I’m always curious to know if people rate movies and tv shows based on their perceived quality of the production or how much they enjoyed what they watched. I don’t think those are the same metric. 🎥📺
Speaking of AT&T and its acquisition of Time Warner, and therefore also HBO, the whole deal has always disappointed me.
On the one hand, HBO Max has done well for AT&T. It got 4.1 million new signups in its first month of existence, which is nothing to sneeze at. Even more impressive is that it’s accomplished this while demanding $15 a month, making it one of the most expensive streaming services available. By all accounts, it’s a big success for AT&T. No doubt it was helped along by the COVID pandemic; when we’re all stuck at home, it helps to have excellent and fresh programming to consume.
The decision to premiere feature films that otherwise would have been theater exclusives on the service was another boon for them. Sure, it upset many people involved with both the entertainment and theater industries, but their objections were never going to sway business daddy AT&T. Until HBO Max starts losing money, nothing will deter them from their present course.
On the other hand, HBO as we knew it before the acquisition is gone and will likely never return. The blame for that lies entirely on the shoulders of AT&T’s CEO, John Stankey.1 In an incredibly detailed and well-researched CNBC article, Alex Sherman details the rocky process of this acquisition. The article boils down to this quote from a former HBO executive:
If HBO stood for anything, it was making a product for the customer, not the advertiser. It’s not as though John is unpleasant. He doesn’t throw stuff. He just knows much less about television than he thinks and won’t be debated.
Is Time Warner and HBO’s acquisitions by AT&T good for business, or at least the business of AT&T? Undoubtedly. This opens up a bevy of new revenue opportunities, which will, in turn, make the bottom line of the telecommunication giant look great. However, I don’t believe this will improve the quality of the content that’ll appear on HBO Max in the coming years. HBO was doing just fine without AT&T’s heavy, leading hand before the acquisition. You can expect the familiar HBO quality to get watered down as AT&T spreads the focus to areas that have never mattered to past HBO. In an interview with Jillian Morgan at Realscreen, executive vice-president of original non-fiction and kids programming, Jennifer O’Connell, says:
There is a ton of weight on unscripted… We’re doing dating, we’re doing social experiments, we have competition shows, we have really big competition shows… That is an area that, for example, our colleagues at HBO, they are not necessarily in that space so deeply, so it’s very rich, very fertile ground for us to dig into.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with unscripted programming. It’s enormously popular for a reason—people flock to those shows in droves. However, it was never HBO’s area of interest. AT&T doesn’t care about that history. It cares about making money, and there’s a lot of money to be made in unscripted, non-HBO style content.
If you’re looking for a future replacement for HBO, the service that’s making the strongest play is Apple TV+. Netflix has become flooded with content that’s aimed at appealing to the broadest number of viewers. A service like Hulu has an advertising-supported pricing tier, meaning their content is ultimately beholden to other entities. Disney+ has shown that they’re interested in telling unique stories, but they’re doing it off the springboard of their massive library of previously made content.
The only service out there that’s charting a unique course is Apple TV+. They’re walking the HBO path of debuting movies and shows that will, over time, grow to be a body of impressive work that’s all their own. They’re going to stumble along the way—even HBO was never perfect—but they’ll catch themselves and improve on their mistakes. They’ve invested too much money already to just ditch all their hard work. I’m looking forward to seeing where they’ll go.
It’s just a damn shame about HBO.
UPDATE: From a 9to5Mac article published on April 13, 2021: Apple TV+ features the highest-rated content of any streaming service, study says. Seems like Apple TV+ is already beginning to deliver on my estimation of it being the new HBO.
I’m continuing to watch Mr. Mercedes. It’s been a fair adaptation, but I’ve also found it to be fairly tame relative to other adaptations of Stephen King’s work.
Also, it’s an “AT&T Original.” AT&T owns HBO. Why isn’t this show on HBO Max right now? 📺
I recently started watching Mr. Mercedes (after having enjoyed the Stephen King trilogy it’s based on). It’s interesting how many episodes are written by Dennis Lehane. I wonder how many other television adaptations are written by authors who are contemporaries of the original? 📺
It’s a real shame to see that the unique and clever American Gods has been canceled. This was the first Neil Gaiman book I ever read, so it holds a special place in my heart. I hope they’ll be able to wrap things up with a possible movie. 📺
Since watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I’ve been happy to read up on any news story regarding the long road that the film took to becoming a thing we could all enjoy. It’s a fascinating tale that’s recounted in a Vanity Fair article by Anthony Breznican titled, The Justice System (Apple News+ link). It was a pleasure to read about the groundswell of support Snyder and his version of the film received. Doubly so since his reason for leaving the production was because of the tragic death of his daughter. I can’t think of another director who’s been given the incredible opportunity he was given.
I think he knocked it out of the park.
However, there’s another story that’s been needling me since reading this article, and that’s what actor Ray Fisher, who played the character of Cyborg, had to say about working with director Joss Whedon. By his account, the experience was deeply negative and painful. Since the production for what would turn out to be the theatrical cut of the film ended, Fisher has made public accusations about the mistreatment he was subject to by Whedon, Warner Bros. co-president of production Jon Berg, and former DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns. On July 1, 2020, Fisher tweeted:
Joss Wheadon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.— Ray Fisher (@ray8fisher) July 1, 2020
He was enabled, in many ways, by Geoff Johns and Jon Berg.
It’s all so damn terrible. I’m sorry that Fisher had to endure to that mistreatment, and has to continue to fight for his own withheld justice. I hope he gets it sooner rather than later.
The accusation against Whedon has led me to ponder on the idea of “separating art from the artist” and how damn hard that can be to do. I enjoy the tv show Firefly, and its accompanying follow-up film, Serenity, very much. They’ve brought me joy in the past, and I continue to have fond memories of those stories and characters.
But it was created by someone who may have leveled significant abuse toward an actor in Justice League. Turns out that may also be just the tip of the iceberg with him. To purchase any copy of Firefly or Serenity now would be supportive of the man. It would tell the Hollywood powers that be that there’s continued interest in his future employment.
Likewise, I have absolutely loved some Kevin Spacey movies. The Usual Suspects is a masterful film,1 but following the allegations aimed at him, I feel hesitant to give it any more of my time. Roman Polanski has made some monumental and important films, but his grotesque past has made me falter at the thought of supporting his work by watching them. In a more recent example, I liked watching Silicon Valley, but Thomas Middleditch appears to be a malevolent asshole.
And yet, Whedon’s not the only person who was involved with Firefly. There were hundreds of other cast and crew members who brought it to life. Loads of people made The Usual Suspects, and it continues to be an influential film for good reason. Silicon Valley had its own group of committed people making it, and it had its moments of levity. That’s always something we can use more of in our lives.
Filmmaking is not done in a vacuum—there are many others for whom my dollars would support. A film is not created by just its director. Does refusing to watch Firefly or The Usual Suspects hurt the good people involved with those productions in some indirect way?
I may be completely wrong in thinking there could be any reason to continue watching media that’s created in part by heinous people. I invite that criticism because it’ll help me learn to be better. On the other hand, I appreciate the perspective that Brynley Louise takes in the Film Daily article I linked to earlier in this post:
It’s hard to hear accusations like these when you follow someone’s work. Trust us, we aren’t going to stop watching the original Toy Story just because he helped write it. However, this doesn’t mean Whedon needs to be praised as a good person just because he’s worked on some of popular culture’s favorite shows and movies.
I don’t know if there’s a definitive answer to the question of “is separating art from the artist an acceptable act?” It may all come down to personal choice, and that no feeling in this matter is incorrect.
Still, it’s a puzzle I’m working on… 🎥
UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter has published a story wherein they interview Ray Fisher about the details of his accusations. I discuss that article in this follow-up.
Makes me wonder what the first show to be cancelled by them will be. Will that be a thing with Apple, or will it be a place where creators can work without fear of being removed? 📺
Paramount+ is now a thing. Best that I can tell, except for swapping out a logo and adding some SpongeBob SquarePants stuff, it’s the exact same thing as CBS All Access.
It still doesn’t even have a watch list! Isn’t that kind of table stakes for a streaming service these days? 📺
I just watched the “A Dark Quiet Death” episode of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet on Apple TV+. I cannot recall the last time I was so completely awestruck, moved, and floored by an episode of television. It makes subscribing to the service totally worth it. 📺
I finally finished BoJack Horseman yesterday, after waiting too long. I think it’s a shame that Netflix didn’t see fit to give it additional season, but the creators still ended it with the class and strong emotion they’ve always been known for. 📺
I finished watching the sixth season of Bosch last night. ‘Twas another quality collection of episodes. I’m always sad when I make it through a season, and especially so given that the next season is going to be its last. 📺
Gasp! Season six of Bosch is available a day earlier than I was expecting. I absolutely know what I’ll be watching tonight. 📺
After watching the Bill Gates documentary, I’m also feeling absolutely fascinated by their implementation of a traveling wave nuclear reactor. It’s very safe and we have enough depleted uranium available to power the U.S. for 125 years? Come on, it’s a no-brainer. 📺
I finished watching Inside Bill’s Brain on Netflix and it was a fascinating watch. I find myself wanting to see a documentary about his children and what that home life was like. What’s it like to have a person like him as their father at different points in their lives? 📺
I’m super late to the game, but I just started watching Westworld last night. I’d tried watching it once before, but couldn’t get into it. Now though, I’m feeling super sucked into the story. I can’t wait to see where it goes before the third season premieres in March. 📺
I just finished watching the first season of Homecoming and was enthralled the whole way through. It had a great mystery throughout and Julia Roberts was fabulous. 📺
I never knew how good television could be until I got a 55” set that has Dolby Vision capabilities. It’s been immersive and fun to watch tv again. 📺
There’s a YouTube ad for the new show, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, that’s the entire pilot episode. Not just a trailer, but the entire damn episode. It’s a 43 minute ad. I’m assuming this is what the apocalypse looks like. 😡📺