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.
RIP Dawn Wells - Gilligan's Island's Mary Ann
ALSO: The Simpsons lifestyle now aspirational? AND: The final TeeVee Snacks of 2020.
TV icon Dawn Wells dead at 82
Dawn Wells, best known playing Mary Ann in the classic 60s sitcom Gilligan’s Island has died at the age of 82 from COVID-19.
She would forever be remembered for starring in the show, spending the rest of her career making guest spots on TV (usually related to the Mary Ann character) and performing in theatre shows. Wells also wrote two books: Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook (in 1993) and What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life - a 2014 memoir.
In a 2016 interview she reflected on being crowned Miss Nevada in 1959:
“Big deal- There were only 10 women in the whole state at the time.”
I saw Dawn Wells just last year at a Supanova fan convention in Sydney, Australia. She appeared on a panel with Barbara Feldon and Barbara Eden and all three women were incredible on stage. Warm, funny, and all three seemed incredibly sharp and self-aware. It was really sad to hear about her passing this morning.
The new HBO Max series Peacemaker, a spin-off from the upcoming The Suicide Squad movie, will NOT get a broadcast screening for a very obvious reason:
A serious blow to fans of WarnerMedia corporate synergies.
New York Times film writers AO Scott and Manohla Dargis have a look back at the changing shape of film in 2020 as they look ahead at a changed industry. It’s a great end-of-year read. Read: NYT
The final five Alex Trebek episodes of Jeopardy! air in the US Jan 4-8. Read: Variety
Amazon has bought podcast company Wondery. Several Wondery podcasts have been adapted for TV, including Dirty John. Read: Deadline
The Sopranos almost ended with Al Green’s song Love and Happiness. Read: Uproxx
The Hollywood Reporter has a long feature examining ViacomCBS’ investment in digital, transforming the company. A MUST READ ahead of the launch of its new streaming service Paramount+ in early 2021. Read: THR
The Simpsons lifestyle now aspirational?
There’s been a conversation on social media for a few months now about how economic realities for families in the US have shifted to the point where the lifestyle afforded to the family from The Simpsons is no longer possible.
Today, Dani Alexis, Ryskamp at The Atlantic has a feature exploring this idea:
Adjusted for inflation, Homer’s 1996 income of $25,000 would be roughly $42,000 today, about 60 percent of the 2019 median U.S. income. But salary aside, the world for someone like Homer Simpson is far less secure. Union membership, which protects wages and benefits for millions of workers in positions like Homer’s, dropped from 14.5 percent in 1996 to 10.3 percent today. With that decline came the loss of income security and many guaranteed benefits, including health insurance and pension plans.
I think it’s an interesting subject that has valid points to be made. But also, it’s worth noting as well that the lifestyle afforded to The Simpsons characters was only possible thank to getting Homer’s dad to pay for the family home. Even in the early 90s The Simpsons family couldn’t afford their lifestyle. The early seasons of that show spent a lot of time focused on their economic realities. It’s probably incorrect to look at their lifestyle as aspirational - but they are an interesting case to examine the declining wealth and lifestyle opportunity afforded to lower socio-economic families.
And that’s it for 2020. I’d like to thank you all for your support of Always Be Watching throughout 2020. Many of you are helping to support the daily newsletter with a few bucks a month, which has been greatly appreciated. If you do want to support the newsletter for 2021 and beyond, please just click the link:
2021 is set to be a wild year for TV and film. The line blurring the two mediums has never been blurrier, especially with so many films in the upcoming year being released straight to streaming platforms. There’s also set to be the international launch of two BIG new streaming platforms - Star (within Disney+) and Paramount+.
Unless there is some sizeable news tomorrow, there won’t be a standard newsletter. Instead I will be publishing a look at the 5 big things to keep an eye on in the year ahead.
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