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.
Heroes star speaks out about racism on set
ALSO: Netflix goes audio-only. AND: Get sweaty with Apple Fitness+.
Good morning - Always Be Watching has hit the road today. Usually this is compiled from the ABW HQ in Sydney, Australia. But today I’m hitting publish from a service station in Buladelah.
The week leading into Christmas is always a bit strange. For the last couple of years there has been notable news leading right into the holidays - I’m expecting a few big news days this week, but COVID has made it hard to predict much of anything.
If things get quiet, the newsletter might just be published every second day for the next 2-3 weeks. We’ll see.
Heroes actor Leonard Roberts speaks out
You might remember Leonard Roberts. He was in a bunch of TV shows from the late 90s, including a memorable run in season 4 of Buffy (he was one of the student military guys). His big break was being cast as one of the leads in the hit NBC drama Heroes.
Things didn’t go his way. His co-star on Heroes, Ali Larter, became a problem. And his lead-character role was bounced from the pilot and only ended up making an on-screen appearance from episode 6 onwards.
He’s spoken out about his problems on that show, with both Larter and the show’s producer Tim Kring in a piece written for Variety.
While that was my first episode, my co-star had been working on “Heroes” for over a month, and she’d shot another scene that called for Niki to seduce Nathan Petrelli, played by Adrian Pasdar. After watching the episode, I asked Pasdar if there had been any concerns similar to what I witnessed during my episode. He replied to the contrary, and mentioned her openness to collaboration and even improvisation. I pondered why my co-star had exuberantly played a different scene with the Petrelli character involving overt sexuality while wearing lingerie, but found aspects of one involving love and intimacy expressed through dialogue with my character, her husband, disrespectful to her core. I couldn’t help wondering whether race was a factor.
Here’s something to keep your eye, erm, ear, out for: Netflix are testing a feature which lets users switch off the screen and just listen to the audio.
The use case for this is pretty obvious: Netflix has stand-up comedy and interview shows that play just as well with audio as they do with the visual.
But… I think there’s added value to this that gives Netflix more flexibility as the platform evolves alongside user needs.
Think about Spotify. It’s a music platform that recently started investing into spoken word with podcasts. Audiobooks feels kind of inevitable as it goes down that path. But what did Spotify do when it introduced Joe Rogan to the platform recently? It added video. Rogan was already publishing video of his podcast chats to YouTube. Now the video is just on Spotify, allowing users to toggle back and forth with limited interruption.
As Spotify grow out the content offering with video functionality, what’s to stop them offering more video-based talk shows, music videos, news programs, etc.
Or… heaven forbid… scripted video drama?
Netflix now has the ability to push back against Spotify.
Apple Fitness+ launched earlier this week. It’s pretty neat.
The app is very similar to other fitness video apps around, but is probably closest in spirit to the Peloton app (with both video services supporting hardware sales). The Peloton video app can be used by itself, but it’s real value is in how it connects to the Peloton exercise bikes and treadmills. Meanwhile the Apple Fitness+ app works best if used in conjunction with the Apple Watch.
New videos are uploaded daily with very personable trainers who specialise in 10 different types of workouts: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, Cycling, Treadmill (for running and walking), Rowing, and Mindful Cooldown.
Each of the trainers have different types of music, so if you don’t like the music, a different trainer may offer something you do like. And, of course, all of the music is available for you to stream from Apple Music (available with an additional subscription).
Apple Fitness+ costs US$9.99 / AUS$14.99 a month, with annual subscriptions available.
It’s a really slick product. Ultimately, it isn’t all that different to the Jane Fonda workout VHS tapes of the 80s, but the sophistication of the delivery and volume of new content being produced daily is remarkable.
Jeremy Bulloch has died aged 75. He’s best known for appearing at Star Wars fan conventions. I guess he got invited to them after starring as Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of The Jedi.
Real talk. Boba Fett was only ever cool in an animated sequence from The Star Wars Holiday Special. In the movies he was kind of lame - cool costume, though.
The character of Boba Fett has been given a new lease of life on The Mandalorian, which airs its second season finale a few hours from now.