Tuning in to the tiny screen

I love how smart Apple is with its line of iPods, and more important, the content it makes available for iPods. I got a video iPod for Christmas (good thing, since my 40GB 4th generation iPod is filled up with over 11,000 songs), and in addition to putting all my classical music and odds and ends like podcasts on the thing, I’ve been putting videos on it.

First, I went through iTunes’ video podcasts and have been downloading and watching a selection of them. It’s an evolving form, so I’m looking forward to see what “vodcasts” will be like in a year or two. DenverPost.com has its own video podcasts too, so we’re trying to stake out territory in this brave new world.

And although I’m not very interested in most of the video content that Apple’s licensed so far – I haven’t gotten hooked on either “Lost” or “Desperate Housewives” yet – I have bought some stuff just to see what it’s like.

I was pleased to find that NBC has been licensing old shows to Apple, including the ‘70s cop show “Adam 12,” so I downloaded a couple of episodes for $1.95 each. Not bad for a half hour of video. I also paid the same for several music videos, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” “Take Me Out Tonight” from “Rent” (it’s nice to see a montage of scenes from the film) and Michael Jackson’s longform version of his 1983 mega-hit, “Thriller.”

ABC made a terrific deal with Apple to offer 20-minute highlight reels of all the post-New Year college football bowl games, and although I hadn’t seen the game, since the Rose Bowl was supposed to be a fabulous game, I downloaded that for $1.95. It’s great to enjoy a 3-hour-plus game in 20 minutes of great plays. It was worth the price.

At the Macworld conference in San Francisco the other day, Steve Jobs also announced a deal with NBC to let people download highlights of “Saturday Night Live” so I checked out a 10-minute-long skit called “Samurai Night Fever” starring John Belushi as the recurring character of a scruffy samurai based on Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune.

I sort of dreaded seeing it because since my youth, I’ve become much more aware of how distorted depictions of Asians in American culture can be. Belushi’s lurching samurai is over-the-top and certainly not politically correct, but I didn’t think he was racist. In fact, the skit holds up well.

It’ll be cool seeing what else Apple can coax into iTunes.

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