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Inside Streaming (Feb 3rd, 2017)

There are more options than ever for those without cable who want to stream this Sunday's Super Bowl LI. The game, featuring the Atlanta Falcons taking on the New England Patriots, plus a halftime show from Lady Gaga, starts at 6:30 pm ET. Most streaming devices - including Roku, XBox One, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and tablets - can pull up the game on the Fox Sports Go app or the NFL app. Though they'd traditionally require you to log in with a cable subscription, access will be opened up to the public during the big game (provided you're willing to watch the commercials). This would also work from your laptop computer using Chromecast. Verizon customers can also stream the game via NFL Mobile for free, and PlayStation Vue and Sling subscribers can watch the game on the Fox network there. – WIRED

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Netflix's zombie-themed romantic comedy "Santa Clarita Diet," debuting today, marks Drew Barrymore's first-ever TV project. The actress-producer stars as a mild-mannered suburban mom who suddenly finds that she's developed a taste for human flesh. Barrymore said of taking on the role: "This show gave something to my personal life. I needed a wake-up call. I was not in the best place, and it totally liberated me.” The show was created by Victor Fresco, previously of TV's similarly-absurd "Better Off Ted." – VARIETY

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Glenn Kenny reports in the New York Times that, with Amazon leading the way, more and more Oscar-nominated films will start arriving on streaming services before the ceremony. Traditionally, the Academy Awards tend to honor limited-release films that the general public has not yet had a chance to see. But this trend could begin to shift over the next few years. Best Picture contender "Manchester by the Sea" will debut pre-Oscars for Amazon Prime subscribers, and several other major nominees are already available to stream for free or rent. Documentary contenders "13TH" and "O.J.: Made in America" have already been streaming for some time, and nominees "Hell or High Water," "Captain Fantastic," "Kubo and the Two Strings" and "Florence Foster Jenkins" are currently available to rent on various services. – NYT

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A new report in the Wall Street Journal claims that Facebook will create its own video app for streaming devices. The app is intended as a destination for original content that would not rely on videos appearing in social feeds or user-generated content. According to the WSJ, Facebook is currently in negotiations with media companies to license a variety of traditional TV content, including sports programming and scripted series. – ENGADGET

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On its fourth-quarter earnings release call, Amazon revealed that Prime video content was viewed for twice as many hours in 2016 as the year before, boosted largely by original series like "Transparent" and "Mozart in the Jungle." The company did not release any specific "ratings"-type information comparing the popularity of various shows. CFO Brian Olsavsky noted that, as the creation of original content is a "fixed cost," the secret to increasing profitability will be to expand the viewership base, particularly in international markets. He also suggested that Amazon spending on original content will continue to increase, as the company seeks to encourage more customers to sign up for Prime subscriptions. – WRAP

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Kickstarter acquired Huzza, the Vancouver-based company that it had partnered with on the Kickstarter Live project. Kickstarter Live allows creators to host streams where they can interact with backers, demonstrating new projects, answering pertinent questions or counting down to the end of a big campaign. The company claims that campaigns utilizing the live-streaming feature had a 74% success rate, about double that of the average Kickstarter campaign. Huzza will sunset its own live-streaming product and focus exclusively on building out and expanding the Kickstarter Live platform. – VERGE

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RECOMMENDED: "THE YOUNG POPE" on HBO GO/PLUS

I found myself wondering frequently during the first two or three episodes of "The Young Pope" if I was actually enjoying it. The show has a lot going for it, of course. Jude Law is a great actor, and Lenny Belardo, the Archibishop of New York who SOMEHOW becomes the unexpected titular pontiff, is a role as unconventional as it is juicy. It's lush and visionary and cinematic, and the sets really reflect the awe-inspiring immensity of The Vatican. (Or what I'd imagine the awe-inspiring immensity of The Vatican is like. I've never been.)

But the show also feels like it keeps you at arm's length. Very little backstory or context is revealed up front. You come to know the ensemble by their faces and characteristics long before you learn their names. Dream sequences begin without warning and sometimes don't seem to end, until you realize you've been back in reality for a minute or two already. Plotlines are picked up, abandoned, and then re-started several episodes later. There are hints that it's taking place in a surreal fantasy world, but largely remains at least semi-realistic (though how would any of us really know if it did accurately reflect the day-to-day life of the Pope?)

Thematically, it's a series about mystery: Lenny as Pope Pius XIII refuses to show his face to the public, he references a "plan" that he won't reveal to anyone and seems fixated on the idea that he must become as unknowable as the God he serves and represents. So it makes sense that the experience of watching "The Young Pope" feels at times like putting a puzzle together, studying inscrutable clues in an attempt to unlock the actual story, to "figure out" who Lenny really is and what he plans to do now that he's the Lord's representative on Earth. It's sometimes frustrating, but worth the effort in those moments when everything clicks and the threads seem to come together.

Plus it's surprisingly funny, and intentionally so, not just as a sideshow or meme factory. And there's a kangaroo. I suggest you give it 3 episodes before deciding if you like it or not.

THE BASICS:

Title: "The Young Pope"
Where to Watch: HBO Go/HBO Now
Episodes: 10 total (6 available so far)
Runtime: About 60 minutes each
 

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RECOMMENDED: "THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON" ON NETFLIX

OK, I know it probably seems like O.J. overkill on Inside Streaming these days. On Tuesday, I recommended the ESPN "30 for 30" documentary "O.J.: Made in America," and now the FX docu-drama series based on that film's central murder case has landed on Netflix the same week. So I'll keep this short and sweet.

The limited series somehow manages to be both expansive in scope, telling the complete O.J. narrative from the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman through the completion of the double murder trial, and surprisingly intimate. You sort of expect the birds-eye view of how Los Angeles dealt with this media circus, and how minor figures like Robert Shapiro or the Kardashians became overnight celebrities, but what was unexpected was the complexity and nuance the show brought to central figures like Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and, of course, The Juice himself. VERY few TV series - notably efforts like "The Sopranos" or "Mad Men" or "The Wire" - ever produce episodes this detailed and provocative and layered. (One episode takes time out to depict the jury in a humane, sympathetic and even compassionate light.)

Head writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who previously worked on the similarly-mesmerizing "Ed Wood" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt," are the reigning kings of the biopic genre. Almost no other contemporary writers (save MAYBE Aaron Sorkin) bring this level of insight and observation to the concept of "life stories" or celebrity memoirs. Watch this show if you haven't!

THE BASICS:

Title: "American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson"
Where to Watch: Netflix
Episodes: 10 episodes (1 season)
Runtime: 50-66 minutes each

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NEW TO NETFLIX: FEBRUARY 2017

Here's a quick look at some of the films that have hit the streaming service this week:

FINDING DORY: Pixar's long-awaited sequel was one of the top-grossing films of 2016 and introduced the wildly popular new character, Hank the grumpy octopus (voiced by Ed O'Neill). 

MULHOLLAND DRIVE: What better time to revisit David Lynch's kaleidoscopic, surreal LA nightmare-noir than 2017, as we prepare for a new season of "Twin Peaks"?

THE THIRD MAN: One of the all-time great crime thrillers, Carol Reed's Vienna-set adventure features an iconic performance from Orson Welles and one of the cinema's most memorable foot chases.

SILVER STREAK: The first and best Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor on-screen collaboration, Arthur Hiller's Hitchcock parody helped give rise to the modern "buddy comedy." Some of the jokes feel dated, but Wilder and Pryor's chemistry was clear from the outset.

KNOWING: Alex Proyas's 2009 Nicolas Cage sci-fi thriller is very Nicolas Cage-y, by which I mean kind of ridiculous and over-the-top but also charming and fun to watch. What starts as a "puzzle box" film about a prophecy left behind by a psychic girl in the 1950s takes a turn that's ludicrous but, to its credit, also really unpredictable. 

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