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.
HBO speaks out on Big Little Lies! ALSO: RIP Designated Survivor! AND: Foxtel sign a deal with the devil.
Always Be Watching is written lovingly by Dan Barrett each morning with a quill and parchment.
The Television Critics Association has one of its twice-annual events underway, which means there’ll be a whole lot of television news in the next fortnight as critics hear from various industry execs and talent.
Today they heard from Casey Bloys at HBO who spoke about the controversy regarding recutting Big Little Lies, taking editorial voice away from series director Andrea Arnold. His comments are a reminder that in TV, the showrunner (usually the lead writer on the show) is the one in control.
“There were no surprises about how this was going to work,” Bloys said, denying that Arnold was blindsided when creative control was given to Vallée. “Jean-Marc was not given carte blanche [on Season 1]. He and [writer] David E. Kelly and the producers happened to have an aligned vision. He did not have directorial carte blanche. Andrea was never promised she would have free rein.”
Bloys said that when they were looking for a director to helm “Big Little Lies” Season 2 director they “were not looking for someone to come in and completely redo things.”
A TV series starring Batman’s butler Alfred as a young man is a terminally dumb idea that is proof of the gross excess of brand extensions. But… what if it is actually good? The trailer actually looked wildly entertaining. And reviews have been uniformly positive. Here’s Ben Travers from Indiewire:
Though there are some structural issues (the premiere is nearly feature length, with wobbly beginning and ending notes) and the big-picture strife between warring political parties takes up a bit too much time, “Pennyworth” establishes an admirable long-game and introduces a number of characters you’ll grow attached to quite quickly. Bannon is a talented lead, flashing charm and strength as well as he balances immediate assuredness (for those hard-to-escape scenarios) and long-view obliviousness (toward his own path in life). The show mimics his versatility, coming across as an exciting new chapter in Bruce Wayne’s growing televised saga. “Pennyworth” sounds like a bad idea, but Batman die-hards and casual fans should both soon discover how very good it is.
Also now dropping are reviews for Hulu’s upcoming Four Weddings and a Funeral. Reviews aren’t wildly ecstatic, but they are positive. Here is Caroline Famke at Variety:
The limited anthology series from Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton — the team behind “The Mindy Project,” a sitcom love letter to the rom-com genre — isn’t a reboot of Richard Curtis’ 1994 film. It rather just uses its premise of a group of friends weathering four weddings and a funeral together (for better and for worse), as a basic structure for their own perfectly pleasant stories. It’s also still based in London for seemingly no reason other than nostalgia; all four of the main characters are American Anglophiles who returned to the U.K. after spending a transformative semester there in college.
Keifer Sutherland doesn’t think there is likely to be a fourth season of Designated Survivor.
“We had an amazing experience with Netflix, and a kind of freedom that was wonderful – but the reality is, because the contracts were so complicated and different from network television to Netflix etc, they didn’t book a lot of the actors that were on the show, and they took other jobs, and I don’t blame them for a second for that.”
“So I think doing a season 4 would be very complicated and difficult, and the truth is, I loved making that show – I also miss aspects of what I enjoyed about 24, which was something that was really visceral and physical, and so I think its time for us all to go and find something new to do,” he said.
Interested in learning more about HBO Max, the new streaming service from WarnerMedia? Circle October 29 in your calendar as the day the company will hold a proper announcement event, which will likely reveal pricing, subscription features, and product demos. I’m hoping we might also find out news regarding its plans for international roll-out.
Yesterday Australian subscription TV provider Foxtel held an event to announce what it termed ‘The New Foxtel Experience’. Largely, it amounted to announcing a new user interface on its iQ3 and iQ4 set-top boxes. The new interface has on-demand content as the priority, with linear channels still easily accessible, but certainly no longer as prominent as they had been.
That is both a positive move for the TV provider as it makes little sense to stick to a linear schedule when there is so much content available at subscribers fingertips, but it’ll require some re-education for older, rusted-on linear viewers who are used to watching their Foxtel in a very traditional way.
Foxtel will also have a new remote control, which very conveniently places format types like Movies and Shows as dedicated buttons, saving precious seconds of navigation.
The big news for Foxtel was the announcement that third-party content providers will now be allowed on the box (through partnerships with Foxtel). A partnership has already been struck with Netflix, with SBS On Demand to arrive on platform in a few months time. Presumably, other networks will follow soon-after once deals are struck.
This makes all the sense on the world for the third-party providers, but I struggle to understand how this is beneficial for Foxtel? I doubt there were many subscribers who were cancelling because they couldn’t readily access their Netflix content.
Instead, this just seems like an easy on-ramp into the Netflix eco-system. Yes, Foxtel has all of that great HBO content and a really strong movie library, but for any subscribers who don’t have sport as a priority, it just shows subscribers that they can access a wealth of content for a price just a quarter of a monthly Foxtel subscription.
Netflix content will appear alongside Foxtel content. But, viewers who click on a Netflix show will find the Netflix app load to take them to the show they want to watch. This immediately takes the viewer away from the Foxtel eco-system and into Netflix’s - which is where the viewer remains once they finish watching a Netflix show. They’d then have to click back out to watch other Foxtel shows.
I appreciate that Foxtel has to do something to stay relevant in the market, but something about this feels like the company just signed a deal with the devil.
Amazon has announced the launch of a Prime Video VR app for 360 videos and its regular library of content.
At launch will be 10 curated 360 videos. Included:
INVASION!: This Emmy-award- winning VR experience tells the story of menacing aliens who try to take over Earth and destroy anyone trying to stop them. The citizens of Earth are able to rise up and defeat the invaders – but these citizens aren’t humans. They’re two of the cutest, sweetest, cuddliest creatures of our planet: two little white bunnies, and in this story, you’re one of them!
Return to Chernobyl: Go on a haunting journey inside the ruins of Chernobyl, guided by Aleksander Sirota — who was just 9 years old when he survived the disaster. Today, he is a tour guide bringing throngs of visitors through his notorious hometown, despite the still dangerous levels of radiation.
Greenland Melting: To understand why Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster and faster, FRONTLINE and NOVA, two flagship PBS series, teamed up with Emblematic Group, xRez Studio and Realtra to bring this story to life as never before. Stand in front of glaciers, fly at low altitudes over some of the world’s most stunning scenery, and dive beneath the ocean’s surface to learn what NASA’s studies are revealing.