It was a pretty big deal for Netflix to launch its first-ever live stream - a live comedy special hosted by Chris Rock. Now, it is ridiculous to talk about this being revolutionary - live TV has been a thing since TV ever became a thing. And even when considering the global availability of it, live streams are watched all the time. But for Netflix as a company, it is a big deal: It alters their back-end technology, marketing messaging, and programming ideology.
The event streamed yesterday and I have a few thoughts about what did and didn't work about the presentation:
Before and after the event
The Chris Rock stand-up special was book-ended by a pre-show and a post-show. I would assume that the reason for this is to give viewers an entry point to the show so that people can find the live stream prior to the main show starting.
The pre-show was hosted by Ronny Chieng and had short sets from comedians including Arsenio Hall talking about their relationship with Chris Rock and expectations for the show. This was a dud. It would have been better just watching comedians telling jokes - half an hour of comedians acting as hype men for the special felt forced and off-putting.
A problem with the main Chris Rock special was that outside of Rock flubbing the title of a Will Smith joke at the end of the special, there was nothing about the special that felt live. One way to better convey the live presentation, may have been to spend time before the event watching live footage of the crowds entering the theatre. A pre-show that incorporated footage like that would have gone a long way to make it feel like more than just TV.
The post-show was hosted by former SNL colleagues Dana Carvey and David Spade (who together host a pretty good podcast called Fly On The Wall). This was alright for what it was - half an hour of comedians talking about the stand-up comedy special. It was largely inessential, but helped provide a bit of context to some of the jokes.
The main show
The spirit of watching the special was best encapsulated in tweets by culture writer Dave Itzkoff. This was the vive of most of the special:
Most of the set was fine - it was engaging enough, but not heavy on laugh out loud jokes. At the hour-mark, Rock finally got around to what he wanted to say about Will Smith & Jada Pinkett-Smith and most of that landed with considerable weight. He got savage and personal, which was a delight to watch.
Why did this final section work better than the rest? Obviously, it's what viewers were there to see, but also Rock finally felt invested in the material. The energy level for the end of the show skyrocketted - he was having fun on stage and feeding off the crowd. It's almost as if Rock, whose personal wealth unquestionably created a disconnect from the concerns of everyday people, isn't able to draw upon the comedic tools that made him so relatable early in his career.
You can read more about the show itself with this review by Jason Zinoman:
The ease of posting internal grievances to social media was in full-force this week with former Arrow-creator Marc Guggenheim complaining that after nearly a decade of producing DC superhero shows for Warner Bros, he wasn't offered a meeting with co-head of all things DC James Gunn. The comments were made in Guggenheim's email newsletter.
“Not a job, mind you. A meeting. A conversation. A small recognition of what I’d tried to contribute to the grand tapestry that is the DC Universe. I’d only spent nine years toiling in that vineyard, after all.
Now, fair enough feeling slighted. I absolutely get that. But at the same time, the revamp of DC that Gunn is currently leading is to start afresh - why would he want to meet with one of the architects of the DC shows, shows which barely caused a cultural ripple while on the air...
An interesting comment made by Guggenheim that reflects, I think, the state of so much content being produced these days. It is harder than ever to get any cut through for shows, let alone showrunners attempting to use their success to move onto the next job. In the era of peak TV, it seems running low-rated shows for nine years is seen as being just as valued as running a one season Netflix series.
Although working for DC had been creatively fulfilling, it involved a lot of adversity, challenges, and personal sacrifices — none of which seem to have accrued to any professional benefit. Simply put, the Arrowverse hasn’t led to any other gigs, so it feels — at least on a career level — that I really wasted my time.
- Wendell Pierce & Carra Patterson have joined the cast of The Good Wife spin-off Elspeth. Read: Deadline
- Clancy Brown, an actor who has appeared in almost every TV show ever filmed, has joined the cast of HBO Max's upcoming The Penguin series. Read: Variety
- Fox Nation is releasing a five-part documentary series about the Jussie Smollett ordeal. Read: AdWeek
- Andrew Lawrence at The Guardian says that you should be watching US network sitcom Grand Crew. While it is a show I think I like the idea more of than the show itself, I'm inclined to agree - this hang-out sitcom has a lot more going for it than most. Read: The Guardian
- Star Trek: Discovery (AKA ST:D) will conclude after five messy seasons. Read: Indiewire
Florida Man debuts April 13 on Netflix.
That's the newsletter for today. Sorry it was a bit late this morning - my kid was insistent I watch Eureka with her and read her a book about some Bunnies on The Bus.