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.
Enter the Sandman! RIP Walking Dead! And the shocking abuses within the Anime industry
Always Be Watching is curated by Dan Barrett, today from a hospital bed
ABW is back again today after an unexpected hiatus. Yesterday morning there was no newsletter as I’m in hospital getting some minor surgery done (I’m fine). I figured I’d be waiting around for the surgery, giving me enough time to ABW and Chill, but I was scheduled first thing. So, apologies for missing yesterday’s send.
Netflix has confirmed that they have commissioned a TV series based on the comic book series Sandman. The Sandman comics were huge in the 90s and was one of the big cross-cultural hits drawing a lot of interest from mature-aged readers. If you don’t know Sandman, trust me when I say this is going to be a huge deal when the series launches.
From an industry angle, this is interesting for the fact Warner Bros TV is making this for Netflix and not saving it for the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service. This will be a huge, premium production and wouldn’t have been cheap for Netflix. Apparently Warners were seeking a few big sales to inject cash into the organisation, hence selling to Netflix.
“The Sandman” follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic–and human–mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.
When Astro Boy was first produced in the 60s, the show had to be made at an incredibly low cost. It then went on to be a huge success, but a precedent was set: Anime could be produced on the cheap.
There is a fascinating article at Vox about the dark side of the anime industry. Most anime is still hand-drawn with most of the animators heavily exploited and making under $2 a day.
Working conditions are grim. Animators often fall asleep at their desks. Henry Thurlow, an American animator living and working in Japan, told BuzzFeed News he has been hospitalized multiple times due to illness brought on by exhaustion.
One studio, Madhouse, was recently accused of violating labor code: Employees were working nearly 400 hours per month and went 37 consecutive days without a single day off. A male animator’s 2014 suicide was classified as a work-related incident after investigators found he had worked more than 600 hours in the month leading up to his death.
In the last two years, Netflix has canceled three shows in the genre: “The Break With Michelle Wolf,” “The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale” and “Chelsea.” Two other Netflix talk shows — “Norm Macdonald Has a Show” and “The Fix,” starring Jimmy Carr, D. L. Hughley and Katherine Ryan — haven’t generated much buzz.
Part of the problem may be that talk shows make for an awkward fit with streaming.
I feel like there are two key problems with Netflix entering the talk show market:
They’re an island in a sea of content - Netflix make so few general entertainment shows that demand same day/week viewing that audiences don’t build viewing habits.
Netflix’s stubborn reliance on the algorithm means these shows only surface for certain viewers who have shown a predisposition to them. If talk shows are a genre unlike other things on Netflix with a different viewing/consumption style, Netflix need to create a dedicated section on its screen breaking out these shows with a timeliness concern.
On July 16 Netflix are releasing the comedy special Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster Frankenstein. It stars David Harbour and reminds me a lot of the spirit of Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place.
Speaking of David Harbour, he is back on Netflix this Thursday with Stranger Things 3. The AV Club has a fun list of the movies to watch ahead of watching the new season. I’m not sure many people will have time to fit in 10 movies ahead of the show returning in 2 days, but whatever.
Stranger Things aside, it’s generally a really good list of movies that are worth checking out if you haven’t seen them. I’d like to draw your attention to the 1978 remake of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, which I only saw for the first time last year and LOVED IT. It’s
Quietly, the big story of today is the surprise ending of The Walking Dead comic book series. The comic inspired one of the biggest TV shows on the air over the past decade and has similarly been driving huge sales in comic book shops.
Creator Robert Kirkman has decided to bring the series to an end, with the comic arriving in stores today. What is really fascinating is that Kirkman didn’t make a big deal about it - quite the opposite. Instead of a big promotional campaign leading to the final issue, Kirkman released fake solicitations for the next few months worth of comics.
Last month he killed off the comics main character Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln in the TV show) and this month released its final issue #193. Even stores ordering the over-sized issue didn’t know that the book was ending.
"I love long movies for that very reason," he continued. "You lose track of time because you went in convinced that you’re going to be there for a long time, but the story moves at such an entertaining and engaging pace that by the time the movie’s wrapping up ... you can’t believe it’s already over. Surprise, it’s over! All I’ve ever done, all a creator can really do ... is tailor-make stories to entertain themselves, and hope the audience feels the same way. That’s all I’ve ever been doing ... and it seems to work most of the time."
Reboots don’t play by the established rules. The Scream TV show reboot debuts next week on VH1 in the States.
IDW is a comic book publisher who made an effort to start producing TV shows. It launched the horror western show Wyonna Earp. And then IDW had financial difficulties. Despite the fact the show was reasonably popular and showed a return on investment, IDW didn’t have the money to keep making it.
Thanks to fan support and the faith in the show by the networks airing it, Earp returns for a fourth season:
The show’s network partners, Syfy in the U.S. and Space in Canada, have always been supportive of Wynonna Earp, especially as it emerged as a bona fide cult hit with an unusually active and committed fan base. If anything, multiple sources affirm that Syfy has only gotten more onboard with Wynnona Earp over time, given the show’s stealth success and the way Earper passion ties into the network’s fan-oriented rebranding campaign. When things went sideways at IDW in recent months, the network made its support crystal clear by offering to pay a higher license fee for the program. Multiple sources confirm that Syfy ponying up those additional funds — a rare gesture from a network to a struggling studio — helped ensure the fourth season would get made.
This was inevitable. Lifetime are making a TV movie about NXIVM. It will be titled: NXIVM Cult: A Mother's Nightmare and the focus will be through"Dynasty" actor Catherine Oxenberg's fight to save her daughter from the cult.
"She decides to take her 20-year-old daughter India to the professional-development meeting. Led by the extremely enigmatic Keith Raniere, Catherine can't help but shake the feeling there's more than meets the eye with the self-help organization. Despite Catherine's best efforts, India is drawn deeper into the cult, eventually joining a secret sorority of female members who are branded with the cult leader's initials, ordered to maintain a restricted diet, and forced to recruit other women as sex slaves," a description for the movie reads.
The ABC in Australia has officially announced that Think Tank has been cancelled.