Always Be Watching - 09 November 2018

ABW is by Dan Barrett.

Conan O’Brien is getting ready to launch the new version of his talk show. The new version of his show will be just half an hour, it will be a lot less focused on celebrity guest conversations and more on audience interaction and comedy bits. Basically, it’s everything he should have done when he launched his TBS show initially.

Gone, however, is his longtime band - Jimmy Vivino & The Basic Cable Band. When I attended a taping of the show last year, I was incredibly impressed by the band - it was the band that brought all of the energy to the studio. They’re exceptional and the loss of the band makes me think a lot of the changes on the show are network mandated in order to bring down the production costs.

This is Conan talking about the departure of the band in early Oct:

The new version of Conan launches in 2019. Before then, Conan is also launching a podcast. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend launches 19 November with Conan speaking to guests that will include: Kristen Bell, Bill Burr, Dax Shepard, Wanda Sykes, Marc Maron and a joint interview with Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally.


Max Greenfield will return to the world of Veronica Mars with the new Hulu series. Patton Oswalt will also feature.


Brooklyn Nine Nine returns on its new network NBC from January 10, 2019.


Where do you watch your favourite TV shows?

Apparently the answer is Netflix and not live TV. Hub Entertainment Research quizzed 1,700 regular TV viewers between 16 and 74 with broadband in their homes during the month of October about how they find and watch their favorite programs.

This is the second consecutive year in which online streaming has come out ahead of live TV. In 2017 there was only a 4% difference. But this year the gap has widened dramatically with 12%.

What’s interesting, though, is the shows that people are listing as their favourites:

The most mentioned shows included broadcast titles like This is UsThe Good Doctor and The Good Place, as well as Netflix original Ozark and HBO’s Game of Thrones

Just the one Netflix original mentioned? It seems as though viewers love broadcast content, just not the delivery mechanism.


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Netflix are continuing to invest in foreign language shows. CNET have this interesting interview with Netflix Chief Product Officer Craig Peters about their efforts.

Important to Netflix is subtitling and dubbing:

Another crucial element is investment in improving the availability of shows in different languages through subtitles and dubbing.  House of Cards, Netflix's first original show, was subtitled in nine languages when it debuted six years ago. Now Netflix routinely dubs content in 10 languages, and as many as 26 if the show is for children.

I used to consider dubbing as a crime against cinema, but I have noticed my own habits changing along with the way I watch content. If I’m on the couch, I’ll always go for a subtitled version, but I’ll admit, when I am watching on the train or otherwise out and about, I do tend to lean on dubbed versions more.

And I’m not alone:

The company experimented by showing US viewers foreign-language content. It found that if the quality of the content was high, viewers were more than happy to watch it. Netflix also discovered they were much more likely to finish a show if it had been dubbed, rather than subtitled.

Dubbing and subtitling are art forms of their own, Peters said, and Netflix is working hard to improve the quality of both. The company had the cast of Dark dub the show in English, an effort to add to the authenticity.

"When we do it well, all of that complexity fades into the background," he said. "All you're left with is an incredible story told well and presented beautifully ... and there are so many untold stories that the world is just waiting to see."

An interesting comment made by Peters:

A survey conducted by Netflix showed a high percentage of US viewers don't want to watch content in languages other than English.

"It's a super depressing survey result," Peters said. "So we ignored that survey." 

While it sounds brazen to hear Netflix just ignoring a survey, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Netflix are also facing mandatory local content quotas in a number of different countries around the world. The EU, for example, are mandating 30% of content be local. So, investment in content from outside the US isn’t necessarily Netflix finding a hunger for the content as much as are using it as a political move to stem discontent.


If anime isn’t really your kind of thing, it has probably not been something you have noticed, but Netflix have been quietly investing in its anime library over the past few years, growing it out with both original and acquired series. This announcement of five new titles is its most significant yet. Why? Based on some of the titles, these may well cross-over to general audiences in a way most anime titles do not.

Altered Carbon - an anime feature set in the same universe of the Netflix live-action sci-fi series. The live-action series is currently shooting its second season. The anime film will explore new elements of the story mythology & written by Dai Sato (“Cowboy Bebop,” “Samurai Champloo”) and Tsukasa Kondo.

Pacific Rim - produced for the streamer by Legendary Entertainment (“Kong: Skull Island,” “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu”). Resuming the epic battle of Kaiju and Jeagers, the original anime series will expand upon the story of the first two live-action movies and follow an idealistic teenage boy and his naive younger sister. They are forced to pilot an abandoned Jaeger across a hostile landscape in a desperate attempt to find their missing parents. Craig Kyle (“Thor: Ragnarok”) and Greg Johnson (“X-Men: Evolution”) are co-showrunners.

Cagaster of an Insect Cage - set in a post-apocalyptic world where the mysterious Cagaster disease turns people into giant murderous insects. The series’ story follows the struggle of a young couple to stay alive.

Yasuke - LeSean Thomas (“The Boondocks,” “Cannon Busters”) is creator, director and producer, the storyline features a retired ronin who must take up his sword when he is charged with the task of transporting a mysterious child whom dark forces want to eliminate. It is based on a historical samurai of African origin who fought with Oda Nobunaga. Grammy nominee Flying Lotus will compose the music and be an executive producer on the show, which is produced by animation studio MAPPA (“Yuri on Ice,” “Kakegurui”). Lakeith Stanfield will voice the protagonist Yasuke.

Trese - is set in a Manila where the mythical creatures of Philippine folklore live in hiding among humans. Based on the Philippine graphic novel of the same name, by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldissimo, the story sees a woman who finds herself going head to head with a criminal underworld composed of malevolent supernatural beings.


Grant Morrison has gone Hollywood. Among the titles he is working on is an adaptation of his comic The Invisibles. I met Grant once - lovely guy.


David Simon and Ed Burns have a new HBO mini-series based on Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America:

The Plot Against America is an alternative history novel in which Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to aviator Charles Lindbergh, an isolationist and admirer of Hitler, and antisemitic persecution in America increases as the country moves closer to fascism. Many historical figures are characters, but the story revolves around a fictionalized version of young Phillip Roth as he deals with the changes in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey. 

It is assumed David Simon will be working on this following the conclusion of production on the third and final season of The Deuce.


The Australian pay TV service Foxtel has launched its online streaming sports service. Named Kayo (as in K.O., a knockout), the service is priced at $25-35 per month.


And that’s it for today. There’s one more Always Be Watching newsletter for the week to come - the weekly guide to the new and returning series of the last seven days.