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.
NBC's new streaming Peacock. ALSO: Lord of The Rings comes to NZ again. AND: The Fugitive returns.
Always Be Watching is written by the original peacock, Dan Barrett.
Where to begin today? It’s a big one for news.
We start with some Lord of The Rings news…
It will surprise absolutely no one, but Amazon will film its new Lord of The Rings TV series in New Zealand. It just makes sense.
“As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff. And we’re happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” said showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. “We are grateful to the people and the government of New Zealand and especially Auckland for supporting us during this pre-production phase. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
With a filming location announced, production is surely not too far off on the horizon…
Yet Another Streaming Service: Peacock
NBCUniversal today announced its plans for an upcoming streaming service. Peacock (named after the NBC logo) will launch in 2020. The timing is to coincide with the 2020 Olympics, which will not only give the new streaming platform a strong promotional push, but Peacock will also feature Olympics content.
Peacock pricing is yet to be announced, but it is expected that existing customers of cable service Comcast (owned by NBCU) will receive access for free, but there will also be an ad-supported cheaper subscription price for other customers along with a more expensive ad-free subscription.
At launch, this will be a US-only service. But, expect it to eventually start rolling out to other territories. Head of Consumer, Bonnie Hammer has said:
We're starting out stateside and eventually we do intend to go global. But that's down the road a bit.
What is exciting about NBCU launching a streaming service is the depth of its library of TV shows and movies. The titles announced at launch aren’t that exciting because they’re the big titles you’re used to, but I’d anticipate a lot of forgotten gems being resurfaced for Peacock.
There’s also some pretty big name originals being launched. But, more on that in a moment.
Catalogue titles will include:
Bates Motel Brooklyn Nine-Nine Cheers Chrisley Knows Best Covert Affairs Downton Abbey Everybody Loves Raymond Frasier Friday Night Lights House Keeping Up with the Kardashians The King of Queens Married … with Children Monk Parks and Recreation (exclusive, available Oct. 2020) Parenthood The Office (exclusive, available Jan. 2021) Psych The Real Housewives Royal Pains Saturday Night Live Superstore 30 Rock Top Chef Will & Grace 100 Dias Para Volver(Spanish-language) Betty in NY (Spanish-language) El Barón (Spanish-language) Preso No. 1 (Spanish-language)
And what about new shows? Well, everything old is new again with Peacock leaning on well-remembered titles for reboots.
‘New’ shows include:
Battlestar Galactica (2020) To be show-run by Homecoming/Mr Robot showrunner Sam Esmail.
Saved By The Bell When California governor Zack Morris gets into hot water for closing too many low-income high schools, he proposes they send the affected students to the highest performing schools in the state – including Bayside High. The influx of new students gives the over privileged Bayside kids a much needed and hilarious dose of reality. Produced by Tracey Wigfield (30 Rock, Great News) and starring Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley.
Angelyne Limited series based on The Hollywood Reporter feature that explored the identity of L.A.’s mysterious billboard bombshell. Produced by Sam Esmail.
Punky Brewster In this multicamera/hybrid continuation of the iconic 80s sitcom about a bright young girl raised by a foster dad, Punky is now a single mother of three trying to get her life back on track when she meets a young girl who reminds her a lot of her younger self.
Brave New World Based on Aldous Huxley’s groundbreaking 1932 novel, Brave New World imagines a utopian society that has achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family, and history itself.
Dr Death A dark medical drama starring Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin, and Christian Slater.
One of Us is Lying The story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
AP Bio (season 4)
Rutherford Falls A small town in upstate New York is turned upside down when local legend and town namesake, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) fights the moving of a historical statue. Produced by Mike Schur.
Straight Talk What happens when two opposing ideologies are forced into an odd coupling. The main characters will be challenged by one another, making the moral lines at which they once stood harder to define.
The Amber Ruffin Show A spin-off from Late Night with Seth Meyers. Each week The Amber Ruffin Show will showcase Amber’s signature smart-and-silly take on the week. A late-night show with just the good parts – the comedy.
Who Wrote That? A docuseries that gives a behind the scenes look at Saturday Night Live‘s most important writers.
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home Santa Barbara Police Chief Carlton Lassiter is ambushed on the job and left for dead. In a vintage Psych-style Hitchcockian nod, he begins to see impossible happenings around his recovery clinic. Shawn and Gus return to Lassie’s side in Santa Barbara and are forced to navigate the personal, the professional, and possibly the supernatural. Separated from their new lives in San Francisco, our heroes find themselves unwelcome in their old stomping grounds as they secretly untangle a twisted case without the benefit of the police, their loved ones, or the quality sourdough bakeries of the Bay Area. What they uncover will change the course of their relationships forever.
Dan’s thoughts: Ultimately, NBC had a problem: It has a robust, valuable library it could leverage into a streaming service. But, it also owns cable company Comcast, so it isn’t in NBC’s interest to further diminish the value of paying for cable TV. This is the best solution for the company in 2019 (*cough 2020*). It’s a bridging product that can evolve into being a freestanding Netflix competitor.
NBC is also clearly not interested in severing its international sales by taking Peacock global. But if US take-up is high, I’d imagine that’ll soften the ground for a global roll-out.
As a consumer, I’m excited about this - there’s a lot of forgotten great and not-so-great older shows are sitting on the shelf that services like this can start adding to its library. I’m sure episodes of Veronica’s Closet probably isn’t driving subscriber take-up, but part of the fun of a streaming service like Peacock should be in re-discovering some of those shows.
And that name… Peacock. When I saw the news bleary-eyed as I woke up this morning I thought it was exceptionally dumb. In the hours since, not only have I written the name Peacock a bunch for this article, but I’ve also spoken about it on a radio segment… and it is kind of growing on me.
According to Robyn Bahr at The Hollywood Reporter, the Transparent musical finale is for ‘fans only’. But… shouldn’t that generally be the case for the final episode of a show. It’s not like that’s the time to jump on board a series you’re unfamiliar with…
Ultimately, the Soloways have just lovingly crammed too much in here: a cringey Brady Bunch parody, Shelly's musical-within-a-musical, a deus-ex-Bar Mitzvah, an unearned romantic reunion and a full-on spiritual resolution to Jewish diaspora and genocide. (In the funniest line of the finale, Sarah must explain to her confused children the difference between Maura's final resting place and Hitler's Final Solution: “Cremation is not the Holocaust. It’s a completely different oven.”) The show has always been invested in dissecting performativity, but perhaps a musical is just too literal an interpretation.
Keifer Sutherland is coming back to TV. Kind-of. But, did he ever really go away?
He’ll star in a remake of The Fugitive, but this version will involve a new set of characters. He’ll be the detective chasing down the, uh, fugitive as Detective Clay Bryce. Boyd Holbrook will play blue-collar worker Mike Ferro who goes on the run after being incorrectly accused of a terrorist act.
The new series is being made for mobile streaming service Quibi. It’s a smart title to launch for Quibi - it’s a title that immediately everyone understands what it will be about, plus it should play well as a serialised drama that can be cut down to 10/15-ish minute episodes.
The West Wing celebrates 20 years this week since its debut on September 22, 1999. In addition to talking about his love of Succession, series creator Aaron Sorkin has told Vanity Fair about the problem with mounting a revival series:
That’s the problem: I don’t know what it would look like. Sure, I would love to do it. I love these people, and I’d love to revisit the area, especially nowadays, but I simply don’t have an idea that wouldn’t feel like A Very Brady Reunion. I think, in a way, you also have the same problem as [we had with 9/11], which is: Do you create a world in which there is such a thing as Trumpism, or not? And if the answer is not, then what do we care? No matter where you are on the political spectrum, we all have a problem, which is that half of us are looking at our world completely differently than the other half of us. We’re living in a world of just crude politics, corruption in plain sight, out-and-out lying, and a staggeringly, breathtakingly dumb person in the Oval Office.