Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, March 4th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by room temperature coffee and Beefy Mac.
The Viacom/CBS streamer Paramount+ launched today and it is likely the last major streaming service to launch for quite awhile. I posted a long look at the service this morning, but after playing around with it for several hours, what I'm left with a feeling of "meh." I know that's not the most helpful comment, but I don't know quite how else to describe my reaction. Paramount+ was built on the CBS All-Access platform, so Paramount+ will feel familiar to anyone who subscribed to that service. And they have a lot of the content they promised to have at launch. And yet....
As expected, there is a wealth of Viacom cable properties, although weirdly, not so much of the most recent stuff. But if you enjoy watching old episodes of Nick programming, this is going to be heaven for you. Although - as I noted in my review - the archive of past seasons of a number of old MTV and VH1 shows is weirdly spotty. And while licensing is likely the reason why you won't see much of the MTV music video programming, it's strange to me that Viacom/CBS has opted to create branded music channels for Pluto, but not for Paramount+.
All of that programming was what I had expected to see and in fact, a lot of it had already been added to CBS All-Access. There are a couple of big disappointments for me, and they are both connected with Viacom's Paramount library. If you are renaming your streaming efforts with the Paramount name - a name you are going to use globally for streaming - why would you not lean deeply into the Paramount legacy? Despite Paramount having hundreds of TV shows in its library, there isn't one series in the Paramount+ "classic TV" section that you haven't seen before. It's inexplicable, given the history of that brand. Company executives promise that will change, but given the amount of time they had to plan for the launch, why not have at least some of it ready to stream?
Things are even more disappointing in the movie section. At first glance, the movie section of Paramount+ seems impressive. There are nearly 700 titles in the section, which sounds like a lot of options. Until you begin to look through the section and notice that probably 2/3 of those titles are science specials from the Smithsonian Channel, celebrity roasts and other specials from Comedy Central as well as all sorts of random one-off titles. The actual number of movie titles available on Paramount+ right now is likely in the 250-300 range. And while there are some great movies in the section, thanks to Viacom's "we'll license our stuff anywhere to make some money" approach to their catalog, most of the best titles have been widely available for years. You would be hard pressed to name a streaming service which hasn't had the rights to movies such as the Indy Jones titles at some point or another.
So that is what makes the decision not to launch with a deeper dive into the Paramount catalog even more inexplicable. Paramount has been producing movies for a hundred years. And while there are valid reasons why some titles can't be part of the streaming world right now, sticking with the same roster of familiar oldies just feels disappointing. Yes, I know executives point to a deal with Epix to provide more recent titles and there are reboots of a number of TV titles on the way. But why launch with such a predictable collection of titles. Why not take advantage of the older titles you have in-house to bridge the gap until the newer titles arrive? And why not use that catalog to remind subscribers why the Paramount brand matters to them?
And that seems like the big challenge for Paramount+. How to live up to the promise of the name. Like Warner Brothers, Paramount does have a long history in Hollywood. But why use that name as branding if you're not going to lean into it?
ODDS AND SODS
Starz announced today it is in the planning stages of bringing back Party Down as a limited run series featuring the original cast.
Universal is changing the premiere date of the Fast And Furious movie F9. This is the third time the release date has changed and this time the studio is moving it from the Memorial Day weekend to June 25th. Universal also announced that Minions: The Rise of Gru, the fifth installment in the Despicable Me franchise, has been postponed an entire year. The animated family film was set to open on July 2nd, 2021, and will now release theatrically on July 1st, 2022.
1) Baron Noir Season Three Premiere (Topic)
The third season of this French drama tells the story of French politician Philippe Rickwaert (Kad Merad), who thirsts for revenge against his political enemies. Philippe’s political career is in shambles after he is sacrificed by presidential candidate Francis Laugier (Niels Arestrup) during the election. As Philippe plots against him, forging alliances and cultivating friendships across social stratas, his life becomes a fascinating, organized chaos, and a constant battle against his enemies and his own demons.
2) For Heaven's Sake (Paramount+)
This new series blends comedy and crime documentary formats for a unique take on uncovering the truth. The series will follow the search for Harold Heaven, who mysteriously disappeared from his remote cabin in Ontario, Canada, in the winter of 1934. Local police searched the nearby woods and dredged the adjacent lake, but Harold was never found nor heard from again. The case was unceremoniously closed as a likely suicide. 85 years later, his great-great-nephew, Mike, attempts to solve this coldest of cold cases, with the help of his extended family and true-crime-obsessed best friend, Jackson.
3) Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years Series Premiere (Paramount+)
Kamp Koral, the first-ever SpongeBob SquarePants spinoff, follows 10-year-old SpongeBob SquarePants and his pals as they spend their summer building underwater campfires, catching wild jellyfish, and swimming in Lake Yuckymuck at the craziest camp in the kelp forest.
4) Lucky (Shudder)
Life takes a sudden turn for May (Brea Grant, After Midnight), a popular self-help book author, when she finds herself the target of a mysterious man with murderous intentions. Every night, without fail he comes after her, and every day the people around her barely seem to notice. With no one to turn to, May is pushed to her limits and must take matters into her own hands to survive and to regain control of her life. Written by Brea Grant, directed by Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl).
5) My Mane Problem (ALLBLAK)
This new reality series features celebrity hairstylist Dr. Boogie - an industry veteran whose clients include Taraji P. Henson, Eve, and Vivica Fox – rescuing clients struggling with deeply affecting hair trauma.
6) Pacific Rim: The Black Series Premiere (Netflix)
After Kaiju ravages Australia, two siblings pilot a Jaeger to search for their parents, encountering new creatures, seedy characters and chance allies.
7) Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests (HBO Max)
Taking a personality test can provide useful insights into our sense of self, but many may not realize how deeply embedded personality assessments are in everything we do. Persona explores the unexpected origin story of America’s great obsession with personality testing, uncovering the intriguing history behind the world-famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, while raising a slew of ethical questions and demonstrating how some personality tests may do more harm than good – like impacting online dating matches or job prospects. This eye-opening documentary reveals the profound ways that ideas about personality have shaped our society.
8) Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News (Paramount+)
Tooning Out the News will feature a cast of animated characters, led by anchor James Smartwood, parodying top news stories and interviewing real-world guests, newsmakers, and analysts. New five- to seven-minute segments will be available Tuesday through Friday, culminating in a weekly full episode.
9) Strange Evidence Season Premiere (Science)
This series investigates mysteries caught on tape and uncovers the science behind some of the most bizarre occurrences ever recorded.
10) The Deadly Type With Candice Delong Series Premiere (Discovery+)
Candice DeLong reveals the traits that can mold a killer.
11) The Real World Homecoming: New York Series Premiere (Paramount+)
Almost 30 years later, the original “seven strangers” that paved the way for modern reality TV are moving back into the New York loft where it all began . Viewers will be reunited with the cast from the very first season of The Real World in a brand new multi-episode docu-series to find out, once again, what happens when they stop being polite… and start getting real.
12) The TS Madison Experience Series Premiere (WE tv)
TS Madison is setting out on a bold, unfiltered, and authentic journey to be the first Black trans woman to host a mainstream talk show. With her team and her BFF Tiffany "New York" Pollard, she's on a daring quest to accomplish her dreams.
13) The Walrus & The Whistleblower (Discovery+)
A popular animal trainer wages war to rescue a beloved walrus.
14) What On Earth? Season Premiere (Science)
Viewers will embark on an extraordinary journey as they travel around the globe, discovering the truth behind these mysteries thanks to state-of-the-art aerial imaging and analysis from the world’s leading investigators and scientists
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