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THB #207: Swimming The Streams/She-Hulk
It’s an interesting moment… both as a civilian consumer and as a journalist who gets access to a lot of content early.
I live in a weird middle ground in which I have easy access to a few of the big streamers, access when someone specifically wants me to have if for some other programming, and exactly what everyone else - who is paying for all this - gets, whether binging or week-by-week.
For instance, I get access to all of Hulu early, but not to FX, which platforms on Hulu the next day after release. And I haven’t done a single thing to try to change this. I love the window to having watched the entire season of Only Murders in the Building… it’s as great a binge show as a weekly. But the exquisite torture of waiting for the next episode of Atlanta or Reservation Dogs has its advantages too. When something leaves a delicious aftertaste, lingering on it is great. (To be fair, I have watched the entire Only Murders season twice already… so that lingers too.)
If you liked/loved Winning Time on HBO/Max, you should be watching Legacy : The True Story of the LA Lakers on Hulu. I’ve seen 6 of what is supposed to be 10 episodes and while it is the story told by The Busses, it is the story told by The Busses, with all the benefits that accrue from that. Great footage. A different perspective. And not a pure hagiography. There are shots fired. Just not at any vital organs. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Would I have watched the entire A League Of Our Own series on Prime Video (binge offering) and thinking about it for over a month now had I not had the access? Maybe not. But as soon as it popped up on the press site, I felt compelled to see what it felt like compared to the movie… and it pulled me in the entire way.
I have loved watching Amazon series before they are even publicized. Them, before the push back. The Underground Railroad, before the love. I watched The Outlaws before I heard anything about the series. Reconnected with The Kids in the Hall. Got to see unfinished episodes of The Boys, making the finished episodes so much cooler. I didn’t know there was a Fairfax animated series until it popped up in the press screening queue. (Love!) I couldn’t stop talking about Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Girls for weeks, even though I couldn’t talk about it to readers or even Twitter followers.
But once I can say something… I will push something I like over and over and over again, for the weeks before release and for weeks after. Sometimes I am surprised to find out a show launched. But my bond with the show is already made.
There have been shows that I didn’t connect with, but I have tried almost everything. My latest premature fascination is a series called Jungle that is about as original and provocative as anything I have seen in a while.
And no, they have not make Lord of the Rings available yet… and if they had, I wouldn’t tell you.
HBO isn’t sending me House of the Dragons either.
HBO is always amenable to requests for shows early. But I have stopped asking, really. Thing is, it’s not that much content. 2 or 3 series at a time and documentaries.
I love me some Industry. And I would really like to be able to just binge it. Interestingly, Season 2 of the BBC co-production is rolling out now in America before the U.K. And as noted before, there is something about savoring most of these episodes, in all their complexity and passions.
I am fine with watching HBO Max, mostly, as it rolls out. I’ve loved some of the shows. But I like being patient and they offered a unique twist by releasing 2 half-hour shows on the same day each week. So TV of them!
Disney+ has a very managed roll-out of content for press. And I’m good with that. They have tried a bunch of approaches and I respect the right of any content distributor to make strong conscious choices about how they want things to play out… including embargo dates and how much of an experience they want you to have.
She-Hulk Attorney At Law was a 4-epsiode bite in a limited window. (Can’t watch it again today.) I think I got it, though I have to say, I suspect the show will better find it’s sea legs in the 2nd half of the season. The show is a very unusual dance between workplace comedy, action, and rom-com. My wife compared it to Ally McBeal, which stuck a cord in me.
There is enough face-to-face time with Smart Hulk early on that it makes you wonder how much time you want to spend with CG actors, no matter how well rendered they are. Personally, I am not in the camp of people who want to judge the CG work for TV to within an inch of its life. I treat it like theater. I happily suspend disbelief to get to the drama.
I had to laugh when I saw some debate about the CG for Abomination in the trailer for the show… because I know how much we see of Abomination in the first 4 episodes.
The tone is all over the place. Jessica Gao, the showrunner, has a nice resume full of TV comedies. Kat Corio is good tv director. She doesn’t bring magic to things. Some of the stuff works really well. Sometimes, not so much. The show feels a little too free to play fast and loose.
Tatiana Maslany can do everything they ask her to… but she shouldn’t have to be working quite this hard. Ginger Gonzaga is better than what she has to do. Benedict Wong scores pretty much every time her turns up… not just because people love Wong - and they do - but because he is so firmly set in his character… so when you play against it, you win, and when you play him as expected, you win. That’s where Jen Walters/She-Hulk needs to be. We like her. We do. But she needs to find the place where the audience thinks like her… and gets the occasional (once or twice an episode) surprise. Not there yet… in 4 episodes.
But She-Hulk: Attorney At Law feels like a series. A series that should have 20 episodes a season for 4 seasons at least.
I do with I had the keys to the kingdom with Netflix. They throw so much stuff at the wall. And I bet I would sample more of it and like/love more of it if the ability to just dive in and try stuff was there. I get my occasional preview windows, but it always seems like chasing a state secret. Maybe others get the wide open gates.
Some of my favorite Netflix shows have been shows I didn’t really expect to like or even watch.
In many ways, this piece is just a primer for the real piece… about how to reach audiences in 2022. How to build deeper relationships with series. How to even better help us all sort through it all so that we always have connection with the streamer and some part of its content.
I had a chat with a showrunner recently and the issue of the number of episodes and regularity of release that help audiences build a habit. But this person went deeper. They talked about meeting with streamers and the streamers explaining to this very, very experienced and successful pro that they don’t do things in the way that have been so successful in the past.
Progress, ego, or insanity? You tell me. (Or I will tell you in some newsletter to come.)