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.
Big Bird fights racism
ALSO: Has short-run TV ruined TV? PLUS: Red Dead Redemption 2 changes
It doesn’t take a lot to outrage gamers, but with this I think they might have a point.
Fans of one of the biggest video games in the world Red Dead Redemption 2 are unhappy that updates to the game have completely changed the look and feel of the main character, removed random animals from the games landscape, and increased the darkness of the game’s look.
There’s an online campaign to restore the game back to the original iteration. Because of course there’s an online campaign.
And if you don’t think this conversation around a video game is important, consider this: Since the game launched, it has sold 31 million copies. In its first three days it made US$725 million. This puts it well ahead of most Hollywood movies including the big box office Marvel and Star Wars films. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a HUGE deal.
A Sesame Street special Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism will air this weekend on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, and CNN.com - it airs on Saturday 6 June at 10am US eastern time. That’s midnight on Saturday/Sunday in Australia. I’m not a parent, but my understanding is that kids should be in bed by that time.
If you’re interested, the special will undoubtedly be made available on the CNN website to watch anytime as they have done with previous Sesame Street town hall events.
Big Bird will join CNN commentator Van Jones and CNN anchor and national correspondent Erica Hill to moderate the event. They will be joined by "Sesame Street" characters -- including Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Rosita -- and other experts answering questions submitted by families.
Maureen Ryan at Vanity Fair asks if TV is sabotaging itself by moving to a model of short-run TV seasons rather than the old-school 22-25 episode seasons. Ryan asks whether we’re losing something by not letting TV shows shift and evolve, taking characters on decade-long arcs, and finding new and interesting aspects to TV series. In a Netflix world, would Chandler and Monica have hooked up? Would The Office have ended with the carpark kiss between Pam & Jim?
Maybe people just want shows that don’t demand much commitment. But I note how many people under 30 can quote from the O.G. run of Gilmore Girls, and I realize I’m not alone in wanting, at times, to burrow into a weighted blanket of a TV program. For days, months, years. Schur and I talked about “Pine Barrens,” an iconic episode of The Sopranos, as well as Lost’s “The Constant” and “LaFleur.” That last one is a delightful character portrait with doses of romance and adventure; it’s primo late-stage Lost, and I adore it. “You just don’t get those kinds of episodes unless the show is this rich soup of stuff that has been simmering for years,” Schur said. “There’s a kind of episode you can only do if a show’s been around for a long time. And I just fear that that’s going to go away.”
Brian Lowry at CNN writes about the relationship that viewers have with cop shows - are viewers views of the police shaped by these programs? Do we continue to watch even if we don’t agree with the politics of the police work being presented on screen?
To cite one wholly anecdotal example, my late mother loyally watched "Blue Bloods," the CBS drama with a family of cops at its core. As far as I could tell, her motivation had nothing to do with any political checklist, but rather a decades-long crush on its star, Tom Selleck.
In similar fashion, the Fox series "24" triggered robust debate in its heyday on whether its success signaled support for torture, a tactic protagonist Jack Bauer used to thwart terrorism. There were clearly many, though, who tuned in for the show's thriller-like aspects without endorsing the Bush administration employing such tactics.
Holey Moley is now deep into its second season. Here is one of the shows producers, former Australian TV presenter Wes Dening, talking about the decisions that went into retooling some of the courses and show structure in season 2.
“All of the research and feedback from season one indicated that people wanted more wipeouts, so we absolutely enhanced the amount of thrills and spills for season two,” Dening told me.
“I was telling people, if in season one, we had 10 great wipeouts to tease throughout the series, in series two, we have 10 great wipeouts to use in every single episode. There would be exponentially more wipeout thrills and spills,” he added.
Last season’s “Mt. Holey Moley” has been repurposed into a hole called “Polcano” that had an episode-one wipeout that made me yell out loud in my living room. Contestants take a zipline and then attempt to grab onto a large, padded pole, but typically end up bouncing off it in spectacular ways.
Polcano, Dening said, “was a good hole, but we all agreed it wasn’t great and it wasn’t perfect, and the simple tweak of adding a pole that people fly into just made it feel so much fun and physical, and would give a better reward.”
It might be time to go grab your Chromecast from the back of your telly and chuck it in the bin. Google have a new dongle on the horizon that is looking to compete with low-end streaming devices from Roku and Amazon.
Named Sabrina, the new dongle will bring Android TV to your TV. It’ll have a remote control (no more need to cast videos from your phone and use that as the remote) and, like the Android TV operating system already found on some TV’s, it’ll allow users to access apps from all of their favourite streaming services.
This hasn’t been officially announced yet, but it’s likely there’ll be an announcement soon.