US TV

I’ve just invented the ‘Containment moment’

You will, of course, recall Containment, America/The CW’s remake of Belgium’s Cordon. Episode two was on last night and within the first few seconds I was laughing.

Oh dear. Quoting Socrates. Well, to be exact quoting a slightly loose translation of section 42a of Plato’s Apology, which is an account of Socrates’ trial, in which Plato says Socrates said:

ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἤδη ὥρα ἀπιέναι, ἐμοὶ μὲν ἀποθανουμένῳ, ὑμῖν δὲ βιωσομένοις: ὁπότεροι δὲ ἡμῶν ἔρχονται ἐπὶ ἄμεινον πρᾶγμα, ἄδηλον παντὶ πλὴν ἢ τῷ θεῷ.

θεῷ, there, referring to Zeus, of course, but I guess the all-American Containment wasn’t going there.

So why was I laughing? Because it reminds me of Joe Queenan’s America (aka Red Lobster, White Trash, & the Blue Lagoon), in which he deliberately decides to read all the worst books, watch the worst movies, eat the worst food, attend the worst events, etc that America and Americana have to offer.

This includes reading Tom Clancy novels. He notes that Clancy and similarly bad authors all have a habit of quoting much better authors at the beginning of books and even chapters of books in order to give their sub-standard works an intellectual veneer that makes them seem better than they are.

I’m going to start calling these quotes ‘Containment moments’ from now on.

As a brief aside, Queenan suggests it might be an idea to return the favour of the ‘Containment moment’ and preface classic works of literature with quotes from lesser authors, imagining, for example, what would happen if a play of Shakespeare’s was preceded with:

The Hughes 500D is an extremely quiet helicopter due to sound baffles in the Allison 250-C20B engine. 

Tom Clancy

That would be aces.

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What have you been watching? Including Bridge of Spies, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. 

I spent most of the weekend not watching a lot of things I was supposed to be watching, instead watching season one of Daredevil again – it’s so much better than the second season, which is starting to feel more disappointing with every passing day. But that doesn’t mean I’m not up to date. It just means I still haven’t watched Ófærð (Trapped) yet.

Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4) and passed a third-episode verdict on The Detour (US: TBS). I’ll be passing a third-episode verdict on Game on Silence either tomorrow or Wednesday. That means that after the jump, we’ll have a look at the latest episodes of The Americans, Banshee, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Limitless, Lopez, Lucifer and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of Supergirl. HBO’s also just brought back Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley , so I’ll be looking over them, too.

But first, a movie:

Bridge of Spies (2015) (iTunes)
Slightly soporific Spielberg biopic of Cold War lawyer James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), who defended notorious spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), and ended up helping in negotiations in Berlin to exchange Abel for U2 pilot Gary Powers. He does that by talking about the Constitution and what it is to be American. All solidly made but that summary is really all you need to know, in what is basically a not very subtle commentary on post-9/11 US attitudes to human rights, treating enemy combatants civilly, etc. If you do watch it, don’t be surprised that there’s a chunk in the middle in German without subtitles, as that’s deliberate. Don’t worry – they’re just talking about how expensive his coat is.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Bridge of Spies, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley”

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US TV series distribution: a two-speed market

Normally, I wouldn’t subject you to the full horror of an analyst’s press release, but for once – I don’t know what the cause is, but it could be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius or something – it’s actually almost interesting and relevant:

US TV series distribution: a two-speed market
Tim Westcott, Senior Principal Analyst at IHS Technology

Key points: 

  • Production of original scripted series is continuing to grow in in the US. IHS Technology noted 324 drama and comedy (scripted) series produced by the big five networks, basic and pay cable, and online platforms in 2015, compared to 297 in 2014.
  • More than three quarters of new and returning shows launched in the latest network season (2015/2016) had sold to one or more of the key international territories at the time we closed our research.
  • The increasing roll out of online platforms, combined with the strategy of pay TV platforms to migrate US series quickly to their home markets, have led to a dramatic shortening of international release windows. In the UK, the average window was 37 days, down from 102 days.

Analysis: 

A key focus for our research is to track the distribution of original US series to the international market, by analysing how quickly US series migrate to four key territories: the UK, Australia, France and Germany. Those series that have sold internationally are migrating much more quickly that they did even than last year.

In this year’s report, we note a pronounced change in the timing between US and international release. The biggest change is France, where the average window from US release was only 32 days, compared to 159 in 2014/2015. In the UK, the average window was 37 days, down from 102 days, while in Australia—another country where US series do not need to go through the time-consuming process of being dubbed—the window was 37 days compared to 120 in 2014/2015. In Germany, the average window was 61 days, down from 170 the season before.

Research clearly indicates that ‘the Netflix effect’—the policy of the streaming service to launch its originals simultaneously across all of its territories—has transformed the TV distribution business over the last couple of years.

However, in a market like France, where viewers are accustomed to watching US series dubbed rather than subtitled, programmes can still take many months to make the transition. French viewers may even be a whole season behind the US for established shows like CSI or Castle, and furthermore many of the US series aired by linear TV networks in France are second runs of shows that have made a debut elsewhere.

For this reason we see France as a two-speed distribution market—with US series moving quickly to online and premium pay but more slowly to other networks. The same is true of Germany; other than on Netflix, few US series make a fast transition.

UK: Sky indulges its appetite for US acquisitions with HBO and Showtime

In the UK, pay TV remains much more likely to air US series than free TV networks. Pay TV accounted for 49% of US acquisitions in 2015/16, compared to 17% for free-to-air and 34% for online. This is partly a matter of programming policy—the two top-rated channels BBC1 and ITV generally only broadcast home-grown programming in prime time, apart from the occasional film—but it’s also because pay TV tends to outbid free TV for the most popular programming.

Sky has so far scheduled a total of 30 US series from the 2015/2016 season across its networks. Sky Atlantic, which has become an increasingly important part of its overall offering, airs HBO series under an output deal and will become the home of all Showtime series under the new multi-territory agreement closed in January this year. New seasons of Game of Thrones, Girls and Togetherness all aired within at least one day of the US.