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.
Brand new Fraggle Rock. Thanks, Apple TV+.
ALSO: HBO Max debuts. AND: Masterchef socially distances.
Dance your cares away, worries for another day - Fraggle Rock is back. Following on from the success of the very recent iso-created Fraggle Rock shorts, Apple TV+ has commissioned a brand new Fraggle Rock series. As part of the deal, it will also bring all of the old Fraggle Rock episodes to the streaming service.
The new Fraggle Rock series will reunite the original stars – Gobo, Red, Boober, Mokey, Wembley, and Uncle Travelling Matt – for new songs and adventures, with the same spirit as the classic.
The new safety measures put in place on the set of Masterchef Australia are being looked at globally.
Endemol Shine Australia, which produces the show, this season titled MasterChef: Back To Win, said, “MasterChef Australia has always employed the highest standards of food safety and hygiene, and we now have an even keener focus on that. All recommendations outlined by Federal and State government health authorities are being followed. Under the current circumstances, we are introducing new measures for the foreseeable future.”
CBS might have passed on a series based on The Lincoln Lawyer book series, but other networks are reportedly interested. This includes Amazon which is currently home to Bosch - a series based on books by the same author Michael Connelly. The lead character in The Lincoln Lawyer is also Bosch’s half-brother.
And on the subject of Amazon literary adaptations, the streamer is developing a series based on the Lisbeth Salander character from the Millennium Trilogy series of books. The series won’t just re-tread The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Instead it will take the character and use her in the current world taking on new challenges.
The Crownstars Matt Smith and Claire Foy (who has portrayed the aforementioned Lisbeth Salander in the 2018 movie Girl In The Spider Web) will reunite on screen for a live-streamed performance of Lungs from The Old Vic theatre. The play will be capped at just 1000 viewers per performance with tickets charged to the home viewing audience at the same price as a ticket in the actual theatre.
The performances will be the first in a new programme titled Old Vic: In Camera, an artistic initiative which will also include a major series of rehearsed play-readings from the stage and is intended as an effort to save the theatre from a perilous financial situation brought on by the forced closure.
A statement from The Old Vic said, “Rekindling live performance in this irrepressible 202-year-old venue, albeit with minimal staging and accessible only via camera, is a genuine thrill for us.
“But this series is both an exciting creative experiment and also crucial in igniting the box office now all our usual channels of revenue have been entirely wiped out and we fight to preserve this beloved theatre for our audiences, surrounding schools and communities, staff, crew, and the myriad of writers, performers and creatives that work with us.”
Following the death of Hana Kimura, Fuji TV has terminated the current series of reality show Terrace House Tokyo. It is not known yet whether the series will return. With a huge fan base for the show globally thanks to Netflix, it is likely the series will return - possibly with some format tweaks.
Netflix is taking a new approach for its Oscar campaigning - it isn’t submitting any of its films to film festivals in 2020. Source: Indiewire
On my Twitter feed a couple of days ago I saw a US journalist mention a media release from Amazon that also included a full script for on-air talent to use. The script was a lead-in to a pre-produced story about conditions inside Amazon fulfillment centres. That video was also provided by Amazon.
And at least 11 news channels across the US went for it.
The intro reads:
"Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on amazon to deliver essentials like groceries and cleaning products during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For the first time we're getting a glimpse *inside* Amazon's fulfillment centers to see just how the company is keeping its employees safe and healthy.. While delivering packages to your doorstep.
Todd Walker takes us inside."
Todd Walker is an Amazon spokesperson who then narrates the video, giving the perception that he is a reporter who works for the TV news channel.
To keep in mind with this story:
Amazon are really just being savvy here about deploying a media release. It’s just a more sophisticated approach than most. The success of any media release is judged not just by how much pick-up there is of a story, but also how much of the deliberate language from a release makes its way into the news item.
News organisations aren’t obligated to run the story. Nor are they obligated to use the intro script if they do. Nor do they need to use that footage. Shortcuts have been taken in what is very likely an under-resourced newsroom.
As budgets for news (print/online/TV) drop, expect to see a lot more of this coming from time-poor journos. A good reminder to financially support news organisations if you can.
HBO Max, which launched approximately 11 hours ago (as I write this), has two big questions surrounding it:
Is it good?
Is it a challenger to Netflix?
My initial thoughts are: Yes, it’s really rather good. And I’m not sure how it will fare against Netflix. I’ve had some time to take a look at the new streaming service and my immediate thoughts on it was that it all feels a bit fancy. And that might be an issue.
Netflix’s interface is attractive, but utility is really its main purpose. You can tell that it was borne of engineers. Whereas it really feels like the WarnerMedia marketing team were in the room with HBO Max from day one. It looks gorgeous, but instead of just being a massive slab of content available to sift through, it is all curated into collections on the front screen. You need to click through to the alphabetised A-Z option to really see the full catalogue.
And despite including a lot of trashy reality like The Bachelor franchise, the streaming service still has that HBO sense of prestige about it. For a self-identified wanker like myself, that’s fine. But the HBO brand is seen as a bit elitist and it will put off some potential subscribers.
I’ll have a deep dive article about HBO Max up on the Always Be Watching website later today once I find some time to really go through it properly.
The launch of HBO Max is actually incredibly complicated. It’s not just a matter of WarnerMedia pooling together content from its verious channels and companies. It’s not just sorting through all the contractual arrangements in place and licencing of additional content. There’s the matter of distribution.
WarnerMedia has pre-existing deals with cable companies (MVPD’s) and online platforms that carry HBO Max. Some platforms, like Apple and Hulu, you can subscribe to HBO Max via their billing instead of going direct. So, it’s complicated. And where there are complications, there are COMPLICATIONS.
On day one of HBO Max, subscribers to previous HBO online services can’t access HBO Max if they use platforms like Amazon or Roku. These are also two of the biggest platforms. The fight is going public now. Here’s a statement issued by Amazon:
“Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog. We believe that if you’re paying for HBO, you’re entitled to the new programming though the method you’re already using. That’s just good customer service and that’s a priority for us.”
Looking for a comprehensive list of every movie and TV show streaming on HBO Max? Here you are. Read it: Polygon
The streamer has a surprisingly large amount of The Bachelor. Included are not only seasons from the US Bachelor franchise, but also international additions including the Australian series (including Bachelor in Paradise Australia). Source: Variety
Richard Trenholm at CNET has put together a fun list of fourteen classic movies now streaming on HBO Max. Looking at the list I’m reminded of a whole bunch of movies that I have long wanted to watch, but never have. The list includes obvious films like Citizen Kane, but also Destroy All Monsters and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.