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 sitcom filmed outdoors! Is Netflix targeting LGBTQI viewers with different episodes? And more!
Always Be Watching is curated by Dan Barrett who typed this email outside in front of a live studio audience
I’m fascinated by the new series Abby’s - It launches next week and it is the first sitcom that has been filmed on a set entirely outdoors. The show is about a woman who opens a bar in a backyard. There are obvious comparisons to be made to Cheers. So, I am very much on board for this.
The show is filmed on the Universal lot behind a house on Wisteria Lane, used for Desperate Housewives.
After NBC gave the go-ahead, an outdoor studio was built behind the house that once belonged to Edie (the desperate housewife played by Nicollette Sheridan). The goal was to split the difference between a conventional set — with water- and windproof lighting rigs and a smooth, level concrete slab for easy camera movement — and a backyard, with strung lights, fire pits and largely unobstructed natural elements.
Mindy Kaling has a new show at Netflix, based on her experiences as a teen. This means she now has projects set up at Netflix (this new show), at Hulu (the TV series based on Four Weddings and a Funeral), and Amazon (the indie film Late Night).
Over the weekend Netflix debuted its animated anthology series Love, Death and Robots. It’s 18 episodes all of different themes, animation styles, and durations. When Chris Yates and I discuss the show on this week’s new Always Be Watching podcast (expect to see it in your feeds late Thursday night - certainly before you receive tomorrow’s newsletter) we chat a bit about the reason why Netflix used Sonnie’s Edge as the first installment.
Except, that wasn’t true for everyone.
Apparently there are four different running orders that Netflix are experimenting with. It just so happened that Chris and I were served the same order (which is also the order visible on Wikipedia.
Some accused Netflix of using sexual preference to determine the running order:
Netflix disputed that, explaining that they don’t even have that sort of data on file.
Which is and isn’t really true.
What Netflix does have on file is a complicated understanding of your decision-making. Last year there was a similar outrage when African Americans started complaining that the images they were seeing for shows often featured African American characters on a show, despite often having secondary or minor roles on a show/movie. Netflix said then that they weren’t actively targeting African American viewers with those images.
What Netflix are doing, though, is serving content based on what you have clicked before. It makes sense to me that an African American viewer would have been more likely to click on a show/movie that feature African Americans, so when the images were being served, those images would be more likely to be the ones displayed on screen.
While Netflix may not be deliberately targeting LGBTQI viewers, it is entirely possible that those viewers may be served similar things based on unconscious viewing choices.
for interests sake, when Lukas Thoms published a screenshot of what he was served ahead of what his (straight) friend was served, Thoms received the same running order that Chris and I (both straight) were served.
The Australian Prime Minister has canceled an appearance on news panel comedy chat show The Project. Apparently they said he said some racist things he claims he didn’t say. Heaven forbid he appear on there and tell them in person that he never said those things. Unless…?
Worth noting: The claims made on The Project… it wasn’t even their original reporting. They were just echoing claims made by newspaper reporter Lenore Taylor.
Disney now owns 21st Century Fox. To put that into perspective, it means they now also control major properties including The Simpsons, Avatar, and a whole chunk of additional Marvel properties like The X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four. Plus, a number of prominent TV channels, online brands, 30% more of Hulu, National Geographic, and more. It’s probably the biggest deal ever done in Hollywood. It’ll make a small number of people very rich and leave several thousand unemployed.
Did Sony have a dastardly scheme to destroy its long-running daytime soap Days of Our Lives? Sony Pictures Television distribute the series in the US and internationally, but Corday Pictures who produce the series claim that Sony is deliberately selling the show for less than it is worth in an effort to kill the show off in favour of The Young and The Restless, which Sony owns and distributes.
Corday is taking Sony to court:
"While the domestic ratings for Days of our Lives have remained largely constant, Sony’s distribution receipts have decreased by over 50%," stated the complaint. "This dramatic decline is directly attributable to a decision at the highest levels of Sony management to eliminate any competition to its own wholly-owned Series The Young and the Restless, also distributed by Sony.... In the annals of Hollywood television, it is difficult to identify a distributor more guilty of blatant conflict of interest, deceit, perfidy, and abuse of market power."
So much intrigue and power playing… it’s almost like this comes straight from some sort of genre of TV…
Steven Zeitchik had one key takeaway from last week’s Lori Loughlin college admissions scandal story: basic cable television watching is still a thing in the US. There was a massive fan outcry from Hearties - the fans of When Calls The Heart. That’s Loughlin’s show on Hallmark.
“I think the death of cable is being prematurely called out,” said Bruce David Klein, head of the TV production company Atlas Media Corp. who also serves on the executive committee of industry trade group the National Association of Television Program Executives. “The networks that have a specific identity where you know what you’re going to get — like Hallmark, where you know you’re going to see warm and friendly shows and movies — have a future. They stand out in a climate where a lot of companies’ programming is really hazy.”
There is a presumed sanctity to Terrace House that seemed to separate it from other reality shows, even though it could never be fully sacred. The housemates are still exposed to a high level of scrutiny from the outside. This is amplified, since viewers become attached to certain couples and romances (and villains); and since, while they’re still living in the house, the housemates are able to watch their own season on TV (while viewers watch them doing so)—as well as the commentators’ brutal opinions of their personalities and actions. The castmembers are then able to, if they choose, recalibrate their actions based on feedback. It’s like a live experiment. There’ve been occasions where a castmember has verbally noted public reaction on the show and taken heed.
Amazon Prime Video subscribers in some countries can also access Amazon Channels. It’s a way to subscribe to additional SVOD services and have the content from them start populating the Amazon prime user interface rather than requiring users go into a dedicated app. Where a linear channel also exists, it offers access to that as well.
Apparently one third of all Amazon Prime users also have a subscription to another service via Channels.
Amazon resells many SVOD services to its more than 100 million Prime customers through its Channels program. With three-quarters of Prime members using the video service, most are accustomed to using Amazon to find and watch video. However, Amazon’s reach is even more significant than that. 18% of the US population use Amazon to rent or purchase videos. Each one of these visits is an opportunity to sell people SVOD subscriptions.
Such a considerable marketing muscle has helped SVOD providers that partner with Amazon acquire many new customers. CBS’ CEO said recently, “Amazon has been absolutely amazing in terms of growing our subs.” Some, behind closed doors, say Amazon is contributing as many as half of the subscribers to their services.