It sounds like Apple’s original content is going to be really, really bad – TechCrunch

For Apple’s content business, gratuitous profanity, sex or violence are all verboten as the company tries to thread the needle between being a widely beloved producer of high quality consumer goods and purveyor of paid entertainment to a public that’s increasingly enthralled with blood and gore at its circuses.

It’s not just blood and gore; take a show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which brought an Emmy award to Amazon. There is a lot of strong language, and, in the pilot, a scene where there are breasts visible. (And the character gets arrested for flashing in the club where she rants on stage.) Even something like that will not pass muster with the Apple censors.

To be fair, this sort of thing clearly crosses a line:

To set the table, The Journal walked readers through some of the issues Tim Cook apparently had with Vital Signs, a title the company had acquired loosely based on the biography of rap legend (and former head of the billion dollar Apple acquisition, Beats) Dr. Dre.

Reportedly, after Cook saw scenes including a mansion orgy, white lines, and drawn guns the Apple chief put the kibosh on the whole production saying it was too violent and not something that Apple can air.

But this is simply ridiculous:

If Apple’s aversion to potentially scandalous storylines is as extreme as The Wall Street Journal article makes it seem — requesting the removal of crucifixes from a set to avoid offending religious sensibilities in an M. Night Shyamalan drama

It’s funny, because some Apple staff have suggested that Apple’s video offerings would be “expensive NBC,” and even NBC has pretty graphic stuff in its police procedurals.

I highlighted this problem back in February, when I wrote:

[…] there’s no reason why excellent TV can’t be family friendly. But in today’s television climate, it’s difficult. West Wing is one of the best series ever on TV (IMHO), and it was a network show. Friday Night Lights was a brilliant series that ran on a network. And Downton Abbey was far from controversial. There are plenty of comedy series that are family friendly. But to push the envelope, there needs to be daring topics, ones that may have some swear words and some tits, and, well, some violence. Black Mirror, House of Cards, Westworld, Homeland, True Detective; all these current and recent series would not pass on US network TV.

But if Apple draws the line at family friendly TV, they will miss out on the next big series; the next Game of Thrones, True Detective, or Breaking Bad. Let’s face it, Reese Witherspoon will not be part of cutting-edge series drama.

I think all these articles miss the point; the reason why Apple is doing this. It all boils down to one thing: China. Apple wants to sell its service around the world, and in the largest market, where the company is stumbling, they can’t afford for it to be blocked. (There are other large countries that might censor risqué content as well, but none with the buying power of China.)

Source: It sounds like Apple’s original content is going to be really, really bad | TechCrunch

The BBC Should Broadcast More Theater

This weekend, the BBC broadcast a filmed-in-theater production of Hamlet, starring Andrew Scott, and filmed at the Almeida Theatre in 2017. This seems to have been very popular, judging from reactions in the press and on social media. Why don’t they broadcast filmed theater more often?

Live theater broadcasts have become commonplace in the UK, with productions from the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company beamed to cinemas several times a year. The NT Live series presents about one production a month – sometimes live, sometimes “encore” productions that they filmed in previous years – and the RSC broadcasts their Shakespeare productions, four or five a year, and has done so since 2014. (The first RSC live production was in late 2013; Richard II, starring David Tennant.) And another series, Cinema Live, produces the occasional play, along with music and dance productions.

These cinema broadcasts – part of what is called “event cinema” here, which includes operas, concerts, etc. – are now a staple of cinema viewing, but they are expensive. Tickets cost around £20 (depending on whether one is a member of a cinema, and some cinemas charge more or less depending on the event), meaning they are out of reach for many people. In addition, they tend to sell out quite early, so people who only hear about them near the time of the broadcast can’t even get tickets.

An article in the Guardian today discusses how well Shakespeare “translates to the small screen,” and suggests that if Will were alive today, he might be a show runner. This article discusses not just theater being filmed, but also other adaptations of Shakespeare plays, such as the recent Hollow Crown series of history plays, and the forthcoming King Lear, with Anthony Hopkins leading a constellation of stars.

But why not just film more plays in the theater and broadcast them on TV? The BBC being a public broadcaster could make these broadcasts more frequent than the few times a year, and they could range from Shakespeare to comedies, from musicals to popular theater. After all, theater companies such as the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company receive a fair amount of public money; why can’t they give back with some of their existing films so the general public can see theater in their homes?

While the RSC releases DVDs and Blu-Rays of their filmed productions, so anyone can buy them, and, presumably, libraries can stock them to loan, the NT Live productions sit gathering virtual dust in an archive. None of them are released on disc, and the only way anyone can view them is to visit the National Theatre’s archive, which isn’t very practical for anyone outside of London.

The quality of these filmed productions is impeccable; there’s a great deal of know-how and technique that has been developed in recent years, so these films aren’t just a couple of cameras switching between long views and close-ups, but are rather well choreographed presentations of the plays. They make theater come to life in a way that, while different from being physically present, is still powerful. As a regular theater-goer – often selecting front row seats to be as immersed as possible – the films are certainly different, but they are their own from of production, which can be often as good as being in the theater. (Better, if all you can get are the cheap seats.)

The main question for theaters is whether these live broadcasts cannibalize ticket sales. With the current RSC production of Macbeth being broadcast to cinemas on April 11, it’s clear that this is not the case. The production, starring Christophe Eccleston, is sold out for its entire run through September in Stratford-upon-Avon, and for its shorter run in London. Quite the contrary; it seems that, in many cases, these broadcasts get more people interested in the theater, potentially selling more tickets to the actual productions. The National Theatre had a revival of Amadeus last year, and this was so popular that they’ve brought it back again this year. The NT Live broadcast certainly didn’t reduce the demand for tickets, and may have actually helped sell more.

In the end, it’s about providing TV audiences with a variety of programming. There’s plenty of low-brow fare: weekend comedies, soap operas, reality shows, murder mysteries, and the like. Would it be that hard to broadcast, say, one filmed play a month? It’s certainly not a question of cost; it’s much less expensive to film a stage production than it is to reproduce the same play in a studio or on location, or to shoot a TV movie. The technology exists, is widely used, and there are production companies who have a great deal of experience. It’s probably more a question of the BBC not wanting to seem “elitist,” as if presenting theater on TV would be a bad thing.

As a regular attendee of theater productions, I would welcome this. I would love to see not only the NT Live and RSC productions on TV, or productions like this Hamlet, but also original productions from smaller theaters. Let the TV watching public discover the riches of theater in the UK.

Battle of the Boxes: Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast – Stephen Radford

A few years ago I “cut the cord”, cancelled my TV License and cable subscription. Back then I used a 3rd generation Apple TV with subscriptions to Netflix and Now TV alongside my vast number of YouTube subscriptions.

I’ve since tried what feels like every box or stick that displays web content on your TV. All have their own interfaces, experiences, content options, and trade offs. Which box works for you will depend on your requirements.

This article is by a developer in the UK, so it won’t apply as much to other countries, particularly the US, where there are more networks, and many networks and channels have apps for the Apple TV. But this comparison is very well thought out and worth reading if you’re thinking of cutting the cord.

One thing he doesn’t mention, however, is that a smart TV would do most of what he wants. My LG TV has apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Spotify, and many others. I don’t use Spotify, and use an Apple TV for Apple Music and my iTunes Store purchases. And I don’t particularly care about the UK channels, other than the BBC iPlayer, which my TV offers.

Previously, when I had a different TV that didn’t offer an Amazon Prime Video app, I bought an Amazon Fire. I no longer use it (and should probably put it up on eBay).

As for me, I haven’t had a “cord” in many years. We have digital broadcast TV, which I almost never watch, other than for news, and I don’t pay the extortianite price for satellite TV. I do pay a TV license, which Radford says he doesn’t pay for, but which is now required to use the BBC iPlayer. (Technically; I don’t think they can actually check if you have one when you’re using the iPlayer.)

Source: Battle of the Boxes: Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast

The Next Track, Episode #65 – Pass the Remote Control

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk express frustration about the number of complexity of remote controls they use.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #65 – Pass the Remote Control.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ is even worse than you thought – The Outline

You knew Apple’s reality show Planet of the Apps — in which entrepreneurs present their app ideas to celebrity advisers and then a panel of investors in the mode of Shark Tank — was bad. But did you know just how bad? Dubious ethics, terrible advice, heavy-handed branding, and the sense that no one knows what the hell they’re doing

I really don’t get it. As I wrote in February:

Is this really the best they can do? Can’t they do more than a lowest-common denominator talent show? Sure, it’s about apps, and that links it to Apple, but this seems like they’re targeting a pretty low level of viewers.

With a reality TV star president, I think the time is right to pull back on these cheap, sensational shows. I’ve never watched reality shows, and, while I admit some may actually have merits – The Great British Bake-Off, for example – this is just mindless entertainment for the masses. I think this type of TV content sets the bar very low for Apple.

Either Apple is full of executives with really bad taste in TV, or they got roped into something by a Svengali who convinced everyone that this would be a good idea. They should pull the plug so it will be forgotten like Ping, and other failures.

Source: Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ is even worse than you thought | The Outline

King and Corporation – Illuminations Media

On Wednesday night BBC Two broadcast Rupert Goold’s film of King Charles III with a script by Mike Bartlett. It is on BBC iPlayer for the next four weeks, and if you watch nothing else in that time, make time for this. It’s a wonderful 90 minutes of beautifully achieved, bold, provocative, innovative, smartly subversive television, with a glorious performance from the late Tim Pigott-Smith at its heart. The plaudits have poured in, as I have little doubt they will continue to, and among the thoughtful press responses perhaps the most thoughtful is that by Mark Lawson for the Guardian. (Perhaps the most bizarre is ‘The BBC’s King Charles III inevitably contained plenty of howlers’ for – surprise! – the Mail, although treating the fantasy as a docu-drama is some kind of compliment.) Apart from expressing close-to-boundless enthusiasm for the film, I want here just to add a couple of thoughts about its status as television.

I watched this last night, and it’s the best thing I’ve seen on television in a long time. It’s a 90-minute adaptation of a play about when the current queen dies and Charles becomes king. It’s full of Shakespearean intrigue, and the language is a nod to Shakespeare, with blank verse, iambic pentameter, and some odd word order at times. But interestingly, it took me a while to notice the language; I think many viewers won’t even spot it, they’ll just think it’s a bit weird. (You know, the royals speaking funny…)

This article, by John Wyver, who produces films and filmed theater productions, examines how subversive this production is. And when you think about it, he’s right; there are many layers around this film, from the subject matter to the language, to the context of it being produced and broadcast on the BBC.

If you’re in the UK, watch this: it’s on the iPlayer for a few weeks.

Source: King and Corporation – Illuminations Media