Netflix’s “Slasher” Is Horrifying

slasher

The Netflix Original horror series “Slasher” is more than just a classic “slasher movie,” despite what the name suggests. Instead, this new Netflix Original series, which debuted in October 2017 just days before Halloween, is as much a whodunit murder mystery as it is a classic horror movie. The murder mystery takes place over a span of 8 episodes, and with each new episode, we get one step closer to unmasking the identity of the serial killer behind a spate of horrifying murders at a Canadian campground.

Netflix’s “Slasher” is a horrifying version of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”

One of the most popular types of films in the horror genre involves a bunch of teenagers making a lot of wrong decisions or committing wrongheaded acts – and then getting justice meted out to them by a demented serial killer. You could probably lump the whole “Saw” series into this genre, as well as the all-time horror film classic “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” It’s this latter film that really seems to be the inspiration for “Slasher.”

In “Slasher,” a group of young adults must return to the scene of a revenge prank gone horribly wrong. Five years ago as camp counselors, they murdered one of their co-workers, Talvinder, and then buried the body at the campground. They thought their cover-up of the murder would forever go unnoticed, but then they find out that a bunch of real estate developers are planning to build a resort on the site of the camp and might uncover the body.

This is what forces them to return to the scene of the crime, all of them bound by their past guilt. The young adults fear that their crime will be (literally) unearthed, and thus plan to dig up the body and bury it somewhere new. But when they return to the burial site, the body is gone. And then they start getting picked off, one by one, in the most grisly manner possible.

If that basic plot line sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s essentially “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” but this time set in the dead of winter in the Canadian wilderness. The one little twist here, of course, is that we don’t know the identity of the killer – and this identity will only be revealed in the 8th and final episode.

Netflix’s “Slasher” comes with more than its fair share of grisly gore

There are some horror films that shrink away from showing particularly nasty bits of blood and gore, leaving it to the imagination to figure out what happened. “Slasher” is not one of those horror shows. Instead, “Slasher” is able to show a horrifying amount of gore, nastiness and blood. There’s a serial killer on the loose, and it’s clear that this killer is going to exact full revenge for the events that went down five years earlier.

Netflix’s “Slasher” includes plot elements from classic Agatha Christie mysteries

In an interview, the show’s creator, Aaron Martin, talked about the various inspirations for “Slasher.” He named several primary inspirations: classic slasher movies in the vein of “Halloween,” contemporary murder mysteries and Agatha Christie whodunit mysteries. This last inspiration might not at first seem obvious, until you consider how the series plays out over a series of 8 episodes.

The inclusion of plot elements from classic whodunit mysteries is part of the reason why “Slasher” is so horrifying. As Martin points out, the goal is not to blame all this senseless rage and killing on a mysterious or mythological creature – such as a demon unleashed from hell or a ghost haunting a burial ground – it is to show that these bloodcurdling murders are the result of a sick, depraved human mind. It’s much scarier when you know that there is a real-life person systematically planning these murders.

So that’s why the Agatha Christie inspiration is so important. Since the action plays out over 8 episodes, it’s important to keep audiences guessing until the very end. This sometimes means lingering on details that may – or may not – be relevant to the identity of the serial killer. And it means injecting a few plot twists along the way to introduce doubts into the minds of the viewer as to who might be responsible.

slasher-horror

Netflix’s “Slasher” is also a scary psychological drama that takes you inside the mind of a murderer

The public fascination with serial killers – just check out the outpouring of recent public attention for Charles Manson, the legendary serial killer who died at the age of 83 – has to do with the fact that it seems unfathomable that any human being could act in this manner. So what are their motivations? Is there a “why” behind their despicable acts?

And it’s here, too, that “Slasher” is so horrifying. At the end, when we learn the identify of the serial murderer, we realize how significantly one person’s view of reality can differ from actual reality. The key to unlocking this horror is “Wren,” whom we later find out is Owen “Wren” Turnbull, who committed suicide after being framed for Talvinder’s murder. But is “Wren” really a person, or just a figment of the murderer’s imagination?

Netflix’s “Slasher” will make you afraid of your buried secrets

The real reason why “Slasher” is terrifying Netflix audiences is because, deep down, we all have our secrets that we don’t ever want to get out into the open. And, deep down, we all fear some kind of final justice or retribution for those secrets. That, from a psychological perspective, is what makes this Netflix horror anthology so deeply horrifying – it reminds us that, sooner or later, we will all be judged and we will all need to atone for our past sins. In the case of the characters in “Slasher,” it means paying with their lives. The serial murderer has decided that the price to pay for murdering Talvinder five years ago is death.

“Slasher” is a welcome addition to Netflix’s growing horror genre

The exciting news for fans of the horror genre is that it looks like Netflix is beginning to create some first-rate horror shows. Netflix actually swooped in and purchased the rights to “Slasher” from the TV network Chiller, which ran Season 1 of the show. But now it looks like Season 2 is going to be a smash for Netflix, and that means we could soon be talking about Season 3 for “Slasher.” Each season, the murder mystery changes, but the cast does not – much like “American Horror Story.” So get ready to see some of your favorite characters back again soon as they figure out yet another way to scare Netflix audiences everywhere.

slasher-netflix

Please follow and like us:

“American Vandal” Is a Brilliant Mockumentary

american-vandal

Netflix is becoming known for more than its first-rate dramas. You can now add edgy new comedies to the mix as well, as evidenced by “American Vandal,” a brilliant mockumentary. This 8-part series is a wonderful parody of the true crime investigative dramas along the lines of “Making a Murderer” and “Serial.”

“American Vandal” is a brilliant satire of true crime investigative dramas

First and most importantly, “American Vandal” brilliantly captures the rhythm and cadence of those nonfiction true crime dramas. There are so many throwaway lines that have been so common in these shows that they are now cliché – “they got the wrong guy” and “everybody thinks I did it” are just two of the most obvious. “American Vandal” has characters intone those phrases with so much seriousness that you’re tempted to burst out laughing.

Here’s the thing – the brilliant joke at the center of this mockumentary is that a high school senior (Dylan Maxwell, played by Jimmy Tatro) has been expelled for drawing graphic, obscene images of cartoon phalluses on 27 faculty member cars. He, of course, claims steadfastly that he’s not the one behind this outrageous act. That leads a high school sophomore filmmaker (Peter Maldonado, played by Tyler Alvarez) to explore whether there might be a deeper, darker secret at the school that people are trying to cover up.

That leads to a whole slew of outrageous scenes, such as where characters examine the cartoon phalluses reputedly drawn on the cars with the cartoon phalluses that class clown Dylan Maxwell is fond of drawing. They find that the images are similar, but not exact matches. So is it possible that someone else might have really drawn them and then blamed Dylan?

“American Vandal” mockingly asks, “Who Drew the Dicks?”

You can immediately see how ridiculous this becomes. It is an 8-part comedy about, yes, dicks. It is filled with adolescent dick jokes. Characters call them “dicks” right there in the movie. Characters talk about “ball hairs.” And this is not a mistake – Netflix very much wants you to be having this conversation about dicks. The hashtag for this comedy is, in fact, #WhoDrewtheDicks. According to one media critic, dicks are mentioned or shown at least 1,000 times over the course of the 8-part series. You can not escape these dicks.

But here’s the thing – this is not a “dick movie.” At least, not one that we’re used to seeing and enjoying. The two creators of “American Vandal,” Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, have a long history with two sophomoric humor websites (Funny or Die, College Humor), but they promised Netflix that this would not be just one long, extended “dick joke sketch.” Instead, it is meant to be more subtle, more biting, and thus, more brilliant.

Take that hashtag, for example. “Who drew the dicks?” has the potential to be a laughably bad line in the show, but it’s used in such a way that it brilliantly lampoons other shows that have used similar types of lines to attract visitors (“Who killed Laura Palmer?” is just one example). Thus, Netflix is lampooning more than just “dick movies,” it is going much further afield to lampoon other genres of films. This is brilliant stuff.

“American Vandal” is a brilliant example of narrative storytelling

But all of that dick humor would have gone to waste if there wasn’t an engrossing plot at the center. If that wasn’t, who would stick around for 8 episodes of dick jokes? But you do want to find out who’s responsible for this phallic graffiti, and each new episode comes with twists and turns.

One of them – spoiler alert! – involves the narrator. It turns out that this high school student might not be telling the whole story, or at least, presenting facts from a certain point of view. That helps to keep the viewer off-balance, as well as to cast doubt on everything that we’ve seen already. As a result, we’re kept guessing until the very end about the true identity of this American vandal.

“American Vandal” offers an authentic portrayal of American high school

Moreover, “American Vandal” gets top ratings for its realistic portrayal of high school. The characters are so believable, and the acting is so good, that it can be hard to forget that these are indeed actors and actresses playing the role. According to the film’s creators, that was built into the casting process. They were looking for people who could be believable in these roles. They wanted to capture the look and feel of a typical American high school.

“American Vandal” is a bold example of a comedy made for millennials

In many ways, Netflix was bold to green light this mockumentary. For one, mockumentaries aren’t known for being hits with movie audiences. Other than a few – such as “Spinal Tap” – how many mockumentaries could you name off the top of your head? But this 8-part series is bold for another reason – it is a brilliant exploration of millennial comedy.

Let’s face it – it’s difficult for many filmmakers to connect with the younger millennial generation. For members of older Generation X, a film like “The Hangover” is great comedy. But what do members of the millennial generation consider to be funny?

It’s no mistake, then, that the two creators behind this NSFW comedy are also veterans of Funny or Die and College Humor, both of which cater to young millennials. This is the direction Netflix wants to go with this 8-part fictional documentary, and the fact that millennials are connecting with it is proof of its brilliance. People are actually using the hashtag #WhoDrewTheDicks across social media. On Rotten Tomatoes, “American Vandal” has a nearly perfect 96% freshness rating.

“American Vandal,” then, is eminently binge-worthy. You can try to watch all 8 episodes in a single weekend, or you can spread them out over a period of 8 weeks, as you were encouraged to do with “Serial” or other investigative dramas that “American Vandal” so brilliantly spoofs. But you won’t be able to stop until you find out the true identity of the person who defaced 27 faculty member cars with a bunch of crudely-drawn dicks.

american-vandal-netflix

Please follow and like us:

“Me, Myself & I” Is a Fantastic New Comedy

me-myself-and-i

If you’re a big fan of primetime sitcoms, you need to check out the new CBS sitcom “Me, Myself & I,” which premiered on Monday, September 25. Starring Bobby Moynihan (of “Saturday Night Live” fame) and John Larroquette, “Me, Myself & I” is a fantastic new comedy that’s refreshing, funny and original.

“Me, Myself & I” wonderfully condenses 50 years of history into 30 minutes each episode

The basic premise of this show is unique and unconventional, and rarely – if ever – attempted by a 30-minute primetime sitcom: it shows three different episodes in the life of a single character (Jack Riley), showing how events and decisions have reverberated throughout 50 years of Jack Riley’s life.

These three events are (1) moving from Chicago to Los Angeles at the age of 14 and then falling in love with a young girl (2) divorcing with his wife at the age of 40 and moving from his house to a two-car garage and (3) retiring at the age of 65 in the year 2042 and meeting (again) the love of his life, this time 50 years older.

You can immediately see how this is a fantastic comedic concept – especially when you have Bobby Moynihan playing the 40-year-old Alex Riley and John Larroquette playing the 65-year-old Alex Riley. Once you get over your immediate question of how Bobby Moynihan (a bit of a slob) ever turned into the more refined, silver-haired John Larroquette, you’ll immediately be won over by the show’s comedic pacing and timing.

Unlike TV dramas that focus on continuous character development, “Me, Myself & I” is more of a traditional sitcom – so it has to condense 3 different storylines (14-year-old Alex Riley, 40-year-old Alex Riley, 65-year-old Alex Riley) into a very tight 30-minute episode. But it’s done so well that you’ll be amazed at how everything ties together at the very end.

Here’s just one example of how a single episode is able to condense 50 years into 30 minutes: young Alex Riley moves to a new city and falls in love with a beautiful young girl named Nori. He invites her to the high school dance, and then blows his “big moment” when he accidentally chokes on a mint while trying to kiss her at a school dance. 50 years later, he mentions to a beautiful woman how “a mint cost me the love of my life 50 years ago,” only to look down at her nametag and see that she’s the same Nori he knew as a kid!

“Me, Myself & I” is about the little chuckle, not the big belly laugh

So just how funny is “Me, Myself & I”? Most critics have correctly pointed out that this sitcom is not about generating a lot of guffaws and belly laughs – it’s really about a lot of little laughs adding up to one giant comedic premise.

For example, it turns out that Alex Riley has always been an aspiring inventor, ever since he was a teenager. So there are a lot of laughs about all of his ill-fated or crazy inventions.

In one scene, he’s trying to pitch his “Switchfork” (a combination of chopsticks and a fork for eating sushi) concept to a room of Japanese business executives. He thinks that he’s winning them over, but then we see the subtitles of what the men are actually saying in Japanese, “This man has just brought dishonor upon this whole room.”

“Me, Myself & I” is a new kind of episodic comedy

In most sitcoms, there’s the “one funny situation of the week” and then some resolution of that issue following a lot of laughs. 30 minutes later, this situation has been resolved. But we may never see any of the supporting characters every again. Some critics have referred to this as the “shenanigans of the week” approach to comedy. It helps to keep every sitcom very light, meaning you don’t have to invest a lot into every show.

But “Me, Myself & I” takes a new, more refreshing approach. It’s all about serial storytelling and showing how different characters and events intersect over time. Take the title of the show, for example. That tells you all you need to know – it shows how the “me” of the year 1991 interacts with the “myself” of the year 2017, who in turn interacts with the “I” of the year 2042. In short, time proves to be a new kind of comedic element. Time changes how we view events, and how events affect us.

me-myself-and-i-jaleel-white

“Me, Myself & I” is as empowering as it is funny

One core idea at the center of this very entertaining new comedy is that any story is not defined by what happens to you, it is defined by how you deal with it. Thus, it is too easy to go through life, complaining about all the bad things that happen to you – the boss who treats you badly, the drivers on the road who act like idiots, or the loud neighbor who keeps you up at night.

But “Me, Myself & I” doesn’t fall into this trap – it tells viewers that you have to go out there and change the story. In that way, you can view this new CBS comedy as being very empowering. You can’t let a single decision or action impact the narrative arc of your own life.

“Me, Myself & I” is a new kind of romantic comedy

Romantic success and failure is one thematic strand that ties together all three periods of Alex’s life. It is his budding relationship with Nori that is one failure. Another failure is his divorce with his wife. But there are also the successes – like the fact that he might actually get back together with Nori (now known as “Eleanor”) after all these years. But will an approach that worked 50 years ago still work in the year 2042?

As a result, from what we’ve seen already, “Me, Myself & I” is a fantastic new comedy from CBS. If you’re looking for a fun new show to watch on Monday nights, this is one great option that will have you laughing each week.

me-myself-and-i-cbs

Please follow and like us:

The Best “Game of Thrones” Characters Who Met an Inglorious and Unjust End

game-of-thrones-catelyn-stark

One of the distinguishing features of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” is how often an important character is killed off in the show, sometimes apparently for no reason at all. When it’s a despicable villain – say Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton or Walder Frey – it’s easy to brush off. Hey, they had it coming.

However, when it’s a favorite character who is essentially good and pure of heart, that’s when it’s so disturbing. Over the first seven seasons of the show, many “Game of Thrones” characters have met an early demise, but here are the characters who truly met an inglorious and unjust end.

#1: Catelyn Stark

The Lady of Winterfell was one of the strongest-willed female characters on the show, taking efforts again and again to protect the House of Stark from disaster. But eventually even Catelyn Stark was no match for the dastardly plot hatched by the House of Frey (and backed by the Lannisters). She had her throat slit at the Red Wedding, and even worse, was forced to watch Roose Bolton stab her son. She was also forced to bear horrific witness to the fatal stabbing of her pregnant daughter-in-law Talia and her unborn child.

#2: Ned Stark

During Season 1, the one character who seemed to emerge as the lead star of the show was Ned Stark, the Lord of the North who’s asked to become the Hand of the King at King’s Landing. That, of course, is when things take a turn for the worse due to the treachery of the Lannister family. In Season 1, Episode 9, we’re forced to watch his beheading at the request of the boy-king Joffrey. At that point, everything we thought we knew about “Game of Thrones” was challenged: Who exactly are we supposed to root for?

game-of-thrones-Ser-Rodrick-Cassel

#3: Ser Rodrik Cassel

Another character, another beheading. In this case, it’s Ser Rodrik Cassel, the master-at-arms at Winterfell. He has already proven himself to be a loyal servant to the House of Stark – and that’s exactly what makes him so expendable when Theon Greyjoy returns to the North to exact his revenge. His beheading is as grisly as it is savage, since it takes young Theon Greyjoy a few whacks of the sword (and a little kick, for good measure) to behead Ser Rodrick.

#4: Ygritte

Remember the Wildling from the North who became the love interest of Jon Snow in Season 4? He met her on a spying mission beyond the wall, and had a few tender scenes with her. We think that maybe – just maybe – there might be a chance that their romance will bloom and we’ll find out that Ygritte is some kind of important character In the future history of Westeros.

Instead, Olly shoots her with an arrow during the Battle of Castle Black. Even worse, the show includes a scene where Jon Snow looks into the eyes of Ygritte as she meets her inglorious and unjust end. (Of course, that makes a perfect pretext for revenge, and we’re happy when Jon Snow finally has his way with Olly).

#5: Jon Snow

Speaking of Jon Snow, he also met an inglorious and unjust end in Season 5, as his fellow brothers-in-arm take turns stabbing and wounding him. Of course, his death turns out to be only temporary, as Season 6 returns with a dramatic resurrection scene featuring the Red Priestess Melisandre.

game-of-thrones-tommon-baratheon

#6: Tommen Baratheon

In the battle for the Iron Throne, there have been plenty of contenders. Some of them, such as Joffrey, have shown themselves to be wicked, sadistic and cruel at heart. But Tommen Baratheon, the young boy of royal lineage, seemed to be an exception. Some critics of the show have said that he was just “too good to be king.”

And, indeed, the one time that he stands up to his scheming mother, she practically blows up the Sept of Baelor with magical wildfire. That takes place in Season 6, Episode 10, and by that point, we’ve already resigned ourselves to the fact that the final winner in the Game of Thrones is going to be someone who’s a real schemer. Tommen eventually commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

#7: Oberyn Martell

One of the grisliest deaths that ever took place on “Game of Thrones” involved Oberyn Martell and his battle with The Mountain. The episode called “The Mountain and the Viper” shows the trial by combat set up by Tyrion involving Oberyn Martell and the Mountain. Since Oberyn Martell wants revenge on the House of Lannister, we suspect that things aren’t going to end well.

And, indeed, after a brief moment when we think that Oberyn Martell might actually defeat the Mountain in combat, the Mountain jumps up from the ground and gouges out the eyes of Oberyn. He then proceeds to exert so much pressure on his skull that his head literally explodes. What an inglorious and unjust end!

#8: Shireen Baratheon

It’s hard to decide if the Starks or the Baratheons are more doomed to suffer terrible and misfortunate deaths. Shireen Baratheon seems to be relatively pure of heart, and we’ve already seen her good side plenty of times. That’s why it was so disturbing to see her final demise near the end of Season 5. She’s burned alive by the Red Priestess Melisandre as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Sadly, her tragic sacrifice never seems to bear the results hoped for by Melisandre and Stannis, so her death seems to be as pointless as it is tragic.

**

To paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, life in Westeros can be “nasty, brutish and short.” That’s fair enough when it leads to violent deaths, inexplicable demises and cruel tortures for the “bad guys.” But when it means a sad and inglorious end for someone we’ve been rooting for, season after season, there’s something bittersweet about it all. But maybe that’s what keeps us watching – “Game of Thrones” seems to have an unmatched ability to pull us in and keep us watching, long after we know that one of our beloved characters has met a horrible fate.

game-of-thrones-Shireen-Baratheon

Please follow and like us:

What To Expect From Season 4 of “Transparent”

transparent

Season 4 of “Transparent,” available exclusively via Amazon Prime Now starting on September 22, already has all the makings of being one of the most-anticipated shows of the new fall TV season. “Transparent” is already an award-winning Amazon Original, and now it looks like the show’s creator, Jill Soloway, is going to take “Transparent” in some wonderful new directions. Here’s what to expect from Season 4 of “Transparent.”

“Transparent” will be more political than ever before

When Amazon Studios released the trailer for Season 4 on July 28, it caused a firestorm of controversy and debate on the Internet. The release of the trailer was timed to coincide with the announcement by the Trump administration of a total ban of transgender soldiers in the U.S. military. Since the thematic content of “Transparent” is inextricably linked to the concerns of the LGBTQ community, you can just imagine how the show’s creator and cast reacted to the latest Trump decision!

It wasn’t just enough to release the trailer and let it speak for itself. No, not at all. Show creator Jill Soloway had already hinted that the 10 episodes from Season 4 would be “more political than they’ve ever been.” And so she convinced the cast to release a joint statement along with the trailer, proclaiming that the release of the trailer was actually an “act of resistance.” Not only that, but the statement specifically called out “Trump’s continued assault on the transgender community.” Jill Soloway and the cast then signed off on the statement, saying that they were “all trans or allies to the trans community.”

So get ready for a big political hubbub when the show premieres on September 22. Although the trailer for Season 4 didn’t appear to have any overt Trump references in it, you can expect that plenty of people will be buzzing about the show online. GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has also spoken out, saying that it will continue to monitor any and all anti-LGBTQ actions taken by the Trump administration.

“Transparent” will have new twists on LGBTQ sexuality

Get ready for more plot lines involving LGBTQ sexuality, especially those involving the star of “Transparent,” Jeffrey Tambor, who plays an older divorced man who reveals that he’s transgender. Once known as Mort Pfefferman, he’s now known as Maura Pfefferman. That, of course, has been the subject of much debate, speculation and heartbreak during the first 3 seasons of the show, as each of his three children – not to mention his ex-wife – struggle to come to grips with what that all means.

Well, it looks like things are going to get a big dramatic twist in Season 4. The trailer hints that Maura Pfefferman is going to start dating again – but this time, she/he will be dating a man! We don’t actually see a glimpse of what Maura’s boyfriend looks like, but it’s sure to be a focal point of Season 4.

“Transparent” will take the Pfeffermans to Israel

If there’s one thing that’s an absolute certainty about Season 4 of “Transparent,” it’s that much of the action will take place in Israel. People who have seen advance clips from the show say that it will focus on the “spiritual and political journey” of the Pfeffermans. One of the plot lines of Season 4 will involve Maura Pfefferman being invited to Israel for a major conference, where she will make a “startling” discovery.

Of course, there will be scenes featuring all the classic Israeli tourist experiences – the visit to the Western Wall, a trip to the Dead Sea and even a camel ride in the desert. The whole time, the Pfefferman family will be coming to grips not only with Mort Pfefferman’s gender transformation, but also their identity as a Jewish family.

And there looks to be plenty of humor here, as well, including some self-deprecating humor about what it means to be Jewish. At one point, one of the family members describes Israel as an Orthodox Jewish Disneyland. And there’s a funny scene where the Pfeffermans kneel down to kiss the holy ground, and they are promptly plowed into by two Orthodox Jews. It all looks to be very humorous.

transparent-amazon

“Transparent” will continue to explore themes of love and family

Part of why “Transparent” has become such an award-winning show over the first 3 season is because it has taken an unflinching look at themes of love and family – and it looks like Season 4 isn’t about to slow down on the brakes.

The key to the success of the show, of course, is the brilliant ensemble cast that includes Amy Landecker (Sarah Pfefferman), Jay Duplass (Josh Pfefferman) and Gaby Hoffman (“Ali” Pfefferman) as the three 3 Pfefferman children. The family obviously is very close and loving – but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be dysfunctional!

There are so many interlocking plot lines that make “Transparent” so much fun to watch each new season. The one that is perhaps most talked about is the decision by Sarah Pfefferman to leave her husband for a woman (Tammy). That also raises all kinds of questions about identity and sexuality.

Season 4 of “Transparent” could push the show into the cultural mainstream

While “Transparent” is an Amazon Original, past seasons of the show are now airing on the Sundance Channel. That opens up the show to a vast new audience that might not have watched it before. On top of that, the show’s creators have already said that they will take a much more political approach to the show in 2017, potentially turning it into a huge controversial hit.

The combination of all those factors – the show’s award-winning cast, the amped up political message from creator Jill Soloway about the show during a point in time when everything is politicized, and the brand new Sundance audience – could be the perfect storm that finally tips “Transparent” into the cultural mainstream. The LGBTQ community has never been more relevant than it is today, and this amazing Amazon show could be the perfect way to shine an even bigger spotlight on their role within today’s very diverse America.

transparent-season-4

Please follow and like us:

What Fans Think of Marvel’s “The Defenders”

marvel-defenders

The build-up to Marvel’s “The Defenders” has been going on for three years, and as of August 18, it’s finally available to watch on Netflix as a brilliant 8-part series. Judging from early fan reaction online, “The Defenders” seems to have done the impossible: it has brought together the story lines and plot lines for each of the four main characters (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) in a way that’s fun to watch.

“The Defenders” unites the strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

For three years, Netflix and Marvel have partnered on shows for each of the four main heroes (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist). In some cases – as with “Iron Fist” – there was the sinking feeling that Netflix and Marvel were simply going through the motions, just to make sure all the pieces fit together when it was time to create “The Defenders.”

The basic premise of “The Defenders,” of course, is that four different characters are leading four different lives in New York City, each one of them individually focused on saving the city from villains. And, at some point, they decide that their powers are best used together, as part of a group called The Defenders.

That’s why the action in the first 2 episodes of “The Defenders” sometimes seems a little slow and clunky according to fans – the show is still setting up all the exposition and background to tie together all the strands in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In other words, there has to be a very good reason why all four of these individuals decide to meet up and fight crime together in New York.

“The Defenders” does a great job of mixing and matching the styles of the four superheroes

A lot of thought went into the creation of “The Defenders.” What the show’s producers wanted was a very seamless transition between all 4 of the shows, but also something that felt very new and different.

Take, for example, the fight scenes. We all know that each of the superheroes has a different fighting style. Daredevil (played by Charlie Cox) is trained as a boxer. Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter) takes no interest in fighting, and simply wants each fight to be over as soon as possible. And Iron Fist (played by Finn Jones) can be somewhat hot-headed. Each of them has different fighting styles, and so the natural question of fans everywhere became: How would they all fight together as one unit?

The results, according to fans, have been breathtaking. “The Defenders” easily has the best fight scenes of any of the four Marvel/Netflix shows that preceded it. There’s an exuberance and energy on screen that’s a joy to watch. That’s one big lesson that the Marvel team took away from shows like “Jessica Jones” – they learned that fans wanted very tight, very streamlined fight scenes rather than ones that dragged on for a long period of time.

And the meshing of styles goes beyond just fight scenes. “The Defenders” also does a great job of capturing the right look for New York City, bringing us into the lives of our favorite superheroes. In some cases, it’s the result of re-creating the noir feel of “Jessica Jones,” in other cases, it’s capturing the type of music that would appear on the soundtrack of “Luke Cage” (which happens to be a big fan favorite).

Sigourney Weaver underwhelms as the villain in “The Defenders”

If there’s one thing that fans complained about, it’s the role of Sigourney Weaver, who plays the role of the evil and enigmatic Alexandra – the woman who may be trying to bring New York City to its knees. The show develops her as a particularly refined type of villain who enjoys classical music and Italian sculpture – but not as someone who’s “The Big Bad.” In short, fans found her to be “bland” rather than “menacing.”

In part, though, that’s a conscious choice made by the show’s producers. In many ways, they were threading a needle. They didn’t want to create the sort of over-the-top villain like you might expect from “The Avengers.” And they wanted a way to tie together the story of The Hand, which had already been developed in previous Marvel/Netflix shows. Finally, they needed a villain who was distinctly New York.

So, in many ways, Sigourney Weaver was the perfect choice. You could completely imagine her going for a stroll through the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue to check out some new Italian artwork from the Renaissance period before heading over to her high-powered corporate office near Central Park to cause evil and mayhem.

marvel-defenders-jessica-jones

“The Avengers” vs. “The Defenders”

It’s hard not to be impressed by the number of superheroes that Marvel has created. The only problem, according to fans, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of which superheroes belong to which superhero unit. Moreover, which superheroes are from Marvel and which ones are from DC Comics? A common type of question that you’ll find online is something like, “Is Wolverine part of the Defenders?” (The answer is NO)

Right now, there’s the Defenders, the Avengers, the New Avengers, the X-Men, the Justice League, and the list continues to build. What makes things confusing is that Luke Cage was once part of The Avengers, and now he’s part of The Defenders. Moreover, the new trendy plot development technique by Marvel and DC Comics is to create all sorts of tension between the superheroes, such that they engage in feuds and wars with each other.

That’s why fans have been dying to hear from the show’s creators at events like Comic-Con to understand how the Defenders fit into the broader Marvel vision. The answer is a little confusing, but it seems to be that the Defenders are meant to be “street level heroes.” They are the type of hero who help the “everyday man” and are more like street vigilantes willing to take justice into their own hands. In contrast, the Avengers are more global, and tend to take on world-ending events – like a spectacular alien invasion, or a terrorist threat made by gods from another planet.

If you think of “The Defenders” as just a “war for New York” (as the trailer for the show suggests), it will help to make everything clear. These are distinctly New York City crime fighters with a bit of edge and grit to them. We’ve been waiting a long time for “The Defenders” to save New York City, and it’s a real joy to watch Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones all on the screen at one time.

marvel-defenders-iron-fist

Please follow and like us:

Why You Should Watch Hulu’s “Harlots”

harlots

Hulu has really stepped up its game recently with its new Hulu Original shows. The latest Hulu Original to debut to critical acclaim was “Harlots,” an 8-episode British period drama TV series that premiered on Hulu at the end of March 2017. The show has been described as “Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones,” so you can immediately get a sense of why viewers have been so enthusiastic about the show. Here are all the reasons why you should watch Hulu’s “Harlots.”

#1: “Harlots” delivers powerful female performances with a uniquely female point of view

One reason why this Hulu show has gathered so much acclaim is because it’s a show written by women, with female performers in the starring role. Unlike other shows, which might have used scenes of lust and sexual desire to drive forward a very male-influenced narrative, “Harlots” is very much a character-driven show with a very steady narrative plotline that’s informed by a female perspective on London’s famous 18th century courtesans.

The role that everyone is talking about belongs to Samantha Morton, who plays brothel madam Margaret Wells in late 18th century London. It’s a little more complicated than just that, however, since Margaret Wells is also the mother of two young girls, Charlotte Wells (played by Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lucy Wells (played by Eloise Smyth), who themselves are being forced into a life of prostitution.

Layered on top of that, we find out very early on in “Harlots” that Margaret Wells herself was thrust into a life of prostitution at a very young age by her alcoholic mother, who essentially sold her for a pair of new shoes. She’s now struggling to meet ends meet, and one of the early episodes of the show ends with her grappling with the decision of how to auction off her youngest daughter’s virginity to the highest bidder.

Things are not going to be easy, and that’s why it’s so important that we get a female, rather than male, perspective on these matters. What “Harlots” has in its favor is the “female gaze” (rather than the oft-described “male gaze”) – the show has female creators (Alison Newman and Moira Buffini), female directors, and female producers. The show itself was inspired by another female, Hallie Rubenhold, who created “The Covent Garden Ladies.”

#2: “Harlots” offers plenty of intrigue, plotting and ruthlessness

The dramatic tension at the heart of “Harlots” concerns the struggle of Margaret Wells to carve out a better life for her daughters. Part of that involves a move across town to a more upscale London neighborhood, where her clients can become notable members of the British upper class. That move, however, immediately pits her against her former boss, the madam Lydia Quigley (played by Leslie Manville).

That’s not going to be easy, though, since nobody enjoys having new competitors encroach on their turf, least of all when it concerns the ability to make a considerable amount of money from prostitution. That struggle between the two madams – Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley – constitutes another strong narrative plotline. And the dynamic performances from both of them are quite outstanding.

In many ways, the battle between the two rival brothels is as ruthless as a battle between two rival mafia clans. The tactics may be different, but the effect is the same. In one episode, there’s an attempt to use religious reformers as a way to shut down the upstart brothel and keep it from branching out into a more profitable neighborhood.

harlots-hulu

#3: “Harlots” is not your standard 18th century period drama

If you were expected a slightly more lurid version of Jane Austen with “Harlots,” think again. Whereas many of Jane Austen’s works deal with the polite society of British lords and the unique dilemmas facing the members of the landed gentry, “Harlots” is firmly rooted in the gritty reality of a very debauched London.

As many viewers have pointed out, this realism is really what makes the show stand out. Yes, there is much of the stuffy decorum that we associate with that period, but we also get a glimpse of the poorest layers of society and the desperate measures they must take simply to stay alive. Being forced to sell your youngest daughter into prostitution is not exactly something that you’d encounter with Jane Austen, let alone Charles Dickens. (And, speaking of Dickens, one of the English estates used to film “Harlots” was also used to film BBC’s production of Dickens’ “Great Expectations”)

Thus, if you were expecting plenty of salacious bedroom scenes – or at least, the kinds of nudity we’ve come to expect from “Game of Thrones” – you might need to temper your expectations a bit. You’re just as likely to see depraved scenes of sex in a London alleyway as you are highly edited scenes of courtesans romping around in a stately English manor.

#4: “Harlots” offers insights into socio-economic problems still with us today

As “Harlots” makes clear from the outset, 18th century London was a place where as many as one-fifth of all women made a living by selling sex. There were only two real paths of economic opportunity – become a courtesan or marry well. One of the most popular reads of the era was called Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, which was essentially a ratings guide of the city’s best courtesans and how to find them. So you can get a sense of the debauchery of the era.

But how far off are those socio-economic troubles from those we see in Western society today? Go to any large metropolitan area in the United States, and we see the same stark division of society into the “haves” and the “have nots.” For some ethnic and racial groups, there is also a very limited number of paths to economic opportunity, such as playing sports or selling drugs. Any other path is really a dead-end.

As we see in “Harlots,” prostitution is not glamorous, and the sex is not “sexy.” 18th century London was a nasty, brutish place, and so you can almost excuse the machinations and intrigue of the two brothel madams at the heart of the story. This is a powerful TV show, and one that has earned all of its critical acclaim. You really should be watching Hulu’s “Harlots.”

harlots-hulu-original

Please follow and like us:

Jodie Whittaker is the New Doctor Who!

In mid-July, the BBC announced the identity of the new Dr. Who, driving fans wild with anticipation about what’s going to happen with the beloved British science fiction series in 2018. That’s because, for the first time in the more than 50-year history of the show, the BBC selected a woman (Jodie Whittaker) to play the role of Dr. Who. Here’s a list of what else to expect next season from “Doctor Who”…

Jodie Whittaker will help to reinvent “Doctor Who” as the first-ever female Time Lord

It’s now official: Peter Capaldi will leave his role as Dr. Who at the end of the year. According to tradition, the last show of the year is always on Christmas, so on December 25, “Doctor Who” will officially transition over to a new era. According to what we know so far, that episode will feature a regeneration scene, in which Peter Capaldi will disappear from the show and be replaced by the actress Jodie Whittaker.

As you might imagine, the selection of a female lead to play the new Dr. Who has resulted in a tsunami of fan opinion online. Most of the critical reception has been positive. However, some fans of the long-time series are at least apprehensive about what it means to have a female Time Lord at the helm.

The good news is that Jodie Whittaker (best known for her roles in “Broadchurch” and “Black Mirror”) is well aware of what fans are thinking and saying online, and she’s doing her best to calm any fears. In a public statement, Jodie noted, “Fans have been through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.” In other words, if you’ve been a long-time fan of this beloved British sci-fi series, there’s no need to worry.

And, certainly, amongst directors and TV talent, there’s been an outpouring of support for Jodie Whittaker. Charlie Brooker, creator of the hugely popular “Black Mirror” series, simply tweeted out, “Great choice.” And fans have been sharing their opinions online using new hashtags like #Doctor13 making it very easy to see what everyone’s saying. (This will be the 13th Dr. Who, hence the #Doctor13 hashtag)

The nearly 50-year-old show will become bolder than ever before

The selection of Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who is not the only major change coming to the show in 2018. There’s also going to be a new lead executive producer, Chris Chibnall, who will take over for Steven Moffat as the showrunner next year. In an interview, Moffat has voiced his full support for Chibnall and his evolving vision for the show, so anticipation is building.

Moffat says to expect “beautiful dialogue” and an “amazing” show that takes “Doctor Who” in a new direction. Within the BBC, there has been concern that the show was starting to lose its freshness and inventiveness. Top BBC executives have pointed to falling merchandising revenue and the need to inject a new jolt of enthusiasm into this show. Some have described the need for a “total refresh” heading into 2018.

So, from what we can glean from newspaper reports, the BBC is looking for “risk and boldness” next year. They aren’t afraid about bringing in a new executive producer and letting him determine the new look of the show. The choice of Whittaker could just be the beginning of the changes coming. According to rumors, Chibnall has been given a five-year contract to develop the show in a new direction. Chibnall himself is a huge “Doctor Who” fan, so it’s almost a certainty that he will preserve all the best features of the show, while introducing new, fresh perspectives based on his earlier work with the sci-fi series “Torchwood.”

“Doctor Who” is going to reflect the broader change in the cultural zeitgeist

Right now, it’s clear that shows are being developed, created and re-imagined with women in mind. The spectacular summer success of “Wonder Woman,” the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), has set into motion a number of new initiatives. At one time, the idea of a female-led project or a project starring a female hero meant that it wasn’t possible to get as big an audience as possible. That myth has now been debunked.

And it’s not just “Wonder Woman.” Some “Doctor Who” fans have pointed to the success of “The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, as further proof that sci-fi films featuring strong female leads can be hugely popular.

The real question, then, is what a new female lead will mean for the plot direction of the show in 2018. Once Peter Capaldi regenerates into Jodie Whittaker, what can we expect to happen? The same battle of good vs. evil may not change, but the tools and approaches might.

The next season of “Doctor Who” is going to appeal to a younger audience

Right now, we don’t have any advance trailers for the new season. No scenes have yet been released because shooting has not yet started. From what we know now, filming on the series will only begin in January 2018, with the new series debuting in autumn 2018. Right now, the next season is expected to be 12 episodes, plus the traditional Christmas special, for a total of 13 episodes.

That means we have more than a year for the “Doctor Who” rumor mill to start. We’ll get a big clue in the Christmas 2017 special, when Jodie Whittaker will get her big debut. Unless you’re a fan of “Broadchurch,” you might not know much about her. She’s a 34-year-old actress from Yorkshire who’s starred in a detective serial. Clearly, the choice of such a young actress is part of a broader strategy to bring in a more youthful audience.

According to BBC, that’s all part of a bold new plan to boost the popularity of the show amongst young kids. That might mean more plot lines that involve topics that are front and center with kids today. Just as time travel fascinated audiences from 40 and 50 years ago, today’s youth are fascinated by topics like artificial intelligence and robots. So what might that mean for the TARDIS?

There are a lot of science fiction programming options out there, and certainly far more than existed more than 50 years ago, when “Doctor Who” first became a sensation. What’s really interesting to note that Charlie Brooker of “Black Mirror” is really supportive of the new show, and he’s generally considered one of the most original and creative thinkers out there.

Other women may play a big role in next season’s “Doctor Who”

If you assume that the new “Doctor Who” will have more of a female point of view and perspective, then it’s only natural to take a closer look at the evolving role of Michelle Gomez. She was one of the first major “Doctor Who” characters to be reinvented as a female character. It was already proven in previous seasons that Time Lords could regenerate as different races and genders. And that’s what made it possible for Michelle Gomez to take on the role of “The Master,” a villain played traditionally by a man.

To reflect the new role of Gomez, the current version of “Doctor Who” recharacterized the villain as “The Mistress.” That move was pulled off without any complications, so maybe fans are just thinking too much about Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who. It will be new to have a female Time Lord, yes, but it’s been very seamless so far to transition some traditionally male roles into female roles.

Chris Chibnall is going to bring a new artistic vision to “Doctor Who”

Chris Chibnall is hardly a newbie to the world of “Doctor Who.” Even though he’s coming over from “Broadchurch,” he has described himself as a lifelong “Doctor Who” fan. So perhaps it’s worth looking over his recent work for clues on how he will produce the next iteration of “Doctor Who.” His work with the sci-fi series “Torchwood” is especially relevant.

Judging from fan reaction online, there’s been a lot of love for Chibnall. Even diehard fans of “Doctor Who” realize that the show was in need of a refresh. Any show – even a classic – can always be improved with some fresh thinking. And Chibnall has shown everyone that he’s really a first-rate showrunner. As Moffat himself has pointed out, Chibnall is coming in a very real advantage because he already has a background as an executive director, so he won’t have to figure things out on the fly. He’s been given a clean slate to deliver a wonderful new “Doctor Who,” and it looks like he’s fully up to the task.

It’s clear that the BBC had so many different directions it could go with the next season of “Doctor Who.” Just check out all the bold-faced names who had been considered for the role of the 13th Doctor: Tilda Swinton, Kris Marshall, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (from the BBC comedy “Fleabag”), and Michaela Coel (from the drama “Chewing Gum’).

Perhaps the best advice about what to expect next season comes from Jodie Whittaker herself, who has commented on her commitment to making this the best “Doctor Who” yet. It looks like she is very focused on building strong fan rapport. She’s been reunited with Chris Chibnall (both from “Broadchurch”), so it’s clear that the two have very good chemistry together. If you’re a “Doctor Who” fan, it’s time to get very excited about what to expect in 2018. This could be the best season yet.

Please follow and like us:

What to Expect From This Season of “Big Brother”

big-brother019

If it’s summertime, it must be time for another season of “Big Brother!” And this 19th season of “Big Brother” on CBS is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ones yet. Here’s what to expect from this season of “Big Brother.”

Surprise guests

First of, we had the totally unexpected return of Season 18’s runner-up, Paul Abrahamian. We thought that we were going to start the season with 16 players in the BB house, but we got 17! Abrahamian is not only a veteran of all the “Big Brother” alliances and in-fighting of the previous season, he’s also one of the most talked about characters, capable of swinging alliances and really stirring up the pot. Bringing him back was epic.

Surprising eliminations on “Big Brother”

On the opening night premiere of this season’s “Big Brother” we learned that one of the houseguests was going to be evicted less than 24 hours after arriving in the BB house. Like, thanks for playing. And the Night 1 exit turned out be Cameron Heard, the cute young microbiologist who totally couldn’t believe that he was leaving before he’d even had a chance to establish himself in the house.

The ebb and flow of rival alliances on “Big Brother”

Right now, the house is split into two groups of people – the insiders and the outsiders. The person who seems to have the most power right now is Cody Nickson, who was named Head of Household, and had the early power to break any ties in votes for eviction.

And here’s the thing… the first eviction is coming up on July 6 and it’s likely going to require Cody voting to break the tie. From what we know, it looks like the vote is either going to go down 7-5 to evict Jillian Parker (the blonde timeshare sales rep). But not everybody seems willing to vote for who they said they are going to vote for, and that means the final tally could be 6-6. If that happens, then Cody would almost certainly decide to evict Christmas Abbott, who is such a threat to everyone in the BB house.

What makes this event so dramatic are two big reasons. The first reason is that it will be a LIVE eviction ceremony presided over by show host Julie Chen. There have already been all kinds of blog stories written about this, predicting some really amazing outcomes. And the second reason is that it will test “the alliance” to see how strong it really is. It’s almost a certainty that, if Christmas is not voted out of the house, that the first alliance is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Who can you really trust on “Big Brother”?

It looks like Paul Abrahamian is going to play a huge role here. In the first week of the show, he has been working behind the scenes to turn people against Cody and Jessica. If the alliance seems to be fraying at the edges as a result of the first live eviction ceremony, then it could result in a massive change of circumstances for Cody – the person who seemed to be running things with the potential for picking off people at will could find himself getting evicted if he’s not careful! Paul is now safe for 3 weeks, and has totally turned the tables on Cody.

Totally unexplainable events

Put enough strangers into a small enough house, and strange things are going to happen. For example, one strange event that happened within the first two weeks was the surprise exit of Megan Lowder due to an “urgent personal matter.” There have been a number of different reasons offered online about what really happened, but the best explanation offered so far is that Megan had some kind of PTSD-triggered emotional breakdown.

On her bio page, Megan describes herself as a 28-year-old dog walker. But she apparently also worked as some kind of guard in Middle East prisons, so she’s probably seen a lot. You would too, if you worked in Iraq, right? So the buzz among “Big Brother” fans is that Megan “self-evicted” – she couldn’t take the fact that people seemed to be colluding against her, and that triggered some kind of PTSD-based event.

Romances on “Big Brother”

The 19th season is not even two weeks old, and we’re already starting to see the rise of “showmances” – or the short-term relationship between a hot girl and a hot guy as a way of protecting each other. (And it doesn’t hurt things, either, that “temptations” are a big part of this season!)

The first big “showmance,” of course, involves Cody Nickson and Jessica Graf. Cody walks around way too often with his shirt off, and Jessica is a real hot cutie herself, so maybe they really do have feelings for each other. But it’s far more likely that they are only using each other to advance far enough in the show so that they can win.

We’ve already seen why that might be a dangerous idea. Cody Nickson was one of the people pushing the idea for a grand alliance to take down all the “outsiders,” But within two weeks, he was already scheming to play a dirty trick on the alliance and take out some of his strongest rivals. First, he picked Paul for eviction, and then he picked Christmas. So if you were Jessica, would you really trust Cody?

Epic challenges

And, of course, no season of “Big Brother” would be complete without a set of epic challenges. In the premiere episode of the season, this challenge involved a really hardcore fitness challenge, as well as temptations from “snakes” with “poisonous apples” in some kind of demented Garden of Even.

Most of the houseguests seems to be in great physical shape, so it’s likely that future challenges will require more than just being a fitness superstar (Hahaha — just ask Christmas, who calls herself a “fitness badass”). It will take someone who’s smart, clever and able to wrap people around his or her finger.

And it’s likely that people who seem to be doing the best early in the “Big Brother” series are going to find the tables turned on them. After all, if you appear too strong, you’re likely to be targeted by the others. And don’t forget for a minute that Paul Abrahamian is now back in the house. His presence alone almost guarantees that Season 19 is going to be a thrill-a-minute epic fun ride to see who can be the last guy or girl left standing!

big-brother-19-swimsuit

Please follow and like us:

The Latest Improvements From DIRECTV Now

directv-now-ad

When AT&T launched DIRECTV Now back in November 2016, it had absolutely no idea of how popular the service was going to be. Within the first month, nearly 200,000 subscribers signed up for the service, thanks in part to some exceptionally strong promotional pricing for the service (just $35 per month). But was this a case of expanding too fast, too soon?

As you might imagine, nearly 200,000 brand new subscribers signing up at once put a lot of strain on the service – and that led to a much-publicized outcry about “freezing” and “buffering” problems with the streaming TV service. In layman’s terms, DIRECTV didn’t work as advertised, and it was actually kind of frustrating for users. Since the content was being streamed over the Internet, it meant that the service was bound to be a little bit buggy if there were bandwidth issues. But in the six months since launch, DIRECTV has made a number of notable improvements.

#1: Fixing all the freezing and buffering issues

OK, first things first. AT&T became very concerned about the public outcry over poor or spotty service and decided to do something about it. It’s bad enough when a service doesn’t work as planned – but it’s made doubly worse when that bad service literally becomes a topic of national debate. In some cases, customers were taking their issues to media outlets, or threatening all kinds of actions when AT&T had trouble with refunds.

So AT&T began to phase out all of its promotions and advertising until it had a handle on all the issues. That’s why you’ve probably seen the Bloomberg stories about “flat growth” at DIRECTV Now since March 2017 – well, it was really a case of AT&T not wanting to put even more strain on the system until it had all the technical issues ironed out. And AT&T was very direct about all this, with its executives saying that you wouldn’t be seeing a rollout of a national advertising campaign until all the problems had been fixed.

And guess what happened in June 2017? That’s right, the first-ever DIRECTV Now ad campaign featuring Mark Wahlberg went live. If you haven’t seen the ad on TV by now, you can watch the “All Our Rooms” ad with Mark Wahlberg on YouTube. So you can take the appearance of this new ad in June as a positive sign – it means that AT&T has fixed all the technical issues with DIRECTV Now and is ready to move on.

#2: Coming up with an unbelievable $10 per month pricing offer

Running a national advertising campaign is one way to convince people to sign up for your service. But do you know what’s even more effective? Yes, that’s right, a completely amazing pricing offer! On June 2, AT&T made DIRECTV Now a $10 add-on to the $60 Unlimited Choice plan for wireless. In other words, if you were paying $60 a month for wireless, you could get 60 channels from the DIRECTV Now “Live a Little” service for just $10 more.

At those prices, who wouldn’t want to sign up for DIRECTV Now? One major tech blog said that AT&T was “basically giving away” TV programming to its wireless customers. And the “Live a Little” bundle is actually pretty extensive, covering 60 channels in all. And those channels include the major networks (ABC, NBC, Fox) in addition to some of the very best TV networks, like CNN and CNBC. In other words, this is not a classic “skinny bundle” that the other live streaming TV competitors try to get away with – it’s actually very robust and includes all the very best TV networks.

What’s clever about the $10 pricing is that AT&T is actually still charging customers $35 a month for the service, but then is adding in a $25 “video credit.” So, $35 – $25 = $10. This is because the $10 is just promotional pricing – it’s not going to be the permanent price of the live, streaming service.

#3: Adding in support for Roku

DIRECTV Now is like all the other live streaming TV services in that you need some kind of set-top box to get content for your TV. Not a traditional cable TV box, of course, but a set-top box or similar device from the likes of Amazon (Amazon Fire TV), Google (Chromecast) or Apple (Apple TV). The one service that wasn’t included at launch was Roku.

You can see how that was a major oversight, given the popularity of Roku with so many cord-cutters. So, on May 30, AT&T made DIRECTV available for Roku users. Moreover, it came with a 1-month free trial on Roku. That gave Roku users a very strong incentive to try out the new and improved DIRECTV Now service.
Thus, prior to May 30, a Roku user would have seen icons for the likes of Netflix and Hulu on their screen – but none for DIRECTV Now. That has all changed now – you’ll now see the familiar DIRECTV Now logo anytime you use your Roku device.

directv-now-app

#4: Finalizing plans for a cloud DVR

Every live streaming TV service seems to have a No. 1 “most requested item” on the wish list of customers. (In the case of Sling TV, it was a grid format TV guide to see what’s on at any time). Well, in the case of DIRECTV Now, that No. 1 “most requested item” was a cloud DVR.

Think about it – if you are a traditional cable or satellite TV customer, you probably have a box-like DVR next to your TV that’s capable of recording and playing back digital content. Well, there’s no set-top box for live, streaming TV. And you don’t get a DVR with your Apple TV! So that meant fans and customers who signed up for DIRECTV Now were facing a major issue: How do I record digital content without a physical DVR?

The answer to that question, of course, is a cloud DVR. When you use Hulu Live or Playstation Vue, for example, you get a cloud DVR. So, just to keep up with other live streaming TV rivals, DIRECTV Now had to come up with a cloud DVR. It just makes sense, right? So be on the lookout for a DIRECTV Now cloud DVR soon.

#5: Coming up with new subscription plans for customers

When DIRECTV Now launched to so much fanfare back in November 2016, one of the key selling points was the ability to get 100 channels for just $35 per month. If you compared that to what competitors like Sling TV and Playstation Vue were offering, it just blew away anyone else. Really, 100 channels for just $35?

So it was almost inevitable that DIRECTV Now started to come up with new subscription plans for customers. The idea is to provide a lot of value, but not at a price that’s just plain ridiculous. So DIRECTV Now executives had a choice – either jack up the price of the basic package (a decision that was almost certain to cause another outcry from critics), or reduce the number of channels available in the basic package.

DIRECTV Now made the right choice. You now get 60 channels for $35 a month as part of the basic “Live a Little” package. And, to keep getting 100 channels, you now need to pay $60 a month. Both prices are extremely fair, and emblematic of how AT&T is really trying to come up with innovative types of subscription plans for customers.

What’s next for DIRECTV Now?

So, let’s recap all the latest improvements from DIRECTV Now. First and foremost, DIRECTV Now has largely addressed all the freezing and buffering issues that plagued the service when it was first offered. Secondly, DIRECTV Now came up with an unbelievable pricing promotion – just $10 a month! – for customers who sign up for AT&T wireless service.

Thirdly, DIRECTV Now expanded its platform support to include Roku, one of the very most important platforms for cord-cutters. Fourthly, the company came up with a plan to offer cloud DVR service. And, fifthly, the company continues to develop new plans and bundles to appeal to customers.

Based on all that, it’s quite possible that DIRECTV Now is going to start seeing some robust growth in its subscribers. According to the latest data from Bloomberg, DIRECTV Now peaked at 328,000 subscribers in January 2017. It then lost 3,000 subscribers in February. And, in March, subscriber growth was flat. That made sense, of course – March was the last month that AT&T was aggressively offering promotions (like a free Apple TV with a subscription).

So we’re about to see what’s going to happen when all of these latest improvements really start to kick in. It’s quite likely that, based on the acclaim for the new ads starting to run on TV, we’re going to see growth picking up in June and continuing throughout the summer. Based on that, it’s possible to say that AT&T learned its lesson and is now on a really exciting trajectory for future growth with its DIRECTV Now service.

directv-now-guide

Please follow and like us: