Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, October 16th, 2020. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by McDonald's coffee.
I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE THAT THE AMAZON PRIME VIDEO UI IS THE WORST
No matter what you think of Amazon Prime Video's catalog or programming philosophy, it's clear to just about everyone that being part of the larger Amazon Prime universe has some serious downsides. That's most apparent in the user interface for Prime Video, which appears to have been crafted by a group of Amazon sales division heads. All of whom have different priorities and "must have" requirements. The end result is an interface that is as close to useless as it is possible to get in a mass market streamer.
The interface is this weird amalgamation of free Prime content, rentals, titles for purchase, future sports programming, pitches for Amazon Channels (which is where you can subscribe to a number of outside services) as well as random columns of links that show you what you could watch if you subscribed to those outside services. It is an awkward and confusing mess and I would argue that it costs Amazon customers. Or at the very least, regular engagement.
I HATE the interface. You can't find anything easily, you can't just see things that are available for free with your Amazon Prime subscription. The interface is clunky, you can't see what is new and the genre groupings they have seem to have been populated by drunk chimps. But other than that....
Earlier this week, Amazon offered a discounted subscription deal for Amazon Prime Days. You could subscribe to a number of streaming services for 99 cents per month for two months through Amazon Channels. The billing goes through Amazon and you can only watch the services through the Amazon Prime Video interface. I subscribed to two services I currently don't have: Showtime and Epix. And after playing around with them for a couple of days, I can tell you that once the trial period is over, I am gone.
The Amazon Channels interface is as awkward and non-intuitive as the main Amazon Prime Video interface. You can't search the library, there is no link to a list of every title on the service. Instead, you get a few horizontal collections of titles. Which is fine unless you are looking for a title that isn't one of the selected ones highlighted in the interface.
I just don't get it. Amazon has a lot of bright people working for them. I can't imagine that they haven't figured out that this interface is terrible and made moves to change it. And no, the recent addition of profiles doesn't count. That feature is one of the bare minimum features any streaming service should have in 2020.
NETFLIX'S GLOBAL AMBITIONS
I've talked a lot in the past about Netflix's ambitions to be a true global service. The company's executives have made a point of stressing that ambition in their recent interviews and a number of the recent executive changes have been the result of the company moving its entire content creation and acquisition efforts in a less Hollywood-centric direction.
It makes sense on a number of levels, particularly since some of Netflix's newer competitors like HBO Max and Peacock are struggling to implement their global plans. But the real question is whether Netflix can take content created outside of Hollywood and make them true global hits. I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question but as a fan of global television, I hope it works.
One example of that global strategy is the new series La Revolution, a French Netflix original series that premieres globally today. It's an impressive and well-made series that in every way is as well constructed as any of Netflix's well-known in-house English-language successes. The show is alternative history of the early days of the French Revolution, complete with a bit of witchcraft and a disease that literally puts the blue in "blue bloods." I was blown away by the series and it has the potential of being a buzzworthy hit. It's going to be interesting to see how it's received in the U.S. and across the rest of the globe.
SPEAKING OF SIGNS OF SUCCESS OR FAILURE
I don't want to read too much into any one move, but it is worth noting that Apple seems to be extending the free Apple TV+ trial for all of the subscribers who signed up for it a year ago. That would suggest that they are concerned a number of those subscribers won't stay around if they are forced to actually pay for the service.
Here is a rundown of the new television programs premiering today:
1) Bad Hombres (Showtime)
The feature-length film chronicles the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos, the world’s only binational professional baseball team. Amid the United States government’s proposal for a border wall, and with U.S.-Mexico relations at a low point, the team’s cross-border heritage provides a powerful symbol of unity, joining countries, cities and families.
2) Big Mouth Season Four Premiere (Netflix)
Teenage friends find their lives upended by the wonders and horrors of puberty in this edgy comedy from real-life pals Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg.
3) Clouds (Disney+)
Inspired by an incredible true story, Clouds is a vibrant ode to the life of singer/songwriter Zach Sobiech (Fin Argus). Zach is a seventeen-year-old, fun-loving student with raw musical talent living with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. At the start of his senior year, he is ready to take on the world, however when he receives the news that the disease has spread, he and his best friend and songwriting partner, Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter), decide to spend Zach’s limited time following their dreams. With the help of Zach’s mentor and teacher, Mr. Weaver (Lil Rel Howery), Zach and Sammy are given the chance of a lifetime and are offered a record deal. Along with the support of the love of his life, Amy (Madison Iseman) and his parents, Rob and Laura (Tom Everett Scott and Neve Campbell); Zach embarks on an unforgettable journey about friendship, love and the power of music.
4) Disney Channel Halloween House Party (Disney)
Disney Channel fan-favorite stars take on a variety of zany characters and spooktacular spoofs in this sketch comedy show. Filmed remotely, and hosted by Tobie Windham (“Just Roll With It”), the cast transforms themselves and their homes for a hilarious party filled with wacky sketches, including a befuddled monster, a pet goldfish’s virtual celebration, and other ghostly surprises and treats for kids and families.
5) Dream Home Makeover Series Premiere (Netflix)
Shea and Syd McGee of Studio McGee help dreams come true for real families looking to update their home tailored to their own unique style.
6) Generation Nation: A PBS American Portrait Special (PBS)
The half-hour specil explores how people in different age groups, from adolescents to seniors, see themselves and their place in America. It reveals the common experiences that bind people together within and across age groups and the generational differences that can put us at odds with one another.
7) Grand Army Series Premiere (Netflix)
Five students at the largest public high school in Brooklyn take on a chaotic world as they fight to succeed, survive, break free and seize the future.
8) Great Performances: Grammy! Salute To Music Legends (PBS)
The awards ceremony and tribute concert is hosted by five-time Grammy Award winner Jimmy Jam. Laurie Anderson, Philip Bailey, Brandi Carlile, Cynthia Erivo, Chris Isaak, Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Cyndi Lauper, Sam Moore, Leslie Odom, Jr., and Yola. Presenters include Rhiannon Giddens, Joe Mantegna, John Legend, LL COOL J, Greg Phillinganes, Henry Rollins, and Don Was.
9) Helpsters Season Two Premiere (Apple TV+)
Cody and the Helpsters are a team of vibrant monsters who love to solve problems. Whether it’s planning a party, climbing a mountain or mastering a magic trick, the Helpsters can figure anything out — because everything starts with a plan.
10) Helstrom (Hulu)
As the son and daughter of a mysterious and powerful serial killer, Helstrom follows Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana Helstrom (Sydney Lemmon), and their complicated dynamic, as they track down the worst of humanity — each with their own attitude and skills.
11) Is There A Killer On My Street? (LMN)
After Lindsay (Julie McNiven, Black Hearted Killer) falls for her new neighbor Stephen (Trevor Donovan, The Au Pair Nightmare), dead bodies start to accumulate, and she begins to fear her life may be in grave danger.
12) La Revolution Series Premiere (Netflix)
1787, France. While investigating a series of mysterious murders, Joseph Guillotin - the future inventor of the world famous ‘Guillotine’ - uncovers an unknown virus: the Blue Blood. The disease, quickly spreads amongst the French aristocracy, driving them to murder ordinary people and soon leads to a rebellion… What if the French Revolution didn’t happen the way we were told?
13) Meet The Chimps Series Premiere (Disney+)
This six-part series tracks the ups and downs of this extraordinary group of chimps that are given a second chance at life by a staff whose dedication, compassion and commitment knows no bounds. Through a seamless blend of natural history and observational-documentary filmmaking, the chimps are at front and center of the series. A real-life drama with a full emotional range, the series gives unparalleled access to everything happening at Chimp Haven, including food squabbles, alliances, romances, 'bromances,' tears, tantrums, high jinxes and heartbreaks.
14) Shark Tank Season Premiere (ABC)
A father and his 15-year-old son from Cincinnati, Ohio, help the Sharks get creative while sharing their solution for storing paint efficiently. Two tech-savvy entrepreneurs from Somerville, Massachusetts, put the pedal to the metal when they show off their portable electric vehicle charger. A husband and wife from Milltown, New Jersey, think they can smell success as they pitch their product designed to keep garments safe from bacteria and odor.
15) Someone Has To Die aka Alguien tiene que morir (Netflix)
In 1950s Spain, a couple summon their son home from Mexico to introduce him to his fiancée, but are shocked when he returns with a ballerino.
16) The Last Kids On Earth Book Three Premiere (Netflix)
As the four pals continue to live it up with their monster allies, Jack worries a newly discovered radio transmitter may put an end to the fun.
17) The Perfect Weapon (HBO)
Directed by John Maggio, the film explores the rise of cyber conflict as a primary way in which nations now compete with and sabotage one another. Cheap, invisible and devastatingly effective, cyber weapons are the present and future of geopolitical conflict – a short-of-war pathway to exercising power. THE PERFECT WEAPON draws on interviews with top military, intelligence and political officials for a comprehensive view of a world of new vulnerabilities, particularly as fear mounts over how cyberattacks and influence operations may affect the 2020 U.S. election, vulnerable power grids, America’s nuclear weapons arsenal, and the global networks that are the backbone of private enterprise. The film also explores how the U.S. government is struggling to defend itself from cyberattacks while simultaneously stockpiling and using the world's most powerful offensive cyber arsenal.
18) The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (Netflix)
What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with police and the National Guard. The organizers of the protest—including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale—were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.
19) What The Constitution Means To Me (Amazon)
Fifteen-year-old Heidi Schreck earned her college tuition by winning Constitutional debate competitions across the United States. In this hilarious, hopeful, and achingly human show, Heidi resurrects her teenage self in order to trace the profound relationship between four generations of women and the founding document that shaped their lives.
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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