He's a living treasure! The backlash to that dumb anti-Martin Short feature
We put up with Martin Short because it is no bother.
Dullard Dan Kois filed an opinion piece with Slate titled: “Why We Keep Putting Up With Martin Short” Not a fan of the Canadian comic, Kois wrote:
I find Martin Short’s whole schtick exhausting, sweaty, and desperately unfunny. Throughout his evolution from sketch-comedy standout to uneasy movie star to twice-failed talk-show host to enthusiastic song-and-dance man, I’ve wrinkled my nose. Every time he dresses up in a silly outfit or says something outrageous or mugs for the audience, I want to shout at the screen: Why are you being like this?
My immediate reaction to the Kois article was to decide that Kois is “not serious people” and to get on with my day. I hadn’t expected the backlash to be as big as it has been.
While Kois hasn’t yet been forced naked down the city streets with local citizenry shouting “shame” at him, my social media all weekend has been dominated by people sharing words of support for Martin Short. Variety has a lazy wrap-up of notable celebrity endorsements.
All the chatter about Martin Short led to Will Harris republishing an interview he conducted with Short back in 2012. It has some really interesting comments from Short in there, if you’re a fan of his less well-known work over the years.
Read that one here:
Netflix too quick to cancel?
So often people online will criticise Netflix for cancelling shows too quickly, often after just one to two seasons. But too many of these people forget what TV used to be like, with shows cancelled after just a couple of episodes were aired, or with unresolved cliffhangers.
Here’s NYT’s James Poniewozik offering some perspective, comparing the modern TV landscape with the 2011-12 US TV schedule:
Let’s take 2011-12, the last broadcast TV season to begin before Netflix entered the original-series business with “Lilyhammer” in 2012. At the time, only around one-third of new broadcast series made it past their first seasons. Of the rest, many were yanked mid-run, with no warning, before even airing all the episodes they’d shot.
A few series that season would go on for healthy runs: “New Girl,” “Scandal,” “Last Man Standing.” But a scan of the premiere list is a sea of red ink and broken dreams. “Terra Nova,” the expensive dinosaur flop on Fox, was extinct by December. ABC’s “Work It,” about men who dressed as women to land jobs in a bad economy, was fired after two episodes. “Pan Am,” “How to Be a Gentleman,” “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” dead, dead, dead.
Meanwhile on Netflix:
But not only have Netflix, Max and the rest not invented the practice of killing shows, they are still relative amateurs at it. A 2023 study by The Wrap found that Netflix formally canceled a mere 11 percent of its new shows, far below the broadcast rate. (The analysis did note that Netflix airs many single-season “limited series” that might have been, er, less limited had more people watched them.)
Read more: NYT
The X-Files @ 30
As mentioned in the ABW newsletter on Friday, The X-Files marked its 30th anniversary over the weekend, having debuted back in 1993 on Sept 10.
To note the occasion, I did press play on the pilot episode and it was a reminder of just how compelling the show could be. There’s an argument that many make that it is the best TV pilot of all time. That argument is silly when the pilot for ER aired just a year later. But The X-Files first episode is still pretty good.
Something that struck me as odd is that on Disney+, which streams the show in Australia, didn’t have a front-page tile/screen highlighting the 30th anniversary of the show. Surely it would have generated quite a bit of attention by nostalgic viewers and created some activity around an otherwise dormant library title. Know your library, streamers.
The weekend had a flurry of nostalgic X-Files articles, but the one most people will be enticed to click on is Rolling Stone’s list of every episode of the show ranked.
Yes, the episode you assume will be number one is absolutely number one. But I’m baffled by the number two entry on the list. The list is generally rather good, but the episode that I think is horribly underrated and only reaches episode 55 on the list is the 2018 season 11 revival episode The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, a funny Darin Morgan episode that deals with The Mandela Effect. Another very good episode, also from season 11, is the dialogue-light episode Rm9sbG93ZXJz. Terrible episode name, but a really good hour of TV that deserves to be way higher than #155 on this list.
The one to watch?
As Australian broadcast networks grapple with declining viewership, I’m interested by moves afoot by the Paramount Global-owned Channel 10 which is investing in more prime time programming that streamers won’t offer up. It gives 10 a different position in the market, which is absolutely the right play as it seeks to make the most out of an asset on the decline.
As per TV news gossip site TV Blackbox, Channel 10 are bringing back its late night news program. The article also mentions a plan to compete against the other networks 6pm news shows with a revival of Deal Or No Deal. But that isn’t the only game show set to be revived. Graham Norton will host a revival of Wheel of Fortune for Australia, following the upcoming Stephen Fry-hosted Jeopardy! Australia. Norton is hosting a UK revival for the show on ITV.
Remember when Australia used to have its own game show hosts with contestants that lived in Australia? UK residents who have a bit of an Aussie accent can apply for Wheel of Fortune on the Cast It Reach website.
The Disney v Charter fight
In the US right now there’s a fight underway between cable company Charter and Disney-owned sports network ESPN. They can’t agree on a carriage deal and now Charter viewers can’t access ESPN.
I’ll admit, I gave this no coverage last week as it seemed to me like yet another of the many regular public fights between channel owners and cable companies. I hadn’t appreciated that this one was a line-in-the-sand moment for Charter, which has seen the decline in customer interest in cable reach such a low point that it is now no longer interested in acquisition & retention of customers if it:
Can’t secure ESPN programming at a reasonable cost
Can’t get Disney to offer more for its customers, which Disney has been triple-dipping with for years on theatrical, streaming, and cable.
Charter (along with its competitors) contend rightly that Disney and other content providers have been taking advantage of cable subscribers, providing streaming customers the valued first-run content.
Charter are willing to walk away from Disney/ESPN if it isn’t given what it wants from Disney (which is, ultimately, a reason to stay in the cable TV business).
Slate has a decent explanation of the fight. This blurb outlines the diminished stakes for a company like Charter, along with how vital this revenue is for Disney:
ESPN and Charter are in this position because of cord-cutting. Something like 100 million American households paid for a cable or similar bundle at the product’s peak, around 2010. That number has fallen off around 40 percent already, according to market research firm SVB MoffettNathanson, and is not poised to reverse in a positive direction. For some very rough napkin math, 40 million fewer people paying $10 a month for ESPN channels is $400 million a month in carriage fees, or $4.8 billion a year, that Disney isn’t getting.
Certainly a story to watch.
Analysis of the story over the past 3-4 days has been a mix of helpful insight and silly statements that have limited perspective of the broader changes that have been underway for the past 20 or so years.
A general recurring comment has been that studios made a huge mistake by following Netflix into streaming, as though audiences wouldn’t have just followed Netflix anyway. Do these commentators really think Netflix adoption would have slowed down because viewers wanted to watch Suits and it was only available on a cable channel? In 2023 audiences are watching Suits in higher volumes than they ever did on cable TV - because they found it on Netflix.
The reality is that cable TV was an old model of viewership and that younger audiences were always going to breach the tech divide to embrace a platform that delivered content on demand on their devices of choice. Netflix didn’t have the content in those early days, but they built a catalogue. Sure, Disney, HBO, and co could have just stayed loyal to the cable TV networks, but they would always have faced decline thanks to the rise of cord-cutters and cord-nevers. I would contend that the only reason Netflix isn’t bigger than it became is because of competition in the market.
Something to ponder: While I think Disney will make concessions to Charter to strike a deal for ESPN, it does have me thinking about an alternative scenario where Disney chooses to take ESPN direct to the public via streaming (which has major issues related to customer churn seasonally and an expected very high price point). If that happens, does that open the floodgates to other cable TV staple services like CNN? How long is it until CNN flips the switch and starts making the service available via FAST platforms and other third-party providers?
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Disney’s 2024 D23 Fan Expo will be staged Aug 9-11. Read: Deadline
It sounds like a Murder She Wrote feature film is in development. Read: Dark Horizons
The Drew Barrymore Show will return mid-strike, but without its writers. Read: Deadline
Soon after it was revealed that multiple stars on That 70s Show wrote letters to support the good character and moral standing of now-convicted rapist co-star Danny Masterson, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have issued a public apology. Your turn Phylicia Rashad. Read: Deadline
The biggest Marvel event on screen this year will be the release of Spiderman 2 on Playstation. Released in October, the game promises that it will double the map of New York City from the first game, incorporating Brooklyn. The first game was huge fun and the expansive map was a big reason why. I’m excited. Read: NYT
Justin Charity at The Ringer has a look at the changing nature of ‘black TV’ in the US. Read: The Ringer
UK soap Hollyoaks is embracing digital with episodes available on the Channel 4 site a day before being broadcast on broadcast channel E4. One week later they will be uploaded to YouTube. Read: The Guardian
Fauda has been renewed for a fifth season. Read: Variety
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters debuts on Apple TV+ Nov 17.
The Disney Legacy Animated Film Collection is a mammoth US $1500 bluray boxset that includes 100 of its animated feature films. It is released Nov 14.
The Club debuts Sept 15 on Netflix.
With her husband gone, Rasel raises her daughter at Club Istanbul with the help of her mother, but their relationships are tested by loss and betrayal.
Monsieur Spade stars Clive Owen and debuts early next year on AMC. It’s from Scott Frank (The Queen’s Gambit) and Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide: Life on The Street).
The series centers around the infamous protagonist of American writer Dashiell Hammett's 1930 classic novel The Maltese Falcon.
That’s the newsletter for today. It’ll be back tomorrow. If you like it, please forward it onto a friend.