Tag Archives: TV Series

Merely the beginning

Yes, the news is full of the overwhelming success that Avengers: Endgame is and rightfully so, yet the Washington Post looks further. The article (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/avengers-endgamemakes-disney-invincible-in-2019-then-what/2019/04/29/b5e35016-6aaf-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html) gives light to the strategy that is surrounding Disney plus as owners of the Marvel franchise. We get part of it with: “Disney’s films will no longer get licensed to partners such as Netflix during what’s known as the “pay one window;” instead, they’ll go exclusively on Disney+. That’s a big selling point for the streaming app, but it’s a costly decision that reduces the amount of licensing revenue Disney can earn from its films after they leave theaters.” this is a point of view that is true and the strategy is valid, yet having the stage where we see a time exclusivity (like in gaming) where the others get the option after 6 months is not to be ignored as an alternative. In addition, the mention of the ‘real’ editions of the time honoured animations like Aladdin and the Lion King are now on screws, especially after Dumbo has become a miserable flop. That is the puzzle that comes next, as I personally see it, the cast was golden, the director is phenomenal and the story is sound, so why did it flop and is that the premise for the other movies? We know that Robin Williams made Aladdin the success it was; this puts a megastar like Will Smith in an awkward position. To willingly step into the shadow of a giant takes monumentally sized balls to begin with and even as we know that Will Smith is no coward, willing to step into the fringe of movie making, I cannot stop being worried on how Aladdin will fare. As such the other Disney productions will be under pressure as well and that is just the beginning.

Disney has had the longest issue with being too sweet for most adults and even as we saw Pretty Woman in 1990 as a new view on what Disney could do, there was a distinct feeling that the Disney people were so far out of their comfort zone that they needed guides to find their way back. This is particularly important as Marvel has its own dark parts (more than just a few) and without that defining dark there is a larger concern down the road. I believe that so far they handled it fine, yet the worry remains: “will the wrong Disney executive demand the Marvel TV version to be lighter, sweeter and less dark“, so far what we have seen from X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants imply that we should not be worried, yet waiting with worries for too long is not good either. What I saw from Cloak and Dagger season 1 is a clear warning, yet perhaps it is also important to consider that the movies will be less in danger of becoming laced with Disney Sweetness than the TV series. Their Metascore of 68 could be considered as supporting evidence in all this. Some gave the following views: “a horribly sentimental soundtrack“, as well as “If you want a show chock full of “edgy” liberal issues thrown into the plot regardless of if it fits with the story, then look no further” (which was the most negative review) we see the initial issue. Even the more positive ones give us “Through its initial four episodes, the real star of Cloak & Dagger is the structure and editing and overall environment more than any individual actor“. I believe it that some of the changes took away the dark side that would have made Cloak a lot more appealing, it was his dark side that appealed to me in the original comics; the TV parts I saw were too emotional, I am not stating that this is a bad thing, merely that . The comic books decently graphic about his devouring hunger, I missed seeing that in the few episodes I saw. Yet it is not all bad, Mayhem is showing to be the direct confrontational angry type she was in the comic book.

This is in part my issue; Disney is seemingly trying to skate away from the darkness is what will have a larger non positive impact on series that were pretty phenomenal in comic book form. So far the silver screen Marvel productions have exceeded expectations swimmingly; it is what I saw in Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the defenders that felt off, not bad, but off.

It is not the cast or the work done, no matter what, Mike Colter makes Luke Cage totally believable and real. I believe that the scripts fell short (from my personal point of view). Perhaps it is my non-US view, the fact that there had to be complications and conspiracy plots from day one in these series is why it is falling short. Even as we hear noise like ‘creative differences’, I believe that the entire conspiracy twinkle has ran its course to the largest degree, to be honest, that is why I stopped watching Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. The series started great and then when we suddenly see an FBI director compromised around episode 6 that was it for me. Oh, and before I forget this is a series that is all about conspiracy, but the way it is done was too far out there, it lost flavour. I believe that Marvel series have been pushed into that field too much as well (as well as several other comic book based series). I believe that the effort to go too deep too fast to please an audience is exactly why appeal is lost to some degree and Luke Cage gets to pay for it (as well as Iron Fist). With over a dozen movies coming in the next 2-3 years as well as optional TV series, this critical look early on will be more essential than most realise. You see, a Marvel overdose is pretty much similar to a Star Trek overdose, at some point we lose the interest to watch it, which is actually opposite to the feelings we had with the comic books and as such we have to consider our point of view. Now, like the comic books there is a filtering, most of us do not care for all the franchises. I was a die-hard Batman and X-men fan and I never got into Spiderman that much. I still loved the movies and I read the comics at times, but it was not my number one, neither were the Fantastic Four. That’s fine because Marvel (and DC) had a flavour for everyone, so much choice, as such we would be more protective of the comics we were nuts about and that is fine too.

Yet there is still Disney to consider and their long term need to make everything too sweet and too ‘pink’. Even as we realise that most cancelations might be linked to IP and the fact that Netflix will be a direct competitor of Disney+, yet the idea that Disney is a little too uncomfortable with these dark tainted series on Disney remains a concern for many fans and as such it is a concern for some fans of these series that they are now part of Disney. The factual reasons are not out there, or perhaps better stated, there is no source I trust to give me the actual truth (except a joint statement from Marvel and Disney and that is unlikely to happen).

Even as Forbes gives us: “Marvel meanwhile plans live-action series for characters including Loki, Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier, and several other characters“, the die-hard fans will now wonder whether we will get the Asgardian Wars on TV or silver screen, not only as it was an awesome story, but that also puts Asgard, the X-men and the Canadian Alpha Flight team on the range implying the coming of a few more series, or movie franchises. All of them have a large following, so Disney would be nuts to walk away from an optional few billion more. Yet that does require Disney to allow for very dark streaks in their acquired paintings and that is where the problem is likely to rise, or at least that is what I think is likely to happen.

Even as Disney can ignore everything this year, the year that Avengers: Endgame broke every record, the long term view is less of a given, with view n 2020-2023, there will be more issues and other issues to deal with, not all of them revenue driven, but revenue will be the mainstream in any discussion that surrounds whatever ‘creative differences’ we will see make the headlines on all kinds of media channels and to ignore this so early in the year is not a healthy thing to do, especially as most of the upcoming movies will be staged to bring in a billion plus each. As stated, I do not think we need to worry about the movies too much, but the Marvel TV series that will be another matter, they will be the bread and butter of Disney+ and those people like their shows a little too sugary to my taste.

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A rare moment in time

I have been watching the news in several places, the papers (online), newscasts and other media. I saw how we see articles with issues that I predicted over a year ago. Now, let’s be honest, that what I predicted and that what now is not one and the same. I might have been lucky, that happens, yet that gave me the impulse to take a look into my mind (with some external support) and I got a revelation (odd how that happens).

There are moments in time that are chiselled to be with us forever, that part happens, a set of circumstances so unique that it passes the stress test of time.

It was 1976, I was in high school and I saw on TV something so unique that it would remain with me for all time; it is likely I will take the images into my grave. Even then there was a need for the direct in our eyes. This series delivered! I still regard it as the best Drama ever to be made. The series was called I Claudius and the fact that it is drenched in history and filled with flexible morals is what seems to catch us. Yet, is that enough? If we see TV series like Dexter, Trueblood and a few more HBO series. They seem to have the trademark on directness, so why did they not surpass a series made 38 years ago?

I believe that this is because that there is a lot more to the achievement. I think it was more than just timing. Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Brian Blessed as Augustus, George Baker as Tiberius, Patrick Steward as Sejanus, John Hurt as Caligula, Bernard Hill as Gratus, Ian Ogilvy as Drusus and who will ever forget Siân Phillips as Livia. It is not just the group of actors, but the fact that these actors would set new boundaries; some are even today regarded as the top of drama. I think that timing brought these people together and that part caused the effect that this was not a series with one or two diamonds in the rough, but we ended up with a series holding over a dozen exquisitely cut diamonds. A TV-series, which through timing has remained close to unmatchable.

I must of course mention that the book was an amazing piece of work, yet that is one factor we have all seen before, the fact that a book had been turned into such a vision by cast and crew was and has for the most remained a unique experience in TV series. It is ‘I Claudius’ that makes me appreciate how rare such moments are and hoping on regular repetitions such achievements are a waste of time.

When we see how productions are made nowadays, we see a shift from what was insightful towards what is to be expected. Now, the second part is not necessarily a bad thing as we avoid blunders, failures and flops, yet the opposite is also true, the chance of that 99.4% rated production becomes equally impossible. So do we set ourselves up for mediocrity? That is at the heart of the question, as we see movies, games and other forms of entertainment set into a matrix of ‘certain’ non-failures, we get just that, a non-failure, yet when we do that, we will endure a level of ‘entertainment’ that is not out there, that does not shift borders and that will not leave us in awe. Yes, we will get to some extent levels of originality. Waves of TV shows, like Gotham and a few others in the new millennia of comic book representation of TV shows, and some will prove to be good, expanding and even will become successes, yet, they will not get to the level that we got when someone had a vision, found the people and ‘I Claudius’ became a reality. Even the HBO version ‘Rome’, which shows life in those days, falls short. Spartacus, which was regarded as excellent and had a strong cast, but none gave the shine like Andy Whitfield, when he was lost to family and audience because of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, we got the cold reality of how large a jewel he was in that series. Lucy Lawless and John Hannah as well as a league of others showed an amazing performance, but the absence of Andy Whitfield became just too noticeable.

The link is the rarity, when we see series holding the New Zealand Actor Kevin Smith (as Ares in Hercules and Xena) and Andy Whitfield, we see that these rare treasures of charisma have a lasting effect on a series, losing them will hurt whatever series they are working on, which makes the overwhelming list of ‘I Claudius’ even more rare then we consider possible.

But is this just about casting? No, I think that the vision of the director is too often downplayed, as is the work the writers put into place. Should you doubt the latter, consider the massive success the West Wing was and the strength that the Newsroom and House of Cards are showing. In the name of the director, the scriptwriter and the players that are, we announce this series {insert fictive name here} to be a non-failure. It sounds almost deceptively mundane. You see, many of these series are ‘powered’ by what America considers and regards, so slow sales will get a series cancelled too fast. Star Trek, the original series is one of the strongest pieces of evidence, what was regarded as failure (and therefor cancelled), is still regarded as one of the strongest visions of originality ever to grace the TV screens. In that light we see similar issues regarding Firefly, what could have become a game changer was dropped before its time. Here too the trinity is almost a given. Joss Whedon is shown to be the new Steven Spielberg (a shared place with JJ Abrams) and he had a strong support cast. Nathan Fillion might be the number one player, yet the support Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin and Jewel Staite are undeniable. A series shut down before its time to shine. It is not the only time that this happened. The same reception was given to Doll House, what is at the foundation a mind shifting cyberpunk story was again cut short by that what the American audience did not understand.

Here is where we see the failure: yes it is true that America, catered to Americans, yet at present it seems that these deciders are forgetting that the European population is twice the size of America, the EEC alone is 50% larger than the USA, now consider that The Commonwealth consists of a few more nations all looking at these American series. This is taken into another direction as we see that HBO seems to address those needs almost perfectly and they are gaining strength, whilst British drama is actually a little on the decline. It seems that these deciders need to take new looks at how series are continued or dropped. Doll House is less than 4 years ago.

So where is this going?

It seems to me that the deciders of ‘where to leave the coins’ are looking at prognoses and not at the places where real visionaries come from. This has always been true, yet most true and very much most visible in the entertainment industry. It is shown as we see the game Test Drive a year late, yet, the verdict is a mere mediocre (at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/driveclub-review/1900-6415900/). Is it a fair verdict? Hard to say, I am not much of a racing fan, but I consider the rating of Forza (an XBox one game) at 88% well deserved, a game that was very playable and looked extremely good. So as we see more PS4 games end up with mediocre ratings, the question now becomes will it affect the console war? Sony seems strong here, but in the end, consoles will not survive without really good games, and at present exclusive games on the XB1 are (I am sorry to report) better than the exclusive PS4 games, and at present Microsoft has a few more exclusive releases upcoming. Yet it does not end there, we see new levels of mediocrity by Ubisoft as they locked Assassins Creed both at 900p, so 20% below the PS4 maximum. I wonder what will happen when the gamers are treated to a failing AI in 6 weeks. Is that a given? No! It is not, yet the quote “because we thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realised it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second” (source: eurogamer.net), yet when we see (if this happens) another AC game with iterated glitches as we have seen since AC2, then what will the audience cry? This will be at the heart of what will come next. We will know in a few weeks, yet the questions are rising all over the internet by gamers of all size and creed. They expect that a game will show the game at the maximum of possibilities of the console they chose, not what we at present regard to be some excuse of ‘parity’, time will tell how it is received.

I have accused Ubisoft before on the lack of vision, it is not all deserved as Watchdogs, even though not as great as expected did open new doors, not unlike the very first Assassins Creed and it must be said a few more are expected to come, showing that Ubisoft has vision, but these titles are yet to be released.

True vision, it is a rare moment in time when we face it, yet in this age of need, why do we not see more of it?

 

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Microsoft Mattrick was not alone

Anyone who has any view on the gaming world, then that person might have heard about the Xbox One and also heard the scary announcements that were made by Don Mattrick. Views that had to be altered only 2 days after the E3, the most important event in the Gaming industry. Do not think it is a small geeky thing. The E3 is massive. The gaming industry has grown in 15 years from ‘sizeable’ into a multi-billion dollar industry, so those who are there are there for plenty of reasons. The E3 is next to Comic-Con seen as the place to be to bump into Hollywood stars. Funny part is that they get to revere the geeky guys who come up with games like Mario, Metal Gear Solid as well as leagues of sport stars when they announce the EA sport line.

In this environment the Xbox One was launched, and the following revolt by gamers all over the planet gave Microsoft the scare of their lives. As a result Microsoft did a 180 degree on their policy, giving their new console the nickname Xbox 180. That was not the end. Even though things are announced to be back to what they were, their market share is not. It is not unlikely that Microsoft is now at risk of losing 30% of their market share and most of that to Sony. That, in a multi-billion dollar industry is a lot, it could be the biggest drop in market share a main player has ever experienced by its own plans.

So the following news I saw today that Don Mattrick is leaving Microsoft for Zynga (the people behind Farmville), as I read it, I saw many messages drop by. Some making fun of Don, some leaving a ‘happy you leaving’ message to Don. Gamers can be so emotional!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/07/01/report-microsofts-don-mattrick-to-leave-microsoft-considering-zynga-role/

The reality is that this is far from over. Do you think that this is over? Do you think one man like Don Mattrick actually sets the trend to a market THIS BIG and you think he is alone? No, he took one for ‘the team’, and it likely comes with one hell of a golden parachute. You see, the picture that seems to be intentionally missed is that data gathering is big business. I am not talking about what the NSA might be doing. This is about market research, customer metrics and product predictions. Gathering certain key factors makes all the difference. That is the multi-billion dollar industry that Gamers are not interested in, but one that Microsoft is adding and as such the Xbox One is not a gaming console, but a Home entertainment system. It will be offering TV, Movies and games. All that info will help them finding the holes in what we desire and cashing in on it. Information that is worth millions! Now this data would be grabbed on a scale of many million consumers and on a global scale. The value that it would represent is beyond what you can imagine.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/technology/microsoft-expands-gathering-and-use-of-data-from-web-products.html

So, I was not the first to state it, and I will not be the last. It is important that you realise that these claims do not come from some conspiracy theorist wannabee, but from Journalists working in some of the most renowned newspapers in the world.

So Don ‘you have to go on-line daily’ Mattrick is not alone in this game. To start this all with the Xbox one would have been only the start in achieving gathering on a much larger scale. That is how I see it, and that is also why interactivity with other devices was so important. The more interaction there is, the more complete the picture becomes. Smartglass is only one part of interaction, the fact that they are letting you interact with your home system with iPhone and iPad means that they would be getting even more of your available data.

Do not think I am just making this up. The privacy issues, as reported initially, were reported by IT experts in privacy in Germany and several other nations too, amongst them Peter Schaar who is in charge of Data protection and freedom of information in Germany. In the German magazine ‘der Spiegel’ he mentioned the dangers on privacy that the Xbox One could be. http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/games/ueberwachung-datenschuetzer-peter-schaar-kritisiert-microsofts-xbox-one-a-901893.html

Do not think that you are suddenly getting downloaded. No, that would be illegal! This will be a smooth transition over the next 2-3 years. By interacting you will get many cool little extra’s you normally would never have. Like movies behind the screens on your iPad (as they showed on CNet). Soon it will interact getting your mobile to Skype directly to TV, to switch information through your pictures and events. Before you know it, you will move all data to the cloud for ‘free’ backup services; you will only need to agree with the terms of service. That is when it will happen. A new form of business and it is enterprising on a new level. Where business sits in the centre of the web and we are all like a fly, just going into their web. We do this because of the benefits we are offered, like an exponential multimedia interacting form of Facebook. We by ourselves have no value, but their return comes a million fold as we all accept their terms and conditions as we are offered free extras.

Why is this situation so dangerous?

You see, initially we think that there is no difference, but consider that these numbers are all used to find the points of profit. Where we are subjected to what 98% likes. By that reckoning cult series that grew over time will now get cut suddenly or after a few seasons, as the results are not up to marketing standards. Consider that series like Firefly, Pushing Daisies, Veronica Mars, Jericho, Dollhouse, Heroes. These series got all cancelled on ratings. In the new set-up they could get cancelled in half the time. An interesting part is that the writers of Veronica Mars set up a kick-start event, and the funds for a third season were achieved in 10 hours and will launch early next year. So one in several series gets another shot after the ratings. What series will you lose because 98% prefers sports or Glee? You see artistic creativity is not about numbers. Remember, that because of fans the original Star Trek series got another season, now that series and what came after is now the biggest milk cow in the history of Paramount. There is no way that this could have been predicted.

We will miss out on series after series, limiting views and artistic growth, because it does not confirm to what people expected initially. It is not initially an issue for most, but these events will add up and we diminish ourselves accordingly. It is a danger I do not want to see, because those who will be given the power to decide will always act on greed. We have decades of evidence in that regard.

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