Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, July 6th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by Ginger Ale and a lot of antacids.

USING THE NY TIMES TO SPIN YOUR SIDE OF THE STORY
It is incredibly difficult to get interviews with A-level media executives or people who in the media industry who are the subjects of serious controversy. When those interviews do happen, they tend to take place at places like the NY Times and the interviews tend to be very focused on putting forward the best argument for the person being interviewed. In some cases, the resulting piece feels more like an attempted whitewashing of the controversy than a well-rounded. And in other cases, it's more of a "hey, let's remind everyone how important we are in case we get fired or sidelined."

The latter case is illustrated perfectly in today's NY Times piece about MGM's Paul Thomas Anderson and Michael De Luca, whose long-term prospects are uncertain if Amazon is indeed successful in acquiring MGM. The piece spends a lot of time arguing that the duo "understand Hollywood" and know how to build the relationships that will lead to box office success:

In the past 15 months, MGM has experienced a resurgence, led by Mr. De Luca, a one-time brash and reckless young executive who introduced filmmakers like Mr. Anderson and David Fincher to the culture when he was president of production at New Line Cinema, and now, after 36 years in the business, is seen as one of its most reliable statesmen. His deputy, Pamela Abdy, produced “Garden State” when she was at Jersey Films and amplified the career of Alejandro González Iñárritu, among others, during her time as a Paramount executive and later at New Regency.

At MGM, the two have compiled a heady mix of A-list directors and compelling material they hope hearkens back to the days when Fred Astaire and Judy Garland roamed the once-hallowed studio’s hallways. The next six months will show if their strategy pays off. Mr. Anderson’s movie will debut on Nov. 26. It will follow Ridley Scott’s pulpy drama “House of Gucci,” starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver. In December, Joe Wright’s musical adaptation of “Cyrano,” with Peter Dinklage and featuring music from The National, will be released.


But the article does note that the priorities of Anderson and De Luca might differ quite a bit from their possibly soon-to-be bosses at Amazon:

In a shareholder meeting last month Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and executive chairman, called the reason behind the acquisition “very simple.” He said MGM had a “vast, deep catalog of much beloved” movies and shows. “We can reimagine and redevelop that I.P. for the 21st century.”

That runs counter to the approach Mr. De Luca and Ms. Abdy have primarily taken.

“Mike and I did not sit down and say let’s raid the library and remake everything,” Ms. Abdy said. “Our focus is original ideas with original authorship and real filmmakers, but you know every once in a while something will come up that’s fun and we’ll pursue it if we think it makes sense.”

My hunch is that Amazon cares more about the IP of MGM than anything. If MGM's upcoming slate does well, it's likely that Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke will be willing to let them create higher-concept feature films that keep that theatrical window. While Amazon releases other projects same-day or straight-to-Amazon. Amazon is also focused on building out its television production, especially on nichier projects that can go straight to AVOD.

USING THE NY TIMES TO SPIN YOUR SIDE OF THE STORY: PART DEUX
And then there are the stories where the interviewee is desperately trying to rehabilitate their reputation. Which brings me to this interview last week with former Nick teen show producer Dan Schneider. He's kept a low-public profile since he split with the network three years ago after a 20-year run as the most successful creator and producer of teen-oriented comedies in the history of the industry. But at the very least, Schneider had a reputation in the business as an often abusive boss. I've written about him a number of times in the past couple of years and was waiting for his inevitable attempt at rehabilitating his career. And now with a show set to premiere on a "streaming service" (anyone know which one?), Schneider gave his first interview in more than three years to the NY Times. And while it included negative comments about his behavior, it spent a great deal of time recounting his genius and how much he's really just a kid at heart:

Many of Schneider’s allies said he reminds them in some ways of a big kid — one who respects his young viewers as his equals and who was uniquely (and profitably) able to tap into what they would find funny. He is a fan of “Star Trek,” and has a penchant for timepieces and vintage lunchboxes. He is obsessed with his pets, and even had his pet rabbit Cookie ferried from Los Angeles to San Diego so that the rabbit could receive medical care from a particular veterinarian.

Schneider’s blog and YouTube channel from when he was Nickelodeon’s star showrunner captured the way he would interact with teenage actors and young fans of the show — like he was of their generation. He posted a video of him spooking the “iCarly” actress Miranda Cosgrove as she walked into a room, as well as one of Justice as he cajoles her into eating a sardine; on his blog, he would share “fun facts” about his episodes and solicit comments from fans (while routinely reminding them to “be nice” to one another in the forum).

I wrote a piece over the weekend going through the problems with the piece, which you can read here

I have two overall reactions to the efforts to rehabilitate his reputation. First, it's worth noting that the criticisms laid out by the NY Times track exactly with what I have been reporting for three years. Secondly, I don't think Schneider deserves a second chance. Yes, he's talented. But so are lots of other producers whose abusive behavior haven't driven people out of the business.

FOX TO LAUNCH STREAMING WEATHER SERVICE
Rupert Murdoch is set to launch a streaming weather service later this year that promises to "do for weather reporting what Fox News did for politics. Feel free to insert your own joke here.

Brian Wieser, the lead analyst at GroupM, the media investing arm of the ad giant WPP, laughed at the notion that weather could be considered apolitical. “You would think — except I’m sitting here in Portland, Ore., in 115 degrees,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s an uncontroversial topic.”

Referring to Fox Weather, he added: “How do you address the fact that weather changes are caused to some degree by humans when you have a media property with a history of challenging that fact?”

Fox Weather will be overseen by Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and Sharri Berg, a longtime Fox executive who helped launch Fox News at its inception in 1996. Fox declined to make either executive available for interviews. But its spokeswoman said the service would have “a dedicated team of leading meteorologists and experts” that would offer “in-depth reporting surrounding all weather conditions, and we are excited to showcase to viewers what a full-service comprehensive weather platform can deliver beginning this fall.”

Speaking of weather and television, have you noticed how reluctant Discovery and NatGeo are to acknowledge any impact climate change might be having on their shows? Both networks will run climate change PSA's or news specials discussing climate change. But in both cases, none of their shows acknowledge climate change in any way other than using phrases like "uncharacteristic summer weather" or "the winter was warmer than normal." I'm not sure of the reasoning behind this, although I suspect it's an effort to not wade into possible political hot water. But if your Alaska-based show has suffered through multiple unusual seasons of weather, than not mentioning climate change is a political statement in itself.

UNIVERSAL TO MOVE PAY-ONE MOVIES FROM HBO TO PEACOCK 
Universal announced today that it would begin distributing feature films through NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, instead of HBO, beginning in 2022:

The move, which impacts Universal franchises such as Jurassic World, Fast and Furious and Despicable Me, is aimed at bolstering Peacock sign-ups in addition to offering third-party distributors non-exclusive access. Specifically, Peacock will have exclusive access for the first four months and last four months of the 18-month pay-one window. Select third-party streamers and/or streaming service will have access to the movies during the middle 10-month period.

The unconventional pay-one structure mimics Universal’s new distribution deals with theaters that enables it to offer theatrical titles into the premium VOD window just 17 days after their box office debut depending on ticket sales.

STREAMING COMPETITION LEADS TO INCREASED PRODUCTION COSTS AT BBC
Increased competition from streaming services for talent and scripts has led to production cost increase of up to 35% at the BBC, according to a report from new BBC chair Richard Sharp. He says production costs for some popular shows has nearly doubled and those increases will force the channel to cut back on the overall number of productions in the coming years:

The director general said each genre team is “looking in detail at how much output they need”. “I think you are beginning to see in drama, and other areas, that we are prioritising impact over volume,” he said. 

The DG tasked each genre team with examining where it would cut back if it reduced its output by 20% while maintaining spending at the same level.  

That audit is now slowly being put into practice, but as a general principle of producing fewer but better funded hours, rather than a specific 20% reduction. Davie stressed that the project is “work in progress” and may take several years to come to fruition. 

FACTOID OF THE DAY


ODDS AND SODS
Cruel Summer is a hit for Freeform, but it became a breakout series for the Disney-backed cable network without its creator’s involvement. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that creator Bert V. Royal quit his Freeform series after clashing with an exec at the basic cabler last summer.

* ITV will launch Shoppable TV, allowing viewers to discover and shop items from its programs directly on screen, the first service of its kind in the United Kingdom.

* Scripps has launched two of its new diginets: Defy TV' which airs reruns of shows such as Counting CarsAmerican Pickers and In Search Of History; and True Real, which airs Hoarders, The Rap Game and Gene Simmons Family Jewels

* So much are the rights for Queen's music worth if the band was willing to sell? This piece estimates the price could top $1 billion.


WEDNESDAY'S PREMIERES 
1) Big Brother Season Twenty-Three Season Premiere (CBS)
It's another summer of moderately good looking, manipulative people stuck in a house in hopes of winning a million dollars.

2) Cat People Series Premiere (Netflix)
"Cat people come in all shapes and sizes, but they share a love for their enchanting, unique feline friends. This docuseries reveals their tales."

3) Dogs Season Two Premiere (Netflix)
"Their love for dogs — and their dogs' love for them — becomes a lifeline for an astronaut, a Brazilian priest, a college mascot's caregiver and more."

4) Kitchen Crash Season Premiere (Food)
"Three chefs meet up with host Jeff Mauro to beg homeowners to shop in their own fridges and share the bounty."

5) Love Island Season Three Premiere (CBS)
It technically doesn't take place on an island. And love probably won't be involved. But otherwise, it's a perfect show title.

6) Major Grom: Plague Doctor (Netflix)
"When a masked vigilante’s killing spree throws a city into chaos, a renegade detective and his rookie partner are the only ones who can stop it."

7) Monsters At Work Series Premiere (Disney+)
"When Tylor Tuskmon arrives at Monsters Incorporated to begin his dream job as a Scarer, he discovers that scaring is out and laughter is in.  As a result he is temporarily reassigned to MIFT, the Monsters Incorporated Facilities Team."

8) Music's Greatest Mysteries Season Premiere (AXS TV)
"Considering questions such as if Dennis Wilson triggered Charles Manson; whether Post Malone is cursed by the world's most haunted object and if a failed audition saved Faith Hill's life."

9) Shark Gangs (NatGeo)
"For years sharks have been viewed as solitary predators, but scientists have recently discovered a surprising new behavior. In this special, we reveal how this apex predator likes to hang out in gangs. So what is behind this behavior? Do sharks enjoy a social life, or are they working together to become even more effective hunters?"

10) Stone House Revival Season Premiere (DIY)
"Jeff and his team take on the Yardley Tavern. While renovating the mudroom, the team makes a historic find that gives clues to the structure's past."

12) The Good, The Bart & The Loki (Disney+)
It's The Simpsons/Loki crossover events we've all been waiting for.

13) The Mire: '97 (Netflix)
"The flood of the century unearths another body in Gronty forest and with it comes corruption, scams from the ’90s and long-hidden secrets from WWII."

14) The War Next Door (Netflix)
"After winning a house in a raffle, the humble but loving López family moves to a posh neighborhood, where the snobby Espinozas give them a cold welcome."

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If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.