Last Week’s Fast Five in Film and TV News
August 13, 2019
Yet another week passed where most of the major TV news was generated in streaming services, which shouldn’t be surprising as we gear up for the great Streaming Wars of 2020. Companies are signing deals and finalizing prices in a bid to usurp Netflix. The war will be just like Game of Thrones, if the show ended with every character launching its own Kingdom and charging $10 a month to access it. What’s west of Westeros? It’s a bill the size of that cable bundle you cut the cord to get away from.
Somebody at Amazon will not rest until they own all of the sci-fi and fantasy shows in the world. The streaming service that comes free with same-day toilet paper just ordered a series based on the film Event Horizon from director Adam Wingard (You’re Next and The Guest). The movie is about astronauts who go to hell and traumatize the children who rented it because they liked that dinosaur guy from Jurassic Park. This year alone, Amazon has put into development The Power, Wild Seed, Panic and Paper Girls, to go along with the previously announced Snow Crash, Conan The Barbarian, Ringworld, Lazarus, The Lord of the Rings, Transhuman, East of West, Consider Phlebas, Deadtown, The Wheel of Time, Utopia, Galaxy Quest and The Berenstain Bears vs Predator. That last one may have been a dream, but until Amazon disputes it, I’ll hold out hope for a 2020 release.
While this may seem like overkill to some, sci-fi fans are probably salivating at what could be a golden-age of genre TV shows. Sci-fi films, especially big budget ones, have a tendency to focus on spectacle over character while TV adaptations not only provide writers with the time to flesh out the characters inhabiting these worlds, in many cases it requires it. A budget doesn’t stretch as easily over ten episodes as it does over two hours, forcing them to get creative with their storytelling choices. This has given us great bottle-episodes from shows like Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and the various Star Treks.
DISNEY FIRES SHOTS AT NETFLIX WITH STREAMING BUNDLE
I don’t believe Disney ever officially declared war on Netflix, but they’re sure doing everything in their power to prompt it. The company announced a bundle that includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu for $12.99, which just so happens to be the same cost as the standard Netflix plan. I’m sure the people over at Disney were flabbergasted by this coincidence. The price will make the switch a lot easier for parents who were using Netflix’s Disney content to raise their children, and are probably going through withdrawal after Netflix’s June purge of Disney movies. And since no parents listened to my advice about throwing on Mindhunter or Black Mirror to keep their kids busy, I have a hunch this bundle will do well.
FXX ANNOUNCES CAKE AS MORE NETWORKS GET INTO THE SHORT-FORM GAME
FXX is throwing its hat into the short-form ring with Cake, a live-action/animation hybrid that could act as a launching pad for new series as well as a talent incubator. While short-form has traditionally been used for online spin-offs of existing shows, networks like Netflix and SundanceTV have spent the last year proving that short-form should be taken seriously with series like Special and State of the Union. Because short-form is viewed as experimental, it offers creators storytelling opportunities they wouldn’t have in a traditional cable or network show. All ten episodes of SundanceTV’s State of the Union take place in a bar across the street from a marriage counselor where a husband and wife meet ten minutes before their session. Writer Nick Hornby (Brooklyn and An Education) was able to tell this couple’s entire story in ten-minute episodes through strong dialogue and incredible performances from Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike, while rarely leaving the pub table.
No network is putting their eggs into the short-form basket more than Quibi, however. Trying to succeed where go90 and Blackpills failed, Quibi’s strategy is to order shows from every single A-lister who ever existed. The challenge for these creators will be adapting to the format of making a feature film that can be watched in complete episodes of ten-minutes or less. As a side note, why is the saying “put all their eggs in the blank basket?” Did people used to go egg shopping with a basket? Or would egg thieves sneak into chicken coops and snatch up eggs, having to put them all in one basket to make a quick getaway? I need answers, and thankfully at the rate Quibi is ordering shows, they’ll have Robert Rodriguez directing Chicken Coop Egg Thieves within a week.
ITALIAN NETWORKS NEED TO BAND TOGETHER TO FIGHT OFF NETFLIX
This is the opinion of Antonio Campo Dall’Orto, former Director-General of Italian broadcaster RAI, who believes RAI needs to team up with Discovery and La7 to create original productions that can rival streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. While rivals working together may seem far-fetched, it’s been happening more and more frequently in European countries. Spain’s RTVE, Atresmedia and Mediaset España joined forces to launch LOVEStv, a streaming service with content from all three networks, and France Télévisions, M6 and TF1 joined forces to launch SALTO in France pending government approval. With BBC and ITV’s American service Britbox launching in the UK and Discovery and ProSiebenSat.1’s JOYN launching in Germany, it shows precedent for this tactic to be a viable trend in other countries. Whether this happens in Italy remains to be seen, but Netflix and Amazon have lit a fire under traditional broadcasters and forced them to play catch up.
Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff signed an overall deal reportedly worth $200 million with Netflix for future film and TV projects. The pair were attached to a Star Wars trilogy that may or may not be happening, and their most recent show, Confederate, was so controversial it was canceled by HBO the moment it was announced. Amazon was obviously competitive, these guys write genre stuff, and we’ve already established that’s like catnip to the company, but Netflix upped its offer and won out. The big question is whether or not their fans will follow them after a… polarizing final season of Game of Thrones. Thankfully, Netflix cancels all their shows after three seasons so they’ll never have to worry about the way fans react to seasons seven and eight.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.