This week’s TV news features Game of Thrones, the Obamas, Quentin Tarantino, new Marvel TV series, and more.
Game of Thrones’ latest episode, “The Long Night,” has now shattered both the Night King (literally) and ratings records (figuratively). According to the New York Times, 17.8 million viewers tuned in to watch the one hour and 22-minute Battle of Winterfell, beating the network’s previous record (set just two weeks earlier during the season 8 premiere). The season 8 premiere was the biggest telecast in HBO history until “The Long Night,” with 17.4 million viewers tuning in. It still holds a record, though: Guinness World Records has deemed it the most in-demand TV premiere ever (according to its analytics, at least, which takes into account “global demand” — whatever that is).
Meanwhile, “The Long Night” cinematographer Fabian Wagner sat down with Wired and defended his choices against viewers who complained that the Battle of Winterfell was lit too darkly and they couldn’t see the action happening on their TV screens.
“A lot of the problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to tune their TVs properly,” he said. “A lot of people also unfortunately watch it on small iPads, which in no way can do justice to a show like that anyway.”
The episode was dark on purpose, he said, because of the show’s overall shift in tone to much darker subject matter.
“We’d seen so many battle scenes over the years – to make it truly impactful and to care for the characters, you have to find a unique way of portraying the story,” he said, later adding that the darkness of the episode is also partially due to how people are watching it. “Game of Thrones is a cinematic show and therefore you have to watch it like you’re at a cinema: in a darkened room. If you watch a night scene in a brightly-lit room then that won’t help you see the image properly.”
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama announced the first slate of projects they’re working on with Netflix via their new production company, Higher Ground Productions. They include feature documentaries, scripted series, adaptations, and family series: American Factory is an award-winning documentary they acquired out of Sundance; Bloom is a fashion-themed upstairs/downstairs drama set in post-WWII New York City that will focus on the barriers faced by women and people of color; Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents is a half-hour preschool series about global food; Fifth Risk is a docuseries based on bestselling author Michael Lewis’ book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy; Crip Camp is a feature-length documentary about a 1970s summer camp for disabled teenagers in New York’s Catskill mountains; Overlooked is based on the New York Times’ column of the same name that tells the stories of remarkable people (notably women and people of color) whose deaths were not originally reported by the newspaper; and the last project is a feature film adaptation of David W. Blight’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.
The extended version of Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 Western The Hateful Eight turned out to be a little bit more than a longer cut: It’s a four-part miniseries available to stream on Netflix that the director oversaw himself. Tarantino told /Film that Netflix actually approached him to create the new cut, which has about 25 or more minutes of new footage.
“About a year after it’s released, maybe a little less, me and my editor, Fred Raskin, we got together and then we worked real hard,” he said. “We edited the film down into 50-minute bits, and we very easily got four episodes out of it. We didn’t re-edit the whole thing from scratch, but we did a whole lot of re-editing, and it plays differently. Some sequences are more similar than others compared to the film, but it has a different feeling. It has a different feeling that I actually really like a lot. And there was [already] a literary aspect to the film anyway, so it definitely has this ‘chapters unfolding’ quality.
Now that Hulu is a part of the Disney family (following the completion of the Disney-Fox acquisition the Mouse House is a majority owner, not just partial), it’s wasting no time in getting some new Marvel properties in development. The streaming service announced that it is planning two new live-action series based on Marvel characters: Ghost Rider and Helstrom. Gabriel Luna is set to reprise his role as Ghost Rider, which he originated on screen during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fourth season. But according to Variety, the Hulu version of the character will be completely different and have no ties to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s.
Hulu has also ordered a new series starring and produced by Nicole Kidman based on Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty’s latest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers; new food-focused original series with David Chang and Chrissy Teigen; and a limited series called The Dropout starring Kate McKinnon as disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.
Additionally, the streaming service revealed a few fun statistics about the way users consume its content: viewers streamed more than 100 million hours of vintage TGIF shows in 2018; true crime drama The Act saw more viewership in its first month than any other Hulu Original series to date; and viewers streamed nearly 1 million hours of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting in 2018.
Networks released trailers for some of the summer’s biggest series, including Hulu’s Veronica Mars revival (which you can watch above) and the upcoming third season of The Handmaid’s Tale, which you can watch here. Other trailers you can watch:
Now that the Wasp has helped save the world in Avengers: Endgame, Evangeline Lilly is returning to TV. Nine years after wrapping her role as Kate on Lost, Lilly has snagged her newest leading TV role on the Vudu original series Albedo, according to Deadline. (Yes, Vudu, as in the streaming platform owned by Walmart and built-in on many a smart TV.) She’ll play Det. Vivien Coleman, a woman who travels to the edge of the solar system to investigate a scientist’s mysterious death, only to find herself trapped and, along with the other scientists-turned-murder suspects on the isolated space station, cut off from Earth. The series is set 150 years in the future, and will consist of eight episodes.
This next bit of casting news is a bit of a journey, so please join us: Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, is set to star as a young Kanye West in Showtime’s upcoming anthology series Omniverse, which will explore “the Ego through an alternate reality Kanye West,” per Buzzfeed. Yes, you read all those words correctly. No, we don’t really know what they mean either.
Other casting news includes Set It Up stars Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch teaming up for another Netflix romantic comedy (expected to film in 2020); Elizabeth Banks trying her hand as a game show host (on ABC’s upcoming reboot of the classic Press Your Luck); Vincent Cassel joining Westworld as a villain in the upcoming third season; and Michael Chiklis as a border patrol agent in Paramount Network’s drama Coyote, from Breaking Bad executive producer and frequent director Michelle MacLaren.
Major League Baseball is notoriously picky about how viewers can watch its games, but MLB is now making it much easier for cord-cutters to watch in-season baseball. MLB and YouTube have teamed up to offer a 13-game package in the second half of the regular MLB season that will allow fans to stream those games live on MLB’s YouTube channel.
This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman has signed a reported nine-figure deal to continue producing TV shows for 20th Century Fox Television, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The new deal reportedly includes the possibility to reboot the creator’s short-lived (but critically beloved) baseball drama Pitch, as well as new seasons of This Is Us and other new projects.
Netflix, meanwhile, has signed a deal with Regina King and her production company Royal Ties to produce “a roster of series and films” for the streaming service.
Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey followup series Belgravia has begun filming in the U.K., but HBO has ordered a New York City-set series as well. The Gilded Age, which has been in development since 2012 and was at one point in the works at NBC, is set in 1885 during the titular era that featured immense economic change. Per HBO, the series follows Marion Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general, as she moves in with her aunts in New York City and is accompanied by Peggy Scott, an African-American woman masquerading as her maid.
The real-life rescue of the Thai soccer team cave rescue is headed to the small screen in a project for Netflix. In 2018, 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped for two weeks in the flooded Tham Luang caves near Chiang Mai, Thailand. They all made it out safely thanks to a daring rescue attempt. The project will be directed by Crazy Rich Asians helmer Jon M. Chu and Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya.
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are executive producing a new drama for Paramount Network. 68 Whiskey, which is based on the Israeli TV series Charlie Golf One, is a “dark comedy following a multicultural mix of men and women deployed as Army medics to a forward operating basin Afghanistan nicknamed ‘The Orphanage.’ Together, the endure a dangerous and Kafkaesque world that leads to self-destructive appetites, outrageous behavior, intense camaraderie, and, occasionally, a profound sense of purpose,” according to the official announcement. The first season will consist of 10 one-hour episodes.