The Fast Five: 'Friends' and Jordan Peele Prove Well-Written Stories Never Die
October 7, 2019
A classic sitcom finds new life as a box office attraction, professional wrestling competes for television viewers, and the next ten years of technology is predicted by whoever it is that predicts the next ten years of technology. Welcome to this week’s edition of Fast Five: your hit list of the essential TV and movie news that everyone’s talking about.
Friends is experiencing something of a resurgence in recent years. While most people will credit the show’s availability on Netflix and its exposure to a new generation as the reason for its current placement in pop culture, I would argue that’s only one part of the equation. Friends may have been able to capture the cultural zeitgeist of the mid-90s, but it did so with characters and storylines that are still relatable today. The NBC must-see-TV show hit its stride by creating strong characters and allowing them to interact with each other and the new situations they were thrown into as a way of establishing humor, as opposed to relying on jokes that were tied to the era. We’ve all gone back to watch one of our favorite shows or movies and discovered that the comedy is full of pop culture references that may have been funny at the moment, but aged like Lil Tecca’s hit single, “Ran$om.” You see, that’s an example of a joke that only makes sense today when Lil Tecca’s hit single “Ran$om” is on the top of the Billboard charts. In celebration, Friends 25th: The One With The Anniversary was released in 1,600 cinemas across North America featuring episodes remastered in 4K and grossing $2.9 million. Any aspiring comedy writer out there can use the streaming success of Friends, and other classic sitcoms, as a reminder that pop culture references may get a quick laugh, but they stop your material from being as funny in ten years as it is today.
A recent study revealed something that will not come as a shock to people who cut the cord for the greener pastures of constantly subscribing and unsubscribing from the 200 streaming services otherwise available. Consumer Reports completed a study of cable billing practices and discovered that American cable companies pull in around $450 per customer in hidden fees that are not disclosed before locking you into a contract. That’s $28 billion a year for cable companies. And it’s not going to get better anytime soon as the downward cycle continues: The fees are a stop-gap to avoid losses while record numbers of people drop cable each year and younger generations refuse to even start, ensuring cable providers continue to increase their fees. In 2015, Comcast’s Xfinity added a $2.50 a month charge for “Regional Sports” and “Broadcast TV.” Those fees still exist, but today they are… you ready for it? $18.50 a month. A 600% increase. That’s almost $20 a month Comcast charges customers just for the right to purchase cable from them.
Professional wrestling made its long-awaited return to the mainstream this week thanks to All Elite Wrestling, a new promotion that launched its flagship show on TNT and managed to accomplish something the WWE has been struggling with since the Monday Night Wars ended nearly two decades ago: get teenagers watching. The Dynamite premiere on Wednesday scored a huge 0.68 rating in the 18-49 demo, with a 0.61 in the Male 12-34 demo. To put that into perspective, American Horror Story, one of cable’s top rated scripted shows, got a 0.62 in the 18-49 on the same night, but only a 0.48 in the Male 12-34 demo. WWE’s counter-programming show NXT on USA earned a 0.32 in the 18-49 demo in the same time slot, which dropped to 0.21 in the Male 12-34 demo but jumped to a 0.36 in People 50+. NXT’s ratings may be lower than Dynamite’s, but they are still solid numbers in today’s TV landscape and puts it above every scripted show on USA except for The Purge. Pro wrestling also made its move back to network TV when WWE’s Smackdown premiered on Fox Friday night to a massive 1.4 overnight rating. That’s a higher rating than all but three scripted shows on network TV last week. This fierce competition between the two companies is great for fans and can only help keep professional wrestling in the mainstream. Both groups should be able to co-exist, as All Elite Wrestling has established itself as destination viewing for teenagers while WWE can always rely on a solid showing with people over 50.
JORDAN PEELE WILL CONTINUE TO BRING THE HORROR FOR FIVE MORE YEARS
Monkeypaw Productions, Jordan Peele’s production company behind theatrical hits Get Out, BlacKkKlansman and Us, signed a new production partnership with Universal Pictures that will see them through to 2025. As a writer and director, Jordan Peele proved that horror movies have a rightful place at the Academy Awards® when 2017’s Get Out was nominated for four Oscars® and won Best Original Screenplay… even though everybody pretends it’s not a horror movie because critics liked it. He followed that up with this year’s Us, establishing his brand with low-budget, elevated horror movies that follow in the tradition of the genre’s classics by taking what scares us about society and using that as a metaphor for the film’s monster. The two movies have grossed half a billion dollars on a combined budget of $25 million, so it’s no surprise that Universal would want to stay in business with a creator who has figured out that a well-written story can turn small movies into cinematic events.
In case Charlie Brooker needs more ideas for Black Mirror, CCS Insight released its technology predictions for the next ten years, and what they discovered just may shock you. Well, not really. But I needed to keep you on the hook and sounding like an internet weight-loss pop-up seemed like the way to go. The predictions mostly look into the future of artificial intelligence and broadband spectrums, but there are some interesting bits of analysis in there about the streaming TV industry as well. The company speculates that AI will be used to referee a major sporting event, driven by Amazon to be used in sports streamed on Prime Video, leading to AI refs in the Los Angeles Olympics. The other major speculation is about everybody’s two favorite streaming services: Netflix and Apple+. They predict that disappointed consumers will abandon Apple+ after the free trial period and return to Netflix. The problem is that Netflix’s growth will stop and the company will need to embrace new forms of entertainment to increase its subscribers, since they’ll already have locked in people who watch TV and movies. At that point, Netflix will add live-sports and music programming to reach a new audience. Netflix has said they have no interest in live streaming, but they also said they love money. So we’ll see which way the wind blows on this one.
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.