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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

TV Cyberia

by Neena Louise

I often go to the networks' websites in order to get information for TV Bites and find them woefully lacking. I get the best and most in-depth information from "non-official" sites and have to wonder why the networks, with their undoubtedly huge budgets, don't spend much on their websites (or, if they do, it doesn't show).

Most (if not all) of the "official" network websites insist you have Flash in order to view their pages. I would guess that, at this point, most people do, but some sites ignore that fact and keep showing a message that says you must install Flash in order to view some areas on the site. The most frustrating experience I've ever had with a network's website was while trying to find out how to spell "Zuleikha" (Eve in The Lone Gunmen). That's all I wanted to know. I called up Fox's website, found The Lone Gunmen area, clicked on it and was given a choice: "Flash" or "No Flash". I chose "No Flash" since all I wanted to know was how to spell something and didn't need to waste time loading Flash-based graphics. I ended up with a message "At Langly's request, this site requires Flash..." (oh, how cute) and then went on to say how a non-Flash version is "coming soon". Why they even give you an option when they don't even HAVE a non-Flash version, I'll never know. Annoyed, I tried to re-enter to use the Flash option and wound up back at the same window. The cookie it placed on my computer was so cryptic that I couldn't figure out which one it was in order to delete it. I finally gave up and went somewhere else.

Then there are the oh-too-adorable names that some sites use. I usually go to the sites looking for information (most frequently cast information), not air times, streaming video, episode guides, gushing reviews or proclamations of how GREAT this all is. Some, like CBS's C.S.I., have "clever", though bewildering buttons for this: The cast is found under "Personnel Files" (though the actors' names aren't even there); on Fox's Boston Public, the cast is under "Faculty". Puh-leeze. It's the cast. Call it that! Then there are those that just don't have the information I'm looking for: WB's Gilmore Girls site doesn't even list the entire cast and I was once again forced to go to a "non-official" site.

This is very frustrating. You'd think that, with Internet traffic increasing and frequent program invitations to "go to our website" for more information, the networks would at least make their sites easy to navigate, comprehensive, easy to find and not take so damn long to load. The best "official" network website for this is, curiously, ABC. The cast of any given show is under "cast"; you don't get errant "thou must have Flash" messages; information is easy to find; it's not annoyingly cute; and it hasn't crashed on me yet. Too bad they don't have more shows I want information on.

There are alternatives to the networks' "official" sites. The best, by far, is the Internet Movie Database  Though primarily for movies, if you type in a television series' name and hit "GO!", it spits back every single item remotely associated with the show (not the least of which is an entire credit listing including cast, guest stars, crew, writers, producers, directors, etc., etc.). They even provide a link to the "official" site if you're interested in wasting your time by going there. If you're looking for information, don't bother with the networks' sites - try the Internet Movie Database or an "unofficial" fan site (most search engines will return a few good fan sites when you search for a series' title). Either will quickly give you the information you're looking for without cluttering things up with cuteness and frustration. 
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