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.
Trolls World Tour is a hit! Kinda.
ALSO: The reviews are in: Normal People and The Eddy both deliver
Releasing the new Trolls feature film direct to digital: Good idea or terrible idea? That’s the question Hollywood was asking when Universal pushed the film out direct to consumers when a cinema release was no longer possible.
The reporting is in: Universal has no regrets.
Trolls World Tour has earned $95 million in rental fees (in the US) since its release three weeks ago. The first Trolls movie made $153.7 million in its five-month run in cinemas. BUT… cinema owners take 50% of the profits, which would have netted the studio approx $76 million. For Trolls World Tour the studio will get about 80% of the rental fees (with a cut given to the platforms selling the film, like Apple, Google, etc) bringing the return to about $77 million.
Earning close to the same amount as that initial theatrical release is a win for Universal, but do keep in mind that there’s no additional revenue to be made now through a second window of digital rentals and a diminished number of bluray sales.
It may feel like the world has changed during COVID-19 times, but some things remain the same: companies continue to screw up on social media. This week’s blunder had the Disney Plus Twitter account asking fans to share their memories of the Star Wars franchise with the hashtag #MayThe4th.
But then this tweet followed:
Obviously, Disney wanted to use the tweets in some sort of promotional material tied to the annual Star Wars celebration in May, but that tweet rankled a lot of fans. Obviously, they then came out in force. This tweet captured the general mood:
One of my favourite shows this year is the new Amazon series Upload which debuts on May 1.
It’s a really interesting comedy from Greg Daniels (King of The Hill, The Office, Parks & Recreation) that uses a sci-fi premise of technology playing a role in connecting the everyday world to the afterlife and uses it to layer in a scathing commentary about the role of corporate and political interests in the modern world and how even death can’t sever the influence of the wealthy elite.
Daniels has this interview over at Vox about his two new shows Upload and another sci-fi comedy Space Force (debuting on Netflix in May):
I told the crew that I don’t consider this a dystopia, and I don’t consider it a utopia. I consider it a middle-topia, in the sense that, to me, when you look at anything in life that has lots of promise, the law of unintended consequences and human error always comes into play. To me, that’s how this scenario would play out. Someone very optimistically invents this way for us to stay in contact with our family for hundreds of years after we die. Everybody loves the promise of it. Then it turns into an unfair way for billionaires to persist forever and big companies to charge you all the time.
But it’s comedy, right? I don’t want to be a depressing drumbeat. But when you think about the show, there’s a lot to give you pause, for sure.
Another rather good show that has debuted this week is Normal People (watch it on BBC3 in the UK, Hulu in the US, Stan in Australia), a series based on the Sally Rooney book. James Poniewozik from the New York Times has this strong write-up:
What they have in common are an instant attraction and a sharp intelligence. The first tumbles them into bed; the second makes them realize they can talk to each other as with no one else. When they first undress in front of each other — there is much equal-opportunity nudity here — it feels less prurient than like a milestone: They’re each about to get to truly know another person outside their family.
Where in some teen stories sex is an end in itself, in “Normal People” it’s a way of experimenting with your identity, with your relation to other people, with power and powerlessness. After an early flirtation, Marianne revels in Connell’s attraction to her: “You were tempted. I tempted you.”
I was already very excited about new Netflix series The Eddy. This review from Jordan Hoffman has only cemented my interest.
In a bold creative move, The Eddy Band never plays a jazz classic. The songs are all originals, written by multiple Grammy-winner Glen Ballard, mega-producer of pop and Broadway music, and co-author of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” among many others. (The Eddy’s principal writer is Jack Thorne, whose credits include the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and HBO’s His Dark Materials, and a lot of British television.) The songs have one foot in the style of the “Great American Songbook” (e.g. George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern), the type of tunes famously transformed into jazz standards for decades. But they have splashes of modernity, too — a soupçon of hip-hop goes a long way. Most importantly, though, this isn’t easy-listening, half-assed jazz. These cats can really wail, and when the moment is right, they do.
Goosebumps, the series of kids horror books that has seen the release of 235 titles since the first one in 1992, is coming to TV. Again. An initial anthology series based on the books ran for four seasons in the 90s. But now a new series is in development with Neal Moritz who produced the recent Goosebumps movies.
Honestly - I’m not really that interested in watching scripted shows starring actors looking into a webcam from their desks. But I am interested in seeing productions getting experimental in this day and age of the stupid virus. Last week’s release of the new Fraggle Rock show was a great example of this creativity and this new show from Orange Is The New Black/Weeds creator Jenji Kohan sounds like it might fall into that category too.
Social Distance is a new anthology show produced by Kohan for Netflix.
The group challenged themselves to do something new by creating and producing virtually so that cast and crew can stay healthy and safe. The writers never meet during the writing process, Velasco directed talent remotely, Weisman Graham runs production from her living room and the cast acts and films themselves from home.
“Our job as storytellers is to reflect reality, and in this new, bizarre, bewildering reality we are all experiencing, we feel passionate about finding connection as we all remain at a distance,” the producers said. “We’ve been inspired to create an anthology series that tells stories about the current moment we are living through — the unique, personal, deeply human stories that illustrate how we are living apart, together.”
Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks & Recreation, also seems like he’s not that impressed by Zoom productions.
Asked whether this new Zoom means of shooting TV series, like SNL, is the future of sitcoms, Schur exclaimed, “This isn’t the way TV is supposed to be made.”
“TV is a team sport from the beginning to the end, with groups of people functioning in holistic ways and collaborating and being in the same room at the same time. I don’t think there’s any way this is a sustainable method for making TV. It was fun to get the crew and everyone back together. I took screengrabs of the virtual table, which was a lot of fun and hard work but it’s not any kind of model for going forward.”
He, of course, is producing a Parks & Recreation special that debuts on Thurs night on NBC. The special has been produced within days:
Within three days, they had a script. Camera rigs and iPhones were sent around to cast members who were essentially “their own cameramen” said Schur on a phoner today with the press. The episode was shot in four days with the graphics team for Schur’s The Good Place providing VFX so the episode didn’t come off like a bunch of actors at home in front of their computers.