Tuesday, June 04, 2019

TV: Streaming greed

Money, money, money.  It's what TV has always been about.  And consumers are starting to grasp that yet again as you hear grumblings about having to pay X for NETFLIX and X for HULU and X for AMAZON.


As this complaining takes place, streaming services are beginning to solidify their identities.  For example, if you're featuring gratuitous nudity (oh, look closely, Chris Pine's peen!) or violence, the place to go is NETFLIX.  If you have a name or a once-upon-a-time name you go to HULU.  Which leaves us with AMAZON.

What is AMAZON?

Over the weekend, their latest offering, GOOD OMENS, made clear that AMAZON really is nothing but a live action version of MARVEL COMICS' WHAT IF? series.

Whatever their other faults, NETFLIX and HULU serve up new content that tells -- or tries to tell -- a story, not AMAZON.  With few exceptions (HOMECOMING and CRISIS IN SIX SCENES being two), AMAZON exists to promote concepts, not actual storytelling.

So you get a 'traditional family sitcom' that wanders what if the father discovered he was a woman (TRANSPARENT), what if a couple moves to Martha and fall for another man (I LOVE DICK), what if Nazis won the war (THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE), what if Sylvester Stallone movies never bombed (JACK RYAN) and so much more.

GOOD OMENS works as a concept, not as a series.  The wink-wink, in joke, oh, we are so hilarious attitude is both off putting and yawn inducing.  Who really wants to see an intellectual exercise carried out by mental midgets?

Time and again, AMAZON wastes money on this sort of crap and then whines that no one watches their garbage.  A narrative is not a conceit, it's a full blown story that can pull people into a story.  GOOD OMENS might have worked as high camp but even there, bad news, it wouldn't have found a large audience.

What audience will it find?

That's a question to ask and saying it's a co-production between AMAZON and BBC2 doesn't excuse anything?


We're referring to yet another ALPHA HOUSE for AMAZON.  For too long, all of their shows played like ALPHA HOUSE -- a piece of crap garbage that was noted for bad writing and bad casting -- bad casting that lacked any and all of diversity.

Look at the cast of GOOD OMENS.  In the first episode the nuns are killed off.  Some may point out that God is played by Frances McDormand but we'd point out that she's not playing God, she's just doing the narration.

What you have is a ton of White men.  David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Jon Hamm led the largely all White cast because what says 2019 more?

And what the world needs now?  No, Burt and Hal, not love, sweet love.  No, what the world needs now apparently is yet another end-of-times b.s. story.  And that's what GOOD OMENS is delivering -- not good tidings.  The snake from the Garden of Eden has morphed into Crowley (Tennant) and an angel who once guarded the Garden, Aziraphale (Sheen) walk into a bar -- no, that might build to actual humor.  These two just bump into each other from time to time over the years and have formed some sort of creepy understanding that's tossed to the wind when the rise of the birth of the child of Satan is upon us.

Now don't think ROSEMARY'S BABY.  There's no Ira Levin or Roman Polanski around to shape this story -- because there is no story.  There's no innocent Rosemary, there's no coven of witches plotting to get her pregnant by Satan.  There's no one really.  The whole thing plays out like one blackout sketch after another written by the highly fey who strive for droll but can't even manage faux wit.

Wit, like intelligence, also escapes Julianna Margulies.  The actress recently crashed and burned in AMC's highly promoted DIETLAND.  That show failed in a single season and it also failed to ever deliver a million viewers an episode -- even when you factored in DVR viewers watching after the fact.

Julianna was coming off her seven seasons of THE GOOD WIFE.  Yes, that show had gotten long in the tooth and people were tired of it by the final season, but she could deliver at least seven million viewers most weeks. If she'd been delivering that at the start, she never would have been paid $180,000 an episode.  That per episode rate was built on delivering 13 million viewers early on.

Yes, she had been a star on the ensemble ER but she followed that with CANTERBURY'S LAW -- a single-season show that we were among the few to enjoy.  She then did THE GOOD WIFE.  This year, she starred in the six-episode mini-series THE HOT ZONE and delivered at least a million viewers almost every episode.  That's not really an argument to pay her $180,000 an episode.

Why is that an issue?

Because she's made it one.  Julianna's been grabbing headlines for THE GOOD FIGHT -- the spin-off of THE GOOD WIFE which airs on CBS ALL ACCESS -- CBS' streaming service.  (As we told you in 2009, "CBS doesn't like broadcasting online for free.")  CBS ALL ACCESS has nearly five million subscribers.  Last fall they announced they had 8 million; however, the footnote on that was the fact that the number also included those streaming SHOWTIME.

Five million subscribers.  And THE GOOD FIGHT isn't even the service's biggest show -- that would be STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and two more STAR TREK's are planned -- STAR TREK: PICARD (set to air later this year) and STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS.

THE GOOD FIGHT features some of Julianna's old co-stars and there's been talk that Julianne might pop up on the show.  She's now explained that's not happening.  Not until they agree to pay her $180,000 an episode.

Now greed is certainly not new to the entertainment industry.  By the seventies, Steve McQueen was demanding a million non-refundable dollars just to read a script for a role he was being offered.  Julianna's trying to package her greed as empowerment.

Women, she insists, are always screwed over financially.  She has her rate -- $180,000 an episode -- and CBS ALL ACCESS should meet that or it's sexism.

Is it?  Is it really?

THE GOOD FIGHT wanted to do a three episode arc with her character Alicia.  It's not a program that airs on CBS (the first season will air on CBS this summer).  It airs on the smaller CBS ALL ACCESS and it really needs an audience -- which is why they were trying to get Julianna to appear.  It's the first show CBS ALL ACCESS offered.  And that's the only reason it's still on.  The hope is that once STAR TREK: PICARD finds an audience they can quietly cancel THE GOOD FIGHT next spring after it completes season four.

The audience for it was small to begin with and has only grown smaller.  Media attention gives the impression that people are watching but the actual numbers demonstrate that the show started off small and has gotten smaller.  DIETLAND?  Julianna's bomb?  It's lowest rated episode still got more viewers than THE GOOD FIGHT.

Julianna insists it's not about greed.  If it was about greed, she'd be asking for $500,000 -- what a man would have gotten.

Pause here.

She's trying to sell her greed as empowerment -- she's doing this for women, she's so noble, it has nothing to do with anything but helping women! -- but she's not asking for what a man in the same situation would be getting?  How does that make sense?

More to the point, she's insisting she knows a man would get this.


She knows George Clooney got it.  She knows when George came on one episode of ER, the one where Carol is leaving, he got $500,000 for his scene with her.  That was season six when ER was one of TV's biggest programs and delivered over 16 million viewers every week.  That was in 2000 when he was coming off THE PERFECT STORM and was wrongly seen as a movie star.  (He's a leading man.  He's never carried a movie at the box office.  He's a leading man, an overpaid leading man.)  George got $500,000 to play Doug, the former lead on ER, for a cameo to give Carol's character a happy ending.

George Clooney returning to TV's top rated drama at a time when it appeared he was one of the biggest box office movie stars?  Of course he got $500,000.  There's a world of difference between that and bringing Julianna on the little watched GOOD FIGHT.  (For the record, Julianna does not know how much George got for the season fifteen return when he and Julianna showed up in "Old Times."  She thinks she knows and based her own request on that but he actually got much more than she did and much more than she thinks he got for that single episode.)

Julianna's friends Robert and Michelle King were hoping she would agree to the three-episode arc because they hoped her return would create interest in the show and allow it to have a season five.  But, for Julianna, it was all about the money.  She's so caught up in herself that she couldn't be bothered to help out people she swears are friends, she couldn't notice that THE GOOD FIGHT struggles to stay in production or that, after three seasons, the show has won zero awards.  Not just zero Emmys, the show has won zero awards.  And the only Emmy nominations?  Both were for music, not performances, not writing, not anything that drives a series.

Julianna's not the first to choose money over art.  But those who make the choice publicly?  Male or female, they tend to be brought down by the industry.

Which reminds us, Alyssa Milano.

The hacktress now grabs supporting roles -- like in INSATIABLE -- and then tries to present herself as the star.  As pathetic as a nearly-fifty-year-old woman trying to pretend she's the star of a series that focuses on a teenager in high school, more pathetic was her recent attack on Jon Voight.   She called the 80-year-old actor an "F-lister" because he praised US President Donald Trump.  F-lister?  Jon Voight has an Academy Award for his amazing performance in COMING HOME.  He's been nominated for an Academy Award four more times.  He's won four Golden Globes.  He's won a BAFTA.  He's been nominated for two Emmy awards.

If he's an F-lister what would that make Alyssa?  A Z-lister?  What acting award was she ever nominated for?  None.  Not one.  The Kid's Choice Awards aren't acting awards, Alyssa.

Jon Voight is 80-years-old and in the last three years has made five theatrical films and played the lead's father on RAY DONOVAN.

What's Alyssa done?

Well, for starters, in the last two weeks she's publicly whined that she was "disrespected" by the CHARMED reboot.  That would be the reboot, please remember, that finally found a lesbian in San Francisco.  Alyssa didn't just co-star in the series, she was a producer for the last four seasons and yet CHARMED never had a gay character -- not a lead, not a supporting, not a guest star.  Why was that, Alyssa?  When you constantly self-present as More Woke Than Thou, your refusal to offer gay characters on a show set in San Francisco begs an answer?

Maybe attacking Jon Voight lets her distract from that question?  We're not fans of Donald Trump and we've called out Jon Voight before (for comments about his children).  We've never pretended that he can't act or that he's F-list.  He's an 80-year-old man with a TV series and an active film career.

Alyssa Milano -- proof that envy always accompanies greed.

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