I was going to post part two of my previous post but tonight was the series premiere of jPod, the TV show on CBC based on Douglas Coupland’s novel of the same name. A trailer for the show can be seen above. The series revolves around the lives of a game team developing a next-gen skateboarding game at a Burnaby, BC company called Neotronic Arts. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

When a TV show premise basically describes the last year or so of your life, you kinda have to watch, so that’s what I did. While I watched the premiere, I tried to keep in mind that it was entertainment and not a documentary about the industry. Here are my thoughts on the episode.

First, the jPod dev team works in this basement area that seems like a poor man’s CTU. I don’t know any dev team that works around so much depressing concrete without any windows. Developers are a pretty pampered bunch that’s more used to wood, brick, large windows, and breathtaking views. On the other hand, everyone at NA uses Dell equipment which is exactly how things are at EA.

The jPod team consists of six people which in real life would be undoubtedly the smallest dev team working on a next-gen game on the planet. You’d be lucky to make a quality Xbox Live Arcade game with six people let alone a triple A title. As far as I can deduce, the six people include a visionary / executive producer type, a motion capture operator, a character artist, an engine programmer, an environmental artist/modeler, and some guy (the main character) who is either a physics programmers specializing in fluids or a level designer. I guess if you squint really hard, you might be able to squeeze a game out of those six roles, though it be like trying to start a fire with a cup of water, a piece of plastic, and some tomatoes.

The characters themselves are quite interesting. The one actual self-proclaimed programmer, Cowboy, is a chain-smoking, often shirtless, sleazy sex enthusiast who likes to download porn at work. I wish this guy was on our team. I also like the fact that at least one of the characters is American because at EA, there are a whole bunch of Americans.

The one time the show made me laugh was when the visionary guy asked the team to add a new turtle character to the game. Ethan, the main character, protested and said they couldn’t do that because the game was already four months into production. Only four months in! I had dudes asking me for new features less than two months from the ship date for skate.

Overall, the most interesting part of the show didn’t have to do with games. I really liked the relationship the Ethan character had with his parents. It was interesting that Ethan left work in the middle of the day to help his pot-growing Mom with disposing with a dead body. Also, on the same day of work, he helped his Dad get rid of his stoned girlfriend from the house.

I think I’ll watch a couple more episodes because I want to see how these characters develop. Maybe they’ll do months and months of overtime as well.

4 thoughts on “JPOD THE SERIES”

  1. With the same state of mind (entertainment, not reality), I tried viewing this show with an open mind.Didn’t like it, regardless.I didn’t like dialogue, feeling that it was poorly written (and because of that, poorly executed by the actors).The other thing I didn’t like would require a comparison to The Office. (The UK version, because that’s what I know.) In The Office, there are people around who are either normal, or mostly normal, who either never have speaking parts, or who occasionaly speak. It ads atmosphere to the environments. In jPod, I can’t recall a single “background artist” in the entire show. Not only that, other than the “main guy”, all of the characters were almost caricatures of weird people, not just weird people. Cowboy would have been fine, if they toned down the rest of the characters. The Dad, Alan Thicke, would have been fine if his infidelity was done without all the mugging and crazy behaviour.In the end, it feels like they were just trying too hard.

  2. I really want to support prime time CBC programming but was disappointed by the first episode. I don’t work in the industry but I found the characters and a bit unconvincing. I hope to be proved wrong in time. I also found the ‘b’ story with the mom and the grow op to be a bit over the top and thought Allan Thicke’s character was trying way too hard to show that he’s so ‘wild and crazy’. I will watch again and hope for more.

  3. have you read the book? I thought it might have been good if they based it on the characters of the book. but no. they just made a show out of the book. same plot. same story. kinda dumb, that. wonder what they’ll do when they reach the end of the story. cuz the book, like all books, ends. I missed the beginning of the show, but I’m hoping they didn’t do what the book did and write a reference to “a douglas coupland book” into the first paragraph. ugh. at least later he qualified that by actually writing himself into the story. oops, was that a spoiler?and erwin stop looking for reality in their portrayal of EA. it wasn’t written by an ex-employee. it was written by a guy who talked to employees (by the feel of it). and reality-wise, at least it wasn’t like Gramma’s Boy where a “tester” created an entire game, in his free time. ha/

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