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Kickstarter

8 Short-Lived TV Shows That Should Use Crowd Funding To Make a Movie

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Kickstarter

Five years after its cancellation, the TV series Veronica Mars still has a loyal and thriving fan base—despite the fact that it aired for just three seasons on lower tier TV networks UPN and The CW. Need proof? Look no further than the Kickstarter campaign for a film adaptation of the series, which raised $1 million in under 5 hours. UPDATE: As of 8:56 pm, the Kickstarter had met its $2 million goal. Looks like the show's fans will finally be getting that long-discussed Veronica Mars movie! Here are eight other short-lived cult TV shows that might want to consider using crowd funding to make a feature film.

1. Pushing Daisies (2007 – 2009; ABC)

Television producer Bryan Fuller created something special with Pushing Daisies. The self-described “forensic fairy tale” was too fantastical for TV viewers, but too kooky and strange for moviegoers. The story of a pie maker named Ned who could bring people back to life with one touch pleased some, but bewildered others. The TV series was so full of imagination and style that people are still demanding more stories that take place in this wonky world.

2. Sports Night (1998 – 2000; ABC)

Before Aaron Sorkin delivered the hit TV series The West Wing and penned the Academy Award winning The Social Network, he created a work-based comedy about people who ran a 24-hour sports cable network. Sports Night had a hard time finding an audience because it didn’t cater enough to sports fans or TV viewers. After 15 years, Sports Night still has its fans, and keeps gaining new ones as new people are being introduced to Sorkin’s work.

3. Jericho (2006 – 2008; CBS)

CBS is not known for its genre TV offerings, but the network saw something it liked in this Stephen Chbosky-created TV series. Taking place in the fictional Kansas town of Jericho, the post-apocalyptic TV series followed characters cutoff from the rest of the world after nuclear fallout during an attack from an unknown enemy. The series was canceled after one season, but fan outcry brought Jericho back for a second season when fans sent CBS angry letters and emails. Jericho was canceled again, but found new life in comic books and graphic novels. Why not make a crowd-funded movie?

4. Get A Life (1990 – 1992; FOX)

Actor Chris Elliott played the childlike and immature Chris Peterson, a 30-year-old paperboy who still lived with his parents. Get A Life was too weird, offbeat, and surreal for its time, but benefited from its collection of rising-star writers including Bob Odenkirk and Charlie Kaufman. The TV series gained a cult following who demanded the series be made available on DVD in 2012.

5. Party Down (2009 – 2010; Starz)

“Are we having fun yet?” Television writer and producer Rob Thomas followed up Veronica Mars with Party Down in 2009. The series followed a group of struggling actors and writers in Hollywood, as they took up part-time jobs at a catering company to supplement their income. Party Down elevated actors Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Martin Starr, and Lizzy Caplan into the mainstream pop culture ether. A Party Down movie has been discussed; maybe now it will actually happen. 

6. My So-Called Life (1994 – 1995; ABC)

Created by screenwriter Winnie Holzman, My So-Called Life was one of the first TV dramas to portray teenage angst and high school life in a realistic and serious way. The key to the TV series’ success were the breakout performances of its exceptional cast, which included Claire Danes, Devon Gummersall, A.J. Langer, Wilson Cruz, and Jared Leto. If My So-Called Life were to be brought back as a movie, it could surround the lives of the adult Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano.

7. Freaks and Geeks (1999 – 2000; NBC)

Following in the footsteps of My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks took a realistic look at high school burnouts and awkward sci-fi fans in the early 80s. It only lasted for one season, but it made a big impression on television and movies, as we know it today. Freaks and Geeks also launched the careers of directors Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, as well as actors James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen. Since they're all good friends to this day, making a movie about these characters—provided they could get the funding—would probably be an easy decision. 

8. Firefly (2002; FOX)

While Firefly had already spun off a movie adaptation with Serenity in 2005, fans of the short-lived TV series wanted more. There were plans to make Serenity the first part of a Firefly trilogy, but its lukewarm box office tempered any plans for a sequel movie. Director Joss Whedon gained clout in Hollywood with the success of The Avengers, so it always seems like Serenity 2 could be just around the corner (though at a panel for his next film, Much Ado About Nothing, at SXSW, the director made it clear no one at the studios has shown an interest, and there are currently no plans to make another movie). A Kickstarter campaign to fully fund the would-be project could seal the deal to make the movie happen—and please Browncoats across the ‘verse.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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