Thursday Thoughts – How much power do TV audiences have?

Fox has been on something of a killing spree of late. After cancelling 5 shows in as little as 2 days, you have to question whether channel bosses will still have anything to run by the time they’re finished.

Amongst the massacred was Brooklyn Nine Nine. The decision to call time on this much-loved cop show was met with shock and outrage from fans (myself included). Cries of disbelief rang out across social media and soon these turned into campaigns to get the show back. In the space of just 36 hours, the show has died, been buried, and then was resurrected by Fox rival, NBC.

This reinstatement of the Nine Nine raises the question of how much power audiences actually possess, especially when it comes to TV shows. With films, it’s all fairly clear cut – if the film makes enough money, you tend to get a sequel, whether you asked for it or not. With TV, it’s not quite the same kettle of fish, however there is obviously a correlation between audience numbers and show survival rates as one of the most common reasons for cancelling a show is low ratings. Quality doesn’t seem to be a real deciding factor here either, which means this selection process is quite unfair. Shows that are actual works of art are take from us far too soon, while others that are tripe at best go on forever purely because there’s a larger audience watching it.

However, it would seem that there is hope for those good shows that come to an untimely end. Resurrections do happen – they have now saved two shows that I hold very close to my heart (one being B99, the other being Ripper Street). And on both occasions, these decisions have been brought about by the actions their audiences have taken, mainly in the form of kicking up one hell of a fuss about some idiot’s momentary (but HUGE) lapse in judgement.

So, TV audiences have power, but exactly how much do they have? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, but we definitely have a decent say in what makes the cut and what doesn’t. I don’t have the statistics for the Brooklyn Nine Nine revival handy, but I know that in the case of Ripper Street it took only 12,000 signatures on a petition to get Amazon to take the show on. In the grand scheme of things, 12,000 really isn’t a massive number either when you think about the 3.38million people that watched the show on average.

But here’s the thing – we are very spoilt for choice when it comes to what we watch on TV now. More so than ever before. There’s a lot of things to watch, but the actual audience size hasn’t increased as quickly, which in theory means that each new show and channel added stretches that audience thinner. Suddenly, 12,000 is a significant number of viewers for a channel to lose if it displeases them, and it’s also a significant number of viewers for a newer kid on the block to think about winning over. These two things coming together were ultimately what saved Ripper Street’s ass, and they will create similar dynamics in future that will save other shows. Why? Because in this world where everyone’s attention is being fought for constantly by at least 10 different entities, it’ll be the ones that give audiences what they want that come out on top. We as an audience must remember that we are the most important people to these TV stations, and also streaming platforms too. Without us, they have no purpose and therefore would cease to exist. NBC are giving the people what they want by saving Brooklyn Nine Nine, just as Amazon did when they saved Ripper Street. I do not doubt for a second that they will benefit from their decision, but regardless of however it turns out, they will be known to millions as the people who saved B99, and that kind of testimony packs a punch. And the only people who can provide that testimony are the audience, which is why they wield so much power.

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Review – The Last Kingdom (Season 2)

If you’ve been frequenting this blog for a while you may be aware that a little show called The Last Kingdom stole my attention a couple of years ago. The historical drama, which has been liked by some to a budget version of Game Of Thrones, debuted in 2015 and took a lot of people by surprise – myself included. it finally returned for it’s second season in 2017, and despite my best efforts, I’ve only recently got round to watching it.

Was it worth the wait?

Quite possibly.

The show picks up from where it left off at the end of season one with our hero Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), continuing his mission to rescue his sister, but very quickly it becomes apparent that his energy is going to have to be focused elsewhere too. Just like with season one, the writing was superb. I’m not sure there were quite so many surprises this time around, but then i knew more about what to expect from the show, so you could say I was more prepared.

My love for our protagonist here grows with each episode I watch. I was well on-board with the character of Uhtred in season one, but I am surely smitten with him now. Bernard Cornwall, author of the novels that the show is based on, has created a character that you absolutely want to succeed no matter the cost, and Alexander Dreymon has brought those to qualities to life in such a way that I think everyone should be allowed to have an Uhtred-type figure in their lives. It seemed that this time we got to see a more human version of the character. Dreymon showed a side of Uhtred that was ruled more by his heart than by his head. The character also felt like he had matured considerably since the last time we saw him, which was also a nice development to see.

Season two also brought with it the return of a few other characters and fleshed them out more. some got better, others got worse, and my perception of these characters hinged purely on the way they treated our beloved Uhtred, funnily enough. We also got introduced to some newer faces as well, one of which I’m guessing will go on to have a pivotal role as the show progresses through future seasons.

I seemed to me that there might have been a bit more action this time around, although whether that was as violent as the last time I’m not so sure. As I said at the beginning, when the show started in 2015 it had an element of surprise about it. As a new show, I had no idea what to expect, and it pulled absolutely no punches. This time I kind of was more acquainted with the style of the show, so knew it wasn’t going to hold back as much. did this mean it lacked as much impact? In terms of shock factor, perhaps, but as I’ve said, the show felt more mature with this season, which I think made up for it.

So there you have it really, my take on The Last Kingdom season two. Definitely a good extension to what we’d seen previously, and it’s sown the seeds for what’s to come in future. Is it still one of the best British shows you could watch at the minute? Absolutely – give it a spin.

Review – 50/50

50/50 is another of those films that I’ve heard a lot of people say good things about, and also one that I’ve had recommended to me more than once.

The film is about a guy who gets diagnosed with cancer in his 20s and is given a 50/50 chance of survival. On the surface, it sounds like a somewhat depressing watch, but the story is told in a way that is actually very entertaining, and because of this it feels very authentic too.

I really loved the performances from Joesph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in this. Gordon-Levitt played cancer-fighting Adam brilliantly. He captured a whole range of emotions with his performance. Rogen played his best friend Kyle, who I believe was supposed to represent Rogen himself in the film, which is based on one of his real-life friends. Both actors were really great on their own, but when they were together on screen, whether in their scripted scenes or the more impromptu stuff, together they took it to a whole other level. You were watching best friends going through hard times, not two people pretending to be buddies, and that was a key element in making this film as good as it was.

I’ve already touched upon how realistic this film felt. While it had it’s fair share of down moments, it wasn’t too dark overall. At the same time, it didn’t try to be laugh-a-minute – I think the tone of the film was just right, which is another reason why it felt so real. Every situation in life is made up of many elements no matter what it is, and often when these are portrayed on-screen, especially when showing real-life events, the tendency can be to depend more heavily on one of those elements. I don’t feel like at any given point 50/50 played up too much to the happy or the sad parts of the story. It just took everything as it was, and didn’t make it any more than it needed to be, which was very true to the nature of our protagonist here (does that make as much sense to you as it does to me?). I’m also pleased to say that, for once, I’m glad the film had a happy ending, which I think stands testament to how it portrayed it’s lead character and his situation.

On the whole, I’d definitely say you should give 50/50 a go. It’s a film about so much more than a guy with cancer, and everyone who watches it will be able to relate to it in some way or another, which is why you should see it.

Review – The Shape Of Water

Probably one of this year’s most talked about and most hotly anticipated awards season films is The Shape Of Water. It’s a film that I hadn’t been too fussed about seeing initially, but one thing led to another and I ended up going to see it anyway.

Well, AREN’T I GLAD THAT SUCH A FORTUNATE SERIES OF EVENTS OCCURRED AND I DECIDED TO GIVE IT A SPIN! What a wonderful film it turned out to be! Very moving, surprisingly funny and gloriously original. I can’t quite believe that I almost gave this one a miss.

Perhaps what had put me off seeing this film was the premise. Essentially, it follows a woman who falls in love with a merman. Any regular visitors may know that I am not a hopeless romantic, hence why this wasn’t a film that popped up on my radar. However, I did feel that, for the most part, The Shape Of Water wasn’t dead soppy with the way it portrayed any of the relationships in the film, and I can’t complain about that one bit.

i really loved the some of the performances in the film, and also what a golden bunch of characters was featured. Sally Hawkins is delightful as Eliza. There was something about her performance that meant it was just really lovely to watch. The pairing of her and Octavia Spencer’s very chatty character was genius, and I think the two really brought out the best in each other on-screen.

Michael Shannon plays a good bad guy, I’ll give him that. There were countless times where I thought he just absolutely owned the role of Richard Strickland. I actually despised his character, and that was a wonderful feeling to have. To put it simply, he was a nasty man with an agenda, and Shannon played it brilliantly. Loved it!

No matter what you think of this film, you can’t deny that it is original. Writer and director Guillermo Del Toro does what I believe he’s quite famous for by now by treating us to a story that is rather like an adult fairytale. It is a superbly fantastical with some romance, friendship and a bit of violence and brutality thrown in for good measure. It’s a real mix, but nothing that’d be a far reach from anything that any of us would’ve had read to us as kids I don’t think. It was definitely very different, and I liked that about it very much.

So, after enjoying The Shape Of Water far more than I had expected to, it would seem that all I can do is sing it’s praises. I loved the characters and the performances that went into bringing them to life. There was terrific variety in what I got to see in the film too, and as for originality – well, this ticks all the boxes on that front for me. The Shape Of Water gets a solid recommendation from this girl at least.

Review – Sleeping With The Enemy

I’m a big Julia Roberts fan. I’ve seen a few of her films now, and I’ve enjoyed the majority of them. Sleeping With The Enemy was not really part of that majority though.

The film follows a woman who fakes her death in order to escape an abusive husband, but who ultimately makes enough mistakes to enable him to track her down in her new life. I liked the idea of the storyline – I think that had Roberts not have been front and centre in the film it would still have appealed to me because of this. As I was watching it, there were parts of the film that I think could have influenced other stories such as Gone Girl. I have to say though that I thought it could have been done better. There were certain elements of the plot that were a little too good to be true and worked too well in the favour of some characters. Now might also be a good time to point out that I didn’t find the ending to be very satisfying at all. I’d have preferred a more drawn out, more climactic final showdown that the one we got. What happened was a bit predictable for me – I’d have preferred something with more shock and awe to be honest.

This wasn’t my favourite Julia Roberts film, not by a long way. I don’t think there was anything that was majorly wrong with it, no crimes against film were committed, I just didn’t like it that much. Her character here was a far cry from Vivienne in Pretty Woman or Erin Brockovich in, well… Erin Brockovich. Instead, she was bit of a wet lettuce who you struggled to pull of the things she did. As for some of the other actors in the film… I haven’t got a clue who any of them were to be completely honest (all I know is the guy who plays Roberts’ husband here has recently made a prolonged appearance in Eastenders which tells you all you really need to know about him). Again, I didn’t think anything I saw was particularly stunning, but they were performances. I think I’ll leave it at that.

So those are pretty much all the thoughts I have on Sleeping With The Enemy. In short, I’d advise spending your time watching one of the numerous films similar to this but finished to a higher standard. This was rather average, and I think we all deserve better.

Review – The Disaster Artist

A film telling the story of how possibly the worst movie ever made came to be sounds like it could be very entertaining. However, did any of us ever imagine it would be as good as this? I did nahhhhhhhhht.

Yes, The Disaster Artist sheds some light on how Hollywood hopefuls Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau (played by Dave and James Franco) found each other, and how their god-awful 2003 film, The Room, came to be. It had always showed promise, but what this film delivered was phenomenal.

The Franco brothers both put in what are very likely to be career-best performances so far. Dave was really cute as Greg – you completely bought into the idea that he was just a kid trying his luck. There was a strong happy-go-lucky vibe abut his character that meant you kind of expected him to get a break at some point.

Now, without casting too much of a shadow over Dave’s performance, let’s talk about James for a second. He was absolutely terrific as Tommy. Without a doubt he is the single element that takes this film to whole other level. Seriously… where the hell did this come from? I thought the likeness between him and the real Tommy was uncanny. As far as looks go, there was a bit of a difference, but in terms of tone of voice and mannerisms, if you didn’t know better I think you’d struggle to tell them apart at first. He really did stand head and shoulders above the rest of the cast here with his work – absolutely terrific!

I liked how selective the film was with the scenes of The Room it showed. I think it covered just about all of the most infamous scenes of the film, which I think has been key to the success of The Disaster Artist. I haven’t seen The Room myself, but knew about all of the scenes included here. Being based on the book that documented Sestero and Wiseau’s friendship and their making of The Room, I don’t know if this was a decision that was already made for the creators of this film, but if not I think some wise decisions were made.

Similarly, I think there is one very significant creative choice that should be noted as being genius here – the end credits. Who ever’s idea it was to show Wiseau and Franco’s scenes side-by-sideat the end should be championed. Again, we come back to Franco’s stonking acting, but also the attention to detail that film makers of The Disaster Artist had. The make up of each scene was virtually identical, making it feel like everyone involved truly felt something towards this project.

The Disaster Artist may well be a top contender for my Film Of The Year 2017. I’m really struggling to find any kind of a fault with this one. There were some quality performances put in by the actors and an astonishing amount of dedication to the project by everyone involved. There’s a lot that can be taken from this film, but if anything you should note that whatever you want is possible provided you are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. If all you get from watching The Disaster Artist is that message then it was worth seeing it, trust me.

Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

SO… I finally got to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Almost four months after first being reeled in by that glorious trailer, I made it my mission to catch the on it’s opening weekend here (apologies for the review taking this long), and oh my goodness, wasn’t it terrific!

For those of you who are yet to see the film, you should know that it is a dark comedy revolving around Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), the mother of a murdered teenage girl. What basically happens is she rents three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (spoiler alert) in the hope that might give the town’s chief-of-police (Woody Harrelson) a kick up the arse.

What I will say is that this film will not hit the spot with everyone. It is a great piece of film making, and I’m sure most people will appreciate that, but whether it will go down a storm with all of those same people I am not sure. Why is this? Well, it is writer and director Martin McDonagh at his best, meaning it features a lot of very dark comedy. Understandably, this is one of the things that I think has helped to separate the super fans of this film from everyone else. However, I loved it. The tone, for me, was bang on, and really helped to cut the tension and completely change the atmosphere whenever it was used. I also think that this was a device that helped to really show how reflective of real life the film was. After all, there are so many of the worst moments in life that have some very funny undertones, wouldn’t you agree?

I really can only sing the praises of the actors who took on the three main performances. Frances McDormand is fiercely brilliant as Mildred. I feel like she perfectly balanced all of the emotions that come together to form the basis of her character. She didn’t take any crap from anyone, but she was still hurting and was very vulnerable underneath, and McDormand’s performance made this immaculately clear.

Sam Rockwell put in a fantastic supporting turn, and just like many others, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win an Oscar for his work here. In fact, I think I’d actually be surprised if he didn’t to be quite honest. He was so key in communicating what this film ended up being about for me, meaning he was a proper supporting actor, and not someone just given the title for the sake of it.

Even Woody Harrelson was on top form here besides only being around for the first half of the film. I don’t know what it is but there is always something in the characters Harrelson plays that I always love, and that remained very much the case here.

Now, I’ve listed a few things about Three Billboards that made the film work so well, but I’ve not really said anything about the thing that screamed out to me the most. To me, this is a very realistic, very human film. It tells ‘real people’ stories that all happen at the same time as they do in real life. It doesn’t create any clear heroes or villains either. To me, it was like being a visitor in the town as all these things were going on, and that was enough. I think to be able to reflect the real lives that could be happening all around you is something that many film makers try to do, but none have created anything that has resonated with me so much as McDonagh has managed here.

You’ve probably guessed it by now, but I would happily recommend Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to just about anyone. It’s a massively human film that portrays all of it’s characters in a very realistic light, and also manages to make you feel just about all of the emotions they do, but also doesn’t fail to make you laugh either. I took one minor issue with it, but that really is just me being nit-picky – beyond that I’d struggle to find fault. Get out there and see it in cinema while you still can, people!