Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by orange juice and sugar-free lemon candies.
HULU BELIEVES THAT LESS IS MORE
Hulu's original-content head Craig Erwich was interviewed by Vanity Fair's Joy Press and he makes the argument that Hulu-unlike rival streamer Netflix-is not just greenlighting a bunch of random shows. Hulu is picking and choosing its battles: "We are not throwing a million things up against the wall."
But to me, the most interesting comment in the piece comes from Dana Walden:
“I think there’s a natural instinct to want to take more shots,” said Dana Walden, the Disney Television Studios chairman who oversees Hulu’s original content. Streamers like Netflix greenlight tons of shows “because no one can know with 100% certainty what thing’s going to catch lightning.” But Walden sees volume as the enemy of great television—something she learned during the 2007-2008 writers’ strike, when she was working at 20th Century Fox Studios. While the company produced a fraction of its usual number of pilots, she says they emerged from the season with enduring hits like Glee and Modern Family. “It was a great experiment for us about what happens when the entire resources of an organization are devoted to making fewer projects great.”
That's a fine theory. But if a smaller amount of projects led to an overall higher percentage of hits, then the broadcast networks would be seeing that effect, given that even in a pre-pandemic environment they are greenlighting substantially fewer pilots than had been the norm a decade ago. And they aren't having more success. Walden is conflating two unconnected data points, which isn't great when the person doing the conflating is someone responsible for greenlighting original content.
I have a lot of problems with this "we produce fewer things, but they're higher quality" argument, which was refined to an art form by FX head John Landgraf. On issue is that this argument is almost always voiced by executives who happen to be on a creative hot streak. And hot streaks in television-as in baseball-never last. I've heard the same argument from USA Network executives during their scripted drama success period or from NBC executives during the comedy boom years. Everyone always thinks they have the answer and eventually, they all discover they're mistaken.
That being said, comparing the output of Hulu and Netflix really is a textbook apples vs oranges comparison. Hulu can afford to be modest with their original content ambitions because viewers still come to Hulu for next-day access to their favorite television shows as well as its extensive on-demand catalog. Netflix is increasingly being forced to create all of their content and that means everything from scripted dramas to lifestyle shows and documentaries. Netflix isn't spending billions a year on original content because they can't say "no." They spend the money because they have no choice.
I think Hulu is now a must-have choice for a lot of people. I think they do what they do very well. But I'm not convinced that they are the streaming video's equivalent to HBO. And I'd love to see what a "Top Ten Today In The U.S." list looks like from Hulu.
SPEAKING OF TOP TEN LISTS
I've been tracking the top ten viewing lists posted daily by Netflix and I've put together a chart which I'm going to roll out next Monday. It's an effort to put those lists in a longer-term context. I've also been working with some folks at Google Trends to try and create a way that can simultaneously track search requests for a number of titles from different services. I remain convinced that Google Trends data more accurately tracks curiosity than it predicts actual viewing. But once again, it's an effort to try and put some context on streaming media demand.
Here is a rundown of the new shows premiering today....
1) Celebrity Show-Off Series Premiere (TBS)
Each week five stars from the worlds of sports, music, comedy, TV, and film face-off to see who can produce the most compelling content from the comfort of their own homes. Their mini shows will debut on TBS's YouTube channel and will be scored by total views, view duration and engagement, eliminating the lowest-performing celebrity and replacing them with a surprise celebrity newcomer the following week.
2) Eric Andre: Legalize Everything (Netflix)
Comedian Eric Andre presents his very first Netflix original stand-up special. Taking the stage in New Orleans, Andre breaks the boundaries of comedy as he critiques the war on drugs, the war on sex, and the war on fart jokes.
3) Greenleaf Season Five Premiere (OWN)
The final season finds the Greenleafs attempting to maintain a united front in the face of losing their church, beginning with the imminent demolition of the house of worship they had all worked so hard to build. Once again, dark secrets past and present create what could be fatal fractures in the family’s fragile foundation even as the Bishop strives to mend his relationship with Lady Mae as they all face an uncertain future.
4) Isolation Stories Series Premiere (BritBox)
Executive produced and written by Oscar-nominee Jeff Pope, the series was filmed observing the strict rules of lockdown and each focuses on different life-in-lockdown situations. Guided remotely by a selection of acclaimed directors including Paul Whittington (Hatton Garden Heist, The Moorside), Paul Andrew Williams (A Confession, Broadchurch), Louise Hooper (Flesh & Blood, Colby Street) and David Blair (The Street, Accused), the actors and their families filmed the scenes themselves. Sheridan Smith, Robert Glenister, Tom Glenister, Darren Boyd, Angela Griffin, David Threlfall and Eddie Marsan headline the cast.
For a rundown of all the new episodes of television premiering tonight, click here.
TOO MUCH TV REALLY IS A THING
This newsletter is called "Too Much TV" because....well, it's hard to keep track of all the new television premiering everyday. To help you prioritize your viewing, click here to see our list of more than 400 upcoming television premieres, movies and finales. You'll find listings from more than 70 networks, as well as streaming services and web shows.
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