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Production Forensics

by Ryan Johnson, Dec 22 2009

The entertainment and media world is in a very sorry state. I have not been immune to that. While I share those issues with the rest of my peers, I’ve been working insane hours to make sure that the supporting production company for The Skeptologists, Truth Hurts, and other programs remains in good shape. I have had to allow this weekly task to fall away recently while I tended to those other matters. Of course you all have been in the greatest of hands without me.

I’m not the skeptical storehouse of information and vast material that my cohorts of SkepticBlog seem to be. My area of expertise is mainly in the world of production and media, so I honestly had begun finding it very difficult to find subjects that I felt would be entertaining or relevant to our loyal readers. Once I finished up my reflective journey about how we created and shot the Skeptologists pilot, I felt like I had just ran out of material. Rather than vamping on subjects that I know far less about, I decided to take a break and re-evaluate. Kudos to the other bloggers who have continued without fail through the year, they have steadfastly committed their much more precious time to their weekly penning.

Which brings me to where I’m at now: Looking towards the beginning of the new year, and some exciting projects and prospects.
I will continue to fill you all in on the journey as we build and promote The Skeptologists program and others. Right now we are in a time where it’s a lot of uninteresting review, re-hash and evaluation of opportunities, connections and possibilities, too numerous, and frankly, boring to bother with here. However, we are working hard on making good skeptically-minded television to the small screen near you.

We’ve come a very long ways with the show and we’ve learned a lot of interesting information about bringing a show like The Skeptologists into the mainstream market. It’s quite different than, say a reality-documentary series about NHRA Drag Racing (imagine that!) The show that we originally created simply won’t find a home on major network TV because the powers that control these networks are simply not willing to “take the risk” on a show like The Skeptologists right now. While I personally think that is a bit short-sighted, I’m also acutely aware that regardless of my or the audience “feeling” on the matter, we are dealing with a very large and complex business. I understand and also depend on that business for my livliehood. The Big TV business model simply doesn’t have a need for this service right now. As viewers begin to demand more reasonable or rational programming and support shows that are in some small way similar, the changes will slowly take effect.

Now this doesn’t mean that we’ve given up. Quite the contrary. It has provided us with valuable insight as to the types of shows that are in development, the direction that many networks are going, and also, how we can re-tool our program to have a better shot at landing a large network or off-air deal. I’m happy to see science and critical thinking becoming more and more a part of programming, though we have a long way to go.

In addition, we’ve begun in some new and exciting directions that may ultimately allow us the opportunity to produce a show that is less encumbered, shall we say, by the whims of TV execs that follow their wallet and not their brain. I’ll be able to share more details of all of that in the coming months as well.

I had been thinking about other ways I could connect with you, dear readers. It occurred to me that one of the ways I can provide expertise and connect it with skepticism is by using my understanding of the production of TV and film to help the average audience understand when they are being shown something that’s maybe not entirely there. Knowing the artifacts of computer animation, clever editing, compositing, wire-removals, etc. could be an interesting way to provide a sort of “production forensics.”

Put me on the case. What piece of video, what show, scene from a movie do you want to know about? I’ll venture my best, educated guess and we can jump in together to get to the bottom of the sweater of wool over our collective eyes.

Happy Holidays Skeptics! (and Believers too, …what the heck!)

10 Responses to “Production Forensics”

  1. Max says:

    You’re the expert on how much of “reality TV” is real. Like, when Adam and Jamie are conversing on MythBusters, is that natural, scripted, or a reenactment of an actual conversation?

  2. Joshua Hunt says:

    Is “reality TV” really reality? How much of it is prepared before hand, scripted, and preplanned? How much of it is really reality (spontaneous)?

  3. kiwinerd says:

    Have you considered trying to get your show onto an online-only business? I am a huge fan of the TWiT network (, live programming at; I obviously can’t speak for them but you might enquire if they would be interested in adding your show. They did pick up two awesome science shows in 2009. We’re all the richer for it.

    • MadScientist says:

      There was an informal poll a few months ago asking what model people would favor if Skeptologists was put on the internet. I’d still prefer that it went on air though.

  4. Ryan Johnson says:

    Hi Gang,

    Thanks for the ideas, I’ll be sure to discuss “Reality TV” in depth soon. Regarding Skeptologists on an Internet only platform, that is something that remains on the table, but only after all other TV opportunities are exhausted. We are working on our Spin-up show, “Truth Hurts” which will be an Internet offering.

  5. Fuller says:

    I was thinking about this, why not pitch a skeptic based show in a panel format? Each episode would have different guests – scientists, comedians, skeptics and so on, and current affairs about science and skepticism could be discussed. It would be cheap to make, and be potentially just as entertaining as the format you guys have been working on with the Skeptologists.

    People like panel shows – provided they’re funny and interesting, which this would be, easily. And it would be a much simpler endeavor.

    Anyway, just an idea…

  6. Carl says:

    Should you get going, please give Captain Disillusion( a regular feature, maybe monthly. If nothing else, it’ll force Alan Melikdjanian to produce videos more often ….

  7. AUJT says:

    How about an entire skeptics cable network, SCN (looks like science to me :-) ). How would one go about selling it to cable companies, selling it to advertisers? Perhaps some of the foundations that help fund PBS would be interested in funding a SCN channel. Perhaps start small in one large city. Think Wayne’s World. If you’ve any ideas on how this might work, count me in for something. Party on, Ryan!

    Seriously though… I tend to be optimistic and think big and am usually shot down early on so my expectations of this as a possibility are very low. But wouldn’t that be great!?

  8. Ubermoogle says:

    I would second the nomination for TWiT TV, as well as Revision 3. Both put out incredible programming, but given the all-star Skeptic cast that spans from east to west coast, I’m not sure how viable or profitable it would be to film it in the style you’re trying to take the show on.

    That said, it certainly is an option!