Video on the iPad? Not a Problem

I’m not a big TV fan. It seems that every show that I’ve ever wanted to invest some time in, with the notable exception of the entire Star Trek franchise, has been cancelled, often before the show got any real legs.

The top of the list of TV show ghosts is Firefly, Josh Whedon’s cowboy/space soap opera that was as addicting as potato chips and far less fattening. Fox Broadcasting dumped the show before the first season completed.

You’d think good old Josh would have had enough of Fox, but he went and gave them Dollhouse, his project after Firefly, to screw over, and they did. It lasted a bit longer than one season, but not much longer.

In fact, Fox Broadcasting has a habit of killing off shows that could actually get legs and run if they’d given them a bit more time.

Strange Luck, for instance, enjoyed one season before its luck ran out. I guess the main character, Chance Harper, played by D.B. Sweeney, never had a chance on Fox. But then, if it’s not The X-Files, what show that’s not about reality, cops, lawyers, or doctors does?

Space: Above and Beyond was a favorite of mine back in the mid 90s. It ran out of space before the first season ended, nuked by that infamous killer of the imaginative TV, Fox.

Not convinced Fox has it in for offbeat shows? Here’s a short list of potentials that only glimpsed the light of prime time:

  • Past Life: A detective drama about investigating how past-life experiences affect crimes of the present. No future here
  • New Amsterdam: An immortal cop in New York City. (Get it? New York City…New Amsterdam…?)
  • Dark Angel: Super-hot Jessica Alba as a super soldier. (OK, it lasted two seasons)
  • John Doe: Mystery man solves crime mysteries, but couldn’t demystify its cancellation
  • Wonderfalls: An over-educated salesclerk talks to stuffed animals and helps people. (Actually a decent show, but never made pass four aired episodes.)
  • The Visitor: Alien abductee tries to save his home world, but couldn’t even save its own show
  • Harsh Realm: People “Lost” in a virtual world. Probably still there

I have to admit that Fox has at least made the pretense of doing right by these shows by airing them at all, but if they get booted at the first hint of low ratings, so much for pretense. How can you tell if a show is any good after only a few episodes?

Not to be outdone, ABC grounded shows like Defying Gravity before the first season ended as well, just as the show was starting to take off.

There was Flash Forward, a show that should have seen its end coming, and it was actually pretty good judging from the two episodes I watched on the app on my iPad. It’s not a complete flash-in-the-pan yet, but it’s not looking good.

Show after decent left-of-center show, canned: The Invisible Man was hardly seen, Journeyman left and won’t come back, The Tick tanked, and The Lone Gunmen didn’t do it either. These shows had style, they had quirks, they were interesting in their own way. They coulda been contendas!

Ah well, we still have V. Watch it while you can, my friends. The Visitors may have worn out their welcome.

One good thing is that you can watch your favorite shows pretty much anywhere you want as long as you have a decent WiFi connection available. ABC, CBS and NBC will let you watch show clips and even full previously aired episodes through Safari. It’s not HD, but we’re not talking about your 80-inch 120hz, LED/LCD, 1-inch thick TV, we’re talking iPad or iPhone. HD is unnecessary.

I’ve become a fan of ABC’s iPad app, however. Sure, I can go out to the website and catch shows, but to find the show I want I have to wade through tons of other crap I don’t care about. The ABC Player app offers a clean interface that offers up shows with limited commercial interruption. I’ve found I actually don’t mind the commercials because there are so few of them. If NBC and CBS were smart, they should be hard at work creating iPad apps as well.

But, Man’s brain isn’t sucked dry by boob-tube alone, and often you can find real gems hidden around the Internet. I’ve collected a far amount of videos that I enjoy from time to time. The problem is that to enjoy them I have to either sit in front of my iMac, or transfer them to my iPad for watching on the go.

What if I just want to watch one without having to sync? I’m sure you’ve run into that situation millions of times. Well, as you may have surmised, there’s a free app for that.

AirVideoFree does exactly as its name implies, it will send the videos you have on your Mac or PC over WiFi to be immediately enjoyed on your iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone.

How does it work this magic? You install a free AirVideo server on your computer. It’s basically a file serving application that does the streaming when you’ve selected your feature film. You include what movie files you want.

On the iPad/iPhone side, you run the app, and it finds your server and lists all the flicks you’ve made available. Tap one and in a few seconds it starts to play. Sweet! The only down side is that the free version is hobbled in several ways that don’t fully interfere with watching.

There’s a “pro” version that costs, but you may not want it if all you need to do is stream on occasion. AirVideoFree works and works well. Get it.

OK, that’s a wrap for this week. Stop back next week especially if you enjoy comics.
More free stuff below with direct links.