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.
Joker rules. Batwoman smells. HBO laid a 1-season egg.
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett - supporter of the Labour movement
With the New York Comic Con on over the weekend, it seems like every fan-orientated TV show had a trailer to drop.
Which is good, because otherwise, this would be a very quiet newsletter today.
The biggest thing happening on TV today and on cinema screens is Batman-adjacent. On TV there is the debut of Batwoman (on The CW in the US - fast-tracked to Australia on Foxtel tomorrow).
One of the concerns I have had with the show (based off just a trailer - I haven’t seen the actual show) is the aesthetic. It is based off a visually rich comic book run by artist JH Williams, so it is concerning to me that the show might be a bit average-looking.
This review from Dan Fienberg at THR suggests that my fears were spot-on:
It's less likely to be intentional how interchangeably brooding and bland Batwoman is as a visual experience. Audiences are coming to this world off of Fox's Gotham, a show with countless flaws, but an undeniable panache when it came to production design, costuming and world-building. Batwoman has none of that. This take on Bruce Wayne's troubled hometown is rudimentary Vancouver-as-Murky-Uber-City world-building and surprisingly little joy has gone into creating uniforms for The Crows, a main costume for Batwoman or Alice's fashion choices, which have Victorian flair in her original comic incarnation. The series has multiple lairs dedicated to eccentric comic characters and multiple attempted large-scale action sequences, and there isn't a "Man, that's cool!" moment in either episode I've seen.
While watching Joker in the cinema on Saturday morning, I was struck with not just the visual design of the movie (for the films faults, the cinematography of the film is gorgeous), but I was particularly drawn to the look and feel of Gotham City. It wasn’t just dirty - it was grimey. It felt dark, lived in, and pissed-on. This was the urban living of our nightmares brought to the screen. If Batman was ever needed to clean up a city, it is the Gotham of Joker.
For audiences who have spent 2 hours in Joker’s Gotham City, I suspect the Gotham of Batwoman will be pretty underwhelming.
Speaking of Joker, the film has blown past expectations with $234 million globally projected by the end of the opening weekend. Considering the budget of the film, Warner Bros will be happy with that box office. Source: Variety
I thought the film was fine. The strength of the film is absolutely in its visuals and with Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. This is a film stacked with memorable moments, which isn’t something I tend to feel from most big screen superhero films. Where the film struggles is when it comes to the inclusion of Batman. While the character isn’t in the film (we do meet a very young Bruce Wayne in one scene), his presence looms large over the film. The more it tries to connect the Joker of the movie to an inevitable relationship to Batman, the more the film struggles to satisfy its own themes and story.
When HBO’s Watchmen series debuts in October, don’t necessarily expect to see a second series of it. Right now, it is built as a one and done, providing a very firm resolution in the same way that the 80s comic book series did (consider this show a sequel, though I don’t believe you need to have read the comic).
Showrunner Damon Lindeloff:
“I’m not being flippant when I say that the answer is one. Does that mean that there isn’t going to be anymore Watchmen? Not necessarily. Does that mean that I will be working on subsequent seasons of Watchmen? I don’t know is the answer to that question.
We designed these nine episodes to be as self-contained as the original 12 issues. We wanted to feel like there was a sense of completeness, to resolve the essential mystery at hand. Obviously, there is a potential promise for the further exploration of the world but like the seasons of Leftovers that I did as opposed to Lost, which was designed to have cliffhanger finales and a promise of future storytelling.”
This show represents the start of the second wave of Apple TV+ shows. It will debut Nov 28 - four weeks after the streaming service launches.
Picard - CBS All Access (US) | Amazon Prime Video (internationally)
Lost In Space - Season 2 (Netflix)
Devs - FX
In Devs, a young computer engineer, Lily Chan, investigates the secretive development division of her employer, a cutting-edge tech company based in San Francisco, who she believes are behind the murder of her boyfriend.
The Expanse - Season 4 (Amazon Prime Video)
Star Trek: Discovery - Season 3 (CBS All Access / Netflix)
Untitled Walking Dead series - AMC
Runaways - Season 3 (Hulu)
Disney are working on an Inspector Gadget reboot film. Hopefully it’ll wash the bad taste out of the previous live-action films out of our mouths.