Thursday, July 16, 2020

TV Picks - Week of July 13

If it seems like every week brings yet another new streaming service, it’s because basically it does. Enter Peacock, NBCUniversal's new streaming platform, launching this Wednesday.

Let's start with the name — I think it's a horrible choice. We get the tie-in to NBC's long-time mascot and its historical meaning, but come on. “Hey, did you see that show on Peacock?” “Peacock and chill?” Did Jack Donaghy's marketing team come up with this? (More on Jack later.)

Next up is the content. Combining NBC' television library, Universal’s movie vault, and licensing shows from ViacomCBS and elsewhere provides a motherlode of viewing pleasure. Almost 20,000 hours’ worth. Most of it is old, but it's all there.

Apple and HBO have proven that a brand name alone will not carry wannabe Netflix rivals. You need to have programming that's worth paying for. Parks & Rec and The Office reruns are great, but not enough for me to crack open my wallet. I need more.

Peacock is offering three tiers. At tier one, 7,500 hours of NBCUniversal programming is yours absolutely free. Yup, free. And there's good stuff, too: Frasier. Downton Abbey. Jurassic Park. Plus they throw in some ads. (You didn't really think it was free, did you?)

Tier two (Peacock Premium) is all inclusive for $5/month. You get the free stuff plus more shows (Two and a Half Men, for example), early access to NBC's late night talk shows, and all of Peacock's original programming. Plus you still get the ads. Tier three at $10/month includes all of the above with no ads.

Leading the pack of "Peacock Originals" is an adaptation of the Aldous Huxley 1932 classic Brave New World (what a metaphor!). We all know the story since it's required reading in most schools, so the production of this updated dark world needs to be top notch. David Schwimmer returns to TV comedy (although I've seen him quite a bit lately) in Intelligence playing the lone American in British government communications headquarters. Also included at launch is Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, the second feature-length movie reuniting James Roday, Dule Hill with the cast of the long-running USA Network series. Further out, prepare for revivals of your favorite NBC classics (Punky Brewster! Saved By The Bell! ANOTHER Battlestar Galactica!).

Bottom line: I'm in wait and see mode on Peacock. I already get the NBC content I want on Hulu (for now), and none of the early originals feel like must-see TV. HBO Max has a comparable library and hasn't exactly lit up the streaming world. Peacock has a long way to go — can I suggest a name change as a first step?


Showbiz Kids (HBO)

Tuesday July 14 (Premiere)

Child actors in the entertainment industry — is it ever the kid's idea or is it always the parents? News flash: even if the child claims to have known since they were two that they wanted to act, it’s always the parents.

Alex Winter, aka Bill S. Preston Esq. from a most excellent adventure, directs this look at some of our favorite child stars and how things turned out. Elliott from E.T., Natalie from Mrs. Doubtfire, Willis from Diff'rent Strokes and others, including Evan Rachel Wood, detail relationships with their parents and dealing with fame at a young age.

Two aspiring child actors are also profiled as they try to maintain a healthy childhood with friends and family. Let's hope they learn their lessons early in life.

30 Rock Special (NBC)

Thursday July 16 (Premiere)

Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy are reuniting for a one-hour special for the NBC upfronts. Tracy, Jenna, Kenneth… they'll all be there, too.

This world really has turned upside down.

An upfront is when new programming is presented to the advertising community, and TV stars show up to hobnob and take pictures with media buyers and planners. My first “real job” was working as a media buyer at the ad agency DMB&B. My first week was the upfronts, and I thought I stumbled into the greatest job in the world as I chatted up the stars of thirtysomething and China Beach. The other 51 weeks were brutal, but upfront week was a great time for the TV geek in me.

While the circumstances are strange, who cares why the 30 Rock cast is remotely reuniting? It was great seeing the Parks & Rec gang, and I'll take any excuse to see this group back in action.

I loved how 30 Rock fearlessly mocked NBC's programming back in the day. This isn't CableTown we’re dealing with here. NBC has always had a good sense of humor about itself — let’s see if that holds up.

Cursed (NETFLIX)

Friday July 17 (Premiere)

Ready for some fantasy? The origin story of King Arthur's lady of the lake — now that's an epic undertaking. Thank you, Netflix.

It starts with the slaughter of a Druid village and a young teen girl on a quest to save her people. She needs the blade and to find a sorcerer whose name we all know. She’ll also be joined by a young future King of the Britons.

Based on the comic adaptation of Frank Miller, there's plenty of conflict in this ancient quest with young Katherine Langford leading the way.

I recommend watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail to gain a comprehensive understanding of this time period.


If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

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