It’s been a year since the Whiskey Media family of sites (Giant Bomb, Tested, Screened, Comic Vine, Anime Vice) went with premium plans to start driving revenue since they had passed on advertising to that point. Blowing out the announcement was their inaugural Big Live Live Show Live!, an eight-hour, telethon-formatted web show. Despite a few technical gaffes and some content that just wasn’t appealing, Whiskey set off to show that their programming is prime cut across their various properties. Since then, the company has committed to weekly ‘Happy Hours’ that have served as smaller editions, but I honestly couldn’t find two hours a week for their video programming. Now a year later, how does the BLLSL’s sequel hold up?
Last year, I was in employment limbo, so I had little better to do than sit around all day and watch their programming. This year, I simply happened to have the day off. Peaking at roughly nine thousand viewers at any time, this year’s show went for seven hours and was much more polished than the previous outing. The show’s first two hours were pretty slow, but a second members-only stream kept things flying (more on that later).
- Most of Giant Bomb’s segments. Being the largest site in Whiskey’s galaxy, they obviously had to pull their own weight, but even with Ryan Davis as the web-a-thon’s host, they shared plenty of time with their smaller siblings. John Drake and Eric Pope from Harmonix facilitated their hilarious, yet somewhat bizarrely close connection with the gaming site with demos of Dance Central 2 and VidRhythm for iPad. Chris Hecker showed off his unique Spy Party, a two-player game in which a spy must evade the sneaking suspicions of the human sniper perched outside the building. Buckner & Garcia’s ‘Bomb-themed “Found Me The Bomb” (they brought us “Pac-Man Fever” so many decades ago), complete with in-game replicas of Giant Bomb’s personnel in Rock Band 3, was amazing. A Shoemaker and Chan-commentated StarCraft 2 multiplayer segment was solid, but ran too long. They also had to literally cut it off.
- Screened screens The Third Society. Following up on J.A. Steel’s D-grade movie Denizen from last year, Matt Rorie and Alex Navarro camped out on a couch and let her later movie run for a few segments while they ripped on it, RiffTrax style. This used to be a weekly standalone segment, but Rorie recently admitted there just wasn’t enough interest to keep the thing going. An incredibly fun time.
- The Tested segments. Will Smith and Norman Chan showed us how science fiction props are created and ‘aged’ with simple paint techniques, complete with a replica Adam-harvesting needle from Bioshock. Their ‘As Seen On TV’ segment was chock full of crappy, kitschy garbage and I’m glad it’s their butts on the line so mine is safe and sound. A final bit had Norm in the parking lot chopping at thrown fruit with a full-length sword a la Fruit Ninja. Hilarious.
- Jean Baudin and his 11-string bass guitar. Davis met Baudin at California Extreme, an arcade cabinet swap meet, a few years ago and invited him onto the inaugural show. It didn’t make much sense at the time – a musical guest on a mostly gaming program? – but Baudin rocked it out. Crisp, ethereal, and incredibly fitting for a juxtaposed Tested segment involving Smith and Chan picking through cheap Master locks, Baudin’s music was an excellent choice once again.
The view. (Counter-clockwise from Top Left: Main BLLSL feed with one of Baudin’s interludes, the Members Only feed watching it all, the chat that kept futzing up.)
- The Members Only stream. On top of the main program, members also got a roaming, webcam-based behind the scenes look at production as it was happening. On top of that, they presented both streams in a single window, making it easy to simply mute one and move to the other. This saved the whole affair from lengthy bathroom breaks as there was always something going on in either stream. Also, those first two hours…
- Those first two hours. After an inspiring intro, the pace nosedived in a Dreamcast retrospective (marking twelve years since Sega’s last console launched) that dragged as Gerstmann and Navarro ran through a selection of sports and fighting games. After a Comic Vine segment, they proceeded to have the Telltale Games adventure guys discuss their games with nary a frame of game footage (that I recall) because the following Marvel vs. Capcom 3 slide, featuring eight-year old fighting game wunderkind Noah Solis, took too long to set up. (This is purely conjecture based on the chat, mind you.)
- The Comic Vine segments. I’ve admitted it before: I don’t really care about comics. And maybe it’s the printed format or the universe of characters I don’t know about, but Comic Vine’s segments, all interviews, mind you, went flat. Their initial segment with gender bending superheroes had some cute girls, but all of them had me scrambling for the Members Feed.
- Interviews. All of them. Between Comic Vine’s doomed ventures, one with some C-list filmmakers toward the middle of the show (strangely not helmed by the Screened guys) also floundered. People in the chat kept asking who they were. Whiskey: just skip any and all interviews next year.
- Technical gaffes. It’s hard to run a show like this, considering almost all of it was kept in place by Vinny Caravella and Drew Scanlon, but a few audio quibbles almost knocked down some segments. Screened’s second run at The Third Society launched without audio for about a minute while a performance by chip-tune kids The Glowing Stars with only a GameBoy-hosted backing track and some slight lyrics audible. I loved it when Topolsky and his crew did similar performances by Zen Albatross and others on the old Engadget Show, but this just didn’t measure up. These, really, are minor things. The site crashed early, killing the chat and forcing several restarts of the app, similar to what happened last year. Also, they just couldn’t keep intern Ben’s head in-camera for Screened’s trivia segment. Oh, well.
- Joust? Somehow I missed the thirty-second explanation of Klepek’s early segment that involved half a dozen Whiskey-ites with PlayStation Move controllers rushing to and from each other as the pace of Johann Bach’s music alternated. Apparently it’s an indie game, but it was… strange.
The Big Live Live Show Live is really a labor of love from the whole Whiskey Media family and for the price of free (well, skipping out on the at times super-valuable Members Only feed) there’s not too much to complain about here. Davis claimed that ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of people signed up for Whiskey Media memberships during the course of the show, but I only saw about two hundred join during the entire seven hours and change I had the show running. I wish Whiskey all the best and for the time, the BLLSL was definitely worth my time. Honestly, the BLLSL seemed like an affair geared toward existing members, rather than new ones, which was no doubt the show’s modus operandi. I’ve been in on the Whiskey train for two years now, so I got the in-jokes and self-referential humor, but outsiders probably aren’t. On top of that, I kinda wonder how many more people would’ve turned in had they done it on a weekend as many late-comers were just rolling off work. It’s inevitable that some of the segments are going to make it to individual videos, but many are ‘you had to be there’.
Well, let’s see what the next year holds for the fledgling media network…