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.
Baldwin & Grammer sitcom dumped. Perry Mason showrunners dumped. Oscars - a dump?
We say goodbye to the idea of an Alec Baldwin/Kelsey Grammer sitcom. Also HBO has replaced the Perry Mason showrunners. And does anyone really care about the Oscar nominated films this year?
RIP Alec Baldwin & Kelsey Grammer's pilot
It was expected to be one of the big shows debuting later this year. A sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Alec Baldwin, produced by Modern Family's Christopher Lloyd, and directed by the great James Burrows.
And then the programming team at ABC saw the pilot and said no. But who can argue with the network that's home to comedy black hole Home Economics?
The good news is that the show is being shopped around elsewhere and the already very wealthy creative team involved got paid out a huge amount of money when it was killed by the network.
HBO replaces Perry Mason showrunners
Ron Fitzgerald and Rolin Jones are gone from Perry Mason as the show heads into a second season. Instead, HBO are bringing in new showrunners Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, the creators of The Knick. It's part of a three-year deal the duo have signed with HBO.
As a huge fan of what Amiel and Begler did with The Knick (a fantastic show you need to check out), I'm very enthused to see them take on Perry Mason - a show with a great production quality and cast, but a show that never quite delivered on its potential. This is greta news.
About THAT Falcon & The Winter Soldier cameo
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has revealed how they kept her cameo on the Marvel series quiet.
How to watch the Oscars
Keen to watch the Oscars today? There's a helpful guide to find your local broadcaster (across the world) on the Academy Awards website. For Aussie Always Be Watching readers (which is about half of you), the awards are broadcast on Channel 7 this year from 10am. They'll also be streaming on the 7Plus app.
Long Oscar rant - could the Oscars be any less relevant anymore?
It's that annual day where an increasingly smaller number of people turn from their TV and say: "What's that film? I ain't never heard of it".
Despite greater availability of Academy Award nominated movies (Almost all of the nominated films are available on subscription streaming services), it feels like there is even less awareness and enthusiasm for the nominated films than is usually the case. And, frankly, it's understandable. I've seen 6 of the 8 nominated films (I haven't seen The Father or Sound of Metal, but I plan to), but there was nothing that I saw which I felt so passionate about that I've told friends and family that they need to see it.
Last night I got to thinking about the nominated films for Best Picture:
Judas & The Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of The Chicago 7
I really liked Mank, but I'd be more inclined to encourage someone to watch Citizen Kane ahead of the David Fincher film. Nomadland was good, but the further I get away from that film, the more it feels like an intellectual exercise of privilege more than a film that actually connects the audience to its real world subject matter - it's the perfect film to watch at an upscale cinema with a glass in your hand to watch how the real people live. And Minari - a film of great characters, but there was nothing substantial going on there.
And this is where the problem is for the Academy Awards. If these awards are supposed to represent the artistically strongest output of the Hollywood film industry, then it's time to scale back the awards and stop chasing mainstream audiences.
Maureen Dowd had a really good piece in the New York Times over the weekend on the disconnect between mainstream audiences and the Oscars. There's two quotes she employs in the article that speak to the problem with these awards:
Brooks Barnes, a Hollywood reporter for The New York Times, put it this way: “The Oscars forgot about its primary job — to sell Hollywood to the world, to be a big, fat commercial for the dream factory, the kind that makes financiers open their wallets and wannabe actresses get pinwheels in their eyes about the day they might be able to stand on that stage and give their acceptance speech.”
And then she uses this Bill Maher quote. I'm sorry to have to quote Maher here, but he does have a point:
“Academy nominations used to say, ‘Look what great movies we make.’ Now they say, ‘Look what good people we are.’ It’s not about entertainment, it’s about suffering, specifically yours.”
Part of the problem is that there's no business model for the mid-range, mid-budget picture anymore. These were exactly the films that resonated en masse - films with a broad audience in mind that often had artistic ambition, but were rarely films made with art as their primary intent.
Earlier this month for the first time I saw the film Sweet Smell of Success. The 1957 film was a then-contemporary film set in New York about a press agent who has a reckoning with his very loose moral code as he chases publicity for his clients regardless of the repercussions. It's the sort of film that used to occupy this mid-range space. Nowadays, that would be a 10-episode series for a streamer.
The other day I watched the new Peacock comedy Rutherford Falls - it's Ed Helms as a man protecting the reputation of his well-to-do America-founding lineage who has a meltdown during a town meeting, which opens the door to the local Native American titans of business to make a power play against Rutherford. It's 10 half-hour episodes, but once you strip away the episodic storylines and think of it as a 90-120 minute feature, it plays at that exact same level as a Sweet Smell of Success (with far less-good performances, mind you).
Yesterday I finally caught up on the back-half of season 2 of the really smart space drama For All Mankind. It was intensely satisfying with strong production quality, cinematic performances, and a clever narrative. Like with its first season, I'm left wanting to tell everyone how good it is and demand that my friends and family watch it.
And I want to shout to the heavens about it in a way that I have zero interest in doing with any of the nominated feature films at the Oscars. And it's not just isolated to that show. TV genuinely excites audiences these days. TV series are more cinematic and completely occupy the mid-level.
If Hollywood isn't making mid-range movies anymore and therefore isn't producing films that attract and stimulate mainstream audiences... and instead, these are stories being delivered almost exclusively now by serialised TV... there's little wonder that audiences aren't connecting with the films Hollywood has deemed its best and brightest.
Who are the Oscars even for anymore? That's a question that probably needed to be asked five years ago.
Anniversary Vega$$ Flashback
The TV series Vega$$ debuted on 25 April 1978 with Robert Urich starring as private detective Dan Tanna. The show was produced by Aaron Spelling, with the pilot written by Heat's Michael Mann.
You can watch the pilot in full:
What's next? Tomorrow.
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