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.

Televised Revolution – Slow Jammin' The News (Ep 363)

As always the Televised Revolution panel discuss the TV news of the week, including:

  • iiNet provide real-time TV ratings.
  • TPG to launch an IPTV product, powered by Foxtel.
  • Netflix’s vision for 2020.
  • Gangbuster AFL grand final ratings.
  • Netflix to co-distribute a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon film.

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).

Please note that this weeks Televised Revolution podcast comes in two flavours. There is the terrible YouTube video panel discussion that makes for terrible listening with delays and other tech issues, and then there is the audio podcast that distills all the information into a much tighter, short podcast this week.

It’s just like Sliding Doors and I’m Gwyneth Paltrow.



Pilot Watch: NCIS: New Orleans [Review]

No movie or TV series has ever been worse off for the inclusion of Scott Bakula, who leads the shows cast as NCIS Special Agent In Charge Dwayne Pride. The same can be said for the wonderful CCH Pounder who has a supporting role as the series medical examiner. Those two alone are reason enough to give this series a look, even if one maintains a rabid NCIS dislike. Also on the series is Lucas Black (American Gothic, Sling Blade, The X-Files Movie) and Zoe McLellan (JAG, Dirty Sexy Money). Put that same cast in any other TV show and I’ll watch it. They’re a great ensemble and even this series isn’t enough to make me believe otherwise.

The problem is that cast aside, this series is truly awful.

They’ve taken the standard NCIS tropes and just mixed in every New Orleans trope we’ve come to expect. Every scene may as well have the characters standing around discussing and eating gumbo while Bakula stands around playing saxophone.

One of the problems with NCIS generally is the manner in which the darkness associated with the grizzly crimes being investigated is matched against the jokey lightness of the NCIS characters. There are simply no real stakes at play. Case in point in this episode: This pilot episode seeks to raise the investment that the characters and audience have in the case by giving it a personal connection to the lead character.

Dwayne Pride is confronted by the Lucas Black character asking him if he’ll be okay investigating a case with a personal connection – challenging his boss’ ability to stay professional. 30 seconds later the characters are laughing and joking away in the same scene, negating any drama that should come from Black questioning his boss and his motives. AT no point does the audience ever actually feel that Dwayne has a genuine emotional connection to the case. It’s all on the surface.

While there’s certainly no need for every cop show to have their characters facing emotional anguish with every case, NCIS lacks any humanity at all. Not once does one feel that these are any more than case of the week TV characters. It’s a shame – NCIS: New Orleans has a great cast who are capable of handling challenging material, they’ve got a great location, and an opportunity to inject some real colour into the NCIS franchise.

What you need to know: It takes just 5 minutes and 14 seconds for the first scene to take place in a jazz club.

Will you watch episode 2: There’s better things you could be doing in life. But this cast really are pretty compelling. You may not see episode 2, but you’ll certainly channel surf across this one and find yourself watching more frequently than you expect.

Pilot Watch: Scorpion [Review]

You can always tell good writing in a pilot against bad writing by the final three minutes. If in the last two scenes of the episode characters stand around setting up the premise of the series (“Despite the problems we had in the past 36 minutes plus ads, we really made for a pretty good team. Let’s do this every week and fight crime together”), you know you’re not watching anything special. Scorpion ends with the team of genius’ in the show being hired by the government to do regular work for them.

Scorpion concerns a consultancy group comprised of some of the worlds smartest people struggling to make their business work who are contracted by the government to fix an immediate problem of a software glitch that’s preventing air traffic control from landing any aircraft. In haste they set up shop in a diner where they encounter a young boy genius and his mother. At the end of the episode when the planes are all saved, the mother is brought in to the team as a liaison between the genius and the regular folk.


This series is simply a procedural drama version of The Big Bang Theory. In the same way that TBBT offers a modern day freak show look at nerds and nerd culture, dressed as a supposed loving portrayal of nerds, this does the exact same thing. The characters are built to be awkward, unattractive, and socially inept heroes. But at no moment is the viewer ever given the opportunity to actually connect with any of these characters, let alone (heaven forbid) actually identify with them. It’s very much a ‘point, but don’t touch’ approach.

PILOTThe idea of a consultancy team made up of the world’s smartest people solving problems lends itself to interesting storytelling. They could be out there solving the worlds problems in really interesting ways. Instead here they’ll just be solving standard police procedural issues in smart ways. After all, why solve the world’s inability to provide cheap medicine’s to third world nations when you could just be saving a kidnapped child in a really clever way.

This show is pretty dumb, but is oddly watchable. Not enough to encourage repeat visits, but the likelihood of turning the show off midway through the pilot is pretty low.

What you need to know: This is quasi-based on the real life Walter O’Brien who runs the technology security firm Scorpion Computer Services.

Will you watch episode 2: Maybe. The show really is the epitome of casual viewing. If you’re stuck for something to watch, this might be enough to keep your attention. Heck, the show may even develop into actually being fun.

Pilot Watch: Gotham [Review]

As Edward Nygma may ask, “Riddle me this: What do you get when you launch a TV series designed to cash in on the current superhero craze that doesn’t star a superhero?”. The answer is Gotham, but don’t be calling Edward Nygma ‘The Riddler’ just yet. That doesn’t take place for another 10 years or so.

Instead Gotham begins with the death of wealthy couple Thomas and Martha Wayne, murdered in an alleyway and leaving behind their son, Bruce. Usually in the story we then jump forward in time to when the story becomes relevant once more, we instead focus on James Gordon and his corrupt partner Harvey Bullock. Gordon is a cop new to Gotham who wants to clean up the town. If the show was just about James Gordon and Bullock fighting corruption in the city, that could make for a fun and interesting show. Instead the show overloads itself with a whole bunch of supporting and peripheral characters that will become key figures in Bruce Wayne’s future as Batman. In the pilot alone we encounter the kids and young adults who will go on to become Poison Ivy, Catwoman, The Penguin, and The Riddler. There’s also a very suspiciously inserted stand-up comedian who may well go on to become The Joker at some point in the series.

And this is the problem of the show. By incorporating all of these characters who the viewer knows will go on to roles of significance, the show keeps you thinking about what’s next not in terms of the episode or the season, but rather what takes place when this show is done. Viewers are not able to live in the moment of an episode.

Considering that the show borrows so much from the comic book series Gotham Central, one can’t help but wonder why the shows creators didn’t just adapt that directly to television rather than this strange pastiche.

Gotham Central

On the plus side, the show visually looks gorgeous and Ben McKenzie & Donal Logue are great as the series leads.

What you need to know: The series soon-to-be-Mrs Gordon, Barabara is not the same Barbara who goes on to be Batgirl. That Barbara Gordon is James Gordon’s niece. Thankfully this is just the confusing version and not a creepy version.

Will you watch episode 2: Probably. It’s a good-looking production and there is a curiosity factor in how they’ll make the show interesting and not just be a Smallville with better production values. Viewers forgetting to watch the show 5-6 episodes into the series run is a strong possibility.

Televised Revolution – "Why That Genre?" (Ep 362)

Comic book movies have dominated cinemas for the past decade with no end in sight. TV has embraced the genre, with no less than four series based on comics launching in this coming TV season with many others in development for next year. Launching this month in the US are: The Flash, Gotham, and Constantine, with iZombie and Agent Carter to follow later this season.

But this is just the current genre craze. Superheroes are big right now, so TV has embraced it. Just as they embraced the Western. What prompts a genre to be so heavily embraced by TV? And, in turn, what does that genre say about society?

Our panel this week discuss TV genres, along with the TV news of the week:

  • Looming job cuts at the ABC.
  • Margaret & David have announced their retirement.
  • Telstra set to dump their T-Box.
  • Quickflix’s open letter to Netflix.
  • Foxtel’s Comedy Channel dumps Fallon.

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).



Australian TV Bosses Squeezing Out Netflix Don't Understand Netflix

The AFR today ran a feature regarding the Australian TV network executives seeking to squeeze out Netflix from the marketplace by securing content before Netflix can get access to it. Based on the quotes that run through the article, however, it appears that local network executives are still too focused on combating Netflix as a current day broadcaster and not as a pure digital consumption provider.

Netflix is not just movies. Netflix is not just TV. Netflix succeeds by fulfilling broad-ranging content casual consumption needs.

What is being missed in the efforts to combat Netflix is to actually combat their strengths – movies, TV, documentaries, stand-up comedy, and foreign language content. Netflix are not a mainstream broadcaster, but rather they provide enough content for niche interests to be sated.

There are a number of points throughout the article that are misguided and simply fail to reflect the reality of what Netflix represents. It makes for positive spin now, but just won’t hold up once the US streamer launches a local presence.

TV bosses figure they can squeeze Netflix before it launches in Australia by acquiring the “holdback” rights on first-run TV shows and feature films … The holdback window can be up to 18 months for SVOD operators such as Netflix.


Netflix operate as a casual consumption source. Fresh, first run content isn’t as significant an issue on a service like Netflix as it is on a broadcast service. Much of the viewership on Netflix comes from viewers discovering new content that doesn’t have much name recognition. The Netflix recommendation algorithms are a core component to the success of this discovery process. It pushes all the shows and movies a viewer may be interested in, prompting further exploration of content.

It’s this recommendation algorithm that is responsible for so many people sampling and enjoying low-profile shows like The Fall last year and (in recent weeks) Happy Valley. These are shows that would do limited audience numbers on FTA, but on Netflix they thrive. If these shows were up to 18 months old, that wouldn’t be an issue for Netflix as their consumers are casually discovering shows they may otherwise have limited familiarity with anyway.

Big marquee names are important to Netflix, which is why they’ve launched they commission their own original content (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, Bojack Horseman) and buy the rights to shows like The Blacklist and Gotham. But, in reality, Netflix only need a handful of these series to get people subscribing. Low-profile series and movies still drive much of the viewership on Netflix because the recommendations offer something tailored to watch when people just want something casual to enjoy.

“I’m not trying to undersell the task we have got in terms of raising Presto’s brand awareness but [Netflix] will be an inferior local service because of the rights that currently sit with Seven, Nine, Ten, ABC and Foxtel. They have looked at this market and seen that.”

-Shaun James, Presto

One of the biggest sources of competition to Netflix is actually SBS. It is the niche types of content that SBS have leveraged off to build their compelling SBS2 that actually echoes the sorts of series that does well on Netflix. Series like Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Real Humans, The Bridge, Breaking Bad, Community, Black Mirror, Lip Service, and The Office all perform strongly on subscription services. They’re niche and are often buried on commercial broadcasters in late night time-slots.

Furthermore, documentaries are an often-overlooked area of Netflix’s success. Docos do huge business on Netflix because they can provide targeted content that appeals directly to their subscribers niche interests. They’re exactly the same type of feature documentaries that often appear buried on SBS and the ABC, but thrive on the streamer.

“You will never see an HBO program on ­Netflix in Australia”.

-Richard Freudenstein, Foxtel CEO

One will also never see an HBO program on Netflix in the US*. And they’re doing just fine. US TV is currently out-putting more premium drama and comedy than at any other point. Long gone are the days of The Sopranos being the premium show on TV. Foxtel can hold onto that HBO deal for as long as they want – it doesn’t mean Netflix don’t have other content providers to choose from.

“In reality, the latest episodes of the Australian and international programs that the majority of Australian viewers love will not be available on Netflix.”

-Angus Ross, Seven Chief Programming Director

Again, the latest episodes of programs that the majority of Americans/Canadians/Brits/French/Scandanavians/etc love aren’t on their respective local Netflix services either. But there is just enough of those shows and movies on there that are interesting enough to justify a $7.99-ish monthly cost. Netflix use a handful of marquee shows to drive subscriptions, then keep audiences watching through recommended casual viewing. Netflix is also not an end-all and be-all platform. Most consumers will likely subscribe to 3-4 services to get a substantial content offering in the years to come. Australian providers would be well-advised to find what works for Netflix and emulate a similar strategy rather than trying to hold onto content that works very well for broadcast audiences, but less so for those watching recommendations on demand. These are not the same shows.

“Underestimating what the studios will do to make money would be naïve. Net­flix will have a lot of good product, as will Stream Co, as will Presto. There will be a lot of similar product and amongst it all everyone will have a few little golden nuggets that they own.”

-David Gyngell, Nine CEO

Don’t underestimate David Gyngell. He is spot-on and often is when discussing streaming video services. There will be similar content on many platforms. Not that much of it is genuinely exclusive. Furthermore, every platform will offer something that people want. This is why consumers will be looking for multiple service providers.

A marketplace that offers just Netflix and overseas providers will make for a poorer content consumption experience in Australia. The last thing any country needs is a large US content provider wielding complete control over the SVOD space. The global strength of Netflix also works as a plus, however, in that the company’s efforts to produce content in-house and signing deals for global distribution means we’ll see a reduction in wait times for content to be made available locally.

Netflix is going to be great for consumers. Their successful grey presence in Australia has spurred Australian content holders to get into the SVOD marketplace, which will provide an abundance of content for Australians to watch and enjoy legally. The growth of piracy in Australia can largely be attributed to the limited number of viewing options we’ve had until now. There will be room for more SVOD services than Presto. StreamCo has a great opportunity as long as they move early and launch with a compelling content strategy. Presto will do fine with their movie service once they start competing in the space and aren’t simply differentiating from the Foxtel service. And then there’s growth opportunities for other providers. To compete, however, it’s important to understand that Netflix is not a broadcast service and viewers do respond differently to content offerings.

To compete with Netflix is to understand it.

*The Larry Sanders Show being a strange aberration a number of years ago.

The 2014/15 US TV Season and Downton Abbey Rule This Weeks Watchlist – Week Beginning 21 September 2014

This is the start of a very busy week for TV enthusiasts. While last week we saw a small handful of TV series trying to make their mark before this weeks glut of launches, this is the week where it all gets underway. This week marks the proper start of the new US broadcast TV season which will run until mid May 2015. As the largest, most prominent producer of TV in the world, when the new US TV season launches it’s a big event on the years calendar.

What makes this such a busy week is that on top of all the returning series one wants to watch, there are a whole lot of new series that the ardent TV viewer will want to sample on top of their established viewing interests. Sure, The Mysteries of Laura may be the worst show of the year, but just how bad could it be? One needs to see it to be sure. (Spoiler: It’s as bad as the hype suggests).

Show’s returning this week include: The Good Wife, The Big Bang Theory, Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, Faking It, Persons of Interest, Chicago Fire, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Survivor, The Middle, The Goldbergs, Law & Order: SVU, Modern Family, Chicago PD, Nashville, South Park, Key & Peale, Parenthood, Scandal, Greys Anatomy, Bones, The Amazing Race, Hawaii Five-O, and Blue Bloods.

Amid all the bug US shows, the big launch of this week is the UK debut of season 5 of Downton Abbey. This will debut in the US in January next year and likely in Australia sometime after that. The show debuted in the UK on 20 September, 2014.

There are, however, a whole bunch of new shows launching this week in the US, along with some notable UK series. So, what’s worth keeping an eye out for?

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.

Our Girl
Airs: 21 September 2014 (BBC1 – UK)
This is the follow-up series to last year’s TV movie about a female medic trying to make her way in the army. The series boasts impressive action sequences, but is reportedly un-engaging otherwise.

Madam Secretary
Airs: 21 September 2014 (CBS – US)
Tea Leoni returns to television as Elizabeth McCord, the new US Secretary of State. Called upon by the President to take on the role, McCord must balance this weighty job along with her responsibilities to her kids. It’s great seeing Leoni back on TV, but the trailer makes the drama on the series look a little too pat and easily resolved within the episodic weekly drama format. If the series can build and evolve its structure to match the level of quality we’ve come to expect from series like The Good Wife (which this has been paired with on CBS), it could become something special. This is one to keep an eye on.

Launches in Australia on Thurs Oct 2 on Ten.


Airs: 22 September 2014 (Fox – US)
A series with strong potential based off a flawed premise. The concept of Batman and the villains that plague Gotham is that Bruce Wayne took on the Batman role to fight the scourge of crime, which in turn prompts villains to step up their own scale to take on a greater presence than that of Batman. It’s a relationship that feeds off itself. A series that examines the life of the not-yet Commissioner Jim Gordon fighting crime and internal corruption in Gotham sounds interesting, but the series overloads itself with prequel stories of all of Batman’s rogue gallery. The series is flawed as a prequel, but may make for good TV. Just try not to overthink its relationship with the Batman character we know from the past 75 years.


Airs: 22 September 2014 (CBS – US)
A team of genius’ are brought together by law enforcement to serve as a think tank to solve a different story of the week every episode. Because it’s TV.

Airs: 22 September 2014 (ABC – US)
Another addition into the canon of series based on an immortal who is currently living a low-key life (usually running an antiques store) who gets involved with law enforcement and serves as a city’s protector. See also: Forever Knight, Highlander, Angel, Moonlight, etc.

Plebs (Season 2)
Airs: 22 September 2014 (ITV2 – UK)
Three ne’er do well guys fail in in their quest for women in Ancient Rome.

NCIS: New Orleans
Airs: 23 September 2014 (CBS – US)
It’s NCIS, but set in New Orleans. This means every episode will be punctuated with some sweet, sweet jazz. For fans of the NCIS procedural format, this promises more of the same. What positions this series as a step above the rest is its cast with CCH Pounder (The Shield) and Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Men of A Certain Age) heading up the team.


Mad As Hell
Airs: 24 September 2014 (ABC1 – Australia)
Shaun Micallef is back with Mad As Hell, his Daily Show-esque take on the weeks news. While the show is wonderfully daffy and delights at every turn, it’s going to be difficult watching this now and not comparing it with John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight which takes a similar look at the weeks news which has added such a considerable weighty heft to the news satire.

Airs: 24 September 2014 (ABC – US)
This sitcom stars Anthony Anderson as the head of a middle-class family who is concerned that his family are losing touch with their African American culture. Lawrence Fishburne plays a supporting role as Andersons father. While it’s excellent to see more diversity coming from US networks, the specific cultural analysis in this show will largely be lost on audiences outside of the US. With so much TV produced with an international focus, it’ll be interesting to see just how broad the series takes its premise.

How To Get Away With Murder
Airs: 25 September 2014 (ABC – US)
This is the new series from Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes and looks set to be the next big thing. Starring Viola Davis as a law professor who each year takes under her wing a select group of students to directly learn under her tutelage, tensions rise when an actual murder takes place.


9 TV Show Debuts That Prove 1966 Was The Greatest Year For Television Ever

1966. Youth culture was on the rise, the Cold War was in full swing, and the space race was just three years shy of the ultimate goal. It was an exciting time globally with norms being challenged and excitement about what the future may hold. The TV shows of the era reflected this. TV was awash with big and bold genre shows that sought to tap into the zeitgeist of the moment. Furthermore, colour TV had just been introduced in the US and TV executives wanted to show it off.

This was also a year that saw the debut of nine of televisions most notable series.


This bright, campy comedy series defined Batman (and stars Adam West & Burt Ward) for the decades that followed. The show was clearly inspired by the Andy Warhol-era pop-art of the time and played the comic book characters heavily for laughs as it brought the Batman comic books to life. Complete with the onomatopoeic BIFF!, POW! KABLAMMY! on screen display that the series is famous for.

Over the course of the three seasons the show ran (over just two years), the show produced 120 episodes, with the first two seasons airing two episodes every week. Season 2 alone ran 64 episodes. Considering that most shows today produce less than 13 episodes a year, it’s astounding that Batman delivered what it did in such a short timeframe.

1966’s Batman was a once in a lifetime show that the likes of will never be seen again. It has a distinct look and feel to the series that was truly of its time.


This show is the absolute counter to the Batman TV series. Where that show was a huge budget prime-time TV series that was designed to make the most out of the then-new colour TV’s ability to bring bright images to the screen. Dark Shadows was a daytime soap filmed in black and white with next to no budget. And unlike the pop-cultural phenomenon at the time that was Batman, Dark Shadows was struggling to find an audience.

Like Batman, however, the production schedule of Dark Shadows enabled the show to produce a large number of episodes over a short run. In the five years that Dark Shadows aired, a whopping 1225 episodes were produced.

Dark Shadows was a gothic, daytime TV soap opera that found an audience among teens returning home from school each day. The show took on a much stronger following in its second year with the introduction of the character Barnabus Collins, a vampire. As the series evolved, it took on more overt supernatural/sci-fi themes and characters, incorporating werewolves, witches, time travel, and parallel universes.

The show has maintained a very strong fan following since and paved the way for many genre shows that followed.


Before there was Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Maude, Murphy Brown, and the many other sitcoms built around strong female leads, there was Ann Marie (the titular That Girl). The series concerns the sitcom adventures of a young actress trying to balance a career with having a boyfriend.

For 1966, this was a progressive TV show premise. Through the five seasons of the show, Ann Marie didn’t marry or settle down. She remained a contemporary, career driven woman through it all. The show is notable for employing quite a number of female writers, reflecting the feminist ideology of star Marlo Thomas (who opted to go braless during the series in a nod to the bra burning movement of the time).

That Girl isn’t a great sitcom, but it certainly did great things.


This was true counter-culture television – packaged and assembled by the man, obviously. Initially conceived as a TV version of the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, The Monkees took on a life of its own. Not only did they become pop-cultural phenomenons in their own right, but they also launched a successful music career (ironically enough) and starred in the wonderfully trippy spin-off film entitled Head.


Debuting in Japan in 1966, Ultraman lasted just 39 episodes during its series run. The show concerns the Science Special Search Party who are tasked with protecting earth against giant monsters. A clear inspiration for countless movies and TV shows, including the recent American film Pacific Rim. In Ultraman, when a situation becomes a bit too much, SSSP member Shin Hayata secretly goes off to transform into Ultraman.



This classic Australian kids show is based on a UK series of the same name that debuted two years earlier. While the original series had a langthy run, concluding in 1988, the Australian series continues to this day.

With its infamous (more than famous) rocket clock and multi-shaped windows, Play School continues to be relevant to pre-schoolers across the nation as it continues to promote exploring the world that exists outside, as well as working within your own world and making everything with just a glue stick and a boatload of crepe paper.


This is the series that started it all. 5 follow-up TV series, 13 films, and countless parodies, later Star Trek has never left the public consciousness. This is also the first show to really launch a dedicated fandom. We’re all familiar with Trekkies and the obsessive fan culture that has surrounded the show.

It must also be remembered how progressive the series was in furthering racial and sexual equality. Sure, those mini-skirts the women of Star Fleet wore were perhaps just a little too mini. But that’s obviously the style in the future. Who are we to judge?



This Irwin Allen-produced show is all but forgotten today, but it’s only a matter of time until there’s a film remake that will revive it into public consciousness once more. In many ways, the show is a forerunner to well-remembered series like Quantum Leap and Sliders. This shows premise has two govt scientists working on a top secret time travel project jumping from one time period to another while their colleagues attempt to bring them home. Every episode has them in a different notable time period, allowing viewers to visit ancient Rome, or the Titanic. Only the ancient Rome and Titanic depicted in this TV series is depicted with cheap sets, minimal costuming, and a whole lot of stock footage.

It’s pretty fun.


Mission Impossible never spoke to the youth culture movement underway in the US at the time, but certainly spoke heavily to the Cold War interest that permeated culture at the time. There’s a reason why 60’s TV and movies were all so very focused on spy adventures. Mission Impossible employed some very TV friendly gimmicks that made the show a must watch. From the self-destructive tape messages providing mission details, to the spy tools including those great fake face masks, the series was iconic.

So much so that it spawned the 4-film series starring Tom Cruise, along with the late 80’s revival series (filmed in Australia).

This clickbait list of 1966 TV shows will self destruct in ten seconds.


David and Margaret May Be Gone, But There's Still A Need For Screen Criticism

Today ABC Television announced the cancellation of At The Movies and the (presumed) retirement of David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz. While it’s sad to see that Stratton and Pomeranz will no longer be seen on TV each week offering their thoughts on film, the greater disappointment is that the ABC have cancelled At The Movies.

Film is a different beast today than it had been when Margaret & David first teamed together in 1986. The big films today are all hundred million dollar tent-pole movies that are built for international recognition ahead of crafting a distinct cinematic experience. Many of the best filmmakers have migrated to television, which has largely taken the place of the mid-tier film that is concerned more with adult-storytelling and less about rebooting a Marvel superhero.

Which isn’t to say that rebooted Marvel superheroes aren’t about to make their mark on television also.

Margaret-and-DavidWith the changes in film, perhaps the time has also come to cancel At The Movies. But if so, it would be prudent of the ABC to launch a new show in place of At The Movies. Screen culture analysis is important and should be engaged in. It’s mainstream arts and relevant to the conversation of our many communities. Instead of exploring just film, perhaps the time has come to more widely examine narrative storytelling.

A show dedicated to exploring TV series, along with video games, cinema released films, VOD films, and other emerging story-based platforms is needed. There is so much content out there that it has never been more important for a show to examine screen cultures and to provide pathways for viewers to be able to discover enriching and stimulating content.

Cancel At The Movies, but there is a void that needs to be filled.

 * * * *



The ABC today announced that, after 28 years, and one of the longest and most enduring partnerships on Australian television, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton will record the final episode of At the Movies on December 9.

Margaret and David, whose on-screen partnership is legendary, came to the ABC in 2004 from SBS, where they had hosted The Movie Show for the previous 18 years.

Since their accidental pairing more than a quarter of a century ago, Margaret and David have grown to become Australia’s most admired and trusted movie reviewers, as well as enjoying an envious reputation abroad. There are few actors or filmmakers who would refuse an interview with the intrepid pair, such is the regard in which they’re held.

“After 28 years reviewing films on television with Margaret, ten of them at the ABC, I feel it’s time to go. We’ve had a wonderful time, thanks to very supportive and encouraging audiences, throughout that period. And we’ve worked with wonderful teams, both at SBS and at the ABC, people who discovered movies alongside us, helped and assisted us, and in the process became valued friends. We couldn’t have done it without them.

“Most of all, working with Margaret, whose enthusiasm, commitment and passion has been amazing (and only occasionally irritating) has been a joy for over a quarter of a century. But, since I turned 75 last week, I look forward to less pressure and more opportunities to enjoy the movies I love, in the years ahead.” says David.

Margaret adds, “As David says, it’s time to go from the small screen after a great innings, thanks to all our viewers and the fabulous teams we’ve worked with over the years. And thank you to the ABC and SBS. We’ve been lucky to work for two great public broadcasters, and long may they prosper.

“My gratitude goes to David who gave me credibility just by being prepared to sit by me and discuss film when I am just a film enthusiast, not the great walking encyclopedia of film that he is. He’s a grand person, a most generous, decent man, even if a little stubborn at times. 

“We’ve seen Australian films continue to mature over nearly three decades on air and I look forward to a continued involvement in this wonderful industry of ours which explores and reflects our culture and our peccadilloes. It’s been such a privilege to have been on the sidelines, witnessing the talent that this country produces in all areas of film production. 

“I’m very sad to have to call an end to our show, it started out as a very fragile thing and only survived because there are enough lovers of film in this country to support a specific program about cinema. Thank you all.” 

ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott: “The fact that everybody knows them as Margaret and David demonstrates how much they are loved by the Australian public. Their passionate and enthusiastic championing of the cinema art form, their articulate and always entertaining reviews and their personal rapport on stage (not to mention those earrings) have defined them. Their contribution to the ABC and to the wider arts community has been enormous. We are so proud to have worked with them for over a decade at the ABC and we will miss them. I give them five stars.”

The ABC also wishes to announce that, with Margaret’s and David’s decision to retire, At the Movies will not be returning in 2015.

Bojack Horseman Is The First Real Cartoon For Adults

It made its debut on Netflix with minimal fanfare on 22 August 2014, with equally low commentary or discussion by TV critics or the online TV-obsessed community, yet Bojack Horseman has changed the notion of what a cartoon made for adults can be. This is a sophisticated, nuanced animated comedy/drama about a former sitcom star horse and is a cartoon for adults in the way that term should actually apply. It isn’t just a show built on dirty jokes and coarse language, but genuine human pathos.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have its own delightful fair share of dirty jokes and coarse language. #$%@ yeah it does.

What makes Bojack Horseman special is that it’s a series that could only exist in a Netflix-style on-demand environment. As with Orange Is The New Black (and House of Cards, to an extent), Bojack Horseman establishes its premise episodically, but then takes a season to weave through a complicated emotional story arc that strongly rewards viewers who consume the show as something other than a weekly engagement. By the end of the first seasons 12 episode run, not only has the viewer experienced a complicated character study of a washed up, depressed, sitcom star horse, but it’s also seen the series supporting characters develop into a group of fleshed out characters in their own right who each have their own inner-demons, aspirations, and sense of self identity.

The world of Bojack Horseman offers a mix of anthropomorphic animals living alongside everyday humans. During the 1990’s, Bojack Horseman starred in a family sitcom called Horsin’ Around, a show about a horse guardian of three precocious young teenage kids. Since that series cancellation, Bojack has built a career leaching off the stardom that sitcom provided while building an emotional wall around him as he grapples with a life that has gone downhill since the vacuous celebrity lifestyle faded. He spends most of his nights enthralled by his work on the show, watching old episodes on TV.

Horsin' Around

Horsin’ Around

Through the first season, his supporting cast builds. Initially it starts with his house-guest Todd and soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend/agent Princess Carolyn as the only people Bojack has allowed to be a part of his world (albeit kept at arms-length), but with the introduction of Diane Nguyen who is hired to ghost-write an auto-biography of Bojack, his world begins to get more introspective and a little messier. Diane is a stereotypical mid-to-late-20’s literary hipster who listens to podcasts and has an Ira Glass verbal ringtone, who when contrasted against Bojack who lives his life to self-indulgent excess, begins to highlight how empty his life is. Through Diane reflecting his life back at him, Bojack’s quest for a tangible human connection begins.

Another mirror held to the world of Bojack is Mr Peanutbutter, a dog who is a former sitcom star himself. In the same way that popular TV shows spawn imitators, Mr Peanutbutter starred in a Horsin’ Around clone series that spawned considerable success too. His show was very much the Hogan Family/Valerie to Bojack’s Family Ties. Where Bojack is clearly in a state of severe introspective depression, Mr Peanutbutter exhibits extreme optimism and embraces the lack of self-awareness that Bojack has sought to repress.

The trailer above builds a false expectation as to what the series actually is. Based on the trailer, Bojack Horseman appears to be another loud, belligerent jerk in the same model as a Homer Simpson/Bender/Peter Griffin mould. Which, admittedly, he is. But the show takes that character to much deeper, darker places as he grapples with his identity and self-value. Bojack Horseman never takes the easy way out in giving scenes or story-lines a simple conclusion, but rather builds on every one until it actually contributes to the larger tapestry of these characters lives. This is world building at its finest, using the most ridiculous characters possible.

Since the debut of The Simpsons TV audiences have become accustomed to seeing the prime time animated Sitcom. As the form has evolved, fewer of these are intended as family viewing, but rather are billed as “adult cartoons” punctuated with complex pop-culture references, sexual content, and bad language. While they are certainly adult, many lack the maturity that storytelling for an adult audience should require. Bojack Horseman is an adult cartoon. It’s not afraid to revel in pop cultural references (this show boasts a killer Sit Ubu Sit joke), or offer dirty jokes, but it also mires the characters in strong introspection as the protagonist deals with an obvious state of depression that permeates through his every action.

What does life mean? Is this all there is? These are questions the characters ask, but never quite find an answer for. Because to be real and to be human is to keep asking these questions. If you can’t answer these questions, why should a talking horse be able to?