Better Call Better (Social) Media

I love Better Call Saul.  Great show.  But if there is one thing that infuriates me about AMC TV’s strategy is the complete disregard for international viewers on social media and on the web.  They will regularly advertise things like this on their official Better Call Saul Twitter:

You visit the AMC TV web site. You click on Watch Video. “Sorry, this video is not available in your location” (or some similar wording).

Let’s make something clear: the internet was designed to be an open platform. Yet old media deems that it can enforce regionalisation. I have heard all the excuses: licensing, marketing, rights, whatever. But as a viewer ( Better Call Saul is available in the UK via Netflix), I find it frustrating that the show’s owner (AMC TV) is not able to make available this content outside the US. There’s only one Better Call Saul Twitter account. It has an international following. There are, to my knowledge, no local/regional Twitter accounts relating to Better Call Saul. So you can’t tell me to simply follow the UK Better Call Saul Twitter feed – because there is no official UK Better Call Saul Twitter feed.

Another AMC TV show, The Walking Dead, *does* have local/regional Twitter feeds. But the UK one hasn’t been verified. D’OH! This makes is difficult to ascertain whether information coming from it is official or not.

I’m sick and tired of geoblocking promotional stuff for TV shows that we can get over here in the UK. And I’m stuck and tired of the excuses.

(On a separate note: having bought the first two seasons of HBO’s Silicon Valley on Blu-Ray, HBO appear to have chosen not to release the third season on the same format – only DVD. I have no idea what that’s about, but if HBO doesn’t pull its finger out in being consistent with it releases, I won’t be buying anything of their stuff again)

Fixing iTunes/Apple TV’s Breaking Bad Deluxe Edition audio commentary issue

While Apple did not directly get me there, they pushed me in the right direction. It turn out that if you go to Settings -> Audio and Video and set Surround Sound to Stereo, you’ll be able to hear the audio commentary tracks on the episodes of iTunes Breaking Bad Deluxe Edition. 

Why it doesn’t work when set to Best Quality Available or Dolby Digital I don’t know, but it sounds (haha) like a bug.  While you can swipe down during playback of video, to change some audio options – whatever you select doesn’t affect the audio track at all – you must select Stereo from the Settings menu.

When I told Apple about this, they wanted me to do a complete wipe and reset of the Apple TV.  I politely told them no.  Apple can go away and do their own tests – unless Apple want to pay me £500/hour to test their kit for them. That’s my professional fee.

This is with tvOS 10.11, the latest publicly released “stable” version.

I also just want to say that the online chat support from Apple is nearly useless. In the end I had to wait for a phone call, which failed, then I was put through – then finally figured out the issue – then received a further 4-5 automated calls at random intervals.

Breaking Breaking Bad Bad Blu-Ray – Sony’s cheap and flimsy Breaking Bad: Complete Series

Update (26th Feb 2017): If you thought it was any easier on iTunes (which offers a Deluxe edition of Breaking Bad with audio commentaries and lots of extras), it doesn’t.  It really doesn’t.  FFS, why is this so difficult?!

Update: Sent back the box set to my retailer, who has lost it (yay, loads of form filling now). This  entire incident would not have happened if Sony wasn’t so damn cheap with their packaging and offered to replace directly.

[The title’s deliberate, BTW – I’m just trying to be clever]

I love Breaking Bad.  Five intensive seasons of drama involving a high school chemistry teacher turned into a drugs kingpin.  What’s not to love?

So I bought the Complete Series box set – not only to say thanks to the creators and to Sony for bringing the show to fruition, but also for the audio commentaries and extras.


Sony (who produce the show and are responsible for manufacturing and distributing the Blu-Ray boxsets) are utter and total cheapskates.

Unlike the individual series collections, they’ve chosen to cram all five seasons into a series of cardboard sleeves

that guarantees scratches to the physical media

Whereas most box sets utilise Amray cases, or cases that minimise physical content of media and the case – the Breaking Bad Complete Series box sets features discs held firmly within the cardboard sleeves that make it very difficult to remove the discs without scraping the discs against the cardboard.

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I first discovered the problem during season three.  One episode started to produce substantial artefacts on my Xbox One:

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So I decided to email Sony directly.  If there was a bad disc, I’d like to have it replaced rather than send in the entire box set.  Sony came back to me to check that (a) I’d updated the firmware[1] and (b) that it played on another player[2].

In any event, Sony told me that they could do nothing.  While they were responsible for manufacturing the discs, I had to go back to the retailer (who, thankfully, are willing to take it back after three months – hey, I don’t have the time to go through a large number of discs within a few weeks to check all discs are okay).

It turns out that the playback problems are due to scratches on the disc.  I’ve cleaned the discs the best I could with a soft cloth, but these are physical faults which I suspect were brought on by the scratchy cardboard inlays holding each disc.

So Breaking Bad is going back to the retailer.  I will not be seeking a replacement.  I may consider buying the individual series which look to utilise Amray (the most common Blu-Ray case) or something significantly better than the Complete Series offers.

I’m exceptionally hacked off with Sony (pun intended – but let’s make it clear that I do not condone what happened back in November) – not only did they provide terrible packaging for a premium product, but when it’s their fault, they refuse to do anything.

This, ladies and gents, is how you package a complete TV series.  Universal deserve praise for doing this – and it doesn’t take that much room on one’s shelf:

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[1] The Blu-Ray format is notoriously picky about encryption keys and other format-related oddities.  You’ll find discs will play on some systems, but not others.  Only through constant firmware and application updates from manufacturers does this tend to be resolved – and this can often mean a bit of a wait.  Sony and the Blu-Ray consortium deserve a massive punch to the face for this – one should buy a disc and expect it to play without having a degree in IT just to be able to watch a TV or film.

[2]Who the hell has access to TWO Blu-Ray players?  Urm, well, me actually – but that’s not the point.