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.

Australia's Greatest Mystery: "Holt"

The disappearance of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967 is fascinating. Vanishing one day while swimming at Cheviot Beach, his body was never recovered. While the circumstances surrounding his death were interesting (the common conspiracy theory being that he was taken by a Chinese submarine, ignoring the more likely scenario that it was an accident or he took his own life), but it’s also noteworthy how little an impact his disappearance has had on the Australian psyche. Usually the death of a world leader will leave a significant mark on the community and its culture. Meanwhile the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt nowadays seems nothing more than a curious footnote in history.

Filmmaker Scott Mannion is seeking to raise funds for “Holt”, a long-form short film that explores the idea of what really happened to Harold Holt. Described as a live-action espionage short film made in the spirit of films like ‘The Conversation‘,’Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘, and ‘Day of the Jackal‘, Holt examines the days leading up to Holt’s disappearance and Holt’s efforts to retain power despite covert forces seeking to undermine it.

Mannion claims to have been inspired by a 35mm video sent to him of Harold Holt in Russia several months after his disappearance.

Thrillers exploring Australian politics are rare, let alone one exploring such an intriguing and little discussed major event in Australian history. Currently Mannion and his team are nearing the midway point in their Kickstarter funding efforts. They need $65,000 to get over the line. This is a project worth supporting.

Support the project HERE.

Review: Brekky Central

Melbourne University Press have rushed the Adam Boland book Brekky Central into bookstores in an effort to prevent an injunction being placed on the books release by Channel 7 / generate publicity. Having read Bolands book, an exploration of his career that included Executive Producing Ch 7’s Sunrise and Ch 10’s Wake Up, it’s a shame that they didn’t spend more time crafting the book. It’s a little under-cooked.

For TV wonks, Brekky Central is a must-read. It offers some insight into Adam Bolands personal life and professional history, while also offering a backstage glimpse into the well-known events that defined his tenure on Sunrise. The chapter on the Sunrise Justin Bieber live broadcast is particularly entertaining. It’s a light and breezy read and those enthused about reading a book like this will come away from it satisfied.

Brekky CentralWhere it doesn’t quite work is that it doesn’t quite go deep enough in explaining who some of the identities discussed are, nor does it offer enough of a personal glimpse into how the people in Boland’s life impacted upon his work. Considering how intwined Boland’s professional and personal life was, it is an omission that makes the book a little unsatisfactory. Brekky Central mentions Boland lived with four other Sunrise staffers while EP’ing the show. That’s an unusual living arrangement, yet the book doesn’t go into any detail about how that worked and impacted on the lives of those in the home.

Boland introduces his former partner Yoko Shimuzu (a staffer on the show) into the book, but offers very little in the way their relationship functioned or how it came to an end. He introduces the subject of his sexuality, but offers nothing in how his coming out affected the relationship with Yoko personally or professionally. Considering that Yoko plays a significant role in a professional decision Boland comes to towards the end of the book, it’s important for the book to better define their relationship and its status for us to appreciate the impact that a lunch-meeting they shared had on his decision-making.

Similarly the book offers almost no real examination of the relationship Boland shared with his former boyfriend, former co-worker, and now current Sunrise EP Michael Pell.

As Boland goes into considerable detail on the failing health of his father and his own bi-polar issues, it seems almost disingenuous to not provide greater personal details on his relationships. Not for reasons of voyeurism, but more because these relationships had such a direct influence on his professional world.

Further to this, there are people introduced are established as important, but their introduction is rarely elaborated upon. A notable example is a production assistant named Dacien Hadland. Boland goes to great effort to explain that Hadland was important in thinking outside the box and was crucial in their coverage of the Beaconsfield mining disaster, but Boland doesn’t really detail exactly what it was that Hadland provided and where it was of benefit.

It’s as if the Editor of the book simply didn’t push Boland enough on some of these points. Greater elaboration on these relationships would have made the book one hell of a read.

Where the book really shines is with some of the throwaway details offered about the production process. Knowing that Boland and team viewed the typical Sunrise viewer as a woman in her forties with a couple of kids named Irene was a great nugget of information that reveals so much about the identity and form of Sunrise.

Brekky Central is an engaging read. Yes, it falls short in not providing the personal context that would place value on many of the identities featured in the book, but it still delivers where it needs to. It’s certainly a lot more colourful than other similar looks at breakfast TV. Boland’s book is certainly a lot more vibrant than Brian Stetler’s look at US morning television “Top Of The Morning” – a dry and passionless read. Brekky Central is not the dirt-revealing glimpse of Sunrise that many had been hoping for. Nor is it that close an examination of Boland’s bi-polar condition (though, it is covered quite well in the books closing chapter). Instead it offers more a series of snapshots of the career of Adam Boland. It makes for a satisfying, but not entirely nourishing read.

The Walking Dead, The Affair, and Jane The Virgin – The Watchlist 12 October 2014

As we reach the mid-point of October, it’s become clear that there have been very few new shows that have proven themselves as must-watch series in the new US broadcast TV season. This week see’s the launch of the promising Marry Me and Jane The Virgin. It’s US cable TV that is delivering for us this week, with the series return of The Walking Dead. And along with it, chat show The Talking Dead. The series to watch, however, may well be The Affair – a show that’s expected to have a number of twists and turns in its tale of an extra-marital affair.

The Watchlist is a primer for shows that are debuting or have an episode of note. If you want more complete TV listing site, be sure to check out the Pogdesign Calendar. Please note that all dates cited below are in accordance with their local broadcast times/airdates.

Special thanks goes to Jen Knight for assisting in compiling the Watchlist.

The Walking Dead – Season 5 Debut
Airs: 12 October 2014 (AMC – US)
It’s a quiet achiever. The Walking Dead has never quite been the big culture defining series that Breaking Bad, Mad Men, or Game of Thrones has been in recent years, yet it blows those shows out of the water ratings-wise. Most viewers of the show would be hard-pressed to name most of the main cast members of the show. And general investment in the characters is low. Yet, we all continue to watch.

The show returns following the great season finale cliffhanger from last year in which the survivors have been rounded up into a cargo container by a group of (most likely) cannibals.

The Affair
Airs: 12 October 2014 (Showtime – US)
Don’t let this series get past you. Critics have raved about the series premiere episode. The Affair tells the story of an affair between a school teacher and a waitress, with the series telling the story from both the man and woman’s perspective. Dominic West (The Wire, The Hour), Ruth Wilson (Luther, Saving Mr Banks), Maura Tierney (ER, Newsradio), and Joshua Jackson (Fringe, Dawson’s Creek) star.

Jane The Virgin
Airs: 13 October 2014 (CW – US)
Based on a telenovella, Jane The Virgin is one of the few shows this year to wow most of the critics. The series is about Jane, a woman saving herself for marriage, who is accidentally inseminated in a hospital. The donor just happens to be her new boss – a man she has a crush on as a teenager.

Marry Me
Airs: 14th October 2014 (NBC – US)
This comedy stars Ken Marino (Party Down) and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) as a committed couple who are looking to get engaged. It’s a good pairing cast-wise and with David Caspe (Happy Endings) serving as showrunner, it’s worth checking out. Even if this trailer doesn’t instil much confidence.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyIuHEfNmYM

About A Boy
Airs: 14th October 2014 (NBC – US)
The first season of this series flew under the radar, but very quickly established itself as a reliable and charming sitcom. It’s not ground-breaking, but one never feels worse of for having spent half an hour being charmed by it. Sometimes with TV shows, that’s enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYBenc-fG3I

REVIEW: The Flash

My name is Dan Barrett. I love The Flash.

This show unashamedly embraces itself as a superhero TV show, showcasing tales of adventure, super-powered heroics, romance, villainy, and lots of really attractive people. While the recent glut of Marvel superhero films may have audiences tiring of tights and capes big budget adventures to a degree, the manner in which this show embraces television as a medium really has the show feeling like nothing else on TV right now, while also feeling comfortable in its old-fashioned TV-ness.

With the exception of the ongoing story arc that does link the series together, viewers are watching story-of-the-week heroics that feel little more evolved than watching an episode of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman back in the 70’s. It’s a contemporary series to be sure, but it’s just so episodic and familiar.

The Flash concerns police scientist Barry Allen. He’s brainy CSI-type whose head is often in the clouds to the ire of many of the police he works with. A freak accident involving a lighting strike, chemicals, and a particle accelerator gone awry result in Barry developing super speed. With minimal motivation, Allen puts on a costume to fight crime as The Flash.

By all rights this series should be trite. It does absolutely nothing new and is treading what seems to be tired ground. But it’s actually a surprising bit of fun that doesn’t let up. The Flash is a show that will appeal to adults and kids alike.

Grant Gustin (Glee) makes for an appealing lead, delivering his lines with the right amount of whimsy and casual charm. He’s not a dark and broody guy, nor does he attempt to deliver weight to the role where it doesn’t exist. Most shows like this collapse with leads playing the role either too seriously, or in delivering a thoroughly wooden performance. It’s too early to say that this kids going to be a star, but he’s pretty note perfect for the tone of this show and carries it perfectly well.

The supporting cast are also mostly on the money. Jesse L Martin (Law & Order) plays Detective West, a police detective who has looked after Barry Allen since his mother was murdered and his father incarcerated for her murder. In the pilot episode, Martin doesn’t have much to do beyond playing a warm authority figure, but his presence is a bedrock among the younger unknown performers. Candice Patton plays Barry’s potential love interest, Iris West – the daughter of Detective West. And rounding out the cast is Tom Cavanagh.

It’s interesting seeing Tom Cavanagh in this series, playing the head of S.T.A.R. Labs who are responsible for performing medical checks on Barry. Cavanagh delivers the exact same level of casual performance as Grant Gustin in this show. Cavanagh became an audience favourite from starring in the TV show Ed and always comes across as effortlessly charming. It will be interesting to watch these two in scenes as the show evolves – especially with the show hinting that Cavanagh’s “Harrison Wells” may have sinister motivation.

Something that shouldn’t be ignored is the special effects surrounding The Flash himself. The 90’s Flash TV show was saddled with a really lame looking blur that emphasised much of the hero’s movements. Here the character looks better rendered as he runs, with many of the visual flaws that should be evident hidden by a very cool looking lightning effect that surrounds him.

Beyond just feeling like solid, good old-fashioned TV, the bones of the show offer considerable potential as the show moves forward. The pilot does everything right in establishing a deep and strong network of supporting characters who each have a clearly defined relationship with the lead. These characters all have motivations of their own and have been imbued with enough depth as to maintain and evolve those motivations as the series progresses.

the-flash-cw

The Flash also feels true to itself. This is a show that spun out of the DC Comics-inspired series Arrow (base don the Green Arrow comic). Arrow suffers in almost the same way that The Flash TV series from 1990 suffered in serving as a pale imitation of the Batman films of the time. Where 1990’s The Flash sought to emulate the tone and texture of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, Arrow is trapped as a facsimile of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of films. The Flash, meanwhile, is allowed to be a bright and upbeat series that has its own identity.

Where The Flash fails in the pilot episode is in having such a tremendously dull villain driving much of the action. Almost feeling tacked on, The Flash needs to stop a villain who can control the weather. Yes, this weather wizard is able to create a giant tornado, but it’s difficult to care that he does. The character is a non-entity as far as the pilot is concerned. With what will likely evolve into a monster-of-the-week series, the show will have to get much better about finding something interesting in the weekly villains. And if they can go a step further and make those characters human and relatable, that will go a long way.

The Flash is a traditional superhero show that will emphasise weekly villains and superhero action that is high on adventure and romance. This is a show that zips.

5 Things To Know About The Flash Before You Watch 'The Flash'

Superhero films have dominated movie theatres in recent years and we’re starting to see the same happen to TV series. The Flash, which launched on TV in the US this week, is the most traditional take we’ve seen on a superhero TV series since Lois & Clark in the mid 90’s.

Despite the prominence of The Flash in comic books and the characters continued exposure in DC animated series/movies, many viewers coming to The Flash TV series will be largely unfamiliar with the character. So, who is The Flash and what do you need to know about the comics to get the most out of the TV series from its first episode?

He runs fast. Is that it?
Well, yeah. But he runs really, really fast. His powers are move about movement than just running. The Flash can run fast, lend his momentum to nearby objects, speed read/learn, and can vibrate his molecules to enable himself to pass through solid objects.

The Flash Is A Multi-Generational Hero
The Flash debuted in 1940 as a college student named Jay Garrick who gains the ability to run really fast after inhaling some water vapours in his laboratory. Hi comic book series was cancelled in the late 40’s with superhero comics on the decline.

Flash_Garrick_h2

Jay Garrick

The version of The Flash that is probably best known is Barry Allen. Allen was a police laboratory technician and made his first appearance in 1956. Allen bore no connection to Jay Garrick (beyond reading about Jay Garrick’s The Flash in comic books) and gained his super speed after an incident where he is hit by lightning and doused with chemicals. Allen was portrayed as a really square guy who was renowned for always being late to things. Soon he took on a kid sidekick named Wally West who went by the superhero identity Kid Flash. West was the nephew of Barry Allens girlfriend and eventual wife Iris West. The Barry Allen version of The Flash was killed off in the comic books  in 1985, but brought back to the comics in 2009.

Faster than Superman

Barry Allen – faster than Superman

The third version of The Flash was Wally West. After DC Comics killed off Barry Allen, Wally West became the first of the teen sidekicks to grow up and replace their older mentor hero. From 1987-2007, comic readers watched Wally West grow up as a spoiled lottery winner who eventually matured, found love, and built a family of his own.

Wally West - running keeps him in good shape.

Wally West – running keeps him in good shape.

Others have worn The Flash costume at times, with many of these characters descendants of Barry Allen, including his own grandson Bart Allen who time travels back to the modern era to take on the identity of Impulse/Kid Flash.

This Is The Second TV Series Based on Barry Allen As The Flash
Despite being killed off in the comics in the mid 80’s, both TV series to star The Flash have been based on Barry Allen as The Flash. The first series ran just one season in 1990/91 and starred John Wesley Shipp – best known for playing Dawson’s dad in Dawson’s Creek. C0-starring was Amanda Pays (Max Headroom, The X-Files) as Dr Tina McGee, a minor character in the comics of the time who was developed in the show as a source of romantic/sexual tension. Both John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays will play recurring characters in the new series. Shipp will play the role of Barry Allen’s father, while Pays is (interestingly enough) again playing the role of Dr Tina McGee.

We’re yet to hear of a role in the new series for the third cast member of the show, Alex Desert. Desert (best remembered for the series Becker) played Barry Allen’s work colleague Julio.

The series was heavily influenced by the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie, bringing a very dark visual style to the series. It’s an approach that kind of works for the show, but never quite feels true to the spirit of The Flash who has never really been depicted as a dark or moody character.

The Flash Has An Impressive Range of Enemies
Second only to Batman, The Flash has an impressive number of notable villains to fight. Much like The Flash himself, many of these villains are multi-generational also, with relationships that change in accordance with whoever is wearing The Flash mask. Known as the ‘Rogues Gallery’, The Flash’s enemies include Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Gorilla Grodd, The Top, Weather Wizard, Abra Kadabra, Captain Boomerang, The Trickster, and Golden Glider.

the flash rogues

Notable among The Flash’s enemies is a character named The Pied Piper who can hypnotise people through music. The Pied Piper, eventually went straight and became a close confidant of Wally West. Piper was also one of comics first openly gay characters.

Professor Zoom, The Reverse Flash
The most important of The Flash’s villains is Professor Zoom, The Reverse Flash. Zoom is Eobard Thawne, a time travelling villain from the future who has obtained the abilities of The Flash. In the comics he was responsible for killing Barry Allen’s wife Iris. Barry Allen later breaks Zoom’s neck.

A recent inclusion into the story of The Flash has it that Professor Zoom time travelled back to when Barry Allen was a kid, framing Barry’s father for the murder of Barry’s mother. The new TV version of The Flash appear to be taking a very similar route to the comics as seen in the flashback to the murder of Barry’s mother. A yellow speed blur is seen in the scene, indicating Professor Zoom’s involvement.

The TV series pilot introduces a new hotshot police office named Eddie Thawne. Don’t immediately expect him to be revealed as Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom however as it may be a red herring.

Instead look to the scientist character played by Thomas Cavanagh who appears to serve as a distant echo of a Flash villain named Hunter Zolomon. In the comics Zolomon was a police profiler who was paralysed during an attack by Flash villain Gorilla Grodd. Zolomon gained super speed also, taking on the Zoom mantle. Could Cavanagh serve as the surprise ‘big bad’ this season on the show?

It’s likely no coincidence that in the scene we discover Cavanagh’s character is now in a wheelchair that they pass a damaged cage with the name Gorilla Grodd on it. There’s your visual cue.

The fact that he’s got a newspaper from 2024 and seems to be lying about the paralysis also indicates something may be up.

Wally West v Eobard Thawne

Wally West v Eobard Thawne

Linda Park Is A Working TV Journalist
TV series and movies tend to take liberties with material from comics. In the pilot to the 90’s The Flash series a TV journalist named Linda Park appeared. Just as she does in the pilot episode for the new 2014 Flash TV series (seen on the TV reporting on the particle accelerator). In the comics, however, she is the girlfriend and later wife of Barry Allen’s nephew Wally West. Obviously this creates a discrepancy in the ages between Wally West and Linda Park now, but one shouldn’t be too surprised to see Linda Park reintroduced as a potential love interest for Barry Allen as this show develops. Just as in the comics, Linda Park appears to be Korean-American.

flash_92

 

* * * * *

For anyone interested in reading some The Flash comics, a great jumping on point is The Flash: Rebirth, a six-issue mini-series that reintroduced Barry Allen to the modern era of comics. It can be bought digitally at Comixology. Another jumping on point is The Flash: Year One four-issue arc from the 90’s Flash comics which show how Wally West became Kid Flash. It’s less relevant than the Rebirth series, but does introduce the core characters in the world of The Flash nicely. Year One can be bought at Comixology also.

 

The Flash (US), Strange Empire (Canada), and Party Tricks (Australia) Launch – The Watchlist 05 October 2014

The heavy volume of new and returning US shows continue as we enter October. This week heralds one of the best new shows of the season, The Flash, along with the eagerly anticipated Canadian western drama Strange Empire, and the Australian political series Party Tricks.

Returning shows this week include: Homeland, Bob’s Burgers, Bar Rescue, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, The Originals, Murdoch Mysteries, Supernatural, Arrow, American Horror Story, and Lewis.

Mulaney
Airs: 5 October 2014 (Fox – US)
This show has unified critics who were all eager to like this show, but were all exceedingly disappointed. Built in Seinfeld’s image, Mulaney stars US stand-up John Mulaney as a comedian who is hired as a writer for a well-known game show host. Mulaney’s life then becomes a tug-of-war between the stress of his new job and his guilt over not being there for his two best friends and roommates. Hilarity ensues. Or doesn’t, as the critics suggest.

Party Tricks
Airs: 6 October 2014 (Ten Network – Australia)
Following the campaign of Premier Kate Ballard (Asher Keddie) who is on track to win the next state election. Her campaign is upset when the Opposition put up a popular radio & TV personality (played by Roger Corser) against her. What people don’t know is that they once had a secret affair. It’s a great premise for a limited run series and should serve as one of the Australian production highlights of the year.

Grantchester
Airs: 6 October 2014 (ITV – UK)
When one of his parishioners is killed, Vicar Sidney Chambers investigates adding to the longtime tradition of clergy-driven detectives on TV. A sub-genre that has far more entries in it than you immediately think.

Strange Empire
Airs: 6 October 2014 (CBC – Canada)
A massacre finds three women left in the hands of a man who wants to use them in his brothel. Strange Empire is set in 1869, near Alberta and is very much a female-skewed take on the western genre. Series star Michelle Creber also voices Apple Bloom in My Little Pony.

The Flash
Airs: 7 October 2014 (CW – US)
This is the one new TV series from the new US broadcast season that has an identity and potential that is evident from the pilot episode. None of the superhero-inspired TV series launched in recent years have felt like anything more than a shallow effort to exploit a known comic book brand. The pilot episode of this is a lot of fun. Some viewers may remember the Flash TV series from the early 90’s. That show was burdened by an effort to bring a Tim Burton Batman vibe to a TV superhero series. The new take on the character gives The Flash more room to be its own thing, while giving the character greater scope to embrace greater romance with a stronger personal investment in being a hero.

Fans of the show Arrow would be well advised to tune in for a special appearance by that shows character as the show beds itself into a TV DC universe in the style of the Marvel big screen film universe.

Kingdom
Airs: 9 October 2014 (The Audience Network – US)
A family drama set in the world of MMA competitive fighting. There is a very specific, male-driven audience for a street level series starring raw, urban fighters and the struggles they are facing. The cast for the show indicates some potential moving forward with Frank Grillo starring, alongside Kiele Sanchez (Nikki of Nikki & Paolo fame on Lost), Nick Jonas, and Matt Lauria.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGIjEKrMeQM

Cristela
Airs: 10 October 2014 (ABC – US)
Cristela is a Mexican-American woman whose family believe is being overly-ambitious by trying to establish a career in the law. Critics have received the show warmly, indicating the preview for the series may not be entirely representative of the show entirely.

 

Televised Revolution – TV Detective Shows (Ep 364)

Inspired by reading the book Inherent Vice and excited for the upcoming PT Anderson film, Dan has gotten excited about detective stories. Detectives have had a long, storied past on TV. What makes for a great TV detective show and which ones have we loved over the years?

The panel also discuss the TV news of the week:
*Netflix sign Adam Sandler to a 4 movie deal.
*Why is the NRL grand final not in HD? And just what is an MPEG4?
*Seven go discovering on the new Adam Boland tell-all book.
*And much, much more.

Please note: Due to a unique technical set-up this week, we were unable to provide a video recording of the podcast. The live video streamed podcast will return next Monday night at 8pm.

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).

Why Mainstream Cinemas Have Less To Fear From Netflix Than They Do Fear Itself

Traditional media holders have every right to feel threatened by the Internet. For many of them, upsetting the status quo means an entire business and revenue model is out the window. And that’s what the Internet is doing. It is upending the traditional way of doing things. The traditional ways that we consume things. It is therefore understandable that US cinema chains freaked out this week when Netflix unveiled their plan (in conjunction with The Weinstein Company) to simultaneously release the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sequel on their VOD service on the same date as the film would be released onto IMAX screens.

Mainstream cinemas really have very little to be worried about from Netflix. And being so aggressive does them no favours. It does nothing more than strengthen Netflix’s position as a competitor to their business when that’s far from the reality.

US theatre chains AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have all announced a boycott of the film. As they operate 247 of the 400 IMAX theatres in the US, this represents a considerable hurdle in the distribution of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend. While IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond has defended the distribution partnership with TWC/Netflix, emphasising the success they will yield internationally – particularly in China where this film will perform very well and is an area in which Netflix are not operating, the theatre chains have reacted with extreme hostility.

“AMC Theatres and [its parent company] Wanda Cinema are the largest operators of Imax-equipped auditoriums in the world. We license just the technology from IMAX. Only AMC and Wanda decide what programming plays in our respective theaters. No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens IMAX committed are in science centers and aquariums,” – AMC

Clearly AMC, Regal, and Cinemark are attempting to prevent establishing a precedent. US studios have already tried shrinking the window between cinema exclusivity and home video in the past only to be met with similar resistance by the cinema chains. In their minds, once they no longer retain their grasp on the exclusivity window, cinemas will have difficulty maintaining their dominance.

Where the cinema chains have gone awry in their thinking is in not understanding that this current Netflix effort is actually a best case scenario win for them. They can keep the enemy through the gate while keeping them under a tight rein.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend is an aberration. Like CTHD before it (and a handful of inspired wuxia films), it is a rarity to have a film that appeals primarily to art-house audiences that demand big screen presentation on an IMAX-sized screen. Art-house and specialty releases very rarely offer large spectacle in the way mainstream Hollywood films do.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.56.22 pmAdjacent to this is Netflix who certainly aren’t going to be making any huge budget spectacle films anytime soon. Yes, they may be making some Marvel TV series in the coming years, but they’ll all feature street level characters. Expect fight sequences on the scale of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and less what you’d expect to see in The Avengers movie. A Netflix budget is the same as a mid-tier film – approximately in the $30-50 million range. There’s no value in Netflix ever going higher than that. The risk is too great and the rewards simply aren’t there.

Mid-tier productions suit the Netflix model, which is to produce content that will perform very well for a specific audience. As soon as productions start reaching the $80+ million mark, films need to play as broadly as possible if only just to recoup costs. Netflix is built on targeted, niche audiences. Not everything on Netflix is of interest to everybody, but they offer just enough content on there for everybody.

Hollywood have been moving away from mid-tier productions. There’s a reason why your local multi-plex plays so many big and mindless action adventure films nowadays – it’s hard to justify getting an audience out to see a new film based on an Elmore Leonard book when Justified is available on TV. Premium TV shows are offering so much high value content that matches many mid-tier films for quality that it’s difficult convincing adults to leave their homes (which may require babysitters) and travel to a theatre for a similar experience to what they can get from the comfort of their couch.

Mainstream cinemas are not in competition with Netflix. Who are in competition? Art-house and specialty cinemas. What is the value of going to an art-house cinema to see Boyhood where you’ll be charged for the cost of a cinema ticket, parking, over-priced concession stand/snack bar, online ticket booking fees, etc. only to find yourself in a cinema that may have a relatively small screen, noisy/distracting patrons, and possible projection/sound problems? Now compare that to being able to watch Boyhood or any number of premium TV shows at home on a couch with loved ones (family and/or a dog) in front of a 50+ inch TV. At an art-house cinema it’s rare that you are treated to the same massive-sized screens and sound that cinemas playing the latest Hollywood blockbuster deliver. The perception of screen size when accounting for the distance from a theatre seat to the screen is now almost in direct proportion to the  screen perception of a couch to a TV set.

Art-house theatres did themselves no favours by making the move to digital projection. While it’s certainly an industry standard, the visual presentation is different. The experience of seeing projected film does differ from a digital production. There is a reason why cinephiles will make an effort to see a print screening. This week on KRCW’s The Treatment Quentin Tarantino described how he felt at a screening of A Fistful Of Dollars at Cannes where he was confronted with a digital presentation. He summed it up nicely:

“Did it look nice? Yeah it looked nice. My laserdisc looks nice. My DVD looks nice. We’re not talking about nice. I was depressed the whole screening because I’m sitting in the Grand Palais, the big house, and I felt like I should be pointing a remote control at the screen and hitting play. I was like “Where’s the effin’ menu?”. Is that fine in my home? Yeah absolutely, it’s fine in my home. I don’t think about it” – Quentin Tarantino

The more a cinema feels like being in one’s home, the less value it has to the consumer. Art-house cinemas offer very little that a decent TV set-up at home does not.

Netflix offering same-day SVOD release as an IMAX presentation presents no significant threat to mainstream cinemas. Audiences will still go and see a big blockbuster on a cinema screen. That experience cannot be replicated. Not yet. The only threat is the mid-tier movie that mainstream theatres are moving away from. Large chain theatres can see this as a rare opportunity. There are few films that a Netflix-sized budget will work for on an IMAX-sized screen. Make the ticket sales from that while the opportunity presents itself.

 

Don Hertzfeldt's Surreal Simpsons Couch Gag

This week we witnessed what happened when animator Don Hertzfeldt was given the keys to the castle to create the most bizarre and abstract Simpsons couch gag yet. For 101 glorious seconds, Simpsons fans were treated to a surreal commentary on changing artistic styles, the way our perception of ourselves changes through art over time, and perceived changes to what one understands to be entertainment over time. As abstract as The Simpsons in the year 10,535 may appear to be, is it really all that different to Seinfeld 2000?

The one constant we know is that The Simpsons will always be a commercially driven endeavour. Regardless of what shape and form humanity takes “They are just sold for merchandise”. Or to put it another way: “Consume now. Consume it. Rub it on your flippers. Now availabal in the Sampsans Outernet markat”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bf-MPCXguA

For those unfamiliar with the work of Don Hertzfeldt, you’re likely not alone. Despite a fan base that is ever increasing in size, the Simpsons opener is most certainly the widest exposure his work has received to date. Hertzfeldt is an Academy Award nominated film maker who has had several films play at Sundance.

Star Wars, Selfie, Survivor's Remorse, and Scrotal Recall – The Watchlist 28 September 2014

The roll-out of the new US broadcast TV season continues. This is a big week for returning US shows, along with a couple of series debuts worth keeping an eye on.

Most notable this week is the season return of The Simpsons. Launching with the death of a long-time character on the show, this is a show that has regained cultural relevance once more following a broadcasted Simpsons marathon on the FX cable network. People are again enthused and excited for The Simpsons in a way that we haven’t seen since The Simpsons movie in 2007.

Other returning US series: Once Upon A Time, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Resurrection, Family Guy, CSI, Revenge, NCIS: LA, Castle, Criminal Minds, Reign, The Vampire Diaries, Last Man Standing, and The Legend of Korra.

Returning UK series: QI, Peaky Blinders.

Also notable was Sunday’s second season finale of Masters of Sex – a season which at times was the best show on TV, but at other times served as a continual disappointment that failed to live up to its potential. Infuriating, yet brilliant.

The Watchlist is a primer for shows that are debuting or have an episode of note. If you want more complete TV listing site, be sure to check out the Pogdesign Calendar. Please note that all dates cited below are in accordance with their local broadcast times.

Special thanks goes to Jen Knight for assisting in compiling the Watchlist.

Selfie
Airs: 30th September 2014 (ABC – US)
Despite the terrible title and premise, don’t discount this series immediately. Starring Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan and Harold & Kumar’s John Cho, this is a modern day update of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The update of the series has Eliza Dooley being mentored by Henry Higgs on how to live a life free of the narcissistic drive of social media.

The show is terribly flawed in never really providing enough motivation for Cho’s “Henry Higgs” to take his marketing prowess and apply them to the flawed Eliza Dooley. Also, the series squanders much of Gillan’s charm by stripping her of her gorgeous Scottish accent.

But… A lot of the jokes in the show manage to work. If the show can stop being so unnecessarily condescending towards social media and build a richer world around the two leads, Selfie may have some traction.

Manhattan Love Story
Airs: 30th September 2014 (ABC – US)
Meet Peter. He’s a man.
Meet Dana. She’s a woman.

He’s a player who has commitment issues. She’s obsessed with shopping and buying shoes.

Ugh.

Scrotal Recall
Airs: 2 October 2014 (Channel 4 – UK)
A comedy series about a guy who learns he has an STD and must go and tell all of his previous partners. The fact this trailer refers to it as an “infectious comedy” kind of says it all.

Bad Judge
Airs: 2 October 2014 (NBC – US)
Kate Walsh stars as a tough LA judge who doesn’t have her life together who starts looking after a young boy whose parents have been jailed. It’s a less nuanced version of About A Boy.

This series boasts a fun cast with Kate Walsh and Ryan Hansen, but the show has had a troubled production and critics haven’t been kind. The show is worth a look, but temper expectations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF3vxmJsDIk

Gracepoint
Airs: 2 October 2014 (FOX – US)
In 2013 ITV aired a great 10 part drama series called Broadchurch about the investigation into the murder of a young boy. It was a tight, easily accessible series. This year the show has been remade for US audiences, again starring David Tennant in the lead. All the advance word from critics is that this is a poor copy that doesn’t do anything different from the original for the first 7 episodes before it starts taking its own path.

Might be worth watching for curiosity alone. If you haven’t seen Broadchurch though, you’re far better off spending your time with that series.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9IWvbbZPZc

A To Z
Airs: 2 October 2014 (NBC – US)
Cristin Milioti, the titular mother from How I Met Your Mother, and Mad Men’s Ben Feldman are two mismatched lovers. This series charts the beginning to the end of their relationship. If the pilot of this series is anything to go by, it’ll be a rather unfunny, uninspired journey from A to Z.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FKlRDYy_7o

Star Wars: Rebels
Airs: 3 October 2014 (Disney XD – US)
Set 5 years before Star Wars: A New Hope is this animated series that seems to capture more of the spirit of the original movies than the prequel films.

Survivor’s Remorse
Airs: 4 October 2014 (Starz – US)
Easiest described as “The Black Entourage”, this series follows the success of a young up & coming basketball player. Like Entourage, this may quickly develop a strong and loyal audience of people who would never refer to this as their favourite show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaWneUYjzys