Happy Streaming Days

The presents are opened. The boxes are in the trash. The returns are piling up because even thinking about going back to the mall (or the post office for gifts bought online) is still just waaayyy too stressful.

So with the kids (and lucky adults) off until after New Year there is one option open to everyone: Netflix and chill. Or Hulu and chill. Or Prime and chill. And honestly, that’s where you’re going to find the best TV showcasing some of Hollywood’s hottest stars.

If it’s John Krasinski in Jack Ryan or Elizabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale, Hollywood A-Listers are signing up for series TV work.

Swimming Up Stream

“Streaming in general and Netflix in particular, has led this charge,” Michael Douglas told The Cocktail. “And there’s never been an easier time for actors to go between feature films and television.”

Just a few years ago, this would have been unheard of! Once a star “graduated” from television to the silver screen, there was no looking back. And if they did return to a television series, they always got sympathetic stares from their co-workers!

But Michael, who has a new series on Netflix, The Kominsky Method, says streamers have changed the game. “A large reason is the movies I used to do, character driven, small, indie pictures. And I had two or three of them, pictures you guys never saw. King of California, Solitary Man. Pictures I really liked that got no release, theatrical release at all. Worked my butt off for nothing. I was getting a little disappointed.”

Kelsey Grammar, who did a movie, Like Father, on Netflix in August, says the streamers are able to offer opportunities that networks and cable services can’t. “If you’ve got a passion and a plank, basically, which is the old saying about doing stage work, you can go make something and that’s what Netflix has done for people. and our industry.”

Douglas likens it to making a mini-movie. “So this format, for a lot of film people, has been fantastic. Half hour comedies like Kominsky Method, hour shows, or movies. No commercials This is as close to making a thirty, thirty-five minute movie, can be twenty-five minutes, as you get.” Also the fact that they essentially do half-seasons (8-12 episodes) makes it much easier to commit.  Networks are still making talent slog through 22 episode season. It’s so much, it drove Damon Wayans to abandon his show, Lethal Weapon, midway through season three.

A Second Life

It’s also a place for shows to find a whole new audience, as Kristen Bell learned. “I am on a show called The Good Place. And the backlog of episodes went on Netflix and our audience base, tenfold. Exponentially grew. Our show is that much more popular the following season.”

And that’s just for a network show. And we all know movies and TV shows come and go each month. But original content like Kominsky Method or Like Father will soon be the mainstays of streamers. And those will be available 24/7 forever.

Originality

And original content is even more important because each media giant wants to launch a streaming service of its own.  Disney already plans to pull its content from Netflix when it launches its own streaming service with the massive Disney archives which is also absorbing 21st Century FOX’s library.

AT&T just bought Time Warner and wants to put that content, along with boutique content provider HBO, on its own platform.

So if NetPrimeHu is going to survive it will mean sustained investment in original programming.

Worth The Risk

Even though Netflix has been around for years, it’s still defining itself. And that is what appeals to some stars, including Bell. Kristen told us “They’re not yet defined. They haven’t yet defined who they are so they can be a lot riskier. Whereas like network television has defined what their audience is. They take a lot of risks. They green light crazy projects that otherwise wouldn’t have found a home. And then they turn out to be Stranger Things.”

We agree, Stranger Things have happened!

Kelsey says the high risks are already yielding high rewards. “I think it’s great. The amount of content that they’re nurturing and producing is a boon to our industry. For people who are just starting our, for people who are established.”

“So it’s joyful. It’s exciting,” Douglas told us, “and I don’t quite know how Netflix is doing it to the extent that they are. I can only speak to the extent of Chuck and our team, and what a great job they’ve done in these first eight episodes. But Netflix has jumped out there, so many hours and so many episodes, and seems to bring a lot of quality to the screen.”

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

It’s too late for egg nog and too early for champagne. Try a Hot Toddy. Hopefully you have a good friend who gave you a good bottle of scotch or whisky this holiday season. If not, you must do two things: 1) Head to the liquor store 2) Re-evaluate your friends.

Cheers!

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