Netflix is entering a new phase of its existence, learning what pretty much every big TV provider is finding out these days – you need partners if you’re going to keep making global television shows. These things are just too expensive to do by yourself if you’re going to maintain quality or at least avoid bankruptcy.
To be fair, as we’ve seen with Residue, Netflix doesn’t mind chucking out the occasionally cheap and cheerful bit of work, but I can’t imagine that’s its long-term business model. At least I certainly hope for Netflix’s sake that it’s not resting all its hopes and dreams on Residue.
So Between, a co-production between Netflix and Canada’s City TV, marks the first fruit of this change in strategy. Also new – at least for US Netflix subscribers if not for UK viewers – is its episodic, weekly release.
But then I can’t imagine you’d really want to binge-watch Between, a sterling example of the perils of international production and of how very unexceptional Canadian TV can be. Set in the aptly and ridiculously titled town of Pretty Lake, it sees a mysterious disease break out, killing thousands. At least, it’s probably a disease, what will the bile n’all, but since no one ever gets any symptoms until they simply throw up and die and as doctors can’t seem to find any cause for either the disease or the deaths, it might be something a bit more supernatural. Or alien.
The disease also has one other trick up its microscopic sleeve: it doesn’t kill anyone aged 21 or less. That means that in the space of just a few days, pretty much everyone inside the now-quarantined Pretty Lake is a kid… with no parents telling them what to do. What will happen next? And can anyone say Carousel?
We’re nearing the end of our brief Ken Loach season, but this week I’m going to use up two of the remaining plays in one go, as they’re a two-parter. 1977’s The Price of Coal was written by Loach’s Kes writing partner Barry Hines and is set in Yorkshire colliery community.
The first part, Meet The People, is a slightly comic affair, with management trying to enlist the miners in sprucing up the pithead in preparation for a visit by Prince Charles. A strangely comic affair for both Hines and Loach, it sees Loach abandon his documentary style of filming in favour of something a bit more Czech new wave that’s merely content to observe, although Loach did do his usual trick of casting some non-actors in key roles, drawing on some local stand-up comics when casting his humorous miners (Duggie Brown, Bobby Knutt, Stan Richards and Jackie Shinn).
The second part, set just a month later, reverts a bit more towards the Loach mean, with an underground explosion at the colliery killing several miners, the play then following the attempts to rescue others than remain trapped.