If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it located here.
Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: email@example.com.
In a diametric opposite to my feelings on big-budget movies taking choices away from moviegoers, the landscape of TV is moving in an exciting new direction. The days of network television driving the business were already over, but in a surprising turn of events, it may turn out that premium cable channels are very close to taking it on the chin, as well. Before our very eyes, Netflix has changed the way we consume entertainment, but for some reason, it hasn’t gotten the acclaim for the magnitude of what they have accomplished.
Years ago, Netflix had a much newer catalog of streaming movies, which included an exclusive deal with Starz, but that quickly went away when Starz realized how much money and viewership it was losing by not providing this service themselves. An Internet company was providing a product that was far better and cheaper than a premium service. Think about the impact of that for a minute…go ahead, I’ll wait… Netflix made a fortune with a completely unique business model of sending DVDs through the mail to patrons, but the company hasn’t rested on that model. They quickly branched into providing streaming content separate from DVDs which, as it turns out, was a stroke of pure genius. Technology has caught up to them now, and it is as easy to stream a movie or TV show through your gaming system or Smart TV as it is to watch something on a traditional broadcast.
Not only is it just as easy to stream as watch something live, but the product available is also dramatically better than anything network TV has provided in years. What executives of networks are failing to see is that Netflix isn’t just a small competitor; it’s dominating the market. You may be thinking, “HBO and HBOGo have better quality shows and a bigger fanbase than Netflix, so how exactly is Netflix dominating the market?” The answer: Netflix sees their market as worldwide, not strictly U.S.-based like HBO. Being an Internet-based company means that after paying licensing fees, Netflix can provide content to the world, which is something other outlets are struggling with.
HBO is so lacking that in order to make money in markets outside of the U.S., they are dependent on Netflix. I was very shocked to learn on a recent trip to Canada that the majority of Netflix’s streaming content for the country is comprised of HBO products. HBO garners a smaller fee for other countries, and in turn, Netflix can provide users outside of the States with their product and HBO’s product, which is a win/win for certain. Granted, they are showing HBO‘s original programming and movies, but viewers watching in other countries only see that they are getting their entertainment from once source: Netflix.
To top off its global domination, Netflix has begun providing award-winning original content that rivals other networks. Capping a successful 2013 by announcing a deal with Disney and Marvel for original shows, they moved into 2014 preparing a true television takeover. They acquired a late night talk show that already had a fanbase with Chelsea Handler, so now they all they need is news and weather programming to be a fully-formed network monopoly. When technology is patterning itself after your business model, and binge-watching has replaced appointment television, you know you are doing something right. Which is why the lack of attention shocks me so much, not the lack of awareness, but the true appreciation for what a pioneer this company has become right before our eyes.
The Best in Television That You Might Have Missed in 2014
The one bright spot from network television this year was the surprising new show from FOX, Gotham. There were so many ways that this show could have gone wrong or been cancelled in the first few episodes, but much to my delight, it did not. There wasn’t going to be a harsher critic of this show than me. I am a HUGE Bats fan, and I was very hesitant to watch this show for fear of it being bad. My fear was that this show would have everything I loved about Batman in it, with the one glaring exception of Batman.
That wasn’t a deal-breaker for me necessarily, because several origin stories about Bruce Wayne ascending to the cowl have been good over the years, but it was enough to give me pause. I waited until I had 4 episodes banked on my DVR before starting the show because I needed to immerse myself in it to be able to make an informed decision, and I’m so glad that I did.
The show isn’t a living timeline from the comics, but liberties have to be taken to build stories that we haven’t seen as an audience with Bruce being so young. What that amounts to is a fresh take on the life and times of the characters we love so much now, and it shines a light on supporting characters, making them the stars of this incarnation.
Bruce has been prominent so far, and will continue to be, but even in the Wayne household, the more interesting character has been Sean Pertwee’s portrayal of a tougher Alfred Pennyworth as young Bruce’s caretaker. Personally, to see a version of Alfred that has rarely been seen is a very nice change. Alfred was a retired member of the British SAS, and it has long been hinted at that he was a major force in teaching Master Wayne to stand up for himself, but to see this ass-kicking incarnation of Alfred is exciting.
Many other super villains have been seen (if you know what to look for), but all of them have been in a fledgling state on the rise to the beloved/hated characters we are accustomed to. From Edward Nygma (The Riddler) to Selina Kyle (Catwoman), all are at different ages and stages of their criminal careers and it’s enjoyable to see them on the rise or transformation to the current cannon.
The runaway star of the show so far has been Robin Lord Taylor’s version of Oswald Cobblepot. It’s an aesthetic version of Penguin that is new, but it is the only one I want to see now. The way that Taylor has played him as evil, but at times insecure, is very refreshing. He just wants to be liked, but also respected and feared, and will make sure that he gets that respect one way or another, even if it means risking his life in the process. It’s a brilliant portrayal.
As for the show itself, it has been picked up for the entire first season (22 episodes total), and is currently in mid-season break. You have time to watch the first 10 episodes on demand and be ready for when it comes back after the break. One of the great things about this show is that it is finding a much larger audience during the break on digital platforms, which is promising, and the best news is that it isn’t geared strictly for the readers of the comics. The show could still take a turn in a bad direction if not handled carefully, but I am holding out hope that it continues on to the point we see Bruce in the cape and cowl, and we will have a new and darker version of a weekly Batman show on network TV for the first time since 1966.
On a personal note, I would like to thank you all for reading this year, and I hope that you will continue to do so in 2015. I wish you all the happiest of holidays and a great New Year. I will see you all again right here in 2015… Same Bat time… Same Bat channel.
Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.