Tuesday, June 09, 2020

TV: Forget HBO MAX, HBO standard delivers right now

HBO MAX has a lot of people talking about HBO these days.  Sadly, not really a good thing.  ROKU and AMAZON FIRE users, for example, are left out.  Honestly, so are many HULU subscribers.  If they're a HULU subscriber with a ROKU or FIRE stick or a ROKU TV, they're left out.


Sure, their icon changed to HBO MAX but that didn't mean they had access.  These same paying customers can go to their tablets, phones, laptops, ect, install the HBO MAX app and stream HBO MAX on those devices.  But they can't do it on HULU.

If you doubt us on this, find someone who pays for HBO LIVE TV with an HBO add-on and they have a ROKU TV.  On the TV while pulling up HBO, the icon tells them it's HBO MAX but it's not.  The easiest way to prove this is to search HULU for FRIENDS.  The only result will be TBS.  Search FRIENDS on a device that's not a ROKU TV and they can pull up all the episodes of FRIENDS.

HBO MAX is a huge disaster and not just for ROKU and AMAZON FIRE but also for HULU.

It's a shame because Anna Kendrick has a strong series, LOVE LIFE, on HBO MAX. A lot of people are missing that.  A lot of people are missing a lot, in fact. as they try to navigate HBO in any variation.

We'd recommend those people check out YEARS AND YEARS -- a six-part mini-series that debuted in June of last year.  The show has a strong cast including actors well known to US audiences such as the celebrated and acclaimed Emma Thompson as well as Russell Tovey who has starred on ABC's QUANTICO and in many Americans wet dreams.

In June of 2019, it was a strong show.  Right now, it's even stronger.

YEARS AND YEARS was created by Russell T. Davies who also created QUEER AS FOLK, DARK SEASON, TORCHWOOD, THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES and he wrote the BBC and AMAZON PRIME series A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL starring Hugh Grant.

With YEARS AND YEARS, Davies is focusing on the Lyons family -- Russell Tovey plays the younger brother Daniel who is married to Ralph (Dino Fetscher) when the story begins but is also attracted to Ukranian refugee Viktor (Maxim Baldry).  His olber brother Stephen (Rory Kinnear) is married to Celeste (T'Nia Miller) and they have two daughters -- Bethany (Lydia West) and Ruby (Jade Alleyne).  Stephen and Daniel's youngest sister is Rosie (Ruth Madeley) who is raising her two children while the oldest sister is Edith (Jessica Hynes) who occupies her life with political activism.  The adult children's mother is dead, their father is estranged.  Presiding over the family is their grandmother Muriel (Anne Reid).

As the series begins, it's 2019 and Vivienne Rook is a business person who wants to be a Member of Parliament.  Daniel can't stand her, Rosie thinks she's wonderful and Edith thinks Vivienne's incompetence will bring anarchy (which Edith welcomes).  We then travel over fifteen years where a great deal happens -- including Vivienne's political success.

Vivienne's political success means doom for many people -- anyone not in the 1% basically.

Viktor ends up in a secret detention camp.  Vivienne not only starts these, she sees it as a money making opportunity and wants to sell of the rights to run these camps.  No one will ever be released, she explains, they'll just die there eventually -- from neglect.

But what would people think?

Vivienne doesn't see it as a problem.  She invokes the name of Herbert Kitchener who ran the British concentration camps in South Africa.  From WIKIPEDIA:

British concentration camps refers to camps which were operated by the British in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War which lasted from 1900–1902. The term concentration camp grew in prominence during that period. The camps had originally been set up by the British Army as refugee camps in order to provide refuge for civilian families who had been forced to abandon their homes for any reason which was related to the war. However, when the Earl Kitchener took command of the British forces in late 1900, he introduced new tactics in an attempt to break the guerrilla campaign and the influx of civilians grew dramatically as a result. An epidemic of measles killed thousands.[1] According to the historian, Thomas Pakenham, Kitchener initiated plans to flush out guerrillas in a series of systematic drives, organised like a sporting shoot, with success defined by a weekly 'bag' of killed, captured and wounded, and sweep the country bare of everything that could give sustenance to the guerrillas, including women and children ... It was the clearance of civilians—uprooting a whole nation—that would come to dominate the last phase of the war.[2]
As Boer farms were destroyed by the British under their "Scorched Earth" policy—including the systematic destruction of crops and the slaughtering or removal of livestock, the burning down of homesteads and farms—to prevent the Boers from resupplying themselves from a home base, many tens of thousands of men, women and children were forcibly moved into the camps.[3][4] This was not the first appearance of internment camps, as the Spanish had used internment in Cuba in the Ten Years' War, but the Boer War concentration camp system was the first time that a whole nation had been systematically targeted, and the first in which some whole regions had been depopulated.[3]
Eventually, there were a total of 45 tented camps which were built for Boer internees and 64 additional camps which were built for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men who were captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers who remained in the local camps were women and children. Over 26,000 women and children perished in these concentration camps.[5]
The camps were poorly administered from the outset and they became increasingly overcrowded when Kitchener's troops implemented the internment strategy on a vast scale. Conditions were terrible for the health of the internees, mainly due to neglect, poor hygiene and bad sanitation. The supply of all items was unreliable, partly because of the constant disruption of communication lines by the Boers. The food rations were meager and there was a two-tier allocation policy, whereby families of men who were still fighting were routinely given smaller rations than others.[6] The inadequate shelter, poor diet, bad hygiene and overcrowding led to malnutrition and endemic contagious diseases such as measles, typhoid and dysentery to which the children were particularly vulnerable.[7] Coupled with a shortage of modern medical facilities, many of the internees died.

In 2001, Paul Harris (GUARDIAN) noted that the letters and photographs owned by South African Major Hamilton Goold-Adams was being auctioned off:

'It is an episode that British people very clearly want to forget and brush under the carpet. It was grim and reprehensible,' said Roger Westwood-Brookes, a documents expert at Dominic Winter Book Auctions, the firm that is selling the archive.
Some of the correspondence reveals the horrific death rate the camps caused. One letter, written at the end of 1901, lamented the fact that the death rate among young children in the camps was still not dropping. 'The theory that, all the weakly children being dead, the rate would fall off is not so far borne out by the facts,' Milner wrote. 'The strong ones must be dying now and they will all be dead by the spring of 1903.'
The tragedy was exposed by British campaigner Emily Hobhouse and caused a political scandal. She was labelled a 'turncoat' for her activities by politicians.

Mark Oliver (ALL THAT IS INTERESTING) notes:

By the end of the Boer War, an estimated 46,370 civilians were dead – most of them children. It was the first time in the 20th century that a whole nation was systematically rounded up, imprisoned, and exterminated.
But nothing tells the story as well as the photographs. In Emily Hobhouse's words: "I can't describe what it is to see these children lying about in a state of collapse. It's just exactly like faded flowers thrown away. And one has to stand and look on at such misery, and be able to do almost nothing."

It's a dirty part of history and one that some very evil people try to refute even today.  In the mini-series, Vivienne notes that most people don't know about the concentration camps and that they aren't taught about in British schools.  This will be what happens, she insists, with the modern day concentration camps.

And she might have been right if a modern day Emily Hobhouse didn't exist among the characters.

As the fifteen years passes, there is flooding, there are lands that are no more and can't support populations, it's dystopian.

But unlike the various dystopian films of the last two decades, what happens in YEARS AND YEARS actually matters.

Let's look at a non-dystopian film for a moment: DARK PHOENIX.  That film didn't matter.  It was worthless.  One film prior, a new cast was offered and Jean Grey didn't really stand out in X-MEN APOCALYPSE nor did her relationship with Cyclops.  The love triangle that she, Cyclops and Wolverine were in the comics?  Completely skipped over by the film and its follow up DARK PHOENIX.  How are we supposed to care about a new character whose story has never been told?

And that's what the various teen dystopian films did as well.  They failed to establish a world where losses mattered.  YEAR AFTER YEAR creates true horror because when someone dies, for example, attempting to rescue a refugee, we know the character, we know why this matters and we know how the loss will impact the other characters.

YEAR AFTER YEAR is the best original content HBO has offered since the first season of BIG LITTLE LIES.  It's an amazing and involving show -- one that grabs you by the heart while also engaging your brain.

If you're among the many paying for HBO but unable to utilize HBO MAX currently, take comfort in the fact that you don't need HBO MAX right now to access the best thing HBO has to offer currently.

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