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.
How Seinfeld inspired the sexy Netflix show Too Hot To Handle
The future of HBO in Australia...
Did you know that Seinfeld is responsible for the Netflix reality show Too Hot To Handle? When creator Laura Gibson watched its infamous ‘master of my domain’ episode, she thought there was a show in the idea of it.
In the show’s casting call, contestants were told they’d be competing in a reality dating show that may or may not have a cash prize—the “hottest vacation ever,” as Gibson put it. However, they didn’t learn about the no-touching rule until they were literally on the show, just as the cruel god of reality television would have it. One contestant literally gasps when he learns what “self-gratification” means, taken aback by these new limitations.
And keeping with Seinfeld chatter, there is a campaign to launch a Seinfeld point and click video game. You can find out more about how to support efforts to make the game at SeinfeldGame.com
This seemed inevitable with so many journos and TV presenters broadcasting from their homes:
You can see actual video of this here:
The Australian TV market is set for a wild and bumpy 2020. Obviously, there’s the impact of COVID-19 which has impacted it in the same way that it has affected TV broadcasters/streamers globally. But in Australia there’s two huge stories that are worth paying attention to.
There has been an extra COVID-19 stomach punch for local producers with the Govt announcing that TV broadcasters are exempt from having to meet content quotas for the rest of the year - a condition of a network having a broadcast licence generally comes with it the stipulation that it produces a certain volume of Australian content and content aimed at children.
This is great news for broadcasters as it makes TV cheaper to air, but many would argue that it is these quotas that keep the Australian production sector running.
“It is imperative that these quota suspensions are strictly limited in time,” said Matthew Deaner, chief executive of industry group Screen Producers Australia (SPA). “The Government must institute a rigorous, evidence-based and open process to determine whether the suspension should be extended into 2021.”
He warned against the risk of the broadcasters “gaming the suspension”, in light of the fact they have “already publicly indicated their pre-coronavirus preference to dial down commissions in complete contravention of regulatory obligations”.
The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) labelled the relaxation of sub-quotas “deeply concerning”.
“The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has given Australian networks the excuse they need in their quest to end the quota system once and for all,” said AWG president Shane Brennan.
And then there’s the looming HBO contract. WarnerMedia are apparently keen to use the impending launch of HBO Max in the US as leverage to get a content output deal in Australia sorted. Pay TV provider Foxtel has had an exclusive HBO contract for years and years. It particularly needs to re-sign the contract now as Foxtel finds itself without sport. Can it weather the storm of not having sport or HBO shows on its platform? Especially as it looks to launch a new general entertainment streaming service by the end of June? HBO would be a key part of that service.
Meanwhile competing streaming service Stan are also in negotiation for the HBO output deal. Its own deal with ViacomCBS service Showtime is up for renewal later in the year with that having question marks around it: will Stan want to re-sign? Will ViacomCBS instead choose to hold the content for its own soon-to-launch streaming platform? It makes a lot of sense for Stan to make a play to become the Australian home of HBO (and, generally, Warner Bros content).
And if neither Stan or Foxtel can meet an acceptable price, WarnerMedia has trademarked HBO Max for the local market. It can just flick the switch and launch in Australia once the Foxtel deal expires.
We should hear about the future of the deal within the next month.
This was my weekend TV watching - if you saw anything out-of-the-usual, please let us know in the comments below.
Most of season 6 of The Good Wife.
Field of Dreams - I hadn’t seen the film since I was a child and it was first out on home video. The heart-on-the-sleeve Capra-esque drama is a mood that feels spot-on for the current moment.
The first two episodes of Picket Fences - I was surprised at how well the show holds up. It certainly feels like 1992, but the pace of it and and quality of performance felt contemporary.
A couple of random Dr Katz Professional Therapist and Mad About You episodes.
What? There has been TV made in the past five years? Are you sure…?
I did try watching the new Kenya Barris comedy #blackAF on Netflix, but only lasted halfway through the first episode before I was done.
Tambay Obenson at Indiewire has this to say about the show, which reflected my own feelings about what I’d seen:
His presence and point of view dominate, which is to the series’ detriment, because he isn’t particularly well served by a script that calls for him to stay in a near-constant state of exasperation, making lengthy observations about race, gender, money, family and other topics, that are likely meant to be clever and funny, but are instead mostly exhausting.
Barris is also clearly not an actor, and while his performance is serviceable for the series’ glossy reality TV show aesthetic, it does become a distraction, especially in scenes that demand more than an impassive line delivery. It’s a mystery why he didn’t cast an actor to play the part, as he did for every other role in the series (not that all the other performances are particularly great, save for Rashida Jones as his wife, Joya). And so it feels very much like a vanity project for him.
The Party of Five reboot has been cancelled. I feel like the show did a great job in making Po5 feel contemporary for 2020 while retaining the feeling and tone of the original. But I also know that I didn’t stick with the show beyond the first 2-3 episodes… which is about how much of the original series I ever watched too.
I’m not a sports guy, but The Last Dance looks like essential viewing. It’s an ESPN doco series that looks at the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and its star players - notably Michael Jordan. The series has been brought forward to launch today, but was originally set to debut in June.
While it airs in the US on ESPN (and ESPN2 if you want a version without the bad language), the rest of the world will see it debut on Netflix.
Steve Greene at Indiewire has given it an A-.
Structurally, “The Last Dance” is a marvel, finding thematic parallels between the drama unfolding in the “present” of that ‘97-’98 season and the foundational framework that made that final Finals run possible. Out of a swirling mess of personnel moves, family tragedies, and international showcases, Hehir and a team of editors — led by Chad Beck, Devin Concannon, Abhay Sofsky, and Ben Sozanski — manage to craft a smooth, coherent pair of forward-moving tracks. “The Last Dance” shows how, by the fall of 1997, the Bulls had already cemented themselves as basketball royalty, amassing a trophy case filled with championships and individual accolades. The promise of one more ring takes on a mythic quality nonetheless. Even if some flashbacks do leave the Last Dance season’s action at a tantalizing crossroads, there’s never a sense of whiplash as the narrative seesaws across the years.