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Inside Streaming (Nov 17th, 2017)

Netflix has outbid Disney and other studios for the rights to develop "Super-Normal," a new superhero project that will feature Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley and Luke Evans. Gad will also produce the project along with Dan Lin, who previously worked with Netflix on "Death Note." Gad co-stars in "Murder on the Orient Express" with Ridley and appeared alongside Evans in Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast." "Super-Normal" is apparently a "character-driven, subversive take" on the superhero genre. – THR

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Director Dee Rees spoke with The Independent about her "hugely personal" new film, "Mudbound," which debuts today on Netflix. Though "Mudbound" is based on a novel by author Hillary Jordan, Rees nonetheless found numerous connections with her own life and background, particularly her grandmother's experiences growing up on a farm. She also discusses how the social and political issues woven into the film - which deals with the lives of two families in post-war Mississippi - continue to have relevance in America today. – INDEPENDENT

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According to Reuters, Amazon has scrapped plans for its own "skinny bundle" after determining that the practice would not be profitable enough to sustain. The report indicates that Amazon had failed to convince a number of broadcast and cable networks to sign on to its proposed bundle service, and will instead focus efforts on building out "Amazon Channels." (Channels allows subscribers to Amazon Prime to pay a bit more per month for add-ons like HBO, Starz and Showtime.) Amazon declined to comment for the article. AdAge also reported this week that Amazon will develop a free, ad-supported version of the Prime streaming platform. – REUTERS

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In The New York Times, Glenn Kenny debates the existence of the "Thanksgiving movie." Kenny identifies a few titles immediately associated with the holiday, such as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Home for the Holidays," both of which are available to stream on Amazon Prime. (You need the Starz add-on for "Planes, Trains," however.) He also notes that both of these films are occasionally salty, and may not be ideal "for the whole family." Other suggested titles feature sequences set on Thanksgiving - such as "Grumpy Old Men" and "Funny People" - but Kenny settles on "King Kong" as the ultimate holiday selection. Sadly, the giant ape classic remains unavailable to stream for free, though it can be rented or purchased from Amazon and iTunes. – NYT

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Netflix announced that Season 4 of the comedy series "Grace and Frankie" will debut on January 19. The show stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as two women whose become friends after their husbands leave them, and start to date one another. According to creator and showrunner Marta Kauffman, Season 4 will be about Grace and Frankie coming to terms with getting older, and how their minds and bodies are changing. June Diane Raphael, who plays Grace's daughter Brianna, also revealed that her character's love life will become a more central focus. To date, "Grace and Frankie" has received seven Emmy nominations. – DEADLINE

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Netflix will produce the religious drama series "Messiah" for a planned 2019 debut. The series will relate the story of a man who appears in the Middle East, claiming to be a Messiah, from the perspective of a variety of characters, including a young CIA agent and a Palestinian refugee. It will be composed of 10 hour-long episodes. Husband and wife producing team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey - who previously collaborated on the History Channel miniseries "The Bible" and NBC's "A.D. The Bible Continues" - brought the project to Netflix. Writer Michael Petroni previously created the ABC religious drama "Miracles," and wrote the screenplay for the feature adaptation of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader." – VARIETY

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Julie Klausner spoke to EW about the cancellation of her Hulu comedy series "Difficult People." On Tuesday, Hulu announced that it would not renew "Difficult People" for a fourth season. Klausner starred in the show alongside Billy Eichner, and the duo played fictionalized misanthropic versions of themselves. Klausner compares the show to other iconic comedy series that only made it to three seasons, including "Arrested Development" and "Strangers with Candy," saying "I'm really proud of the work we did and the series as a whole." She also claimed that her agenda for the entire show's run was to "call out bullsh*t" and "to say things that other people don't want to say because they're afraid of burning bridges," citing jokes at the expense of a number of men who have since been outed as sexual predators. For example, "we have three seasons full of Kevin Spacey jokes." – EW

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According to Digiday, AT&T plans to buy out The Chernin Group's stake in Otter Media, the holding company behind Crunchyroll, Fullscreen, Rooster Teeth and other video businesses. AT&T and Chernin Group co-founded Otter Media three years ago, committing $500 million jointly in funding. The Digiday report, based on seven unnamed sources, claims AT&T wants to open up its distribution channels - such as DirecTV - to Otter-supplied video content. Should AT&T's planned merger with Time Warner go through, these channels would also include HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. Otter Media's various subscription services have a combined 2 million paid subscribers. – DIGIDAY

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GUEST RECOMMENDATION: "ENDEAVOUR" ON AMAZON PRIME

This special review was written by Inside editor Krystle Vermes!

Most British detective dramas follow the same formula: death, a little bit of action, and clever commentary for good measure. ITV’s “Endeavour,” starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, doesn’t stray far from the path. However, the cast brings just enough unique flavor to each 90-minute episodes binge-worthy, if you have some extra time on your hands.

The series serves as a prequel to the beloved “Inspector Morse,” which aired in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Evans stars in the series as Sergeant Endeavour Morse, an Oxford graduate with a love of classical music and crossword puzzles. Similar to the original sergeant, played by John Thaw, Evans’ Morse is full of quirks that make him as delightfully awkward as he is brilliant.

But it’s Evans’ costars that bring out the best of him in every episode. Allam stars as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, Morse’s close companion. He challenges his colleague to go beyond his Oxford background and think unconventionally about small town crimes. Anton Lesser plays Police Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright, who pushes Morse to second-guess all of the initial conclusions he draws about homicides, suicides, and everything in between.

Then, of course, there are the women in his life, played by Sara Vickers (Detective Thursday’s daughter, Joan) and Shvorne Marks (love interest), who bring the softer side of Morse to the surface.

That’s not to say that Evans doesn’t do enough himself to keep viewers intrigued. He does Thaw’s character justice by skillfully portraying the learning curves Morse went through to become the hard-nosed detective he is in the original series. For good measure, he adds just the right amount of charm, quipping whenever there's a momentary lull.

For those who are looking for a new British detective show to indulge in, “Endeavour” delivers on all fronts. While some may call it run-of-the-mill, it’s hard to deny the strong performances of a cast with obvious chemistry.

THE BASICS

Title: Endeavour Platforms: PBS Passport, Amazon Prime Seasons: 4 Episode Length: 90 minutes Genre: Mystery drama

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RECOMMENDED: "FUTURE MAN" ON HULU

"Future Man," Hulu's whiz-bang, very silly retro sci-fi parody series from producer-directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, is really two shows in one. Sadly, I liked one of the shows a whole lot better than the other. 

On one level, "Future Man" is a very clever take on a familiar story, and serves as a platform for a lot of fun, insightful jokes about the nature of fandom. Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson of "The Hunger Games") is a stunted man-boy who still lives with his parents, works as a janitor and fixates almost exclusively on masturbation and video games. He's shocked to discover that one of those games he's been playing is actually a recruitment tool for soldiers in a bleak, post-apocalyptic future, where survivors are locked in an endless war against mutants known as Biotics. Two of these soldiers travel back to 2017, grab Josh and take him along on an adventure through time and space to help save humanity.

When it's focused on recreating and referencing classic '80s sci-fi and fantasy tropes, "Future Man" actually works surprisingly well. There's real thought put into the mythology of the Biotic Wars and the visual style, costumes, performances and effects all suggest the era without ripping off any one particular intellectual property. ("Back to the Future," "Terminator" and "The Last Starfighter" were clearly direct inspirations.)

As well, there's real charm in Josh's repeated ability to use his extensive, previously useless pop culture know-how to navigate different tight squeezes. I was reminded a bit of Justin Long's turn as the enthusiastic fanboy/expert from "Galaxy Quest." The game cast includes Derek Wilson and Eliza Coupe as future soldiers Wolf and Tiger, respectively, and Ed Begley Jr. and the late, great Glenne Headly show up as Josh's well-intentioned enabler parents. 

But there's another side to "Future Man" as well. The show has an aggressively juvenile mean streak, almost like a bunch of junior high kids were brought in to do punch-up on the scripts. Violence and brutality are mined for laughs frequently, and the show seems to just find the idea of cruelty to strangers inherently funny. Occasionally, these gags will get a cheap shock value laugh, but this is no way to build a fictional universe in which you want people to invest real concern. These moments, particularly those involving Wolf and Tiger's personal bloodlust and complete lack of boundaries, make it hard to come around to liking them as characters. 

Considering that the writers of "Future Man" are Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, who previously collaborated on the script for the abysmal "Sausage Party" (also produced by Goldberg and Rogen), this is unsurprising, I suppose. At least they left out the crude racial stereotypes (mostly) this time.

Look, I'm not saying bathroom humor can never be funny, but if it's going to be constant, it needs to be VERY clever to avoid growing stale. Even Matt Stone and Trey Parker of "South Park" eventually moved their show into more cultural and political satire.

I'm recommending "Future Man" because so much of it is well done and smart, and I'd say I 75-80% enjoyed the episodes I watched. But it does feel like a show that doesn't quite know itself, or what it wants to be. Is this an ultimately sweet story about a guy who gets to live out his dream of being a hero? Or is this a passing diversion for middle schoolers who want to laugh at people yelling the word "cum"? No matter how much vaguely scientific future-tech they come up with, I'm not sure it can exist in both worlds at once.

THE BASICS

Title: "Future Man" Where to Watch: Hulu Episodes: 13 (1 season) Running time: 30 minutes each Genre: Sci-fi comedy

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