‘Second screen’ apps so far less than first rate

Published 9:00 pm Sunday, November 4, 2012

Some distractions can’t be avoided. Others can be.

     I don’t have any children, so any distractions related to them I can blissfully avoid while watching television or a movie. And since I did away with a landline telephone, the number of telemarketing or election-related campaign calls has greatly reduced.

     The bottom line is I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m doing something – usually watching TV or a movie or playing a video game.

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     Despite the pause button on the DVR or outright recording something that can be watched later, there are just some shows I want to watch then and there. And distractions must be kept to an absolute minimum.

     I thought about this the other day while perusing Facebook and waiting for “The Walking Dead” to come on. Episodes of “The Walking Dead” seem like the fastest hour on television, but that’s another discussion.

     Anyway, a Facebook friend posted one of those pastel picture cards that have some kind of wittism, a sharp remark or an interesting comment. The one I saw featured a woman on a phone talking about “The Walking Dead.”

     “Of course, we’re friends. But if you call me during “The Walking Dead,” I’ll use you for target practice during the zombie apocalypse.”

     Lately, a number of programs have been promoting apps that offer a “second screen” for viewers to enjoy on their iPad or other tablet while watching the show.

     The idea is the app syncs with the show and lets viewers in on background information about a scene, show trivia or special extra footage. Some apps let viewers interact via Facebook and Twitter.

      “The Walking Dead” happens to be one offering a “second screen,” but I’ve not ventured into that app world.

     The reason is my previous experiences with the “second screen” apps haven’t been all that great. Honestly, they’re just too distracting.

     I downloaded and tried the app to go along with “Leverage,” another of my favorite shows, during its recent season. Perhaps I wasn’t doing something right, but I kept encountering, you might say, “technical difficulties.”

     Initially, the app would be synced with the show until a commercial break or two, and then it got way off or didn’t resume when the show did.    

     TNT likes to air its new shows a couple of times a night, so I watched “Leverage” during its first run and tried to use the app later during a repeat broadcast. Very little made sense then.

     Answers to poll questions on the app were disproportionately skewed one way or another and viewer comments were very few. And there was still the issue with the out-of-sync stuff.

     After about three episodes, I gave up. The app is still on my iPad, but it’s only taking up space.

     “Second screen” apps are available for some movies, too.

     I was off work the other day and decided to watch “The Avengers” with the “second screen” app. It worked much better, but I still had issues.

     The app accompanying “The Avengers” offered mostly still photos of the cast or bios when they first appear on screen. Occasionally, there was some reference to a comic book related to the storyline.

     But beware the video snippets. I watched one, which probably didn’t last more than 30 seconds or so, but I now was out of sync with the movie.

     One touch on the iPad screen got it re-synced, but some “second screen” stuff was missed. And what happened on the big screen while my attention was focused elsewhere?

     It’s a good thing I had seen “The Avengers” a couple of times before trying out the “second screen” app.

     For anyone interested in checking out a “second screen” app, my suggestion would be to save it for a rerun. The “second screen” is just too distracting the first time through.

     That’s all for now.

     Write to Managing Editor Matthew Coleman at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, or send e-mail to mcoleman@dailyleader.com.