Last Week’s Episode: Something Clever That Isn’t About the Pandemic

Last Week's Episode

I think we officially need to retire using the subtitle “Pandemic Edition” on things. This is now the third of these articles I’ve written from shelter-in-place and I’m starting to accept this is just life now. The good news is that with summer on the horizon, we all seem to be reaching some sort of new normal. The bad news is that America is still a dumpster fire in this weird equilibrium. So here’s to all the shows we’re binge-watching while simultaneously trying to stay up to to date on news and drown our worries in fictional stories. (My list includes The Great, She-Ra Season 5, and finally catching up on Supergirl.)

Full disclosure: This article was mostly written while listening to Carly Rae Jepson on a loop. I was trying to capture the vibe of this tweet by comic creator Molly Ostertag. Because I too have been celebrating the Tuca & Bertie announcement while drawing out the last few episodes of She-Ra as long as I could. Listening to Jepson’s new album was the last thing I needed to complete last week’s cheer up trifecta. A shining candle in the darkness that not everything about 2020 is terrible. This fan art Ostertag drew of Catradora is everything. The fact that it’s based on a sketch of her with wife, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showrunner, Noelle Stevenson is icing on the cake.

Now that you have a feel-good moment and the proper soundtrack, on to the entertainment news. True to 2020 form so far, it’s still rough out there challenging but there was some good news to temper the bad this week.

The Good

Ponyo and Sezuske stare over steaming bowls of ramen
How much streaming soup is too much? (Ponyo, Studio Ghibli)

HBO Max, the latest in a string of streaming services to launch this year, went live yesterday. (Has anyone declared 2020 the Year of Streaming, yet? Can I coin it? Damn, I googled it and I’m definitely not the first. At least I’m on-trend?) Whether the #SnyderCut is good or bad news depends on how you feel about his aesthetic.

At least, it’s always interesting to me as a media scholar when social media campaigns succeed in swaying corporations — and other directors have definitely noticed. David Ayer is jumping on the train, voicing his desire for a chance at an #AyerCut of Suicide Squad. [Collider] But for sure one tally in the good news column is that HBO Max has 21 Studio Ghibli films! Another downer is that DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is notably absent. The Big Question: Will HBO Max give Netflix a run for its money? That remains to be seen since it hasn’t even been live for 24 hours yet, but speculation is already wild.

Image from Friends of character drinking milkshakes displayed prominently in the middle banner with over various media listed below in streaming interface with black background
But is the wait really over HBO? Where’s that Friends reunion show, huh? (HBO Max)

One interesting thing WarnerMedia is doing differently from Netflix is departing from the predictive recommendation algorithm that governs most of the internet. Buy a new toilet seat once and have targeted ads for luxury bathroom thrones flashing at you forever while scrolling social media. This new strategy is being dubbed a “human-first platform” that focuses on lists curated by real humans. So it boils down to are you a Spotify or Pandora person? If you’re the former, it looks like HBO Max might be an interesting option. Although, the 15 bucks a month price tag puts it at the most expensive streaming option. HBO has to pay off the Friends reunion somehow, right? [CNET] [Verge]

And if you’re trying to figure out the differences between HBO Max, HBO Go, or HBO Now, well, just know everyone’s just as confused as you are. [Vox]

FX on Hulu released the lineup of their renewed seasons and new shows. Kudos to them for fixing their initial mistake in not giving Y: The Last Man‘s Pia Guerra equal billing. Is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia really still on? (Ed.’s note: With it’s renewal for season 15, it’s now the longest running live-action comedy series!) Emmy-award winning Pose is on the list of original programming that will be returning and I’m particularly glad Better Things will continue. It’s rare to find a show that portrays motherhood in such a raw and honest way. [Twitter]

Many projected 2020 Summer Blockbusters may have been pushed back, but there is still a hefty list of new stuff coming out in the coming months. This includes probably the only way I’ll ever see Hamilton when it releases on Disney+ in July. It is not a film adaptation of the musical, but (in my opinion even better) a recording of the 2016 stage production with the original cast. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani’s murder mystery romantic comedy came out on Netflix May 22nd. I watched it this weekend and really loved the wacky combination of all those genres. It was a gamble, but I think it paid off. Do recommend for romcom, comedy, and action fans. [Variety]

Are you into reunions? Well you’re probably not as stoked as our editor is for a Teen Wolf cast reunion, but you might be excited to see the entire cast of Lord of the Rings have a Zoom sesh (with host Josh Gad (Frozen)), set to drop on his YouTube page Sunday. [CinemaBlend]

The Bad

While looking for links to share here this week, I found an interesting issue relating to social media and classical music that has come up since the move to online platforms during the quarantine. Apparently copyright bots are the cause of classical musicians being banned or shutdown on when they try to post their original recording on sites like Facebook. How is a performance of Mozart’s Kegelstatt trio composed in 1786 considered copyrighted material? Your guess is as good as mine. But apparently these copyright bots are those annoying people who fall asleep during live theatre and don’t listen really well. (Why did you buy a ticket if you didn’t want to hear the whole thing?) One such bot claimed the Camerata Pacifica‘s video contained 1 minute and 18 seconds of  “audio owned by Naxos of America.” I did some digging and apparently Naxos of America is a company that distributes collections of classical music, but that hardly qualifies them to claim ownership to all classical music. This would be like Random House (who publishes various editions of Shakespeare) striking down Sir Patrick Stewart for reading sonnets on his Instagram. Hopefully, the platforms will work with musicians to find a way to showcase their music while theatres and concert halls are closed for public safety. [Post]

Content warning: discussion of racism in the entertainment industry and anti-Black police violence below.

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Purple Haze 💜💜💜

A post shared by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

The investigation of Gabrielle Union’s treatment on America’s Got Talent was concluded in a statement that sounds carefully drafted by the studio PR department. It ends with saying NBC and associated AGT companies “share Ms. Union’s dedication to diversity and inclusion in the industry.” Yeah, uh huh. In an interview with Variety, conducted the same day video footage of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder came to light, Union discussed her past treatment in the industry and big plans for continuing to create a more inclusive workplace in Hollywood. For her and many others representing marginalized identities, separating everyday prejudice and their workplace is impossible. In Union’s own words, “When it’s easier to come up with excuses of why someone is murdered in cold blood, and protect the perpetrators, I don’t know how we get to you seeing me as an equal in the office.” [Deadline] [Variety]

Notable entertainment industry people spoke out this week on the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. [Variety] Other celebrities, including Seth Rogan and Ben Schwartz, have publicly supported the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a non-profit that pays cash bail for low-income residents of the state, and which is looking to support activists who might have been jailed following the protests of the past two nights. [THR] This tragedy came after a deluge of racist acts in the news, including the brutal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and former Marvel editor Christian Cooper bearing the brunt of white women who weaponize victimhood when a New York park-goer called the cops on him for simply asking she leash her dog. Director Ava Duvernay had this to say on Twitter about the death of Floyd:



Lola Watson

Lola Watson

I'm a community college professor, nerd, and mom who collects comics, knits, and procrastinates a whole host of other hobbies in my lack of spare time. My research focuses on using technology in the classroom, pop culture, children's literature, and comics.