Last night I watched the first episode of the new BBC drama Years and Years. It’s from Russell T Davies and among its cast is Emma Thompson, Rory Kinnear, Jessica Hynes, and Russell Tovey. The show fast-forwards through the next 15 years, following the life of a family living through an era of considerable instability. This is showing us a potential world in which the ramifications of Brexit are felt, along with shifting geo-political considerations, and the ever-present threat of Donald Trump in his second term in office.
It’s a sharp, thoroughly considered look at what may lie ahead. It’s rare that a show has me as energised as this has, but it’s one hell of a first episode.
The show has just aired its second episode in the UK and will debut in the US via HBO on 24 June. An Australian broadcaster is yet to sign on.
This review by Sophie Gilbert savaging new Renee Zellweger Netflix series What/If for being rather bad kind of makes me want to watch it more. Not a whole lot more, but it now has my interest. It’s from Mike Kelley who made the ABC drama Revenge and is reportedly not a whole lot better than that.
Which is … a fascinating premise for a limited series to explore! But it’s also not at all, at least from the first five episodes made available for review, something What/If concerns itself with. Rather, the show is a Silicon Valley soap opera in which the characters have buried secrets emerging to bite them on their perfectly sculpted behinds. Moral dilemmas abound, both in plotlines and as features of a drinking game devised by a realtor named Lionel (John Clarence Stewart). Can it ever be acceptable to cheat? Sacrifice friends for success? Take money from bad people to do good things? What/If bats these ideas around like Ping-Pong balls to justify its premise, but it yawns at rather than considers them.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, was the reason why viewers didn’t care as much for the final run of episodes because the show flipped a switch from talking about sociology to psychology? I cannot work out if this article is actually clever, or misguided wank.
Another example of sociological TV drama with a similarly enthusiastic fan following is David Simon’s The Wire, which followed the trajectory of a variety of actors in Baltimore, ranging from African-Americans in the impoverished and neglected inner city trying to survive, to police officers to journalists to unionized dock workers to city officials and teachers. That show, too, killed off its main characters regularly, without losing its audience. Interestingly, the star of each season was an institution more than a person. The second season, for example, focused on the demise of the unionized working class in the U.S.; the fourth highlighted schools; and the final season focused on the role of journalism and mass media.
Luckily for The Wire, creative control never shifted to the standard Hollywood narrative writers who would have given us individuals to root for or hate without being able to fully understand the circumstances that shape them. One thing that’s striking about The Wire is how one could understand all the characters, not just the good ones (and in fact, none of them were just good or bad). When that’s the case, you know you’re watching a sociological story.
Warner Bros was purchased by US telco AT&T, which is now integrating the content company into its telecommunications platform as a way of retaining customers as the mobile industry hits maturity.
Industry wonks might be interested in this Fortune article that speaks with CEO Randall Stephenson and analyses how the newly branded WarnerMedia (which includes HBO and DC Comics in its portfolio) will compete with Netflix, Disney, and the like. Is the company too big/small to succeed in its efforts?
It’s clear to Martin that WarnerMedia cannot hold a competitive advantage in content creation. “Others are dropping unprecedented levels of spending into the business,” he says. Analysts estimate Disney will spend $21 billion on content this year, Netflix $15 billion, and AT&T $14 billion. (None of the companies will comment on those estimates.) “If you’re AT&T, where do you stand?” Martin asks. “You’re spending less on content than Netflix and Disney, and you won’t beat Verizon on 5G. Where does that leave you?” The answer, he believes, is the dreaded locale identified by strategy authority Michael Porter as the worst place for any company to be strategically: caught in the middle.
I thoroughly dislike micro-transactions in mobile video games and am perfectly happy to pay a one-off fee to play a game I want to play. So, consider me disappointed that the new Mario Kart mobile game will be heavy with the transactions.