A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Always Be Watching - 1 October 2018
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett who just came from the other side and feels great now
It was set to be a great Friday night. With no plans, it was set to involve an Uber Eats delivery, a whole lot of TV, and significant progression on the PS4 Spider-Man game. And while all of that happened, the pleasure of it was derailed by the 12:30am stabbing pains that kicked in with a wild night of food poisoning.
Good and bad came of it. The good was watching rolling news coverage of the Kavanaugh Senate vote in the US that didn’t come to pass. Watching as an Australian, what is going on in the US is largely an academic exercise and boy did it make for thrilling TV. The bad (despite breaking my multi-year no-vomit streak - I’m still yet to reach Jerry Seinfeld’s 13-years and 5 months streak) was that I was in no mood to put out the weekend edition of the ABW newsletter.
Just know that a whole bunch of US shows launched this week and the majority are all terrible.
One lackluster US launch this week was the return of Murphy Brown to the TV. The new show setting feels right, but the jokes were anemic and far from the biting sense of humour that the marketing has tried to portray the original series as having. The most-misguided move was the ‘surprise’ Hillary Clinton cameo, which was terribly unfunny and difficult to watch. Series creator Diane English disagrees and says Clinton ‘nailed it’.
Where I think the Murphy Brown reboot was off-base is that they just tried bringing the show back where it would have been better served just bringing the character back. I think Candice Bergen is great and enjoyed her tremendously in Boston Legal. Why not bring back Murphy Brown in a similarly toned laugh-track-free series, maybe even sticking to a half-hour format.
As for I’m Dying Up Here, the comedy-drama started its second season with 168,000 Live+same day viewers for the premiere and ended with 162,000 for the finale. There was some promising signs early on when the show’s viewership jumped to 232,000 for Episode 2 but the uptick was short-lived.
Why did the show fail? It never felt authentic. Stand-up comedy is massive on HBO and Netflix, while every stand-up now has their own podcast. We are not living through a shortage of insights into the world of stand-up comedy. So, a drama series about the early days of The Comedy Store that had no spark of life in it, had nothing to say, and never brought the funny, was always going to struggle.
One of the big problems with the Veronica Mars movie was that the film just felt like friendly fan service. Kristen Bell suggests that won’t be the case with the upcoming revival series:
“It’s gonna be a much darker world, it’s going to be a bigger world, it’s definitely not what we did on UPN or The CW, so I want to brace fans for that, that it’s going to be darker and bigger and more cinematic, a little bit different,” she said.
“Particularly now, you want to see a girl who’s fighting for good,” she explained. “You want to see a superhero without a cape who has nothing at her fingertips but her wit and her intellect. You want to see her better the world around her. People want to see a hero again.”