U8TV: The Final Review

by W. Andrew Powell

Since that chill autumn day nearly 4 months ago, when I got my first glimpse at the U8TV-machine, I’ve gone through every stage of love and hate for the concept of U8TV. From the odd name to the cool idea of the high-tech loft, I thought every idea over… and none of it prepared me for the last two days that I’ve sat in front of my computer watching these 8 wonderful freaks try and make something out of nothing.

I’ve cursed the chat system, tried to talk to the Lofters, watched the lovely ladies strut their stuff, laughed with/at the transvestite guests and I’ve nearly pulled my hair out each time something went wrong. But, while I love some of the stuff they’ve done so far, I can’t believe how badly other things are going. The sound and video on all the live streams is choppy nearly half the time (and I’m running on a high speed connection) and I often tune in to see the cameras, mostly on the snoop cams, pointed in odd directions or without the right microphones on.

But, whatever you say about U8TV, you can’t deny it’s ingenuity. It takes the idea of the “reality show” and pushes it in a little different direction, something a little more Canadian in its hands-on feel and naiveté. You can’t really call it unique, but it is still something fresh on the whole landscape of new media. Especially compared to that awful The Mole show or the old Big Brother.

Unlike some of the popular media outlets, I’m not here to talk cliche or totally dis the show. I want to dish out a fair review here because so far I don’t think many of the other things I’ve read have really taken a good, long look at U8TV. So let’s stop comparing it to American television for starters and move out of this media box we seem to be in.

For starters, the actual shows aren’t bad but they never really seem to capture any life. They bounce along with each person’s energy stretching it out of shape in fun but weird directions all the time, but the purpose never seems entirely clear. Some of the stories or shows (like one on quitting smoking and another to get people to make an oath to have more sex) are really well done, and others seem a bit too tepid (like the Spin The Bottle show, which is really slow and really lame). No matter what you say about U8TV however, it won’t survive 10 more minutes if the idea of “team” isn’t kept inside those loft’s walls. If those 8 Lofters continue as 8 loose canons then U8TV won’t be worth watching as anything more than an example of how NOT to do a show.

As far as the actual Lofters are concerned, I’m liking them a lot more than I ever expected. Kalen, David and Vallery are my favorites because of their charm and wit but Sandy is surprisingly a very cool person too. Her honesty and energy makes her a little edgy but that’s half of why she is worth watching for more than 10 minutes. Mathieu, Jen, Tre and Arisa on the other hand are good, but on camera they don’t come across quite strongly enough. In fact I’ve only seen Tre and Arisa in the Loft for a few minutes at a time. So on the Lofter side of things, they could all use some time to become better hosts but they’re pretty funky people and only Kalen and David suffer from ham-it-up-itis.

I am worried about the Lofters though because I think they’re all going to become alcoholics. So far, both Monday and Tuesday nights, I’ve seen everyone in the Loft drinking. Not casually either… they’re drinking like they mean it! Worst part is, they have to buy their own booze! I wonder how long it’ll be before they are panhandling for money, smokes and cheap wine?

All this doesn’t mean a thing though if you’re a voyeur like me. I can sit for hours and watch U8TV, but I find that I’m less likely to watch when they’re doing any of their shows. The unscripted stuff is actually pretty damn good. However, if things don’t get tighter, funkier and more interesting soon then I’m afraid this will be the quickest demise of a media outlet that the world has ever seen. I’m quietly optimistic though that things will pull together, the Lofters will become great hosts, and U8TV will expand into one of the hippest “stations”, but it’s going to take a whole lot of work behind the scenes first. Well, Survivor wasn’t built in a day!?

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