Current ruins 'infoMania'

Thursday, 18 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by 

infomaniaAlmost two years ago I wrote about "infoMania," a little-seen show on a little-seen network, Current. I liked "infoMania" (11 tonight) and called it "a consistently funny half-hour program" that mocked the media. Sort of a weekly "Daily Show."

Over the last couple of years the show has had some missteps (I still miss the departed Sarah Haskins) and smart additions (Bryan Safi's "That's Gay" is a funny send-up of narrow-mindedness and homophobia). But in the past couple of weeks "infoMania" has become unwatchable.

Read more after the jump. ...

Producers or maybe the network have consciously decided to take "infoMania" in a different, terrible direction that involves filming the show in front of a studio audience. And that means "infoMania," a show that mocks media conventions like a laugh track, now has a laugh track. That makes absolutely no sense. And fans of the show seem to agree, bombarding the "infoMania" Facebook page with pleas to drop the laugh track. The first week after the laugh track began, host Conor Knighton began by saying the show had heard viewers' pleas to drop the laughs and they did so in a way that only made long-time fans more angry.

"They make a joke about firing the old audience and bringing in new people because everyone hated it, effectively saying, 'Screw you all, we're doing what we damn well want,'" Chris Pence wrote on Facebook. "I couldn't watch more than a few minutes and canceled the series on my DVR. Too bad; it was such a good show before all the changes."

Former fan Kelley Corleone wrote, "I promoted the show every week. I was embarrassed last week for doing so. Sorry folks, this is not the same show I've been watching! The new format sucks. I can't praise or promote until it gets back to good."

So what makes the new "infoMania" so awful? Less Viral Video Film School with Brett Erlich and more on-camera discussion segments between Knighton and correspondents. (Last week's show ended with Knighton looking into the wrong camera, something that could be fixed if the show was recorded and not done live-to-tape.)

Obviously, the laugh track is horrendous, particularly for a show targeting young, savvy viewers. And the stars don't know how to deal with the timing of the laughs -- mugging for the camera too long or blowing through punchlines -- which makes everything feel just a bit off. The result is a once a likeable, indie endeavor has been pushed into bland (and mistimed) mediocrity.

Fans are also upset that full episodes of the show are no longer available online, replaced by clips and segments that didn't make it to air. I suspect some of these changes are part of a corporate makeover of the channel that has seen some series eliminated. ("The Rotten Tomatoes Show," a movie review series, no longer produces stand-alone episodes but is sometimes featured as an "infoMania" segment.)

I tried to get an interview with host/executive producer Conor Knighton to get a sense of what the goal of the new direction is but a Current publicist never got back to me to set up an interview. (And let's just ponder that for a minute: A journalist wants to write about a show on a network no one is writing about or watching and you blow him off? That's both insane and publicity malpractice.)

The good news? Now there's one less half-hour of TV I'll watch each week, catching the remaining decent bits when I find them posted online.

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