Streaming news certainly took no holiday break, writes “Watch It!” columnist NICK OVERALL.
OVER Christmas, Netflix released a doco comedy hybrid called “Death To 2020” that’s seen it in the spotlight of entertainment news for the last few weeks.
It’s a little tricky to describe what it actually is. Think along the lines of a theatre revue except in TV format. It’s a sketch comedy satirising the year that was, wrapped up in a 100-minute run-time stacked with as much star power as possible – Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow and Samuel L Jackson to name drop just a few.
The production was led by British television writer Charlie Brooker, best known for creating another of Netflix’s hits, “Black Mirror”– an anthology series about the dangers of the technology we see rapidly evolving in front of us.
The originality of “Black Mirror” carries over to the writing he’s done for this new production. Brooker has earned a reputation for the way he’s trying to change how we interact with entertainment, particularly his work on “Bandersnatch”, an episode of “Black Mirror” that allows the audience to respond to the story of the show by mashing buttons on their remotes.
While not quite as interactive, “Death To 2020” certainly has its own original edge that’s seen it popular with “Netflixers” around the world.
Despite the film’s high level of viewership, it’s also borne the brunt of backlash with much of its audience believing the satire isn’t as “politically impartial” as the writers would like to make out.
The question is, does it successfully offer the comedic catharsis from the crazy year that it claims it does? Despite its ambition, I don’t think it quite hits the bullseye of witty relevance, though it does land somewhere near the target.
What’s more interesting about the film is the uniqueness of its concept. With a little more finesse, productions like this could be a new way that streamers come to engage with current affairs with roll outs of comedies or commentaries focused on newsworthy events.
SPEAKING of unique ways to watch television, the strange and surreal new show from American production giant HBO landed in Australia on Foxtel Group’s Binge over the break.
It’s called “The Third Day”, and stars Jude Law of streaming fame for his role in “The Young Pope” (currently on SBS On Demand).
Law plays Sam, a man who visits a strange island to participate in a ritual to help him with the grief he faces over the loss of his son who was murdered nine years earlier.
The events that play out of course get weird, with Sam becoming entwined with the strange and mysterious characters of the island and $90,000 that’s gone missing from him and his wife… or so he thinks.
“The Third Day” is six episodes broken up into three parts: Summer, Autumn and Winter, each crafted by a different director.
Part two was what the producers called a “live theatrical event”.
An all-day religious festival plays out on the island he visits. The festival itself was actually filmed and streamed live as it was performed. All of it done in one continuous take for a mind-boggling 12 hours.
I’m doubtful anyone would sit through the entire thing, it’s more of a “drop into for a moment” kind of deal, but the level of world-building it achieves nonetheless is a remarkable thing.
Similar to what’s seen in Brooker’s work as mentioned above, “The Third Day” represents another example of how streaming tech is bringing audience immersion to a new level.