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.
The Dark Crystal makes ballet exciting
ALSO: News is about to start streaming. AND: HBO Max climbs The Staircase
Forget Broadway - The Dark Crystal is now a ballet
The Royal Opera House in London has announced that during its 2021-2022 season, it’ll stage an original ballet titled The Dark Crystal: Odyssey, based on Jim Henson’s 1982 fantasy film.
That’s right - ballet isn’t going to be boring anymore because it’s adding puppets.
The Royal Ballet presents Company Wayne McGregor in The Dark Crystal: Odyssey, a work for family audiences choreographed and directed by Wayne McGregor. Based on Jim Henson’s iconic 1982 film, this magical coming-of-age story brings together a team of world-class collaborators including artists Brian and Wendy Froud, composer Joel Cadbury, digital designers kontrastmoment, lighting designer Lucy Carter, dramaturg Uzma Hameed, costume designer Philip Delamore and face-and-body-artist Alex Box, with puppets and props from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Colin Firth will star in a new HBO Max limited series, The Staircase, based on the documentary series of the same name. Antonio Campos will direct 6 of the 8 episodes.
The original documentary “The Staircase” was directed by French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, who gained unique access to Peterson following Kathleen’s mysterious 2001 death in Durham, North Carolina. It followed closely as Peterson, a local figure and popular crime novelist, was accused of killing his wife Kathleen after she was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home. A 16-year judicial battle followed.
The original series aired on France’s Canal+ and BBC 4 in the UK as well as on Sundance Channel in the US. Lestrade returned to the case a few years later for a three-part follow-up to the series, which aired on Netflix.
Despite the ‘take out the trash’ nature of the media release that heralded Starz’s decision to dump the show American Gods after 3 seasons, Neil Gaiman insists that the show isn’t dead with it being shopped around elsewhere. Always Be Watching notes that Amazon Prime Video has the show internationally and may have an interest in seeing this show continue on. Of course, it always depends on the metrics. After all - they know how many people are actually watching it.
TV News set to adapt to streaming
The last major innovation in TV news was the launch of CNN back in 1980. It took news from a nightly bulletin to 24/7 news coverage. The CNN of 1980 looks quite different to the CNN of 2021 through many iterative changes over the years. And, of course, CNN isn’t alone in providing rolling news coverage with many competitors in the US and similar formatted channels internationally.
Streaming video has impacted every other TV format, but TV news has been resistant to change - largely because of the lucrative nature of US cable TV deals. As soon as the innovation starts happening in the US, expect to see international channels follow suit.
Fox News launched Fox Nation a few years ago, with that streaming service in a period of growth. MSNBC’s digital game is, frankly, embarrassing. But all eyes are on CNN. With AT&T now running parent company WarnerMedia, it is believed that CNN will be getting serious about digital products in the not-too-distant future - whether stand-alone products, or integrated into HBO Max. The shift to digital will be the primary focus of its next CEO.
An interesting feature in Variety today takes a deep dive into the shift to digital by legacy news brands and channels - from the cable news networks to shows like 60 Minutes. During Quibi’s short life span (apt, really), 60 Minutes adapted into a short form news show hosted by Wes Lowery. That has now been extended into a longer form digital show for the ViacomCBS-owned Paramount+.
The entire feature is well-worth a read, but the most interesting takeaway is the approach being taken - on demand viewing means news and insight, not opinion. That’s very much the approach of CBS, which has pushed the hardest into the digital space with its rolling news channel CBSN and the digital extension of the 60 Minutes brand.
“We have seen over the course of the past five years that there is a large segment of the audience that is seeking knowledge, as opposed to opinion,” says CBS’ Tanner. “We have made a very conscious decision to not incorporate opinion into the stream.”
This is a handy guide on what is known about the ever-changing Oscars broadcast. Read: Deadline
A man responsible for the online harassment of Terrace House star Hana Kimura, who later took her own life, has been fined just 9,000 yen (approx US$80/AUS$107). Read: BBC
Sarah Michelle Gellar is returning to the TV with a new Amazon YA series Hot Pink. Read: Deadline
Sci-fi murder mystery book series The Subjugate is being adapted into a series by Anonymous Content and Aussie production company Aquarius Films. Read: Deadline
Australian finance and business streaming news service Ausbiz has marked its first year anniversary. Read: Mediaweek
The cost of living
Just how did Frasier afford his swanky Seattle apartment on his salary? Gabriella Paiella at GQ investigates.
I wanted to know how much he would’ve plunked down for it in 1993. So I reached out to several Seattle-based realtors and, surprisingly, many of them did not email me back when I asked them to price out a fake nineties apartment. But Scott Wasner, the executive vice president of Christie’s International Real Estate Seattle and self-described “condo expert” of downtown Seattle, did. He gave me an estimate of $1 million for 1993 and $5 million for present day. So $1 million was going to be my starting point.
Eventually the article gets around to suggest that Frasier did something wild: made money through investments. Not mentioned is the idea of inherited wealth: Frasier’s father may have just been living on a police retirement pension, but his mother had some money - we first met her in a season 3 Cheers episode, with the character having passed away by the time Frasier had his own show.