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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.
Superman & Lois return to TV. ALSO: Reviews are in for Apple TV+ shows. AND: Too Many Cooks?
Always Be Watching is written by man of steel Dan Barrett
Superman is coming back to TV. In the awkwardly titled Superman & Lois, Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch will play the titular characters. Both will be reprising the roles they have played in multiple CW DC superhero shows, notably Supergirl.
Hoechlin is incredibly charming as Superman, so I’m pretty on-board with this. The DC TV shows are ambitious, even if the results are a little too flat for my liking. As with all of the DC TV shows, Superman & Lois comes from Greg Berlanti’s team.
It’s just a pilot at this stage, but I’d be surprised if this doesn’t go to series.
The wildest TV story you’ll read today is about the Game of Thrones showrunners revealing their mistakes when they got started with Game of Thrones. Neither had TV experience when they got started, which is probably most evident by this gaffe:
After producing a season filled with 39-minute episodes, the two said HBO asked for an additional 100 minutes to fulfill their contractual obligations—so they added, for example, a shared scene with Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister, who previously somehow shared zero scenes in the entire season.
Walking through the streets of the Sydney CBD yesterday afternoon, I was struck by the size of the massive Apple TV+ billboard for ‘Morning Wars’ (AKA The Morning Show). Moments later I saw a bus go buzzing past with an ad for Disney+’s The Mandalorian. It’s a radical contrast to the launch of Netflix which relied largely on word-of-mouth when it launched in Australia.
The NYT has a look at the extensive marketing efforts being made by Disney as it launches its streaming service:
Mr. Strauss and Mr. Earley may have an enviable array of resources, but the Disney brand also presents challenges. The company does not want people to think that Disney Plus is only for families. So marketing materials need to make it clear that there will be something for everyone, even A.W.O.C.s, which is how some people at Disney refer to Adults Without Children.
“We need to educate consumers and explain that this is not the Disney Channel app,” Mr. Earley said. “People also may or may not know that Disney owns Marvel and Lucasfilm and National Geographic. So we are having to do a lot of positioning in a very short amount of time.”
Today the embargo has lifted on the first wave of Apple TV+ shows and critics have been not kind. Nobody is calling these shows terrible, but critics aren’t all that excited by any of them. When you launch shows with such fanfare, there will be an expectation that at least one of these shows will rise to the occasion. That doesn’t appear to be the case.
I’m still keen to check out these shows when they launch at the end of the week.
The Morning Show
The Morning Show isn’t terrible. It has several excellent performances beyond Crudup’s, including Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy, a longtime morning TV anchor struggling in the aftermath of the #MeToo scandal that got her co-anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) fired; and Reese Witherspoon as Bradley Jackson, an outspoken vagabond reporter surprised to find herself in contention for Mitch’s old job. The direction by Mimi Leder (ER, The Leftovers) is confident and eye-catching, and the show’s exorbitant reported $15 million-per-episode budget is apparent not only in the presence of Aniston and Witherspoon (making $2 million per episode each) and Carell, but in the way most of the supporting roles are filled with actors who would otherwise be leads elsewhere, like Mark Duplass (as Alex’s executive producer Chip) or Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as talent booker Hannah).
But the series is a well-polished snore, a prime example of how throwing money at a problem — in this case, Apple’s need to dive into the streaming wars now that Netflix and company have killed off the revenue stream from buying individual TV episodes — isn’t inherently the best way to solve it.
A strong contributor to Apple TV+’s day-one roster of original dramas, See wisely doesn’t attempt to explain its premise via awkward dialogue. Instead, opening captions dive straight in, so let’s do the same: we’re hundreds of years in the future, but life has been medieval ever since a 21st-century virus killed all but a couple of million humans. The survivors were not only left blind, but passed this on to their descendants, who have come to believe that human sight is a heretical myth. Now, in a humble mountain community hemmed in by trees and ravines, a child, fathered by a mysterious stranger, is about to be born …
There are heavy-handed Dickinson references, where Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) literally meets with Death (Wiz Khalifa, because sure), and stanzas of her poems are scrawled across the screen as she writes. These touches emphasize the eponymous historical figure, but work at cross-purposes with making the show, well, good.
As it progresses, “Dickinson” becomes more self-assured and less dependent on the legacy of its heroine. By Episode 3, titled “Wild nights,” the series has settled comfortably into what it was always meant to be — a coming-of-age comedy — and slowly becomes a quiet revelation.
Of the original series launching Apple’s streaming TV service Monday, “For All Mankind” is by far the strongest, especially because it makes the most of its budget and subsequent capacity to dream a bit bigger than most. Its production and costume design evolve to fit the changing times, and its handsome direction shines brightest in space. The writing has some shaggy tendencies, as could probably be expected of a show this ambitious. It occasionally entertains a few wry winks to the strange new historical possibilities on this hypothetical timeline, and even indulges in some distracting fictional Nixon tapes revealing the depths to which he might have gone to save face. For the most part, though, it makes the smarter choice to keep the drama as grounded in character choices as possible, with some key overarching “what if?” scenarios that keep the season moving toward a bold new future.