Surf Report: California Dreamin’ On A Winter’s Day – Series To Binge, Books To Revisit, and Photos for That Inevitable Surf Memoir

BW SURF MEMOIR COVER

Santa Monica, CA — I never realized just how much writing I did at my local coffee shop on Main Street, which has been closed for two months, and that’s exactly how long it’s been since my last Post.  Yikes.

I sure do miss Peets Coffee and the Dawn Patrol gang of locals, but I have made do with Home Brew, grinding my own beans, and attempting to froth whole milk and to create a Latte that is acceptable. Still, it’s not the same.

Meanwhile, it’s Winter here in So Cali and that means it’s chilly and cold at the beach in the mornings but sunny by midday. Ya gotta bundle up, wear a scarf, etc.!

California and the US are plagued by a deadly Flu virus, which I have successfully avoided thus far. Also, I am in Week 17 of growing a beard prompting lots of taunts from friends who tell me I resemble slightly younger versions of either Kris Kringle or Gandalf.

The dreaded Drought looks likely to return to these parched parts at any moment if we do not get some much-need Rain throughout the month of March, which is traditionally the last month of The Rainy Season.

I have been binge-watching Westworld (S1) and The Crown (S1). Thumbs up to both series, however, Westworld kinda unravels by its season finale after such a promising start, reminding me a bit of the disappointment I felt with Lost a few years back on ABC. One feels as if the writers don’t really know where they’re going. Presumably, HBO does.

Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy’s series also brings to mind Battlestar Galactica as well as Blade Runner, evoking that familiar premise: Who is more human, the robots or their creators? Credit author Philip K. Dick for being such an Influencer. Am not sure I will return for S2. Still, I love seeing Anthony Hopkins commanding every scene he’s in portraying an Uber-Walt Disney with quite the ruthless streak. Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Ed Harris really score, as well.

Meanwhile, The Crown is just sumptuous Television. I feel so sorry for those poor Windsors! Bravo, Netflix.

EARTHSEA        AT ZEROS YOUNG GANDALF

Reading-wise, the recent passing of author Ursula K. Le Guin prompted me to re-visit her Earthsea series of books, which I have thoroughly enjoyed (and highly recommend): A Wizard of Earthsea and its three sequels as well as Tales from Earthsea, which I found to be quite remarkable and reminiscent of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

I picked up these books during my stint as VP of Development for SyFy (then known as Sci-Fi Channel) in the 2000s. One of the first things I did back then was to meet everyone at the network and ask them what favorite books they recommended for development. The Earthsea books were at the top of the list, but beyond Sci-Fi’s grasp (and still now, I think).  I would love to see The BBC take on these adaptations as they would make winning miniseries.

Surfing in Santa Monica has been kinda poor all Winter, so I have ventured North to Malibu to Nicholas Canyon State Park, aka, Zeroes. It’s a great break, very consistently going right, and just lovely to behold. Funny I should surf there whilst reading Le Guin’s Earthsea books because the topography is quite similar to how I imagine the Archipelago and the Isle of Roke, where The Old Powers and Magic are strongest: Lots of big, ancient rocks for boats to crash onto and beautiful sandy beaches flanked by green verdant hills awaiting your arrival.

A good Book is a wonder. I love writing that fuels my internal projector and ignites my own imagination enabling the story to really come alive in Time and Space. Thanks, Ursula K. Le Guin. #RIP

N E X T   U P:

The Successful Launch of Black Panther Ensures More Super Hero TV.

BLACK PANTHER AND HIS LADIES

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Surf Report: Santa Monica’s Main Street Bids Farewell to Longtime Favorite Peet’s Coffee

PEETS AT 5 AM          MARVIN AT PEETS

Santa Monica, CA — A friend of mine on Twitter recently asked that his followers (including me) to refrain from publishing photos of their Lattes in 2018 saying they all look the same.

He’s got a point, however, not all Lattes are made the same.

For 18+ years, my Lattes have been brewed by Marvin, my local Barista at Peet’s Coffee on Main Street. These not inexpensive but highly addictive coffee drinks have been made with something akin to Love and are well worth photographing/tweeting.

One more Latte for the Road, and then the Party Is Over for Peet’s.

Edgemar Center, the venerable coffee shop’s landlord, has opted to raise the rent after Peet’s long-term lease agreement ended earlier this month. Peet’s Corporate decided to pass and look for new grounds (pun intended).

Last Call is Friday, Dec. 29th.

Ya can’t blame Edgemar for seeking more income, and ya can’t blame a successful franchise like Peet’s for declining to pay more rent after anchoring that center for nearly two decades.

One wonders how much longer other stalwart Edgemar tenants like Brick & Mortar or Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream will survive at Edgemar if a high-volume business like Peet’s can’t afford the skyrocketing rent increase?

Main Street has lost more than a few businesses to this Catch-22: Most notably, the well-established Omelet Parlor, American Apparel, and Areal.

So, what’s a Local to do now that his favorite coffee shop (along with some really great employees) is going away?

Mourn. Say farewell. Learn to brew coffee at home.

IMG_1640

Surfers, Teachers, Medical Personnel, Gym-goers, Cyclists…these are the first customers to arrive at Peet’s on a daily basis: The Dawn Patrol.  At 5 AM, this is not the most verbal of crowds who quietly place their order, exchange muted greetings and either settle in or depart for the rest of their day, caffeine in hand.

Make no mistake: Peet’s Coffee has been the Central Hub of a rather eclectic Community, and the coffee shop will be sorely missed.  The coffee is great (strong!), but it’s the people who keep you coming back again and again.

(This Appreciation was written there on a sleepy Wednesday morning.)

For 10+ years, Peet’s Coffee on Main Street sponsored my cycling club, Shifting Gears , who would meet for Tuesday morning easy spins from Main Street through the Marina (and back – 15 miles). After the training ride, the group always enjoyed a cuppa at Peet’s which provided a warm and friendly environment for such gatherings.

On any given day, one can run into their friends, neighbors, tennis partners, yoga instructors, bar tenders, and elected officials while waiting in line at Peet’s. And that’s part of its charm, you never know who you will see!

TUESDAY BIKE RIDE       PINTO STANDING SURFER BEACH

Peet’s Coffee also has been home to a lot of Writers, Journalists, Bloggers, Painters, Actors, Musicians, Techies, and many other Artists seen deep in conversation whilst enjoying a cup of Dark Roast.

Book recommendations have been exchanged there amongst new friends. Heated political discussions have taken place amongst old friends. Many a rainstorm has been weathered there with new friends.

So what’s next for Peet’s?

Thankfully, the wonderful, kind, and big-hearted employees are all being transferred to other stores around the area (Montana Avenue, The Grove). Peet’s Corporate has been looking for another space on Main Street for quite a while but has not found a suitable new home.

Main Street already houses coffee emporiums Dogtown Coffee, the Urrth Café, Starbucks, Groundworks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Bulletproof Coffee.  That’s a lot of coffee shops!

The next tenant is rumored to be (what else!) another coffee powerhouse: Blue Bottle Coffee (which started out in Oakland, CA). Nearby Abbot Kinney already hosts a Blue Bottle café, which has many other stores in Los Angeles.

Next Stop: Main Street, Santa Monica.

So Peet’s, this is a Farewell for Now. And, this is an Appreciation for the good vibes, the great coffee, and for the community fostered there.

Peet’s Coffee, this Peetnik will miss you.

Here’s to one last Latte (and yes, I shall tweet a photo!):

CUPPA   Thanks, Marvin, Rich, Adrin, Cynthia, Seb, Jenny & Co.

 

N E X T   U P:

New Year’s Resolutions! Home-Brewed Coffee …

PINTO SECRET LIFE OF

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Surf Report: 48 Hours in Park City, Utah

PARK CITY SNOW

Park City, Utah — No better place to escape smoky California wildfires in December than this sleepy Silver Mining town that is better known for hosting the Sundance Film Festival in January, and for great skiing, of course.

Like all great mountain towns, folks go there for the Winter but stay there for the Summer.

When visiting Park City to ski or for the film festival (Here’s The 2018 Lineup Of Films For Sundance), the best advice I can offer is for you to actually Take. My. Advice.  I have been skiing Park City for 25+ years, and I have got it down, Brothers and Sisters.

Flights to Salt Lake City (SLC) – Delta Airlines has the best flight schedules b/c SLC is its hub. Schedules are important, especially, when the time comes to Depart. You don’t want to leave Park City at the crack of Dawn. Delta will have the best departure schedule, preferably after 1 PM, so you can chill-lax one more morning before leaving filled with regret that you didn’t buy a condo in Park City 20 years ago!

Transportation to Park City from SLC Airport – Forget Shuttle Services. Go Uber or Lyft . Much less expensive. Just as reliable. You do not need a car, especially if it’s wintry conditions. Repeat: You do not need a car.

Hotel – Ya gotta stay at The Lodge at the Mountain  if you are a Skier. Or, even if you are not. Located at the base of the Park City slopes, the rooms are great. Ski rental shops are right there as are the free shuttles to Main Street, Deer Valley, or the Canyons.

(Great Tip: Stop at the shop by the skating rink to buy some Milk or Cream for your in-room Coffee Maker. Otherwise, it’s nasty creamer for you.)

The Lodge at the Mountain also provides complimentary shuttle service to Deer Valley or The Canyons with really friendly drivers. Ask for Andrew, a Park City local with all the great tips on where to go, to eat, etc.

The most welcome surprise is the Fitness Center which includes a heated indoor pool, a hot tub, and a downstairs locker room with a sauna, steam room and showers. Great place to end the day after skiing and before apres-skiing elsewhere.

BALCONY VIEW AT LODGE AT THE MTN   AVALANCHE DOG MS T

Skiing:  Park City is great. In 2002, Salt Lake City was the Host City for the Winter Olympics , and Park City hosted the outdoor sporting events. The runs are fun and challenging no matter your level of proficiency. There is a fun run for you.  The US Ski Team also makes its home in PC, and for good reason: Park City is a great place to ski (or snowboard).

Rental Shops are right there at the Lodge at the Mountain, and they offer discounts for guests, so take advantage and rent there. Much less expensive than renting skis at Deer Valley for the day.

This trip, I rented skis from Jackson’s Base Camp  and received a 30% discount because I was a guest of The Lodge. Best of all, the beautiful 20somethings working at Jackson’s not only put on your boots for you, but they also take them off for you at the end of the day which feels like a gift from Heaven. Jackson’s also has an old, large in-store dog who likes to be petted, which is charming.

Also, the lift ticket office and access to the slopes are right there. It could not be more convenient. Someone has thought of everything. Trust me.

Park City and The Canyons also share a Ski Pass Lift Ticket, so take advantage and ski both slopes with an Epic Pass. There’s a really cool Gondola ride awaiting you at The Canyons.  Make time for lunch at the Red Pine Lodge on top of the mountain.

Deer Valley is more beautiful and scenic. I’ve decided it’s because of the plethora of Evergreens which make its slopes just more Forest-y. Deer Valley is also more expensive, so prepare yourself. The good news: Deer Valley is totally worth it.

My favorite spot at DV is, not surprisingly, The Beach, located on the backside of the mountain.  There are deck chairs set out on the snow by the Lodge where you can relax, have a drink, and definitely take a siesta.

3 AMIGOS   PERSPECTIVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast: Hop on the City Shuttle to Main Street and hit The Eating Establishment when it opens at 8 AM.  Great ambience with fireplaces, skylights and friendly servers make for a great start to the day.  Try the 2-Egg Breakfast, the Bennie, or the Biscuits & Gravy.

All were hits with my brothers and myself. (Our sister Paula owns The Hot Biscuit, the best spot for a country breakfast in our hometown of Hodgenville, KY, so we know good Biscuits & Gravy!)

MAIN STREET PARK CITY NO SNOW   EATING EST BFAST

Dinner: Ya gotta make the High West Saloon your first stop.

Locals love this converted house/auto garage into a hip distillery/restaurant and so will You. The trick is to show up, prepare to wait for a table, have a bourbon outside by the fire pit, and order correctly by eating light.

Skiers! I’m talking to you here.

The best thing on High West’s menu begins with its completely soulful Bread Basket which comes with a Compound Butter made with Whiskey and Honey. So so good and filling.

So, you’ve got a bourbon or an Old Fashioned. Order the Cheese Board. Relax. Enjoy. Nibble. Converse. Then, move on to the Beet Salad which is so completely light, bright and refreshingly citrus-y. Trust me, by now, you will be done. So, stop.

FIRE PIT AT HIGH WEST SALOON

Okay, you’ve spent the day skiing. You’ve enjoyed a hot tub or a sauna or a steam. You’ve had some great bourbon and a great dinner. Now, prepare to be dead tired. It must be the altitude.

Walk it off on Main Street. Window shop (or shop) at Lululemon or Roots (Where I Got My Blue Beret in 2002) Then, drop in on a bar of your choice for a nightcap before heading back to the Lodge for another welcome soak in the hot tub. There’s also several venues with live music, so check ’em out.

Get a great night’s sleep and wake up early so you can do it all over again and again. Enjoy! I must warn you, though. Forty-eight hours in Park City won’t be enough time for you as you’ll want to stay all Winter.

I know that I surely do (and just might).

N E X T   U P:

New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Ski More.
  • Surf More.
  • Watch Less TV.

REST DAY AT DEER VALLEY

BROTHERS LA RUE AT DEER VALLEY   TRUMP RUN AT DV

 

 

 

 

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Dallas Surf Report: Hidden History – A Room With THE View at SMU

BISHOP BLVD SIGNAGE

Dallas, Texas — At my Alma Mater, Southern Methodist University (SMU), there is a Room with, hands down, the best view of the campus and of the Dallas skyline.

And, it’s a 100-year-old Secret to most Mustangs.

Welcome to the Attic Apartment atop Dallas Hall.

DALLAS HALL 2021

Dallas Hall sits atop an actual Hilltop at SMU and commands a view of the entire campus (voted one of the most beautiful in the nation) as well as the skyline of the city of Dallas. The building is listed on the national historical register, and its dome is quite majestic.

If you look at Dallas Hall, focus on the two stone balconies beneath the grand Dome, on each side. Now look at the Dome, but right in the center beneath it, there is Another Balcony.

Herein sits Dallas Hall’s long forgotten dorm room and SMU’s very tight-lipped architectual Secret.

Once upon a time, the first President of SMU, Robert Hyer, was to live in a private attic apartment at the very top of Dallas Hall in front of the dome with its own private balcony overlooking the entire campus. The apartment, however, was deemed too small for President Hyer’s wife, so they ended up living in another building, Clements Hall.

Kudos to you, Mrs. Hyer. You are/were quite correct.

1917 PHOTO OF DALLAS HALL

So for a very short time, the attic apartment which is basically just two rooms (and a fantastic balcony with an unparalleled view) housed SMU’s first football coach, Ray Morrison (who also coached Track, Baseball, and Basketball in addition to teaching Mathematics!) who was then succeeded by some lucky Theology students before they got too rowdy, and use of the apartment was discontinued.

This is why we can’t have nice things, people!

Darwin Payne, former chairman of SMU’s Division of Journalism, mentions this space in his well-received SMU Centennial commemorative book, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop. Payne’s book reminded me of the existence of Hyer’s apartment. The Seed of Curiosity germinated.

DARWIN PAYNE BOOK COVER

A few weeks ago during Homecoming Week, this Prodigal returned to The Hilltop to guest-lecture a couple of classes in Meadows School of the Arts.

I checked out a number of exhibits in both Perkins’ Bridwell Library  (Martin Luther Bibles!) and the Meadows Museum (Spanish Art!), however, those wonderful displays paled in comparison to this privately secured campus tour.

I was lucky enough to rediscover SMU’s architectural secret alongside my classmate, Dodie Jacobi (a Meadows grad), and Joan Gosnell, the University’s Archivist. Our tour guide was Scot Montague, Operations Chief (and an SMU Dad).

Entering via an unmarked door inside Dallas Hall, the four of us very carefully climbed an old iron spiral staircase which leads to an anteroom of the apartment. This anteroom is circular because of the Dome:

Lots of exposed brick, cobwebs, and dust welcomed us as its most recent visitors.

    JOAN AND SCOTT ATTIC APT

We were stepping back through Time: An Unmarked DoorAn Old Spiral Staircase! A Chamber of Secrets?

All that was missing was the ghost of President Hyer (or his wife) bitching about the draft and our casual attire.

My inner Harry Potter could not have been more thrilled!

If only those Theology students from the 1900s could have regaled us with their stories of having the coolest dorm room on campus. Surely, they grilled out hamburgers on the balcony while debating The New Testament.

Okay, maybe not.

What I did not know is that there is a second iron spiral staircase that leads to a private office below the apartment. Presumably, this staircase entrance was intended for President Hyer. Dodie and I both made mental notes to reserve that office should we ever return as Alumni-in-Residence.

 INTERIOR ROTUNDA

Dallas Hall is the first (and last) building a student likely enters while at SMU. I certainly had many English, Journalism and History classes there during my undergraduate days. So, it was a particular pleasure to finally get a peek at one of its most closely held secrets: The Attic Apartment.

In a perfect world, the University would share my love for this space and restore it. Again, there are only two very small rooms: A living area and a bathroom. And, that awesome balcony (or three!). The pale blue walls are heavily grafittied from students (and faculty) who commemorated their sneaky visits via Sharpie. We were not the first to visit this belfry. Many have preceded us. You can read their names right there on the wall.

SKYLINE OF DALLAS

What is undeniable about this curious space is how special and unique a living quarter it must have been back in the early 1900s. Also, it must have been very cold and drafty during the winter months!

One hundred year-old wooden doors with transoms, baseboards, and tongue and groove flooring show the craftsmanship that went into creating this one-of-a-campus apartment.

 

ATTIC DOORWAY     ATTIC SCOTT DODIE

Unfortunately, the safety concerns are numerous. That tremendous view, though…

ATOP DALLAS HALL WITH DODIE

One day, this wonderfully quirky attic apartment will be re-discovered by the right person, that maverick Dean, the history-obsessed University President, and it will be restored to its original Glory. (Heads up, Laura Bush!)

For now, though, this super secret apartment is A Room With THE View at SMU.

BALCONY SHOT OF DALLAS HALL

Special Thanks to Joan Gosnell of SMU Archives and to Scot Montague of University Operations for the private tour which was the highlight of a very special week in Dallas. Thank you for your time and for your generosity of Spirit.

After the tour of Dallas Hall, Joan invited Dodie and I to view the Archives which is located in the DeGolyer Library in the Fondren Building. It was like stepping backstage of Reality, or if you will, the Room of Requirement in Hogwarts.

 JOAN AT ARCHIVES ENTRANCE

The History of SMU is in good hands as Joan is a wonderful custodian of the University’s past which includes collections from Dallas entrepreneurs Stanley Marcus and J.C. Penney.

Dodie and I found our junior year Rotunda which chronicled our days as the Resident Advisors in the now-defunct Lettermen Hall (sadly, now a parking structure):

 

ROTUNDA LETTERMEN PIC

 

Architectural Secrets at SMU are probably numerous.

Supposedly, there are secret tunnels that run underneath the Main Quad. I shall leave those to another intrepid alumnus to file a report. For me, though, seeing this Dallas Hall secret after wondering about it for decades was a triumph in both curiosity and resourcefulness in addition to the generosity of the University to grant such a Tour.

I love my alma mater. Now, I love it even more. History really is a treasure. At SMU,  there is much to be discovered. You can start with SMU’s Digital Collections

Seek and Ye Shall Find, my fellow Prodigals.

 

N E X T   U P:

Off to Park City, Utah. Let it Snow!

PARK CITY SNOW

 

 

 

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Film Surf Report: Black Panther Leads A Strong Lineup Of Films For 2018 (Stock Tip: Buy #Disney)

 

BLACK PANTHER AND HIS LADIES

Santa Monica, CA  — Just renewed my Passport and am ready to travel to Wakanda to hang with Black Panther (and to check on The Winter Soldier who is still frozen) before heading to France to catch up with those Fantastic Beasts.  Am gonna need my wetsuit because ya never know where Aquaman will drag a fella.

2018 is gonna be a fun year at the movies!  Were I trading on the Stock Market, I would most definitely buy *Disney as 2018 will belong to this studio (with The Last Jedi closing out 2017) which will clean up via Marvel Studios, Pixar and Lucas Film.

With The Last Jedi, Disney Recoups Purchase Price Of LucasFilm

Add to that Disney’s proposed purchase of 21st Century Fox’s Filmed Entertainment divisions, well, the Mouse House is about to bulk up in a major way. Welcome, X-Men!

Meanwhile my pick for Sleeper Hit comes from Disney, as well:  Ava Du Vernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, which hits theaters March 9th (and is the first in a series, launching a new franchise). Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling Are Featured In The Trailer

A WRINKLE

Meanwhile, mark your calendar and alert your stock broker because here’s what’s on tap:

  • *Black Panther   Feb. 16th — Very impressed with Chadwick Bozeman and his introduction in Civil War and have high hopes for the standalone film which boasts a fine cast directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station).  Interested to see the South Korea locations.  Here’s the T R A I L E R #1   Fox scored with Deadpool on this release date. Smart move. The LA Times calls it “Royally Imaginative!”
  • A Wrinkle in Time  March 9th — See above! A recent Time Magazine cover shares my prediction, as well.
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider  March 16th — The re-boot stars Alicia Vikander and Dominic West. Roar Uthaug directs.
  • *Avengers: Infinity Wars Part One    May 4th –Could be way too many Marvel characters going up against Thanos in this one.  Everyone gets short shrift, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Marvel. Here’s the 1st Trailer – Wakanda! Black Widow is blonde now, so there’s that. Meanwhile, here’s the latest Trailer.

AVENGERS INFINITY WAR

  • Deadpool May 18th — Ryan Reynolds returns with a new director for the foul-mouthed, almost-Oscar nominated sequel and breakout X-Men property.  Fox has to get this sequel right in order to launch Strike Force, so expect a set-up.  Here’s the very fun T R A I L E R for DEADPOOL 2
  • *Solo: A Star Wars Story  May 25th —  Alden Ehrenreich (Hail Caesar!, Beautiful Creatures) seems to be a terrific choice.  Donald Glover co-stars as young Lando Calrissian.  Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Emilia Clarke also co-star. Phil Lord and Chris Miller either quit or got fired, and now, Ron Howard takes over much to my dismay.  Here’s the first Preview!
  • *The Incredibles 2   June 15th —  Cannot wait, Pixar Studios!  Brad Bird returns along with the original voice cast (Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter). This is a 4-quadrant movie.  Here’s the 1st TRAILER featuring Jack Jack.

INCREDIBLES 2

  • *Ant-Man & Wasp  July 6th  — Not a fan, so Rudd & Co. gotta win me over, especially since this film is being billed as Marvel’s first Romantic Comedy! Michael Douglas returns as Hank PymPeyton Reed directs (again). Walton Scoggins signed on for an unknown (and probably villainous) role. Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne also star. Production just wrapped Nov. 20th. Here’s the 1st Trailer Which Features Wasp!
  • Venom Oct. 5th — Hopes were not high until Tom Hardy signed on to play Venom, the anti-hero of the Spider-Man Universe.  Interested. Underpaid actor Michelle Williams co-stars.  Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) directs. Here is the 1st Trailer featuring Tom Hardy!

VENOM POSTER

 

  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix  Nov. 2nd — Too soon. I still remember the Famke Janssen version of X3, and young Jean Grey was just okay in Apocalypse. Fox is going to the X-Well once too often, I fear. Simon Kinberg is set to direct. Jessica Chastain plays the Villain, who is taken from the original Comic.  Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy return as does Evan Peters as Quicksilver.  Feels Ho Hum to me. Been here, done that.  Meanwhile, someone dies! Any guesses?

FB CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD

  • Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them: The Crimes of Grindewald  Nov. 16th — David Yates to direct the 2nd of the planned five films in the franchise that will likely culminate in the big duel between Grindewald (Johnny Depp) and a young Dumbledore!  (Jude Law)
  • Aquaman  Dec. 21st — Man, I hope DC Comics/WB gets it right here.  Jason Momoa looks great holding a trident, confronting Bruce Wayne, etc. in Justice LeagueAmber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman also star. James Wan (Fast & Furious 7, The Conjuring) directs. Supposedly it’s not an Origin Story but expect a lot of humor a la Thor: RagnorakEW’s 1st Look Make It Sound Like An Origin Story, Tho!

AQUAMAN JASON SHIRTLESS

Here’s a Peek at  2 0 1 9:

  • Untitled Fox/Marvel Film  Feb. 14th — That Fantastic Four option appears to be lapsing.  Doctor Doom perhaps? Or possibly, Multiple Man starring James Franco! Simon Kinsberg produces from a script by Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman).
  • X-Men: New Mutants Feb. 22nd — Josh Boone directing a new group of mutants that will likely include Wolfsbane, Rachel Summers, and MagmaJames McAvoy set to return as Professor X.
  • Captain Marvel  March 8th — Okay, Brie Larson. Ya got your work cut out for ya. Story is set pre-Avengers in the ’90s with Nick Fury not wearing an eye patch! Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to direct. Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Tomb Raider) scripts. Jude Law has signed on to co-star.
  • Shazam! April 5th  David F. Sandberg (Annabelle) set to direct with Zachary Levi set to star, and Dwayne Johnson is set to produce and to star as Black Adam, the villain of Shazam!, in a spinoff film, but Johnson is reportedly not appearing in Shazam! (or is he?). Supposedly, Shazam! is the next DCEU film to go into production in 2018.

SHAZAM COMIC

  • The Batman  March (SO VERY TBD) Ben Affleck returns (or does he????). Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes) set to direct.  Joe Mangianello made a surprise cameo as Deathstroke in Justice Leauge. However, there are rumors that Deathstroke is out (and may now get his own much smaller solo film instead), and The Penguin is in as an effort to lighten up this franchise. Frankly, I’d rather see  Bookworm (with Tom Cruise or Colin Firth). Affleck wrote the script with Geoff Johns, however, Reeves is starting over from scratch and going for a detective noir approach.  Hence, the delay.  This will be a standalone film and not part of the DCEU.

DEATHSTROKE JOE MANGANIELLO

  • Avengers 4  May 3rd — What was to have been a 2-parter from The Russo Bros. has now become Avengers 4 which supposedly wraps up the current group, including expensive paycheck players Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America who completes his contract with Marvel with this film. Look for an intro to Captain Marvel, as well.  Thor has an eye patch. Black Widow is now blonde. The End of the MCU (As We Knew It) Via GQ
  • Gambit  June 7th — Channing Tatum, anyone? The loss of director Gore Verbinski has resulted in a delay. New Director is TBA. Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) co-stars.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming Pt. 2   July 5th — Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei scored in Civil War and are rewarded with a 3-parter.  Expect director Jon Watts to return for the sequel.
  • Flashpoint  (SO VERY TBD) Ezra Miller’s standalone film has been plagued with problems. New script and new director caused the film to get pushed back by a year or more. Hope they get this film on track as Miller was the highlight of the Justice League. This DC film will likely move to 2020. DC Film Slate Gets All Shook Up  Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman!

DEADPOOL AND COLOUSSUS

 

  • X-Force A team franchise led by Deadpool, Fox will make it work for better or worse (Fantastic Four anyone?). Drew Goddard writes and directs this non-virtuous team of X-Men which also includes Josh Brolin’s Cable. Ryan Reynolds gets an EP credit.
  • Wonder Woman 2 — Nov. 1st  — Director Patty Jenkins has set the sequel story during the Cold War with Russia.  Who’s the next villain for Diana, though?  My money is on Ares’ son.  Nerdist breaks ’em down 5 Villains for WW2
  • James Bond 25 — Nov. 8th — Purvis and Wade scripting. No director set. No distributor.  Daniel Craig returns one more time as James Bond, though. More info forthcoming including a return for Monica Bellucci.
  • Justice League Part Two  — November (SO VERY TBD) The reviews for Part One have been mixed with most declaring, It’s Better Than BvS! Part Two supposedly introduces Green Lantern! Will Ricky Whittle from American Gods land the role?This month is getting awfully crowded with franchises, so I expect this film to slide to either December or to 2020.
  • Fantastic Beasts 3 (Nov. 15th) More Dumbledore! Less Johnny Depp.
  • Untitled Fox/Marvel Film — Nov. 22nd — More X-Men! Or possibly, Dr. Doom from Fantastic Four with Noah Hawley (Legion) helms.
  • Star Wars, Ep. IX   — Dec. 20th —  How will LucasFilm deal with the untimely death of Carrie Fisher and her alter ego, Princess/General Leia? JJ Abrams returns to the franchise in the director’s chair after a troubling start. I predict the storyline for The Skywalkers gets wrapped up. No more Death Stars, please!

CARRIE AS GENERAL LEIA

 

N E X T   U P:

The Room With THE View at SMU.

BISHOP BLVD SIGNAGE

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Film Surf Report: Universal’s Dark Universe Should Look to John Logan’s Penny Dreadful for Resurrection & Inspiration

DARK UNIVERSE

Santa Monica, CA — When last we saw Tom Cruise’s character (whose name I can barely recall as it was so bland….wait a minute, he was called Nick Something) in The Mummy, he and his resurrected buddy were riding off into the desert landscape to Parts Unknown, both newbie Immortals in search of a Sequel.

Oy, The Mummy was a terrible film. Just terrible. Nothing worked.

Jammed in the middle of the crazy story was poor Russell Crowe holding court in The Prodigium, the hub of The Dark Universe, where the audience was supposed to one day meet Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, The Bride, and The Wolfman.

DARK UNIVERSE CAST

Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie & Co. will have to wait a minute for their respective solo Monster Movies as Universal regroups and commences its salvage operation. Architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have left the franchise.

The Mummy made a respectable $400 million worldwide. Not much to salvage here. More like, a course correction. Make a good movie! Tell a great story! Set up the franchise in the End Credits, if you must.

Universal’s Company Line About Its Intention to Move Forward

Heads Up, Universal.  I have a suggestion:  Look to Television.

Specifically, spend the weekend binge-watching Showtime’s enthralling three seasons of Penny Dreadful, wherein, you will see a seamless gathering of Monsters like The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, Dorian Grey, and The Bride.

More importantly, these Monsters exist within a really really good Story.

PENNY DREADFUL

Master Storyteller Anne Rice is a recent convert and recently shared her thoughts on Penny Dreadful and the Dark Universe:

Anne Rice Posts on Facebook About Dark Universe

Rice, who is on a book tour promoting her own Mummy sequel co-written with son Christopher, Ramses The Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra, knows something about good horror writing.  She’s a fan of the classic Universal monster movies. The studio should call her in for a meeting and bring her on board to help steer the rudderless ship.

Anne and Christopher Rice Discuss The Return of The Mummy With Nerdist

PASSION OF CLEOPATRA

You know who else Universal should meet with?  John Logan!

Penny Dreadful is brilliant storytelling.  Television was the perfect medium, too. Here, Everything Worked.

Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall, SPECTRE) clearly had a vision that his production team masterfully executed as they created period London by evoking foggy cobbled streets, mysterious horse-drawn carriages, and underground dwellings where monsters meet for a cuppa and some solace among friends.

The casting was dead on brilliant, too: Wonderful Actors Who Are Not Household Names.

Eva Green (Casino Royale) was put through an emotional wringer. Her scenes with John Clare, aka, The Monster, were so so moving, filled with wonderful depth and pathos. Rory Kinnear, a supporting player in the Daniel Craig Bond films (M’s assistant), breathes new life in a dead character we’ve seen so often.

Everyone has a monster within them. Moreover, our inner-monsters can be heroic.

Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Reeve Carney, and Billie Piper were equally excellent. Again, Everything Worked: Writing, Casting, Production Design. Everything. This series exemplifies the elusive Lightning in a Bottle.  It is everything 2017’s The Mummy was not.

Am not sure John Logan would wish to re-tread this material for Universal, but it’s worth a conversation, and at the very least, a binge-viewing. He is currently at work in TV adapting Justin Cronin’s deeply disturbing American vampire saga, The Passage, for FOX. (A wonderful book, btw. Am still haunted by its imagery.)

Meanwhile, the notion that the studio has abandoned the franchise after one terrible film (that will make money for them in perpetuity) does not hold water.

The Hollywood Reporter Sees Mummification of Franchise

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN ELSA

Bill Condon (Beauty & the Beast, Twilight, Gods & Monsters) is still attached to direct The Bride of Frankenstein, however, its 2019 release date has been scratched. Jolie was being courted to star but was never formally attached to the film. Now, she can concentrate on Maleficent 2. David Koepp wrote the script, which is being heavily scrutinized.

Please, no more mindless action!

The studio is on record saying these films will be director-driven. I would advise looking abroad for these directors. For example, New Zealander Taika Waititi did a wonderful job infusing some Kiwi humor in Marvel’s latest mega-hit, Thor: Ragnorak.

Also, these films should not be star vehicles. The Monsters are the stars and should not be eclipsed by the actors portraying them (Depp, Jolie). Sofia Boutella is terrific as the Egyptian Princess in The Mummy. I wish she had been given a better Story and a lot more to do than just wreak mindless havoc once unearthed. More Boutella. Less Cruise.

In a sense, the Monster(s) in these films should somehow break the audience’s heart through their respective pain at the cruel hand dealt to them by Fate.  Logan hits homerun after homerun via his characters in Penny Dreadful. As does Anne Rice in The Vampire Chronicles.

We. Must. Care. About. The. Characters.

There’s more life to be had in the Dark Universe. One misstep should not cancel an entire franchise. These are classic horror stories meant to thrill us. Again. And again.

Binge-watch Penny Dreadful. You will be glad you did.

 

N E X T   U P:

The Room with THE View at SMU.

ATOP DALLAS HALL WITH DODIE

 

 

 

 

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TV Surf Report: Branding in the Age of Streaming When Social Media Engagement Has Never Been More Important (Part 4 of 4)

STRANGER THINGS

Santa Monica, CA – A recent headline in Variety proclaimed that 22 million adults will cut the cord and get rid of their cable television subscription by the end of 2017. That’s a lot of lost revenue at $100/month/household.  Add to that lost revenue the number of consumers who are dubbed Cord Nevers, people who have never subscribed to cable.

Well, yikes! So, where will they go?

Answer: Streaming Services and Social Media Platforms. Even Networks know this as evidenced by CBS creating CBS All Access and launching Star Trek: Discovery there.

Studios are evolving as well as evidenced by Disney which is set to premiere its own Streaming Service in 2019 with New Star Wars Series As Its Center Piece

Let’s discuss, shall we? We are covering new ground here, as are these specific companies, so they are discovering their respective Brands as they find their unique super-hits and go from there, producing similar shows in order to capture a consistent audience base.  The one factor all share is Youth.

Baby Boomers, although they have money, are unlikely to Adapt in great numbers.

amazon-studios-2

  Streaming Services:

Amazon is an interesting case study in Branding. It can deliver Anything Anywhere Anytime within 24 hours or same day. That’s pretty much its current Brand. I think of it also as having a strong tie to Publishing, and its development relies heavily on IP (see below).

Notably, the company is spending $4.5 Billion in original content creation this year. A huge chunk will be devoted to its recent acquisition of the TV Rights to J.R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings.

The New York Times Reviews Its Comedy Pilots

  • Signature Series: Transparent, Man in the High Castle, Catastrophe, Mozart in the Jungle
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 2.69 million are talking about something they just bought!
  • Notable Development: A multi-season commitment to a prequel series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which reps a Huge financial risk should it fail. Rotten Tomatoes Predicts Possible Storylines for LOTR Series Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been ordered for two seasons based on its Pilot. Homecoming, an adaptation of a Podcast about government conspiracy with Julia Roberts set to star; Good Omens, a 6-episode hour-long comedy adaptation of the Terry Prachett/Neil Gaiman novel with Michael Sheen and David Tenant set to star; The Underground Railroad, a limited series from Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight); Jack Ryan, an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s spy series with John Krasinski (The Office) set to star; a re-boot of Starsky & Hutch with director James Gunn (GOTG) executive producing; The Romanoffs from Matthew Weiner (Mad Men);  Agatha Christie Mysteries with BBC One; a continuation of Galaxy Quest (no original cast set yet); Mercury 13, a mini-series from Brad Whitford and Amy Pascal about 13 women behind space flight; Too Old to Die Young is a crime drama set in the underbelly of LA and stars Miles Teller and Jena Malone as assassins.

NETFLIX

Netflix is an international force to be reckoned with, but what is its Brand, and does it even need one? Am thinking it could be We Have Something For Everyone.

The company is spending $6 Billion in content creation, $100 million of which is going to uber producer Shonda Rhimes. In 2016, Netflix produced 46 original series.

  • Signature Series: House of Cards, Stranger Things, The Crown, Orange Is The New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Defenders, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist; Black Mirror; The Punisher, Grace & Frankie, Fuller House; Alias Grace; Disjointed; Frontier; One Day at a Time
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 3.77 million (strong)
  • Notable Development: A lot of Comedy Specials; multiple spin-offs of House of Cards (presumably without the recently fired Kevin Spacey); a re-boot or another installment (TBD) of Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City; a re-boot of the campy ’60s family drama Lost in SpaceDanger, Will Robinson!; an adaptation of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (10 eps.); The Haunting of Hill House starring Timothy Hutton in the 10-episode adaptation; The Witcher adaptation which is like Buffy 2.0; Maniac, a comedy series starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Sally Field; The Umbrella Academy, a new super hero show with Ellen Page set to star; The Good Cop with Tony Danza and Josh Groban; Huge in France, a comedy about a star comic who relocates to LA with his model son; Godless, a Western starring Michelle Dockery; Messiah, a 10-episode limited series from Roma Downey & Mark Burnett; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch horror spinoff from The CW’s Riverdale (20 episode order); Altered Carbon, a sci-fi series in the vein of Westworld meets BSG (premieres 02/18).

HANDMAIDS TALE

Hulu made big noise earlier this year when its original series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale won the Emmy Award for Best Drama.

But what’s its Brand: Nostalgia?

Unlike Amazon and Netflix, Hulu does not have a global reach. However, it does have four parent companies: Fox, Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. The streaming service has committed $2.5 Billion for original content creation, per Variety

And, Hulu has a strategic partnership with Spotify aimed squarely at Students, a desirable demographic for advertisers. Lots of series to binge here (new and old until studios start pulling out their content to reserve for their own newly created streaming service a la Disney).

  • Signature Series: The Handmaid’s Tale, Shut Eye, The Mindy Project, Difficult People, Chance, Sarah Silverman Loves America
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 516k
  • Notable Development: Marvel’s Runaways to premiere Nov. 21st; Future Man from Seth Rogen and starring Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) as a Janitor By Day/Gamer Super Hero by Night; Castle Rock, an anthology series;expect lots of IP-centric development, titles people are already familiar with and presumably, once liked.

YOU TUBE LOGOYou Tube is owned by Google. Now, this is a Streaming Service to watch. Anyone else notice it sponsored The World Series? Very interesting.

As for its Brand, the company is evolving a brand from Your Video Here to something new, You Tube Red. Digital Influencers will be a large part of their programming.

The Hollywood Reporter Breaks It Down

  • Signature Series: Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken; 96 Hours With Katy Perry; Simply Complicated with Demi Lovato
  • Demo: 1.5 billion monthly viewers (yikes!) 18-34, youthful but edgy
  • Twitter: Um, who cares. (70.4 million!)
  • Notable Development includes a Karate Kid series in 2018. Original star Ralph Macchio returns for 10 episodes; a documentary from rapper Warren G; a continuation of the Step Up franchise; a musical comedy EPd by the Russo Bros. (Avengers: Infinity Wars); Impulse, a Doug Liman-produced drama based on the Jumper novels; Show Me More, a behind-the-scenes show with Ellen DeGeneres; Liza On Demand, an 8-episode half-hour comedy.

 

FRANCE-INTERNET-COMPANY-APPLE-LOGO

Apple is a Blue Chip Brand, and I would not bet against them, especially since the company is devoting $1 Billion in producing original content in the next year. Variety Projects Apple to Spend 4.2 Billion by 2022

  • Notable Development: A 10-episode re-boot of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories with Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal) executive producing. Jennifer Aniston returns to television with Reese Witherspoon in a drama about TV’s morning shows. Jay Carson (House of Cards) scripts this project which has been ordered to series with a 2-season pickup of 10 episodes each. Impressive get. Witherspoon is all about Strategic Partnerships, so I expect this to be another Creative Win following the success of Big Little Lies on HBO in which she partnered with Nicole Kidman; a new Space Drama from Ron Moore (Outlander, BSG) wherein, the Space Race never ended.

Social Media:

FACEBOOK USERS

Facebook has a video hub, called, Facebook Watch, and the behemoth Social Network plans to spend over $1 Billion on Original Content in 2018 alone, per The Wrap

  • Signature Series: Humans of New York, Ball in the Family
  • Demo/Reach: 2 Billion monthly users, worldwide; 13-34 is their target audience of 75 million users, a stat that is up for debate since Users state their age which may or may not be truthful.
  • Notable Development: Jessica Alba and Mike Rowe are to star in original content. Bill Murray and Brian Doyle Murray are set to star in Extra Innings, a 10-episode series about Minor League Baseball.

Instagram A recent headline in Variety read that Instagram has over 500 million daily users and over 800 million monthly users. Wow. That’s a lot of eyeballs. Also the amount of videos uploaded has quadrupled in the last year.

Owned by Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before some form of Original Content gets produced and advertised on this social media platform.

SNAP CHAT LOGO

Snap Chat wants to turn your phone into a remote control for Television consumption. That said, the messaging service popular among younger users is not interested in creating long-form content, so don’t expect to watch an hour-long drama on Snap.  Videos will most likely be 3-5 minutes in length.

Make no mistake, though, Snap intends to be a Player. Snap has some work to do first, though. It’s not growing fast enough, and its design is troublesome for new Users: There’s An Overhaul In Snap’s Future

  • Signature Series: Supplemental content to existing series like The Voice and The Bachelor
  • Demo: 173 million daily users. They are young: 12-34.
  • Notable Development: Time Warner (one of several strategic partners) signed a deal to produce 10 new shows, per Variety

#RIPTWITTER

Twitter seems doomed, which is a shame because it’s so useful.

No one wants to buy my preferred social media platform. A certain POTUS likes it, too. Advertisers are there, but it cannot seem to turn a profit. Even expanding its Tweets from 140 characters to 280 seems like a Hail Mary attempt to innovate. However, the death knell is that Twitter has problems attracting new Users, especially young ones. Ouch.

Bloomberg News Breaks It Down – #RIP Twitter

 

N E X T   U P:

A Room With THE View at SMU

ATOP DALLAS HALL WITH DODIE

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TV Surf Report: Branding In Basic Cable Is A Lot Like Playing Monopoly, So Which Network is Boardwalk or Park Place?

AMERICAN CRIME STORY VERSACE

Santa Monica, CA — Branding in Basic Cable is as Easy as Playing Monopoly.  You know what you are going to get when you advertise on MTV (teens), Lifetime (women), BET (African Americans), Food Network (Foodies), and SyFy (fanboys).

However, other networks like AMC and FX are qualitatively far and above in terms of their original programming, but their Brands are not as easily definable. In some cases, a network has a great Brand, but weak programming and poor social engagement. In other cases, a network has great programming but not unifying Brand.

Basic Cable:

A Lot Like A Monopoly Board

PREACHER S3

AMC is riding high with the megahit, The Walking Dead.  It’s slogan, Something More, delivers on its programming. Yet, it is not easy to say what an AMC series is other than something out of the ordinary and possibly about Zombies.

  • Signature SeriesThe Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Preacher, The Son
  • Demo: 18-54;
  • Twitter: an impressive 694k. The Walking Dead has 1.61 million followers. Preacher has only 128k.
  • Notable DevelopmentDietland adaptation of Sarai Walker’s novel; an adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel, The Little Drummer Girl, from the Night Manager producing team and starring Alexander Skarsgard in a 6-episode miniseries.

AMERICANS THE CAST

FX is a creative destination for Hollywood producers because of its distinctive programming which includes The Americans, Atlanta, Fargo, American Horror Story, Archer, American Crime Story, and Feud.

It’s Branding slogan is Fearless, and FX certainly lives up to that goal.

  • Signature SeriesThe Americans, Atlanta, Fargo, American Horror Story
  • Demo: 18-54;
  • Twitter: a surprisingly weak 167k. AHS, though has 1.75 million followers. Fargo, though, only has 130k. And, The Americans has a mere 91k followers.
  • Notable Dev: Mayans, a spin-off of Sons of AnarchyAmerican Crime Story: The Murder of Gianna Versace, and Katrina.

PROJECT RUNWAY LOGO

Lifetime owns the Television for Women Brand, but is it delivering anything noteworthy other than multiple versions of the successful Project Runway franchise it nabbed years ago from Bravo?

  • Signature SeriesProject Runway, Women In Jeopardy MOWs
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: 305k followers; Project Runway has only 334k followers. For such a strong Brand, there’s not a huge audience engagement for Lifetime series.
  • Notable DevelopmentFlint Water Crisis MOW should draw viewers, but what else is there to hang around to watch afterward? This is a network sound asleep at the wheel.

REAL HOUSEWIVES

Bravo is noteworthy in basic cable for its Watch What Happens reality series like the uber-successful Real Housewives franchise. Its Brand seems to be Anyone Can Be On Television.

  • Signature SeriesReal Housewives Of Every City; Top Chef; Flipping Out; Vanderpump Rules; Watch What Happens Live
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: A surprising 1.09m followers. The audience is engaged.  Real Housewives of Orange County has 252k followers while Vanderpump has 129k followers.
  • Notable Development: Likely more of the same. Andy Cohen has been re-upped for three more years.

MAGICIANS CAST

SyFy uses the slogan It’s A Fan Thing, but its programming is narrow and geared towards Men (or is it?). Science Fiction is the most popular genre in the world, so why isn’t this cable network the most popular? B-Level Content. Poor Branding. No Buzz about its series. This network re-brands itself a lot. SyFy encompasses many sub-genres that this basic cable network does not serve well: Fantasy. Horror. Science Fiction. They own the Real Estate Brand, but other networks produce better Science Fiction content.

  • Signature Series is The Magicians. We’re Millenials With Magic Powers. Cult hit is The Expanse.
  • Demo: Men, Fanboys, 18-49
  • Twitter: Surprisingly weak 244k followers. The Magicians has a mere 52.9k while 32.9k followers. No Buzz.
  • Notable Development: Krypton, a prequel series to the Superman story. Tremors sequel remake starring Kevin Bacon. Adaptation of Night Flyers from George R. R. Martin.

CLOAK AND DAGGER

Freeform was once called ABC Family, but has since been re-branded. Why? What did ABC achieve by distancing itself from its cable channel other than not competing with Disney Channel?

  • Demo: focuses on Becomers, an audience demo of 12 – 25; this is Blue Chip for Advertisers
  • Signature Series: Pretty Little Liars and Shadow Hunters.
  • Strong Twitter numbers: 728k. Pretty Little Liars has a huge following of 4.48 million girls (and boys). That’s big. Shadowhunters has an impressive 1.31 million followers.
  • Notable Development: Cloak & Dagger, a mixed race Marvel pairing; and, sequel series to PLL where a Liar goes to college; and Siren, a YA-adaptation about young mermaids at war. Also, a college spinoff of Black-ish.

MTV LOGO

MTV used to stand for Music Television, now it’s mostly reality shows and reboots of  the popular Total Request Live. Make no mistake, though. MTV is an international brand with multiple channels in all languages.

  • Signature Series: Total Request Live, Scream, Road Rules, The Real World
  • Demo: 14-34
  • Twitter: 15.8 million followers
  • Notable DevelopmentThe Floribama Shore reality series. Sticking to its brand of youthful, reality series a la The Jersey Shore, etc. Amazingness, a reality variety talent competition show.

MISTER ROBOT

USA  The largest, most general audience of Basic Cable is in dire need of a Brand other than “Cable’s #1 Network.” Lots of series with single male leads.

  • Signature Series: Mr. Robot, Shooter
  • Demo: 18-54 males. USA needs women.
  • Twitter: 238k followers while Mr. Robot has 485k followers but Shooter lags with 29.5k followers. The audience is engaged about Rami Malek but not about Ryan Philippe.
  • Notable DevelopmentWild Cards, an adaptation of a George R.R. Martin novel; American Rust, an adaptation of Philip Meyer’s novel about a Pennsylvania town sheriff dealing with crime.

BEING MARY JANE

BET is a player in Cable because it delivers a target audience to advertisers: African Americans. Yet, there is real competition from OWN which is more urban and more diverse in its programming. Black Entertainment Television is part of the Viacom portfolio.

  • Signature Series: Being Mary Jane (which concludes in 2018)
  • Demo: 18-54 African Americans
  • Twitter: an impressive following of 2.09 million. Being Mary Jane has only 99.5k followers, though. Hmm.
  • Notable Development:

GREENLEAF POSTER.jpg

OWN is The Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah is most definitely a Brand unto herself which stands for Smart, Successful, Entrepreneurial, Topical, and Spiritual. Bet on Oprah. And, Oprah is a star-maker (Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Iyanla Van Zant).

  • Signature Series: Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, Tyler Perry franchises, Super Soul Sunday
  • Demo: 18-54 African Americans, Women
  • Twitter: 911k followers. Super Soul Sunday has an impressive 573k followers while Queen Sugar has 61k followers, but Greenleaf has only 38.1k followers, though.
  • Notable Development: A podcast of Super Soul Sunday just hit the App Store.

DAILY SHOW

Comedy Central is also something of a Blue Chip piece of Real Estate in the Basic Cable Universe: You might not know its programming, but you know its star-making potential as evidenced by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Amy Schumer, Key & Peele.

  • Signature Series: The Daily Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Drunk History
  • Demo: 18-54
  • Twitter: 1.56m;  The Daily Show has a whopping 7.08 million followers. This audience is engaged.
  • Notable Development:

HALLMARK XMAS

Hallmark Channel considers itself The Heart of TV with its wholesome series like Cedar Cove and its numerous lineup of Holiday Movies (33!). This growing cable channel is clearly focused on Middle America and Women. Its parent company, Hallmark, is also going after Romance in a big way as its publishing arm wants emerging novelists: Write For Hallmark and Get Adapted

  • Signature Series: The recently concluded Cedar Cove which is based on Debbie Macomber’s novels and its Holiday Movie franchise. Here’s the Schedule of Christmas Movies
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: A scant 151k. Not much buzz. Still, Advertisers know what and who they are getting here.
  • Notable DevelopmentChristmas in the Villa. You guessed it: Holiday movie.

KARDASHIANS

E! brands itself as the Pop of Culture channel, but it might as well be Kardashian TV with its many incarnations of that reality series family, which celebrates its 200th Episode And A Look Back At That Sex Tape

  • Signature Series: Keeping Up With The Kardashians (just renewed for 3 years) and its spinoffs; The Royals
  • Demo: definitely Women, 18-49
  • Twitter: strong following of 3.86 million which demonstrates its buzzworthiness. Kardashians boasts 444k followers, while Kim K has 56.5 million followers (wonder how many are real!). The Royals commands 101k followers.
  • Notable Development: More reality shows and Kardashian spinoffs. Ugh.

 

N E X T   U P:

Streaming with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Apple TV.

HANDMAIDS TALE

 

 

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TV Surf Report: HBO Leads The Way In Branding in Premium Cable Where The Audience (But No Advertisers) Knows To Expect Quality

WESTWORLD HBO

Santa Monica, CA — Know Your Brand. Cable Television has an easier time staking its claim than Broadcast or Streaming: It’s Not TV. It’s HBO!

Premium Cable.

HBO is the gold standard in subscription-based Television, still riding high with Quality Series, Original Movies and Documentary Specials. You get what you pay for!

Game of Thrones. Veep. Big Little Lies. These series (drama, comedy, limited) continue to reinforce that Brand and make HBO a destination in Hollywood (and internationally) for Creatives. Westworld and Last Week With John Oliver make it relevant.  HBO is a major player in the Warner Bros. empire. No Advertisers, though! Yet, such a strong Brand. Interesting.

  • Signature SeriesGOT, Veep, Ballers, Real Time With Bill Maher, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Big Little Lies, True Detective
  • Twitter: 1.85 (strong) GOT has 6.74 million followers. People are engaged and talking about this series as compared to Westworld which has only 168k followers. Real Time has 124k, but John Oliver has 2.77m followers. Reese Witherspoon, however, has 2.04 million followers. She knows how to engage the audience.
  • Notable Development: Adaptation of Watchmen (the graphic novel not the film). Also, no less than five prequels to Game of Thrones! Mark Ruffalo stars in a limited series adaptation of Wally Lamb’s bestseller I Know This Much Is TrueFahrenheit 451 with Michael Shannon; Today Will Be Different adaptation starring Julia Roberts

Bloomberg Explores Life After Game of Thrones for HBO

BIG LITTLE LIES

Showtime has No Brand unless you count Pretty Good Shows That Aren’t That CoolSounding (with the Twin Peaks re-boot as a limited series being very much The Exception). Synergy works in Showtime’s favor, though. It’s the pay cable component of Viacom’s empire, and its sister companies are CBS and Paramount Television.

  • Signature Series: Twin Peaks, Shameless, Ray Donovan, Homeland, The Affair, Billions. Quality. But unlike HBO, these series do not have that water cooler quality to them (again with Twin Peaks as the exception).
  • Twitter: 273k (incredibly weak) Twin Peaks: The Return has a mere 74.7k followers while Homeland has 283k and Ray Donovan has 91.3k followers. Showtime has some work to do here.
  • Notable DevelopmentKing Killer Chronicles adaptation executive produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda; and likely, The Vampire Lestat adaptation (11 novels) from Anne Rice; Patrick Melrose adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Happy adaptation of the graphic novel with Chris Meloni attached to star; A sequel series to Lesbian drama The L Word; City on a Hill, a period Boston crime drama from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, starring Kevin Bacon.

TWIN PEAKS DVD PROMO

Starz dubs itself Obsessable. That’s a good Branding place to start, and this channel is well on its way to deserving that Brand with international hits like Outlander, American Gods, Black Sails, and Power.

Add to that a strong mix of hit movies, a corporate partner in Lionsgate Studios, and Starz is creatively more interesting than Showtime right now (and a lot younger).

  • Signature SeriesOutlander, American Gods, Black Sails, Power
  • Twitter: 156k followers. Not bad. Outlander boasts 362k, and American Gods has 61.9k followers, but Power has 272k followers. Interesting. Starz needs to get more people talking about American Gods. Author Neil Gaiman has 2.66 million followers. Meanwhile, actor Sam Heughan (Outlander) has 391k followers. Very interesting.
  • Notable DevelopmentBlack Samurai adaptation starring Common and executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer; Ascendant, the TV continuation of the Veronica Roth film series; The Rook from novelist Stephanie Meyer (Twilight); Uber Producer Jerry Bruckheimer EPs P-Town, an heroine epidemic drama with a Lesbian heroine. Bruckheimer also EPs Family Crimes, a hot spec script from David Ayer (Suicide Squad);

OUTLANDER

 

N E X T   U P:

Branding In Basic Cable. Lets Play Monopoly!

AMERICAN CRIME STORY VERSACE

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TV Surf Report: Branding In Television — Who’s Succeeding and Who’s Failing in 2017

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Santa Monica, CA — These days, it’s All About Your Brand. For Networks, this is a challenge to define itself to not only its audience, but also to advertisers seeking to reach a specific audience and to creatives who seek to do business with the network.

Also, are your viewers engaged on Social Media and talking about your series? That’s important in today’s crowded landscape:

Buzz. Word of Mouth. Free Advertising.

Some Networks, Cable Channels, and Streaming Services are better than others when it comes to Branding. There are brain trusts at each company desperately trying to solve this Marketing/Advertising Puzzle which sometimes seems more like the Riddle of the Sphinx:

Dear God, What’s Our Effing Brand?????

Here’s a look at The Players, Their Signature Series, Demos and level of Social Media Engagement:

  The Broadcast Networks

(ranked in order of Most Successful Brand):

  1. The CW
  2. CBS
  3. NBC
  4. FOX
  5. ABC

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ABC boasts the top-rated new drama series of the season: The Good Doctor in addition to its diverse lineup of half-hour comedies (Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family), reality programming (DWTS, Shark Tank) and its aging TGIT Shonda Rhimes franchise that includes veteran Grey’s Anatomy, the series finale season of Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.  What is its Brand though? Am guessing it’s We Love Diverse Family Programming!  Problematic because I am unsure.

  • Demo: 18–49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 456k (should be stronger). The Good Doctor has 34.6k followers while Grey’s Anatomy has 4.18 million!
  • Signature Series:  Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Shark Tank
  • Notable Development: A reboot of American Idol looks solid, but a questionable re-boot of Roseanne evokes strong feelings of anxiety. Larry Wilmore has a  Super Hero Middle Eastern Family Comedy Mash Up , which seems to hit a lot of boxes, Brand-wise. We shall see! Meanwhile, Shonda Rhimes has a Firefighting spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy in production. She is very engaged on Social Media and is one of many Creators who live-tweet during episodes.

SHONDA SCREEN SHOT

YOUNG SHELDON

CBS markets itself as America’s Most Watched Network.  That’s a Brand, or is it? From shows like The Big Bang Theory to spinoff Sheldon, Mom, Criminal Minds, Madam Secretary, 60 Minutes, and Football, CBS has everyone covered. It’s demo audience is traditionally older-skewing so the challenge is to create programming that will draw in younger viewers. CBS’ audience is also more rural.

  • Demo: 18-Dead;
  • Signature Series:  The Big Bang Theory, 60 Minutes, Survivor
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 940k. The Big Bang Theory 4.71m followers while 60 Minutes has only 926k. Star Trek: Discovery which airs on CBS All Access has a mere 73.1k followers.
  • Notable Development: A re-boot of Magnum, P.I. and a remake of L.A. Confidential

 

THIS IS US

NBC is desperately trying to reclaim its once uber-successful Must-See TV brand by taking a gamble by re-booting Will & Grace, once a Thursday night staple.  The gamble paid off, and now The Peacock has something else to sqawk about besides its Emmy nominated monster hit drama, This Is Us. Now, if it could only launch another successful comedy.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.74 million; Interestingly, NBC has the largest following on Twitter among the Big Four (edging FOX and nearly double of CBS) This Is Us has 240k while The Voice boasts 5.2m followers.
  • Signature Series: The Voice, This Is Us, Saturday Night Live keep NBC relevant and popular amongst younger, urban viewers.
  • Notable Development: An ill-advised reboot of The Munsters and Miami Vice; and, a remake of Blue Crush, which could work. Girls Surf!

 

GIFTED THE XMEN SERIES ON FOX

FOX is a network that used to have an Edgy Brand (younger, raunchy comedies and young adult dramas that appealed to the 18-34 demo), but now it’s grown into an older netlet that’s happy with 18-49 aged viewers who have yet to tire of The Simpsons or The X-Files.  Throw in Empire for some diversity.  Fox still has a “We’re younger than The Big Three” kinda aura about it, but it’s not really true.  The Gifted is this season’s biggest gamble trying to ride the Marvel Studio and X-Men gravy train.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Signature Series: The Simpsons, The X-Files, Empire
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.23m; The Simpsons has 929k followers while The X-Files has only 276k. Meanwhile, Empire 1.48 million followers. Meanwhile, The Gifted has a mere 26.7k followers. Not a good sign.
  • Notable Development: The Passage adaptation; a reboot of Kung Fu and a remake of True Lies. Ho hum.

 

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The CW has The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Super Heroes. DC Comics.

This netlet very much has a Brand of Youth Appeal. Toss in Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and it’s clear The CW also has some Edge, as well. Supernatural has to end at some point. Dynasty looks like a big Miss, though. Advertisers know who they are pitching to, which is quite valuable, Brand-wise.

  • Demo: 12-34 male and female.
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 857k (strong). The Flash boasts 1.64 million, Arrow has 2.11 million followers, and Riverdale has 660k.
  • Notable Development: Black Lightning, a black Super Hero series from DC. A re-boot of Roswell with a notable Immigration Theme; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch spinoff from RiverdaleThe Wayward Sisters, a spinoff from Supernatural; and, It’s The End of the World As We Know It adaptation with Rob Thomas (I-Zombie) exec producing. Alien Invasion Dramas, always worth a shot, yes? The CW Has Aliens On Its Mind

 

N E X T   U P:

Pay Cable and Basic Cable.

WESTWORLD HBO

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