As a new week begins, I have been thinking a lot about the fractured state of television right now and the conversations we have around it.
We still have what used to be referred to as 'water cooler shows', the shows which have a certain amount of mainstream viewing taking place. You can still talk to a group of colleagues or casual acquaintances about some shows and still find that there's a couple of folks who are willing to talk passionately about the show with you. Mention Pam & Tommy, Starstruck, Inventing Anna, and maybe (if it's a cool crowd) Severance, and let the chatter keep on flowing.
But there is one type of TV show conversation that has felt very absent for quite a few years. Back in the days of yore, there would be fan consensus shows. These were off-the-radar shows that had near-unanimous support from audiences. Think: Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, Party Down, Arrested Development, etc. Cult shows that crossed into the widespread support of the screen culture obsessed. These were the shows where a pal would insist that you borrow their DVD set.
What are those shows now? It feels like with everything so fractured, that audience is being so well-served by streamers who have taken niche viewership so mainstream that there's just no drive to have those obsessions.
So, I have a question for you, Always Be Watching readers: What shows do you wish more people would watch? Is it The Expanse? The Sex Lives of College Girls? 1883? Let me know - send me an email.
The rise of the weekly TV show
Can you even imagine a world where new episodes of TV shows come out once a week vs being dropped all at once each season? I know, it's difficult to even consider such a thing, but stick with me here: streaming services are doing this and it is starting to become the default.
Libby Hill at Indiewire looks at it this week off the back of Amazon's The Marvellous Mrs Maisel going weekly with double episodes rather than a full season release as it had with previous seasons. Hill focuses on audience engagement levels with the weekly releases, but does partially touch upon the idea that it keeps audiences with a need to keep subscribing beyond a single month if there is a specific show they are keen to watch.
What isn't mentioned is that weekly drops also give streamers a bigger bang for their buck in terms of having an asset they can promote for, say, 4-12 weeks, rather than just the opening weekend. In an era where streamers are expected to have a big, buzzy show debuting every week, this allows for a little bit more padding between releases (and thus, keeping content costs down). Consider this: if everyone is talking about White Lotus every week, would it have been beneficial for HBO to have multiple series launching during that same time?
There sure are a lot of penises on screen lately
I have had to re-write the intro to this story at least three times this morning. Mostly for reasons of good taste. But, know this: prestige TV shows have been leaning pretty hard into male bathing suit area nudity these past few months.
The most recent season of Succession had a rather graphic dick pic as the pivotal story moment that changed the entire trajectory of the show. Also on HBO, we saw a very prominent member on The White Lotus. And then there's Euphoria, The Righteous Gemstones, and other shows letting everything hang free.
Of course, hang is the key word here. Penises are one thing, but they're generally not penises that are ready for action.
It's also not just HBO where we are seeing a dramatic rise in the volume of meat on screen. There was Tommy Lee's highly conversational penis in episode 2 of Pam & Tommy, along with male nudity in Netflix film The Power of The Dog (not a euphemism), and Nightmare Alley.
As shows keep pushing the limits to keep audiences engaged, this seems to be the current trend. It has only taken 30 years for this to be a norm after seeing Dennis Franz's butt on NYPD Blue (which interestingly, is now streaming in all of its own meaty glory on Disney+ here in Australia, while Daryl Hannah's pert behind remains covered by a digitally enhanced hair extension).
- That scene in the most recent episode of Pam & Tommy with Tommy Lee confronting the band Third Eye Blind? It never happened. Read: Variety
- The characters of Batman and Cyborg were erased from a scene at the end of the show Peacemaker for... reasons? Read: TV Line
- The US version of UK panel show Would I Lie To You? will debut on The CW April 9. (There's also an Australian version that debuts Feb 28 on Channel 10). Read: thefutoncritic
- Walton Goggins will star in a TV series based on the Fallout video games. Read: Polygon
- Olivia Munn, Danny Ramirez, Loan Chabanol, Embeth Davidtz, and Jessie T. Usher have joined the cast of the anthology series Tales of The Walking Dead. Read: THR
- UK MPs are putting up a fight to save Channel 4. Read: The Guardian
- Australian greyhound authorities are looking to get out of broadcasting deals with Sky Racing. Read: Sydney Morning Herald
Adam Sandler stars in Netflix film Hustle, which debuts June 10.
That's it for today. There'll be another newsletter tomorrow. Enjoy the start to your week!