” channels and can’t be found on your TV using rabbit ears. The Cartoon Network would also be a good candidate. Kids can watch what they want, over and over again.

Some studios have said that they would not make an app specifically for the iPad, but would continue to offer their wares via their web portal. That’s a shame and they are missing out, because ABC has gotten us spoiled. Also, I now have NetFlix and Hulu+ on my iPad. They may not present shows in their best light. But, if that’s the way they want to go…

I guess I’ve come full circle. I now sit in front of a small display watching Castle, Lost, Flash Forward and browsing the news.

Maybe I have made some advances; my screen is now in color.