When it comes to television, the success of a show doesn’t hinge on the actors, the producers, or even the network. It’s the writers’ room.
The actors, the producers, and the network do contribute a great deal to a show dying a horrible death though. The last one on that list contributes the most. Anyone remember Firefly?
The point is, writers are what give the show it’s meat. The dialogue, the scenes, the action, the emotions, all of that is produced by the writers’ room.
The producers provide the money, and the director gives the whole production a goal. And the network makes the “smart decisions.” These smart decisions usually end a show. Anyone remember Almost Human?
It’s the writers that provide all the important parts that make a show a show.
The funny one-liners, the jokes, the turns of phrase, the speeches, and the list goes on. Without a writers’ room, the show wouldn’t exist.
Ironically, it’s the writers who get the least amount of credit.
This team of creatives sit down day after day and do the hard work of writing. While writing is seen as a creative endeavor, make no mistake, it involves hard work. I speak from experience.
And it’s so frustrating to see all the hard work of the writers get thrown away when a network decides a show “just isn’t right.”
Anyone remember Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?
It starts with a well-loved sketch comedy show, Studio 60, getting shaken up. To fix the public relations disaster, the showrunner hires a well-known producer-writer duo. Played by Matthew Perry, Matt Albie is the writer. He’s got awards, he’s proven himself, he’s what the producers think will save their show.
Albie, like most writers, is always battling his creative demons.
The first Monday after being hired, Albie is tasked with writing his first episode.
Walking into the head writer’s office, he sees the previous occupant put up a neon sign. Turning it on, he finds a famous quote there.
“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”
On top of it is a running clock, letting him know how much time he has until the next episode airs.
And the rest of the episode all his creative demons and writing problems are summed up with that running clock.
Should Have Gone With a Writer’s Room
The ironic part is this doesn’t accurately portray how a real television production works. And yet, it’s on television.
In a real studio, Albie would have leaned on his writers’ room. It was more dramatic to have him go it alone. But in real life, the less drama there is the better.
This writers’ room would have already had ideas they were working on and getting ready for them to test out. Ideas would have been bouncing around as multiple writers thought of different ways to convey an idea. Or how to make an idea better.
The writers’ room is an integral part of the production process.
Possibly the most integral part.
But it’s changing.
In this era of Peak TV, more and more shows are being produced. The vast majority of these shows are short and sometimes don’t last long.
Until recently, an idea would be pitched to a producer. If the producer liked the idea, that person would put together a budget and pull in writers to help write a pilot. The pilot would get produced and pitched to a network. If the network liked it, they’d order a set of shows along with the pilot and air it for the next season. If the show did well, it’d get picked up.
There’s a lot of “ifs” in that last paragraph.
Anywhere along the way, a show could have gotten derailed or canceled. This meant the loss of money and time invested to create it.
This was called the “pilot-model.”
Now shows are being created with more than just a pilot shot. Sometimes there is no pilot at all.
The choice for many production companies is to go with a mini-room.
Writers’ Rooms usually had a lot of writers in them.
Now the common trend is to have a room with four or five writers working on a single project to come up with possible scripts for episodes. Sometimes they hash out an overall arc. Other times its coming up with ideas to build upon for more shows and possibly later seasons.
Other times a mini-room means a group of writers will only be employed for a short time as they work to write out multiple scripts for a show so the producer has an idea of what the show will look like beyond a pilot.
Sometimes it means both.
The major complaint here is that mini-rooms do not provide a stable income for writers. By their nature, they will only last for a short time.
Another complaint is that the process doesn’t work for some producers. Either they’re used to the old way, or they’re not liking what’s coming out of the room.
On the upside, mini-rooms have their advantages.
Writers’ Rooms are Getting Smaller
An obvious point, but it bears mentioning.
With fewer writers in the room, the most common praise is “greater intimacy.” Meaning, they feel comfortable talking about heavy subject matter.
When writers feel comfortable with each other, they can get to some very deep issues and ideas. This isn’t as common with a large room of writers.
It also helps when a smaller group is hashing out ideas as it’s easier to manage. A cohesive storyline can form faster and work can pick up. What may have taken a season to write may take half or a quarter of the time.
More Writing Opportunities
With more writers’ rooms popping up, more writers are needed to fill them.
The pool of chances just got bigger.
Aspiring writers without the right connections would have a better shot of getting their work in front of a producer. And believe me, having connections in the business makes a world of difference when it comes to getting started.
Why do you think Miley Cyrus became famous? It couldn’t have been because her dad was Billy Ray Cyrus, right?
More Chances for Marginalized Voices
The push for more voices from different backgrounds is gaining steam.
Yet, there women and minorities are still only accounting for about a quarter of the content coming out of Hollywood.
With more writing opportunities available, through mini-rooms, more writers from these backgrounds have a chance. A chance to get their writing in front of producers.
Maybe the industry will finally shift?
We can hope.
Mini-Rooms Becoming the Norm
With any change in the industry, there are those who love and those who hate it.
The biggest argument against mini-rooms is they’re turning the industry into a gig economy.
There is some truth to that, but as more and more companies outsource and get leaner, it makes sense this would happen.
On the upside, there are more chances for aspiring writers to make an impact. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
With the wave of content still rolling strong, there will be a need for more and more writers. As well as people who will want to watch them. So make sure you have a reliable connection and decent download speed. Check out the best internet deals to save you some time and money.
As for Matt Albie of Studio 60, he did manage to pull off the show.
Though unrealistic, the ending had a touch of cosmic fate.
As he watches the audience applause and the cast bow, he smiles and walks away from the window.
Only to hear the sign click.
He looks back.
The timer has rolled over and it’s counting down to next week’s episode.
Legendary international drag queen superstar and pop culture icon, RuPaul Charles, just snatched his third Emmy nomination for Outstanding Host for a Reality Program for RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is arguably the best show on television. Maybe ever. Hear me out. The concept of a reality contest TV show about a bunch of men dressing up like women is revolutionary in its subversion of the cultural norms of our society. Imagine just a few years back the possibility of such a program becoming popular with mainstream audiences. It would have been inconceivable. But, now everyone watches Drag Race. Gays and straights, young and old, men and women. Even my mom watches Drag Race!
Irreverently campy and fun
Why? Because it’s fun. It’s fun to watch adults – grown men, no less – play with colors and fabric. It’s fun to openly celebrate music, art, comedy, performance, dancing, and fashion. There is a freedom on display here that is wildly intoxicating – as if someone had let all the old, stale air out the room and let in the breeze from outside. Gone are the deadly serious sexual mores that define the popular culture. For the entirety of the show’s weekly 42-minute runtime, viewers get to depart from the mainstream to tumble down the rabbit hole – and what a gloriously irreverent and campy journey it is!
As these drag queens subvert the mainstream culture – which always adheres to such rigid views of gender, identity, and expression – they also manage to tackle some heavy thematic material: bullying, body image, homophobia, transphobia, AIDS, and trauma. Contestants discuss coming out to their families, their transition as a transperson, financial stresses, and battling depression. All this through the structure of a cheesy reality contest format.
The format of the show
Here’s how it works. Contestants are assigned challenges. There is a mini-challenge and then there is the main challenge, which usually involves fashion design or a performance of some sort, capped off with a runway walk showcasing an assigned fashion theme. The drag queens are then critiqued by the judges, including RuPaul, and a challenge winner is announced along with two bottom performers. Each episode finishes off with a lip synch battle between the two bottom queens. The winner gets to move on to the next episode while the loser gets sent home. It’s good fun.
Some of the most valuable and poignant scenes take place backstage in the workroom, where the contestants get dressed up and apply makeup. Watching them get ready allows us to appreciate the difficulty of the transformation and the artistry behind the glitz and sparkle. Apart from the disruption of gender norms, there’s also an element of social and economic transcendence as each contestant, usually, a small-time club performer in his hometown is given a national platform and is raised to the raised to the iconic status of having a recognizable brand. Without this outlet, these men – many of them still in their early twenties – might never be able to rise so prominently and with such swiftness within the entertainment industry.
Something else – the phenomenon of the show
There’s something else about the show, too – something less easy to define. The phenomenon of Drag Race is something few could have anticipated. Can you imagine the pitch to the network (initially, it was Logo; the show has since moved to VH1)? No show like it had ever been done. It was surely a financial gamble but look what happened. The timing was just right in the sense that the culture presented a window of opportunity for Drag Race to take root and expand in the public consciousness. Part of that was undoubtedly due to Obama and the reaction against the conservativism of the Bush years.
The pendulum swung in the other direction. Now, with Trump in office and the state of politics being what it is, the show feels more necessary than ever. Drag Race gives people the permission to step outside the confines of their socially programmed way of thinking to derive pleasure from watching people flout convention. Our guard comes down. We get to live vicariously through the contestants. In its purest sense, this is the supreme joy of drag.
However, a corrupting force has infiltrated and crashed the party. The fandom surrounding the show has taken a dark turn in the form of viciousness on social media and cyberbullying. Disliked contestants are met with vitriol and scorn. On a macro level, perhaps this is the pendulum swinging back the other way. Freedom and the tearing down of barriers lead people to instinctively seek out methods of classification and division. It feels safer that way. I’m on his side, and not yours. I’m rooting for him, and not him. I hope he fails. It’s as if the human psyche gets intimidated by freedom and love – yes, love – and we revert to our baser nature.
The show is plenty culpable. The competitive nature of the program makes it ripe for this kind of rotten fandom. It’s simple marketing. In their effort to produce a compelling drama, the show encourages identification and classification. So-and-so is the good guy; so-and-so is the villain, etc. Contestants who go on the show and self-produce their image also encourage this kind of identification and classification.
Essentially, these marketing tactics serve to strip away the humanity and complexity of these contestants, so it becomes easier to direct our animus (and fanatic devotion) at them. Drag queens, who have always had thick skins, can banter and battle amongst themselves. The problem arises when the fans watching at home, most of whom are not part of that subculture, feel inclined to participate in the bitchiness by taking sides. It’s vicarious living, yes, but it’s also somewhat presumptuous in much the same way that outsider involvement in family disputes is presumptuous. It just isn’t right. I can argue with my sister and curse at her; I’m allowed to do that. It’s a thing between us. You, however, are not allowed to do that.
The price of mainstream success
This is all a double-edged sword. Certainly, there is a lot of fun to this set-up. Fans of the show get bite-sized morsels of easily digestible drama, and that contributes to the ease of the show’s rise in popularity. At the same time, it’s not a good look when LGBT fans – presumably the core audience demographic – who are supposed to know better than to be divisive and judgmental, then go out and enact some of the same transgressions against the contestants that the equal rights movement as a whole would protest against.
Perhaps this is the unanticipated price of mainstream commercial success – the result of taking a marginalized aspect of the culture and catapulting it into the national spotlight during the age of social media. Life’s a trade-off, and there are always growing pains to be endured. I’m not entirely sure that the show can effectively quash this unintended consequence. They’ve tried to address it on the show by making cyberbullying a featured topic of discussion. But will it ever go away completely?
Unified voices of inclusivity and love
It should be recognized that we need a show like this now more than ever. People talk of an ongoing culture war. I don’t know if that’s true. It certainly feels true. We need all the voices of inclusivity, freedom, and humor to be on deck, and that’s what this show is. A voice for progress. Hostility and divisiveness threaten to hamper the power of that voice and possibly silence it. Fans of the show, who are integral participants in the Drag Race phenomenon, have a responsibility to assess their attitudes and actions and realize that we are all on the same side here. We are all part of that voice of inclusivity and love, and as such, we have a very real interest in making sure that voice remains pure.
Drag Race is a show to be celebrated. RuPaul (along with the executive producers and main judges who make the show possible, including the amazing Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Ross Mathews) fully deserves this Emmy nomination. The future looks bright for this program, which is revolutionary and will be recognized as a pivotal point in television history. How long the show will last and what becomes of it is really anyone’s guess, but, in a sense, isn’t that up to us?
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CBS is experiencing some amazing growth…and a couple serious problems.
The Columbia Broadcasting Service, CBS, has been home to iconic shows. Their current content offering is no different.
Yet, they’ve made a couple of big mistakes.
But let’s talk about two pieces of good news first.
CBS News To Launch Local News Service
CBSN Local, as it will be called, is a new venture by CBS to connect local news providers with cord cutters.
This is a smart move on CBS’s part.
While customers are getting rid of cable and switching entirely to streaming services, the concern for local news stations have been “who will watch us?” To combat this, CBS News will have market-specific streaming news available. Local CBS affiliates will get to produce and stream their local news while alongside CBS’s original content. This streaming service will eventually be part of CBS All Access in the future.
Not all affiliates are getting their own streaming services right now. Only the largest markets will get some first. Other cities will get their own as they roll out the service more and more.
It’s a great idea, but with a downside.
What if some people, namely the author of this post, are not CBS watchers? What if they get their news from somewhere else and are fine missing the local CBS newscast?
CBS may be up a creek with that one.
Then again, that may not be an issue.
CBS All Access and Showtime OTT Subscribers are Rising
CBS All Access, their exclusive streaming service, and their subsidiary, Showtime have been showing strong numbers.
These numbers are so strong that analysts have predicted they’ll break 8 million for All Access and 8 million for Showtime by 2022. Simple math means that will be 16 million new subscribers by 2022.
That’s a big number and something to get excited about.
That is if their forecasters aren’t mistaken like Netflix’s did last July.
The good news is that CBS is adapting to the era of Peak TV better than most of their competitors.
For a broadcast channel that produces shows watched mostly by the over-50 crowd, that’s pretty impressive.
Let’s hope it’s enough to outweigh their bad decisions.
More Star Trek Without Avery Brooks
CBS debuted Star Trek: Discovery exclusively on All Access.
This new show is supposed to be a prequel to the new Trek movies that have come out under JJ Abrams. I haven’t heard much about the show itself. Nor have I had any inclination to.
And for someone who grew up watching Star Trek, that should be shocking.
While it would be easy to blame JJ Abrams for this, in truth, it’s not his fault.
It’s the fault of the executives and producers who decided he’d be a good choice to take control of the franchise. Since I don’t know their names, it’s just easier to blame Abrams for my distaste with the current direction Star Trek has been going.
It wasn’t made any better when I learned that Patrick Stewart was getting another Trek show.
Now, I don’t hate Patrick Stewart. He’s a phenomenal actor.
As Jean-Luc Picard, he brought a certain panache and dignity to the role of a captain. You’ll notice there are very few Trekkie jokes that make fun of his talking style if there are any at all.
Not to mention he did a great job as Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, despite the horrible turn they took.
No, the issue here isn’t Patrick Stewart at all. Jean-Luc Picard was his role and he made the character what it is today. If he wants to go and make another show based on the character, then that’s his choice.
What I really want to see, and what I’ve been dying to see since 1999, is Avery Brooks step back into the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko.
Who’s Avery Brooks?
For those asking that question, I am deeply saddened.
Avery Brooks played Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space 9.
This spin-off came after The Next Generation, which is what Stewart is known for. Instead of being set on a ship, they set the show on a space station. And not just any space station, but the space station once held by an oppressive regime.
Deep Space 9 wasn’t like the other Star Trek’s, nor any others after it. It dealt with heavy issues like faith, war, and fatherhood, to name a few. DS9, as its called by its die-hard fans, also tossed out the episodic format and set up a mythic arc for the entire series. There were episodes that were “one-offs” like the time Bashir had “James Bond-like” adventure in one of the holosuites.
This idea was ahead of its time. It also made DS9 is perfect for binge-watching.
And yet, no movies, no reboots…nothing.
And why is that?
Just as Deep Space 9 was ending, I expected to see at least one movie where they brought back the entire cast, just like they did for The Next Generation. But they didn’t.
Instead, they made more movies with the TNG cast.
While those movies were fun to watch, I eagerly awaited them to finally give DS9 it’s big budget time on the screen.
But they didn’t.
Instead, someone decided to never go that direction and junk all that story potential.
And for what?
A reboot of the tired old series where we see reinterpretations of characters that we’ve seen a lot of already.
Again, this has nothing to do with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, or the cast of the new Trek movies. They’re great actors, and this is not a reflection on them. Nor did I entirely hate the new Trek movies. They were entertaining at least.
It’s a reflection on the absurdity that’s allowed to reign at these production companies.
And it’s no more obvious than with this next bit of news
Les Moonves Is Still There
The CEO, who’s had multiple counts of sexual harassment against him, has been allowed to stay.
While there’s been a long list of offenders who’ve been kicked out for sexual misconduct, and even worse, Moonves name isn’t on that list.
The specifics of the case aside, it’s sending a message that with enough power, men like this can still be allowed to retain their positions of authority.
And I find that unacceptable.
While I didn’t watch a lot of CBS programming, to begin with, I doubt I’ll be doing much of it now.
Maybe one day I’ll get around to watching Patrick Stewart’s new Trek series, but I’m not forking over money to a company that refuses to do the right thing in the name of profits.
Nor will they make a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 movie.
Or reboot the series.
So much potential and such a waste.
Until then, I’ll have to make do with watching reruns of DS9 so I can see one of the best actors, nay, one of the best roll-models I’ve ever seen, get a chance to act on screen.
For the rest of us, it’s a free country. If you want to subscribe to CBS All Access, I’m okay with that. It is, after all, your right.
Just make sure you save some cash first by checking out the best cable and internet packages. Knowing that someone will be saving money will at least make me feel a little better.
And that will have to do until they finally make that Deep Space 9 movie.
Theaters have been steadily losing to Netflix.
Even though the latest Mission: Impossible scored a record last week, I didn’t it see it.
If it wasn’t on Netflix, then I didn’t watch it.
I’m not lazy, I’m busy. There’s a difference.
As a father of two and gainfully employed, a lot of my time is already spoken for. So is a lot of my income.
Theater ticket prices are also a lot higher than they were when I was younger. And while I am getting a steady paycheck, with two growing children, I have less money available than I used to.
There’s also the fact that Hollywood has lost its luster for me. I used to be the first one in line to catch a movie I liked. I would happily dole out the cash for popcorn and a soda.
But most movies these days just aren’t doing it for me.
I think it happened when they let JJ Abrams reboot Star Trek.
There was hope that it wouldn’t be a repeat of Lost. It was worse.
After that, it just became easier to stay in and miss the latest blockbuster.
This had been happening with increasing frequency recently. Most “experts” point to rising ticket prices, concessions, and the increasing availability of streaming movies. Maybe JJ Abrams is to blame too.
When Netflix premiered Bright last December, it marked a subtle shift; a streaming service put serious money, got serious talent, and put out a serious movie.
The movie itself wasn’t truly groundbreaking. David Ayers, though a good director, has done similar movies like that. If you’ve seen Training Day and Sabotage, you’d see most of the plot twists coming from a mile away.
While no Oscar-worthy film, Bright signifies that Netflix, and quite possibly the rest of the streaming services, are changing more than just TV watching.
Theaters were once an experience in and of themselves.
For those who grew up without streaming services or cable in their homes, going out to catch a movie was a big deal. Since most of the population, as of right now, grew up that way, theaters still hold sway.
But not for long.
As mentioned before, they’re expensive, and they’re crowded. Having to share a movie experience with strangers isn’t as appealing as it used to be. Especially when that stranger talks during the movie and took the best seat.
And, as previously mentioned, the movies themselves haven’t all been winners. While I blamed JJ Abrams for this, I think it signifies a systemic problem overall. But that’s another argument for another post.
Instead, let’s focus on what was keeping me at home.
Netflix offering shows and movies at my fingertips with its streaming service. And with the best internet deals available, why wouldn’t I? While I waited for the latest blockbuster to be released on DVD and sent to my home, I occupied myself with classics, or just read a book.
My world didn’t end if I didn’t see the latest hit in theaters.
And getting to enjoy a film for the first time from the comfort of my couch, where I could provide my own concessions, and not have to listen to strangers talk throughout, that was worth staying in for.
Then came the kids.
Getting babysitters to watch them while I went out only to worry if they were okay the whole time really took the excitement out of the whole thing for me. Besides, I work all day, I’d like to spend as much time with them as I can. I understand there are other parents who don’t share these feelings and that’s okay, parenting isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
So how can theaters combat the rising tide of streaming services?
The simplest answer, yet the hardest, is for theater chains to embrace the change and find some way to get in on the action.
Maybe they can facilitate the viewing experience in some way. Since I haven’t been to a theater in almost a year, I’m not sure I can come up with any logical solutions this way.
Theater chains can fight the coming wave.
But not by taking on streaming services themselves.
Instead, they need to go after the Hollywood studios who are gouging them for prices.
It’s a little known fact that Hollywood isn’t playing fair with theaters. Most theaters are forced cut a deal with the studios to get the latest flicks. The studios set the terms and the terms usually go something like this; to get the film on opening weekend, the theater must hand over 90% of their ticket sales for said movie. The next week they’ll only take 85% and so on.
Concession prices have risen in response.
By dropping prices, theaters can draw in more crowds.
By drawing in more crowds, they can justify to the studios the lower prices due to the uptick in volume.
Yet, I highly doubt the theaters will do this.
Instead, as with all change, theaters must innovate.
Ever read Ready Player One?
There was the movie, but I’m talking about the book.
Ernest Cline had come up with the idea of “Flick-Syncs.” Don’t worry, this isn’t a major plot point, just go read the book and you’ll see I’m right.
The Flick-Syncs were interactive competitions where the player would step into a role from a film. If they delivered the line at the right time, they got points. If they managed to nail the inflection and emotion, they got bonuses.
Thanks to hologram technology advancing, this may not be too far into the future.
Theaters can get in on this technology in the early stages and really drive it forward by incorporating it into their movie-going experience. They could make their theaters fully interactive and immersive experiences.
Watching a movie could become a spectator sport.
Heck, you could even get involved in it and compete against friends.
Another way they could leverage this would be to have “blind” competitions, where theater attendees could step into a role they’d never seen before- like a new release- and flex their acting chops.
This could lead to a whole new wave in the casting industry- just check the leaderboards.
An added benefit would be Hollywood could just release classics and turn them into Flick-Syncs. This way we can stop the endless barrage of reboots and sequels. We can be saved from JJ Abrams “reimagining” classics. Going to the theater would become a truly social event.
We would just act in the movies ourselves.
I’m on a roll now with these ideas…here’s another one.
These fully interactive Flick-Sync theaters could also pair with school districts.
Imagine a day where you’re taken to the theater to experience walking in a foreign country, exploring the depths of the ocean, or even the moon? Or how about learning a math lesson within an interactive environment?
No more papers and pencils! Think of all the trees we could save!
And it would turn lessons into a competition. That would make math much more fun to learn.
I could go on an on about it, but you’re getting the picture.
I hope we will soon see theaters start to innovate beyond “softer seats” and “tastier concessions,” and into true entertainment.
We may be waiting for a long time though.
That’s okay, there’s plenty of movies and TV shows available on Netflix and I’m always guaranteed a great seat to watch them!
AMC Networks, owner of the eponymous channel that’s home to “The Walking Dead”, “Better Call Saul”, and “Preacher”, is working on acquiring RLJ Entertainment. RLJ owns Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, which means AMC is going to be getting bigger.
And offering more for their streaming customers!
RLJ has a huge library they’ll bring to the table. This means even more shows and movies that AMC customers will get to see through the networks bevy of channels.
The best part?
RLJ Entertainment owns 64% of the Agatha Christie Limited, the media rights and literary management company set up by the great author herself.
If this doesn’t excite you, here’s four reasons why it should.
Long hailed as the murder mystery writer, Agatha Christie wrote sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections.
Born in 1890, Agatha took up writing poems and short stories. It wasn’t until a cousin recommended a murder mystery that Agatha attempted to enter the genre. If there hadn’t been that one suggestion, the murder-mystery genre may not be what it is today.
Her writing style, use of tropes, red herrings, and characters have helped define what makes good murder mystery writing. She’s also credited with starting the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Her works, though dated, have been adapted and many authors are updating them to reflect more modern writing styles. At least one lucky author, Sophie Hannah, has been given authority to continue writing Hercule Poirot mysteries.
Of her sixty-six works, three detectives stand out.
Tommy and Tuppence
Lesser known of her famous detectives, Agatha enjoyed writing Tommy and Tuppence novels the most. These Partners in Crime were her first detectives, and the duo aged with her.
Partners in Crime follow Tommy and Tuppence Beresford as they find themselves constantly getting involved with dastardly plots. The pair didn’t set out to solve crimes at first. Because there were no other jobs, they started up Young Adventurers Ltd. “Willing to do anything. Go anywhere…No reasonable offer refused.”
Those reasonable offers came with a mystery to solve.
While I haven’t read or watched any of the works, if its Agatha Christie, then I at least know it’s good source material. As for the adaptations of the works themselves, again, I’m in the dark here.
Given there’s been multiple interpretations of the characters, it’s safe to say the crime-solving pair are entertaining to watch.
One novel was adapted into a silent movie in 1928 then a series of radio dramas on the BBC in 1953. The late Richard Attenborough provided the voice for Tommy too!
In 1984, Partners in Crime was finally adapted for the small screen. James Warwick and Francesca Annis took on the titular roles and reprised the roles again in 1985.
No new adaptations were made until 2005, this time in France. The names of the characters were changed, though the source material remained faithful to Christie’s original vision. In 2008, another French adaptation was made.
David Walliams and Jessica Raine took on the roles in the 2015 mini-series, Partners In Crime.
No news as to whether another adaptation is in the works.
Miss Marple seems to sit quietly in the background, knitting away.
This turns out to only be deception, as the elderly spinster is quietly observing, assessing, and analyzing everyone and everything around her. This is what makes her a remarkably effective sleuth.
The list of actresses who’ve played Miss Marple is practically a “who’s-who” of classic acting; Gracie Fields, Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, Joan Hickson, and June Whitfield.
Most recently, Geraldine McEwan starred in the role in 2004 with Julia McKenzie assuming the role in 2009.
I haven’t had the chance to catch these adaptations, though I did see a stage production of A Murder is Announced when I was in college. Being a Division III school, they didn’t do too bad.
The most well-known of Agatha’s sleuths was Hercule Poirot (pronounced “pwa-ro,” it’s Belgian French).
If it wasn’t because of his skills as a detective, then it was most definitely the mustache.
The idea for Hercule Poirot is said to not been based on any one person. There is speculation, however, that a specific Belgian refugee who fled to England and settled in the countryside is the true catalyst for Agatha’s most notable detective. There’s another claim that he was based on two other fictional detectives of the time, Hercule Popeau and Monsieur Poiret. And still another that he was based on Sherlock Holmes.
The mystery of who really inspired Agatha Christie to create the character will remain. When it comes to who did the best job of portraying the character, there is less speculation needed.
Who’s the Best Poirot?
From Charles Laughton to Hugh Laurie, there have been too many Poirot’s to list here.
In 2017 Kenneth Branagh stepped into the role for Murder on the Orient Express. Given the film’s high production budget and Branagh’s Shakespearean experience, the movie was amazing. Fun to watch, keeps you guessing (if you haven’t already read the book), and great performances by an all-star cast.
Yet, for me, the standard of Hercule Poirot will always be set by David Suchet.
True, Suchet’s mustache is more downplayed than Branagh’s. Branagh had the advantage of a big budget and having to only wear the titular facial hair for a relatively short time. Suchet, on the other hand, played the role for thirteen years. And yet, the mustache’s even more endearing than Branagh’s.
The ear-to-ear handlebars that Branagh sports are impressive, but only from a production standpoint. From a character standpoint, it’s just a defining feature. Suchet’s is where it’s at. Though subtler, his mustache adds the dramatic flair that is Poirot. To keep that kind of facial hair going for that long takes a rare level of commitment.
To get into the mindset of such a literary behemoth, Suchet took character notes. By the end of his run, he had over 90 traits written down that made Poirot Poirot. Branagh only had to stay in character for a few months.
And that closes that case.
Find Agatha Christie
It’s unclear if AMC Networks will just air reruns of the great Christie works or if they’re going to create original content from them.
Given the recent resurgence in her work, I would hope they’d opt to remake some of her work. They could even go the Holmes route and update her characters.
If that were to happen, then Vincent Cassel would be my first pick to step into the role of a new Poirot. Of course, Dame Judi Dench would be great as Miss Marple. For Tommy and Tuppence I’d name James Marsters and Lucy Davis. Hollywood may go a different direction, and they often do. It’s not the first time I’ve been ignored by Hollywood.
And it won’t be the last.
The good news is that getting access to current Agatha Christie works is simple. First, look for the best internet and cable packages. This way you’ll save money and headache when it comes to watching all the shows and movies based on Agatha Christie’s books.
Second, get to a library or a bookstore and go find Agatha’s actual work. Every library is bound to have at least one.
Third, if reading a book isn’t your thing, then get the Overdrive app or any number of audiobook apps. There’s a few that offer free titles as well.
This way you’ll get to read Murder on the Orient Express, and others, before watching the movie. This will enhance your viewing experience.
Once you’ve read an Agatha Christie, then watch a movie or a show, then it’ll be no mystery why her work has lasted so long.
Vudu’s getting more help from Walmart in the battle for streaming supremacy.
There’s an unseen arena out there with three big contenders; Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Smaller contestants are also in the ring, but they’re not making much of an impact. They’re content to stick to their small niches and maintain their authority there.
Vudu was one of them.
Now Walmart, having bought the company back in 2010, is looking to expand into the streaming arena and become a serious competitor.
Though in its early phases, it seems likely Walmart will launch this new streaming service by the end of this year.
If that’s true, then Walmart has little-to-no-time to build a streaming service from the ground up. This necessitates using one of the properties they already own- Vudu.
Vudu rents and sells digital movies. The online service also launched its own ad-support streaming service, Movies On Us. These two services, while nice, are not in the same league as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.
For one, they don’t create original content.
Two, they’re just for movies and not shows.
For Vudu to compete, Walmart would need to expand the offerings inside of it…which they are. Walmart has met with content producers inside Hollywood to discuss the creation of original content. If this move is successful, Walmart will have something different to offer the viewing public instead of syndicating popular titles.
As stated before, they seek to launch this service by the end of the year. Unless Walmart has been secretly building up a streaming service, which is unlikely, then they’d have to use Vudu to do it. Vudu already has the basics in place for streaming.
The goal would now become to add the shows and viewing capabilities required for streaming services.
Walmart’s Got Other Allies
Although Walmart has Vudu and can use the online movie streaming service as the platform for a larger scale entertainment service, Walmart would still need help in handling that kind of online traffic.
Luckily, they do.
On July 17th, as Amazon Prime Day was winding down, Walmart announced a five-year partnership with Microsoft. The technology giant would provide cloud services for Walmart.
These cloud services are not just for streaming services.
Part of the deal is to help improve Walmart’s online infrastructure and presence to better compete against Amazon.
With this deal in place, and if the streaming service does launch by the end of this year, then Walmart can attack Amazon on more fronts.
And who knows, maybe Walmart will have their own artificial holiday to take on Amazon’s Prime Day?
A Decisive Move
Walmart entering the streaming entertainment field means yet another streaming service to consider.
In this Era of Peak TV, there are so many shows to watch that it’s overwhelming.
This is both good and bad.
Bad in that time is spent watching episode after episode. Sure, it’s entertaining, but you’re sacrificing time that you could also be outside enjoying nature, playing a sport, or talking to real people.
Streaming entertainment isn’t bad when it’s in moderation.
The good is that there’s bound to be something available that you’d like to watch. No matter your taste in entertainment, Peak TV has something for you to get hooked on.
Good shows have a way of touching that creative side of our brain. They provoke us to try new things, even push our own boundaries.
A better catalyst for pushing boundaries is reading a book, but we can get into that later.
With Walmart entering the streaming entertainment field, there’s going to be more options.
And not just for shows.
But when it comes to price.
There’s news that Walmart will offer this streaming service at a price lower than Netflix and Amazon.
While this seems an obvious competitive move to make on Walmart’s part, there’s a hidden advantage.
Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, though great and offer a wealth of engaging content, they’re seen as more “west coast and east coast.” These streaming giants seem to tailor their content for people who live on the east and west coasts. These parts of the country aren’t bad. They do, however, have a different set of values than those on the interior.
It appears that Walmart is seeking to create content that speaks more to middle America than the other three are.
And with a lower price point, it’s sure to get a lot of attention when it’s first launched.
Should Walmart go ahead with this move it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
A New Phase for Walmart?
Streaming services have their “personality.”
To compete against them, a company must adopt a certain “streaming persona” to compete. This is true in other areas of life, not just entertainment.
What will Walmart’s be?
Whether they’re “hip and cool” or more “country,” doesn’t matter. Walmart needs to own it and commit to a direction.
The true test to see if Walmart will be able to take on Netflix and Amazon is how their content matches up. What kind of content will they create? Are they looking for big players? Or are they going to gamble on unknowns and hope that they can score big?
Until that happens, we’ll just have to wait as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the rest of the gladiators in the Colosseum duke it out with new content and package deals.
And while you wait, check your internet bill. If it’s a little high and you’re wanting to make sure in your budget for Walmart’s new streaming service, then have a look at the best internet deals.
No use fighting that battle.
As more and more devices are integrating and folding into others, there’s one stubborn resister- the cable-top box.
No matter what the new advances in technology these days, cable-top boxes are still around. They sit there, blinking dumbly at you whether the show is loading or not. Some customers complain they’re an eye-sore, others hide them behind furniture. Though this does fix an aesthetic issue, it ends up killing your Wi-Fi.
Despite smart home devices becoming more plentiful, and easier to use, the cable top box hasn’t changed much.
Remember the First Cell Phone?
I remember the days of Saved By The Bell.
Remember Zack Morris? Remember that phone?
The cell phone began as a luxury item, much like cable. And much like the cell phone, cable has evolved.
It seemed to be stuck though.
Cell phones, on the other hand, have changed.
They began to get smaller and smaller, lighter and lighter. But they still had horrible sound quality and would drop calls. That’s when providers learned to improve cell signal quality.
Then came texting, games, mapping apps, music, and other bells and whistles.
More and more stuff kept getting shoved into this little device until they ceased to be cell phones and instead became smart phones.
Touchscreens were at first a hip new thing, now they’re a requirement for inclusion in the smartphone category.
If we’re to follow this analogy, cable top boxes are sitting at where cell phones were at the turn of the century. They have a lot of functionality in them, but there’s obvious room for improvement. Not to mention they’re still clunky and come only in one color.
Instead of moving forward, cable-top boxes have halted in their evolution.
Darwin’s Not Happy
Cable companies still make a lot of money off the cable-top box, the main reason why there hasn’t been much improvement with this technology. They’re a requirement for access and customers rent them monthly. It’s an income stream they’re not willing to get rid of. And who can blame them?
As more and more streaming services enter the market, and less and fewer people continue to pay for cable, the cable-top box needs to adapt or die.
Jason Brush, the global EVP of experiences & innovation for Possible, argues the cable-top box is not living up to its potential.
With the push for TVs to be less of a TV and more of a smart hub for smart homes, cable top boxes could provide this already. Since cable-top boxes are usually the entry point for internet into a home, it makes sense to make these the hub for the smart home.
Instead of only allowing cable access, with a DVR, cable top boxes could act as the headquarters for all the smart home devices. Brush suggests making them voice-activated, or to expand the user interface to make it more intuitive. The cable top box would become so much more than just “that thing for the cable.”
By changing the gizmo into another smart home device, the cable top box would have more functionality. It’d be part of the home’s network instead of a network on its own.
Another suggestion and the one consumers are more likely to approve of, is to have the cable-top box go the way of the dodo. That is, to become extinct.
Take the cable option and incorporate it into an app available on your smart TV.
This choice takes away a huge income stream for the cable company, so it’s the one they’re going to be the least happy with. The consumer, on the other hand, will be glad to get rid of the ugly thing and make their lives a little simpler.
With smart TVs becoming more and more integrated into the smart home, getting rid of the cable top box is a natural part of the process. TVs will absorb the duties of receiving the cable signal and managing the smart home devices. And it’ll only require one remote too!
Or heck, even an app from your phone.
The Future of Cable
Once the cable top box goes, and it will go, cable companies will need to rethink how they provide services.
Although streaming services are pulling in more customers every day, cable television isn’t done yet. There will always be holdouts who decide they’re going to stick with cable, no matter what.
Then there are the cable companies themselves who have spent years and years building their empires. No one walks away from something like that just because they think a new competitor is too strong.
Cable companies will find a way to adapt to the changing environment. The real question is; will they come up with a solution sooner rather than later?
The good news is cable companies are still around and with streaming services coming after them, they’re eager to cut deals to ensure they increase their subscriber base and keep current customers.
Search for the best internet bundles. These bundles put cable, internet, and sometimes phone, into one package. You’ll save money by putting your services into one spot, as well as streamline the connections into your house.
The cable top box will remain for the foreseeable future.
This isn’t a bad thing at all, except if you don’t like the design and color of it.
It’s been a busy time for pop culture news. The 2018 San Diego Comic-Con showcased quite a few big movie and TV show trailers, and the Internet is all over it! According to reports, Warner Bros. took center stage with their two-hour panel during which they revealed their lineup of upcoming movies: Aquaman, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Shazam, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Other studios that gave us a peak at their slate of upcoming features included: Netflix, BBC America, and the Syfy Channel. Here are some of the top trailers revealed at Comic-Con.
I don’t even consider myself a superhero movie fan, but I want to see this. Two words: Jason. Momoa. Woof. What a hottie! The trailer features a shirtless Momoa with glistening wet muscles that bulge tantalizingly like… I digress. I’m glad DC is producing these standalone stories. They are much more accessible to people like me who are not comic book literate enough to get the whole expanded universe concepts of movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This movie looks fun. The scene at the aquarium is giving me all kinds of Harry Potter feels (remember when Harry visits the zoo and the snake protects him from Dudley?). The movie seems to have a sense of humor, which is refreshing. Superhero movies, in their effort to sell their respective mythologies, run the risk of being so deadly serious.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Honestly, I’m all Harry Pottered out. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the Harry Potter series, and I really tried to rekindle that magical feeling of excitement with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ve had my fill, and now, I’m ready to lay the whole thing to rest. These offshoots attempt to breathe new life into the franchise and offer fans an opportunity to re-enter the wizarding world. I suppose movies like this give die-hard fans life, but they give me the yawns. Having said that, the movie looks spectacular. It has an impressive cast headed by Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law. I’m sure the movie will do fine at the box office.
I don’t get it. I didn’t get what the big deal was with the end-reveal in Split, and I definitely don’t get what the big deal is with this continuation of the Unbreakable universe. Maybe I’m just resistant to the self-aggrandizing, deadly serious mythology of these superhero movies. Perhaps you have to love the superhero genre to really get into these movies, and I clearly don’t. These movies just seem so arbitrary that it’s difficult to care. I get that these movies are trying to take the superhero genre to a new place – a place where the mythologies are rooted in a very real, tactile, even mundane world. Still, who cares? I dunno. I guess there’s just no accounting for taste. Nonetheless, I know this movie from M. Night Shyamalan has fans licking their chops in anticipation. I can make a prediction, though, just based off the trailer: Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie will turn out to be a superhero herself. Again, I’m sure this one will do very well in theaters.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Vera Farmiga! She’s great. Remember that nerve-jangling scene in Running Scared where she confronts the murderous pedophiles? I think she is a vastly underrated actress. Her presence in this movie is enough to gain my interest. There’s also that kid from Stranger Things. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla was a snooze. Hopefully, this one is better. It’s pure spectacle – visual effects porn, basically. I’m fine with that. I just hope this movie has some fun with it. These movies tend to be so solemn – lots of quiet, brooding moments followed by swells of epic action. Where’s the fun? Where’s the magic and childish joy of watching oversized monsters fight?
George R.R. Martin describes it as “Psycho in space.” I’m feeling it. Somewhat. The trailer, though deliberately vague, doesn’t exactly feel fresh. It seems like standard space-horror stuff, but, I’m still intrigued. What else can I say? I’m more intrigued on account of it being George R.R. Martin material. He’s a writer that I respect. If it wasn’t for him, I can’t say I’d be very enthused by this.
Yes! Here is a movie that looks like it’s having fun with the superhero genre, and not in some tongue-in-cheek Deadpool kind of way, but in a pure, unadulterated way. This is the kind of movie I probably would have been into as a kid. It’s looks charming and lighthearted. Finally.
Here are some more trailers that emerged from Comic Con 2018.
Let us help you find the best Internet deals in your area!
Netflix is busy expanding. While they’ve thrown over $8 billion into creating new content, they’re going to expand past streaming video…into streaming radio.
Come January of 2019, Netflix will have their own channel on Sirius XM.
But what are they going to put on it?
Netflix has a vast array of comedy specials featuring some of the best comedians to ever pick up a mic. And then they also have other “good” comedians who somehow got a deal. They must have figured out that Netflix had $8 billion to spend on new content, so why not them?
Netflix will air bits from these comedians’ specials on Sirius XM. Even the not-so-funny ones who are passing themselves off as funny…sigh.
Enough on that, let’s move onto the real issue at hand—up and coming comedians.
While there’s nothing wrong with the tried and true names, they will, sadly, leave this earth one day. We’ll mourn them, no doubt, we aren’t heartless after all. When that inevitably happens, we’ll need new jokes to repeat to our friends and new catchphrases to incorporate into pop culture. It’s best to start this process early so we have the comedians waiting in the wings once the veterans finally shuffle from this mortal coil.
For this reason, I have taken on myself* to search for up and coming comedians that need a Netflix special.
Warning, there is mature language used by some of these comedians. You have been warned!
Josh Johnson (insert video above)
You’ve seen him on The Tonight Show, but did you also know he’s writing for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah?
This southern kid has a soft-spoken delivery that pulls you in. That’s the kind of comedy that works after a long day. Too often new comedians mistake the “loud and in your face” approach as the best way to get a laugh.
That comes off as annoying.
Of course, after all this research into Josh Johnson, I see this little line- “Josh’s next stand-up special will be released on Netflix in 2018.”
You’ve likely seen him in The Wedding Party and on Comedy Central.
I especially love how he points out that he grew up poor yet looks like a rich white dude. It didn’t hurt that he was wearing a tux when he said this.
I made sure this guy didn’t have a Netflix special and turned out I was right.
You’d think that if someone was on Comedy Central that meant that they made it, right? Not always true. Although I first saw Cy on “This Is Not Happening,” I was surprised to learn he’d also done voice work for American Dad and Family Guy. This shows more of his range and with a Netflix Special, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.
Yes, she’s already been on Netflix, but it was only one episode, so it doesn’t completely count. It was only 15 minutes, okay! She’s hilarious enough for at least an hour special.
This guy’s language is a little more mature, but it’s still hilarious. I got to see him perform at the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club in San Antonio, TX.
He was beyond funny causing my sides to hurt by the end of the night.
He was the headliner that night, so the first two comedians to come in were local guys. They were alright, but I found their humor to be uninspired and repetitive. This was during the time when San Antonio was named one of the most obese cities in the nation.
Guess what each comedian focused on?
San Antonio being obese.
By that point, I’d heard enough jokes about on the subject that I was tired of it.
Sometimes a topic gets so overplayed it becomes aggravating to hear it.
These comedians were supposed to warm up the crowd and yet, I wasn’t there. I’d laughed some but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.
Bret Ernst changed that.
His storytelling style, blending in what would be heavy themes with abject irreverence, really surprised me. To take that kind of approach was, at least to me, intriguing. There are probably other comics who’ve done it, but he was the first one I saw who could pull it off.
Comedy is highly subjective, but the five comics above prove to hit the full range of humor. There’s something for everyone here.
Creating comedy, or finding the humor in a situation, takes skill. It’s not a sixth sense, per se, but it does take a keen eye to pull off. That’s not all you have to do, however. You need to work the story, hone in on the salient points, and really know your material. Knowing a punch line is one thing, being able to adapt to a crowd that ain’t feeling your humor- that’s a true skill.
In the meantime, make sure you have the best cable internet deals.
You’ll have fewer bills to pay and some extra cash.
When Netflix launches their comedy channel in January, you’ll have the extra cash to subscribe.
It’ll also put a smile on your face!
*I had to write this because I was watching Josh Johnson while I was supposed to be working and convinced my boss I was writing an article.
Netflix has spent over $8,000,000,000 (that’s billion with a B), racked up 112 Emmy Nominations…but they may be losing their edge.
Despite their big push in creating original content and knocking HBO off their throne, they’ve missed their forecast of new subscribers for the second quarter of 2018, by 2 million. This has happened three times in the past ten years, so it’s not as shocking as one would think. Of course, Netflix’s stock dropped more than 14% in response to this.
And now executives for Netflix, as well as outside business analysts, are asking why this happened.
Whose Fault Is It?
The blame, according to executives, lies on poor internal forecasting…and not the recent hike in prices for new and veteran subscribers.
Forecasting is, at best, a guess.
Meteorologists for the local news are guessing every day that the weather will turn out a certain way. There’s sophisticated technology, models, and years of training that go into it. Underneath it all, however, they are still guessing.
Analysts in the world of business, finance, and (insert industry here) are making a prediction when they forecast the future.
And if we know anything about the future, we know it’s going to be wildly different than what we assume it will be.
To blame a miss of 2 million subscribers on poor internal forecasting is a little short-sighted.
Because when the weather turns, do you go after your local meteorologist?
What Can They Do About It?
While Netflix didn’t gain those 2 million new subscribers, there hasn’t been any news that they’ve lost any either.
Netflix retains its current subscriber base of 130 million globally.
They’re still a powerhouse to deal with and after besting HBO in Emmy Nominations, they’ve done well in positioning themselves to finish strong for 2018.
Now, HBO is working on reclaiming that dominance and has already laid out their first weapon; Joss Whedon. On July 16th, it was announced that Whedon’s new show, The Nevers, will be on HBO. The network beat out Netflix in a bidding war to get the show and ordered the series directly…without ever seeing a pilot.
HBO is taking the smart path by focusing on new content.
Netflix can do the same by doubling-down on their content. By keeping their subscribers satisfied with their shows, the streaming giant can still grow their subscribers organically. Because a satisfied viewer is likely to recommend the show to their friends.
For Netflix to artificially raise their number of subscribers, they should set their sites a little more realistically.
Without those 2 million subscribers, the streaming giant will lose a little bit of momentum. Not a lot, just a little.
There’s no harm in being cautious though, as the executives at Netflix have a right to be.
What they can do is get ready for awards season. Netflix can continue to campaign for their shows that helped them get those 112 Emmy nominations. They’re in a good spot to walk home with the most wins this year and deal an even bigger blow to their biggest competitor, HBO.
There’s also the Golden Globes coming up. These awards shows seem to mirror each other when it comes to nominations, so don’t be surprised if Netflix beats out HBO for Golden Globes as well.
Netflix should keep on campaigning like they normally do.
The Forecast for Netflix
So long as Netflix doesn’t panic or commit a knee-jerk reaction, they’ll be fine.
History is rife with companies, and people, who reacted to something small and created a big problem. Just think of The Pig War.
In 1859, a single hog was caught rooting in a farmer’s potatoes. To save his potatoes, the farmer, an American, shot the hog, owned by a British man. Tensions rose when one accused the other of foul play. Soon the hog’s death became an act of aggression by Americans’ towards the British. US soldiers were sent to the island, British Navy ships were sent to bolster the British merchants there.
All because a hog got out and ate a few potatoes.
The executives of Netflix just need to keep their cool. Things like this can happen and it’s important to remember that this was based on forecasted data. One shouldn’t invest too much in the predictions of the future from a single source.
What Netflix should be interested in is HBO’s plan to reclaim their throne.
As the networks continue to battle it out, their main weapons will be content- shows.
The harder they work to beat the other, the better the shows will be.
If this turns out to not be the case, then someone else will swoop in and claim dominance.
Be it Netflix, HBO, Amazon, or someone else, make sure you don’t miss your favorite shows by checking out the best internet deals. You can also save yourself some money in the process!