Dan Barrett

Dan Barrett is the Content Director of Televised Revolution. His musings on television have been heard across ABC Radio, on websites like The Guardian and Crikey, and drunkenly in pubs across the country. At night he spends too many hours watching repeats of Cheers.

[PODCAST] Televised Revolution – Tonight Shows (Ep 375)

What a week! Not only did this past week firm up the direction of the SVOD streaming services that are set to launch next year, but also it marks a HUGE week for US late night TV shows. As you would expect, Televised Revolution is here with another weekly show to run through the big news stories of the week and make sense of them. The panel also discuss late night TV shows and whether they’ve had any impact on their viewing over the years.

This week our panel of Dan, Simon, and Dennis discuss:

  • Foxtel’s Presto service unveils its content and some details about the service.
  • Nine/Fairfax’s Stan service reveals more content partners.
  • James Corden sets a start date as host of the US The Late Late Show and announces a surprising band leader.
  • David Letterman announces his last on air date.
  • The Pirate Bay has been taken offline.
  • HBO’s on demand service faces a major setback.
  • Useless TV check-in app Fango is set to be retired.
  • Myer is to stop selling TV’s.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes (please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).

HBO & Showtime Content On Presto Isn’t Reason Enough To Subscribe

Foxtel have unveiled more TV titles for their soon-to-revamp Presto service. Finally accepting the need for TV content on their subscription video on demand service, Foxtel will soon offer TV content in a partnership with Seven. Problematically though, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the value proposition subscribers are seeking with SVOD services.

Today Presto unveiled the following HBO and Showtime titles:

HBO

Showtime

·         The Sopranos

·         The Wire,

·         Boardwalk Empire

·         Band of Brothers

·         Entourage

·         The Newsroom

·         True Blood

·         The Pacific

·         Girls

·         Six Feet Under

·         Hung

·         Veep

·         Big Love

 

·         Dexter

·         The Borgias

·         Brotherhood

·         Californication

·         Deadwood

·         Nurse Jackie

·         Ray Donovan

Foxtel Box Sets by another name.

While these are certainly excellent programs that will enthuse most subscribers, they are also tired titles at this point. Great to revisit, but we have seen them all before. Hardly the sort of titles that will encourage potential subscribers.

The DVD boom of the 2000’s means many of us already have ready access to many of these HBO titles. As part of an SVOD library, these are value-adds and not a reason to subscribe.

Last week the competing Nine/Fairfax SVOD service Stan unveiled most of these Showtime titles as part of their deal with CBS. Subscribers can access these titles there along with a substantial number of other titles including the highly anticipated Better Call Saul.

For the 200,000+ Australians already accessing Netflix, the Showtime titles have been a long time staple there. That’s a massive chunk of early adopters who already have had the opportunity to watch and rewatch these titles.

This, off the back of last week’s lacklustre list of Seven titles being added, is worrying. In the PR war against Netflix, Presto is already miles behind. Unveiling tired titles generates zero buzz. If Foxtel have better titles than this, they need to be unveiled soon.

Potential subscribers are looking to SVOD services to replace their reliance on piracy. They’re looking for new and varied titles that will enhance their entertainment consumption.

Presto, so far, has failed to offer the promise of that experience. It’s time for them to announce something to impress us.

Something.

Anything.

The Top 10 TV Shows of 2014

End of year lists are subjective clickbait.

But, they also provide a sense of context to the year that was. It’s easy to get lost in arguments over the worthiness of specific shows, but that is what is wonderful about TV…about art. The audience brings with it their own experiences and sense of values, judging the work accordingly. What follows is my own list of what I deemed to be the best shows of 2014. How do I define that highly wobbly definition of ‘the best’? For me, this represents shows that are engaging, show me something new, are challenging, and are technically superior. This is not a list of television comfort food.

10. Happy Valley
In a year that culturally placed significant emphasis on the depiction of women in film/television and the need to deliver stories that weren’t just continuing the perpetual cycle of shows about ‘difficult men’, Happy Valley stood head and shoulders above all other series in meeting the requirements of the Bechdel Test. This was a series that placed a thoroughly beaten, emotionally savaged, yet embattled woman at the series core where she showed herself to be one of TV’s most intelligent, fiercely determined, and focused protagonists.

Happy Valley starred Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood who is stoically coming to terms with the suicide of her daughter, of whom had been brutally raped. Upon seeing the man responsible standing on a street corner, she becomes obsessed with bringing him to justice. Little does she realise that he is currently involved in the kidnapping of the daughter of a local business owner.

What starts as an almost Coen Brothers-esque drama series about a man staging the kidnapping of his boss’ daughter, very quickly spirals into a brutally dark drama which places Cawood at its centre. The 6-episode series is comes so very close to being a perfect TV show.

9. Transparent
After coming out to his family as transgendered, Maura (Jeffrey Tambour), begins a process of living life more openly. Embracing the world in a manner that is far more honest than he has been able to. Meanwhile his adult children are coming to terms with their own difficulties with their own relationships and the complexities of their emotional needs.

While Transparent has a lot to like about it, there are certain aspects of the show that make it difficult to buy into it completely. The series is built so perfectly as a serialised indie movie that when the trappings of serialised television are built on top of the foundation of the show, the show falters. This is particularly evident in the final episode where, without giving away anything, Jay Duplass’ character makes a life discovery that seems written in more as an emotional bridge to the shows second season more than as a natural extension to what we have seen on the show until that point.

While Maura is rarely the actual focus of the series, the show truly shines in flashbacks through Maura’s life as we see the challenges she faced as ‘Mort’ coming to terms with coming out. There’s a particularly great multi-episode guest stint by Bradley Whitford as a man facing a similar process of discovery.

Transparent stands not only as a very good season of ten episodes, but also represents a shift in the sorts of TV series that new delivery platforms like Amazon are able to offer their subscribers. Free of broadcast schedules, SVOD providers can produce series that allow interested viewers to come to the show and not force it onto a wider blanket of viewership. This means we can experience more personal, niche approaches to subjects like Transparent offers. It’s good TV that also represents a positive shift in content creation.

8. Game of Thrones
While the series has always been dependable and at times very good, it has only been with season four that the show managed to be truly engaging for the entire seasons run. Until now there has always been one or two storylines that never quite gelled as well as it could have. But this season upped the ante on the show and delivered so consistently.

The format for the show is well established at this point, but anytime the show breaks from the standard multi-storyline vignettes the show offers each week to deliver an extended single location storyline, viewers know they are in for something special. This was particularly true with season fours second episode The Lion & The Rose, which cranked the tension at King Joffrey’s wedding feast.

Any show that can offer an episode as action-heavy as ‘The Watchers On The Wall’ and for it not to be the episode that the shows fans get the most excited about is special indeed.

7. True Detective
The show that has topped almost every other 2014 top ten list.

Matthew Mcconaughey was impressive as the series co-lead, with Woody Harrelson putting in a similarly strong performance. And Cory Fukunaga created some amazing visuals on the show. That final episode sequence in the catacombs was gorgeous, tense, and creepy as shit.

But the writing? The show developed a cottage industry of writers theorising about what the series meant and determining the hidden texts that lie within the show. Prompting that much speculation over material that simply isn’t there in the show isn’t the hallmark of great writing. The show regularly hinted at more taking place within the show, but never allowed itself to go anywhere beyond offering a fairly simple big bad to conclude the show with.

Nonsense, meaningless dialogue, and empty hints stopped True Detective season one from truly standing as one of the great TV series. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t completely glorious to watch.

 

6. Rev
Few shows travel as far under the radar as Rev managed to over its three seasons.

Set in an inner-city area of East London, Church of England Reverend Adam Smallbone presides over an increasingly small flock. This is a comedy series about the humanity of religion and how it drives the needs of the church as an institution. The Reverend is a deeply flawed, altogether human person who faces difficulty engaging the congregation while also meeting his responsibilities as a husband.

What is so wonderful about Rev is that the show never overdoes it. Adam Smallbone is always seen as a human who makes mistakes, drinks, curses, wants to have sex with his wife, and makes terrible decisions, but he also has joy, love, and compassion in its heart. A show about a Reverend can easily be dismissed by those who are otherwise uninterested in religion, but Rev has never been about celebrating the religion, but rather celebrates the difficulty of leading an increasingly irrelevant institution.

The third season brings the series to a close, with the final two episodes stripping Adam of his role in the Church and bringing him to his absolute lowest emotional point in the series run. This is a show that is already missed.

5. Broad City
As Lena Dunham proves herself to be increasingly over-exposed and her show just a little awful, Broad City represents what we all wish Girls truly offered. Comedy is often the best way to cut through the nonsense of life and deliver the hard truths. Through Broad City we have a text that reflects the realities of being a twenty-something that is tangible – the realities of fully becoming an adult as you experience the important things like love, sex, relationships, and buying weed for yourself and not just mooching off the kindness of friends.

The two girls in the show (played by show creators and co-stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) are funny, charming, and endearing. There’s not a single viewer who doesn’t want to be best friends with them…as long as you don’t have to be friends with them in real life.

4. Fargo
This show is as wonderful as it is surprising. There isn’t a single person who, when it was announced that Fargo was set to be adapted as a TV series, though it was a good idea. Let alone a great idea. But the show works fantastically well. The show subverts the expectations set by the original film in the first episode, enabling the rest of the series to truly evolve and become a valid text in its own right.

The tone and texture of the movie is replicated here for the most part. It isn’t exactly softened for the TV screen, but it certainly feels less frosty in presentation. Unlike the Fargo of the film, it’s not difficult to want to live in the Fargo of the series on a weekly basis.

What truly enables Fargo to shine on the TV screen is that it is packed with revelatory performances. Owning the series is the previously unknown Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson, the Deputy investigating the murder. She grounds the series, yet lights up the screen in a manner not too dissimilar to Frances McDormand in the original film without retreading the same ground.

Winning a number of fans with his work on the show is Colin Hanks, who plays a meek police officer who, as a single father, just wants to get through his work day in one piece to look after his daughter. It’s been difficult to know for sure whether one likes Colin Hanks as reflected glow from his similar-looking father. Fargo truly establishes Colin Hanks as wonderful in his own right.

We all knew Billy Bob Thornton was great, but it’s been quite a number of years since we were reminded of that as viewers. If Thornton isn’t getting more work off the back of his performance here, the system is broken. He’s fantastic.

Taking a queue from the Barry Levinson school of casting comedians in key roles, the series stacks the supporting cast with a wealth of well-regarded comedic performers. Beyond Martin Freeman (The Office UK) as the put-upon insurance salesman, the show has cast Bob Odenkirk (Mr Show), Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Kate Walsh (Bad Judge), Rachel Blanchard (Peep Show), and Stephen Root (Newsradio).

Don’t underestimate Fargo as being little more than a TV cash-in on a well regarded film. It takes on a life of its own and has a sense of cinematic verve of its own. There are two truly inspired scenes with exceedingly strong cinematic flair that will stick with viewers. One involves a truly captivating and thrilling snow chase scene that rivals the Tom Cruise sandstorm chase in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The other is an amazing gun rampage that takes place in a building. This scene can thankfully be found on YouTube:

3. The Good Wife
People routinely sing the praises of The Good Wife to a disbelieving world. While the show has proven its value as being more than a procedural courtroom drama geared toward middle-aged women alone, the episodes to have aired during 2014 truly elevated the show. Everything here is second to none – Casting, performances, direction, writing, editing, costuming, set design.

While the show had been building nicely, season 5 of The Good Wife took the show somewhere completely new and unchartered. This has never been a show unwilling to evolve and upset the series status quo, but a twist in storytelling in the second half of the 5th season (which aired early this year) saw the show really embrace a new direction. Not only did the plotting for the series change, but it introduced a heightened sensory experience for the show with music and editing taking such a prominent role on the show that it began to feel less like a weekly melodrama and more an emotionally heightened opera.

The Good Wife really is TV at its absolute best.

2. Mad Men
It is offensive that AMC have split this final season of the series for an attempted ratings grab. This is not a show that has been building an audience every season as recent AMC successes like Breaking Bad has. Instead at this point in the series one is either a passionate Mad Men viewer or they’re not.

There are very few series that watching the series weekly feels like an event and not just an episode of TV. The last show to really achieve this was The Sopranos. Mad Men is one of these shows. Each episode is an absolute joy to sit down with and devour. They’re thematically rich, take surprising plot turns, and is unfailingly a thoroughly satisfying experience.

No other drama series feels as contained, self-assured, and filled with intent as Mad Men. While so much of the show is risky, high-wire television, it never feels out of control. Even when it takes some beyond ludicrous flights of fancy like ending its mid season finale with a conceptual song and dance number.

1. Bojack Horseman
Bojack Horseman is an animated comedy about a depressed sitcom actor/horse. The titular Bojack Horseman was once the star of a Mr Belvedere meets Charles In Charge style 80’s sitcom about a horse charged with looking after three precocious kids. Two decades have since passed and Bojack continues to live off past glory, unable to move his career forward. He is single and has just a handful of friends for support – his roommate, ex-girlfriend/agent, and the 20-something woman writing his biography.

The series meets the expectations one has going into the show in that it’s just a cartoon aimed at 20-30-something men in the vein of Family Guy. Very quickly, the show transcends that. Taking full advantage of the Netflix-style of distribution which enables viewers to binge-watch a series, the show builds episode on episode, providing pay-offs to jokes that happen several episodes prior. But more than that, it builds an emotional resonance. What starts out as a mediocre comedy ends 12 episodes later as a rumination on how ones behaviour towards others can have an impact on them and eventually oneself.

The loud-mouth horse will completely win you over by the seasons end, emerging as a fully drawn (as crudely drawn as he may physically be), intricate character that is just as nuanced and complicated as any of the ‘difficult men’ we’ve seen on cable dramas in the past 15 years. Furthermore, the world he inhabits becomes fully alive, providing supporting characters and even occasional guest characters deep characterisation, purpose, and agency.

Bojack Horseman may be a difficult sell to anyone uncomfortable with ‘adult animation’, but is by far the most rewarding series of 2014.

Honourable Mentions
Louie,  The Leftovers, The Honourable Woman, The Code, Hannibal.

[PODCAST] Televised Revolution: 2014 Appliance Wrap – Episode 374

Dan is joined by Patrick Avenell from Appliance Retailer and the two of them discuss the TV related appliances of 2014. The two provide some ideas for Christmas gifts and also discuss ethics in appliance reporting.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes (please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).

 

The 10 TV Shows That Defined 2014

Television is in flux. It’s more complicated than saying that viewers are just watching more cable/pay TV or Netflix than they are watching over the air. While, yes, viewers are watching TV in different ways, viewers have become more sophisticated in how they watch and understand TV. As a result, many viewers now have far greater expectations on the content being delivered.

All of these factors have created a shift in how we watch, consume, and talk about TV. We are all now multi-platform and seeking vastly different forms of content.

If 2014 is to be defined by a single theme, it’s fragmentation of what we once knew and accepted.

In considering this, it was put to the television focused community that discuss TV daily on the Televised Revolution Facebook Group on what they saw as the programming that defined 2014 in their eyes. It was a fascinating conversation that really served to highlight just how differently we all perceived TV this past year.

What follows is a list of the shows the FB group saw as defining the year. These aren’t the best shows, or even shows that were watched by those in the conversation. Rather they are the shows that were emblematic of the shape and structure of what we know to be television.

[Please note that the below blurbs from community members existed as a conversation and were not written as a definitive statement on the shows in question.]

The Big Bang Theory
It’s easily the most successful comedy of the last 5 years, let alone the last year, pulling in numbers that would have been decent before the fragmentation of the TV audience. That’s led to a lot of discussion this year about whether it’s actually a “good” show or just a competently made show that happens to mimic humour like a dog trying to walk on its hind legs. In a year where shows like Community got cancelled again, and others like Brooklyn Nine-Nine get support but fail to really rate, Big Bang has dominated both the ratings and the conversation. That says something about what people are watching, and why. [Stuart Layt]

Game of Thrones
Lots of discussion mainly about it being one of the most illegally downloaded shows in Australia. I think it had something to do with Foxtel changing their access to channels and making it cheaper so people will watch and not download. [Rebecca Rogers]

Happy Valley
It was an amazing UK show, but more importantly, it was an amazing export into the Netflix market. And now popular outside of both. [Michael Meloni]

happy-valley

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Most people (myself included) thought that when John Oliver announced his move to HBO that his show would be like The Daily Show in terms of being a news satire but weekly. However what the show managed
to do quite successfully is make people pay attention to stories they otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of in a long form format. You only have to look at the aftermath of the net-neutrality segment to see how people responded to (frankly) an otherwise ‘dry’ topic. [Jeff Miles]

Broad City
because (a) it’s awesome and (b) idk something about its progression from web series to TV, the increasingly dominant role of YouTube etc culture or something. [Dave Crewe]

Bee & Puppycat
Beloved Internet short gets Kickstarted for close to a million dollars, and turned into a series. [Anthony Zwierzchaczewski]

Bee Puppycat

Bojack Horseman
While it certainly didn’t start this year as a thing it felt like the first time when the production of TV by sources that weren’t traditional networks moved beyond the gimmick – like more Arrested Development – and became simply a force that even everyday, non-idiot box obsessed people like ourselves were aware of and accepted.

2014 wasn’t the year the definition of what is TV changed but it’s the year that it caught on. The output of Netflix with shows like Bojack and House of Cards, Amazon with series like Transparent and Alpha House – hell, Yahoo is making Community. It’s increasingly difficult, and meaningless, to draw strict lines between a show broadcast on NBC and one made for and distributed by YouTube/streaming sites, whether they’re passion products that then get Kickstarted to a full season or funded by what are now YouTube network like Cartoon Hangover/Federator or Funny or Die.

Now, combine this fractal expansion of sources of ‘TV’ with the explosion of ways to get TV/web/digital content through our TVs like Chromecast etc – we’ve had YouTube series/creators for ages but this combination means the splitting of content into “oh, well this is real TV and this is a web series” is just increasingly meaningless outside of discussions on funding and contract obligations.

To me 2014 is the year that it became impossible to ignore that what is ‘television’ has fundamentally shifted. While those of us obsessed enough to be ‘Digital Evolutionists’ have seen this coming for a long time, watching regular people realising the evolution has already occurred and that these new beasts are procreating at an exponential rate has been fascinating to me. [Lachlan Hibbert-Wells]

Homeland/House of Cards/True Detective/Halt & Catch Fire
Hour cable dramas that decide to go full-bonkers with varying levels of success (eg mad men, breaking bad, sopranos, etc all set a pace and it feels like networks are continuing to try to one-up themselves in concept/theme/plot).2014: year of high risk. [Stefanie Kechayas]

There’s obviously multiple examples of this but Halt and Catch Fire is what first came to mind – the amount of shows getting renewed with ratings that would have been a death sentence not too long ago, something about wider definitions of success on TV. [Alexandra Donald]

NCIS
It is globally (apparently) the biggest show, and it sort of represents the old guard of tv with baddy of the week but still season long stories, AND massively watched by old people. [Simon Band]

The Bachelor Australia
I didn’t watch a second of it but it was the major water cooler show at work. And I think it is significant in that a reality show which has been around since 2002 in some capacity still has the ability to grab headlines and ratings when a lot of the other tried and tested formats (BB, the Kitchen shows, talent shows) seem to be floundering a bit. Also, at its essence it is just a dating show, which have been around for decades. [Dan Nancarrow]

The Bachelor was interesting because there was a serious backlash after it came out that producers had “lied” to the audience by concealing how everything had ended while the show was still going out. Which is weird, because that happens with every show like that, but it seems like a lot of people were kind of angry about that this time. [Stuart Layt]

 

Presto Announce Underwhelming TV Titles.

Early this week Foxtel confirmed that they have partnered with Seven to deliver TV content to streaming movie service Presto. Via the Presto blog, the first batch of TV titles has been announced… And it is a list that is as expected as it is underwhelming.

Titles announced are:

Love My Way
Tangle
Satisfaction
Spirited
Wentworth
Packed To The Rafters
Always Greener
All Saints
City Homicide
Home and Away
Winners and Losers
Mr Selfridge
Rosemary & Thyme
Lewis
A Touch of Frost

The only new title announced is the NBC mid-season replacement series Aquarius, starring David Duchovny. While any Duchovny led series will be of interest, NBC have had a lousy track record with drama in recent years. The criminally under-seen horror series Hannibal aside, NBC haven’t launched a decent drama in over five years.

article-2736404-20DCB86300000578-475_634x291

It is expected that some HBO content will make its way onto the Presto service when it launches (Game of Thrones, should it made available on Presto, will drive large numbers if provided ‘Express From The US’), but if considering the service from these launch titles alone, one has to question who Presto think they’re targeting with this list of programs that have limited appeal to anyone aged under 45.

This list of programming skews HEAVILY female and HEAVILY to older audience members. While valid and valued audience segments, it ignores the dominant group of male early adopters who will drive much of the initial take up.

It is heartening to see that Satisfaction will be available on the service. It was a strong drama that never generated the buzz it deserved during its initial run on Foxtel. Hopefully this will allow more people to discover the show.

Undoubtedly, Seven will release some of the content airing on 7Mate to redress this imbalance, but for a launch announcement, it really does leave one scratching their head as to who Presto perceive it’s audience to be.

 

[PODCAST] Televised Revolution – The Death of The US Sitcom? (Ep 373)

Are we facing a US sitcom ‘recession’? Is the US sitcom on deaths door? This week saw Joe Adalian publish an essay on Vulture suggesting that the days of the US sitcom are at an end. Is that actually the case though? And even if it is the case, is it such a big deal?

This week on Televised Revolution the panel of Dan Barrett, Simon Band, and Dennis Dugandzic discuss whether there is a sitcom problem, while also examining the TV news of the week. Stories include:

  • Was Sony Pictures the victim of a hack from North Korea?
  • Two & A Half Men given an end date.
  • Parks & Recreations final season is scheduled. Is NBC burning the series off?
  • GTA V dumped from Target and K-Mart stores.
  • Stan adds CBS and BBC titles.
  • TV is coming to Presto.
  • The bid to buy the Ten Network intensifies. Kind of. Sort of. Not really.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes (please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).

VIDEO:

Netflix Is Not Presto’s Biggest Problem. Without HD It is A Non-Starter.

Netflix is not the biggest problem Foxtel and Seven have in launching a joint subscription video on demand service. The biggest hurdle they have is battling piracy. People want to access the content they want to watch legitimately, so any content provider needs to offer content in a way that makes the experience as good as or better than the piracy experience. Netflix are successful as they do this.

But Presto?

This is a service that provides their content in standard definition only and is available across a very limited number of platforms (currently on iOS,  Android, Web, and Chromecast – no connected devices like PS4/XBOX/Apple TV). Netflix, however, offers an adaptive resolution that can offer quality from standard definition up to 4k.

Today, Foxtel and Seven have officially announced that they are teaming up to provide TV content onto Presto. With the announcement, they made no mention as to which TV shows one should expect to find on the service, but it’s safe to assume that it will include some locally produced Seven productions, some imported content that’s currently getting a play on their digital TV multichannels 7Two and 7Mate, and a series currently running on Foxtel owned and operated channels. It’s likely that this will include some HBO content that includes Game of Thrones – expected to be a major driver of subscriptions.

While TV content is much-needed on the platform, the technical limitations of Presto are going to be a major stumbling block when it comes to subscriber retention.

Seven and Foxtel have a great opportunity to promote and re-launch Presto during the Australian Open in January. Like Seven’s TV check-in app Fango which launched during the Australian Open in a similar way, it may well launch big, but if users are disappointed by the experience, they’ll quickly reject it. As soon as subscribers find it difficult to watch the content on their tv, or experience low resolution images on their screen, negative word of mouth will be a significant problem. Viewers have big screen TV’s and home theatre systems. They want to get the most out of it.

If operating in a silo, the limitations on Presto wouldn’t be a significant problem. But against Netflix? Against Stan? Both of these services will be available in HD and on multiple platforms.

Presto2Possibly the biggest problem that Foxtel will face is that they have trouble adjusting their belief that they’re not operating in a silo. For the past two decades the company has operated as a near-monopoly in Australia, controlling the market heavily. In competing against the likes of Netflix and any other online streaming competitors, Foxtel need to compete with the organisations head on. But they’ve been reluctant to upset their traditional cable business. Online, digital products have been crippled with less content and with technological limitations. Streaming services on connected TV’s have been cut-down versions of Foxtel’s linear channel services, while Presto launched with no TV content, no way to be watched on a TV set, and in lousy SD. Foxtel have been unable to shake the attitude that they are the only viable service in town.

“I wonder when people see and experience the Australian Netflix service whether some of that brand halo may actually drop a bit,” he says. “It will not be the same as the US service. You can’t compare it to a service like Foxtel, for example, which has sport, a lot more fresh programming, and so I think we obviously have to be very competitive but we’re very optimistic about Presto”

– Richard Freudenstein, Foxtel CEO

The reality is that Netflix aren’t competing with Foxtel. They’re providing two different services. Netflix chases niche and personal taste, while Foxtel are a much larger content umbrella. Big name content may help to drive subscription numbers, but for Netflix retention will rest with whether subscribers feel they’re getting value from the $9.95 per month that they spend. For many viewers, if they feel they’ve gotten value marathoning decade-old 8-seasons worth of the TV show ’24’, then that is enough to establish value. When one operates at a price point as low as Netflix, the value proposition differs wildly from the expensive Foxtel service.

Presto’s biggest battle in the coming months is not with Netflix, but with their own practices. Presto needs HD. Presto needs to be available on multiple platforms that are actually able to be viewed on a TV set. Without these functions, Presto is not competing with Netflix or Stan. They’re also proving value over piracy.

Marco Polo, The Librarians, and More – The Watchlist 07 December 2014

There’s a lot of great TV coming our way in the coming weeks. Until then, we have these new series.

The Librarians
Airs: 07 December 2014 (TNT – US)
A TV series spin-off of the Noah Wyle-starring TV movies, this has a team of librarians teaming up to discover lost and forgotten treasures. The series will star John Larroquette, Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, and John Kim, along with very occasional appearances by Noah Wyle. It looks sort of fun, but very disposable.

Lost Girl
Airs: 07 December 204 (Showcase – US)
This Canadian series about a bisexual succubus named Bo enters its fifth season. The show has its fans.

Marco Polo 
Airs: 12 December 2014 (Netflix – Global)
Netflix will be launching this series in every territory it has a legitimate presence in on the same day. Advance buzz is that the series is fine, but hasn’t particularly impressed many critics. Fans of nudity and violence are reportedly well catered for by the series.

Brian Pern: A Life In Rock
Airs: 12 December 2014 (BBC2 – US)
A Spinal Tap-esque series, Brian Pern is about a former prog rock artist modelled on Peter Gabriel.

[Review] Mozart In The Jungle: Pilot

“It’s easier with the lips slightly wet”.

The opening line in Mozart In The Jungle does a lot to establish the general tone of the show. Offering the perfect mix of sex, drugs, and classical music, the show manages to be a little pervy, without being lewd – the perfect tone to strike in a series that has the New York Symphony established as its backdrop.

Mozart In The Jungle is the new Amazon original series based on a semi-autobiographical book by Blair Tindall. This pilot episode establishes four main characters. The lead is Hailey (Lola Kirke, sister of Girls actress Jemima Kirk), the ingénue who works by day as a music tutor and by night playing in the orchestra of a Styx tribute show on Broadway. Serving as a Blair Tindall proxy is Saffron Burrows as Cynthia, a Symphony player who moonlights in other orchestras on Broadway – which is where she meets Hailey for the first time. Malcolm McDowell is Thomas, the bitter and ageing orchestra conductor who has just been pushed aside for Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) – a hot and younger conductor who is eager to deliver new life into the Symphony.

As the pilot episode ends, Rodrigo has just been wowed by an audition of sorts by Hailey, setting up a potential sexual relationship that will no doubt place her in a combative relationship with Cynthia who has been carrying on a secret sexual relationship with Thomas.

The pilot is directed by Paul Weitz, with a script written by show creators Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and Alex Timbers. So much of the tone of the show is reminiscent of Schwartzman’s previous TV series Bored To Death, but while that show always felt at a distance from its audience (keeping them at bay through a pot haze), this show feels far more present and connected. Fans of Canadian series Slings & Arrow will find many similarities between the two series, though this certainly is far more contemporary.

So much of this pilot episode works very well firmly establishing the world of Mozart In The Jungle and it gives its very appealing cast several opportunities each to shine. Quite the feat considering each episode is just a half hour long. The only aspect that doesn’t quite sit right with the overall tone of the show is the Rodrigo character who comes across highly cartoonish in this world of otherwise grounded characters. While the series isn’t afraid to revel in hyper silly-ness (a booze-fuelled, shot driven wind instrument face-off at a party of musicians is a lot of fun to watch, as is the development of Haileys housemates latest invention – a metronome weed delivery system), Rodrigo operates at an entirely different level to the rest of the series.

mozart in the jungleThe danger of Mozart In The Jungle as it goes to series is that the show will seek to bring the characters into Rodrigo’s world and not have him operate at a more grounded level.

It is unlikely that Mozart In The Jungle will generate much buzz from viewers or critics, but for those that do find the show to their taste, it has a lot to offer.

The series launches on Amazon Instant Video in the US on December 23rd.