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Inside Streaming (Aug 13th, 2019)

1. HBO Max may pick up the streaming rights to both "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory" in a massive $1.5 billion deal. Both series were created by Chuck Lorre and produced by Warner Bros. TV. According to Deadline, the price tag is so high because, while comparable shows like "Friends" and "The Office" have been available in their entirety on streaming services for years, the classic episode archive of both "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men" have been largely unavailable. (Both shows continue to air on broadcast syndication.) HBO Max has already secured the streaming rights to "Friends," which will debut along with the service in early 2020. – DEADLINE

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2. Marvel Television's Jeph Loeb gave an expansive interview to Deadline, giving insight into the upcoming Hulu animated shows and hinting at a secret Disney+ project. The already-announced Marvel Disney+ shows are coming directly from Marvel Studios, the company's film division, as opposed to Marvel TV. (This is the company behind shows like "Agents of SHIELD," "Cloak and Dagger," "Legion" and the late Netflix Marvel shows.) Loeb discussed the company's animated slate of shows for Hulu, four separate superhero series that will crossover as "The Offenders." He compared the Tigra and Dazzler series, produced by and featuring the voice of Chelsea Handler, to the classic sitcom "Laverne and Shirley," and said the entire project was inspired by FXX's long-running animated spy series "Archer." Loeb also told Deadline that Marvel TV plans to make shows for Disney+, but just isn't ready to announce anything yet, and that his team was taken by surprise by Netflix's decision to cancel all of its Marvel-inspired series. – DEADLINE

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3. WHAT'S NEW ON STREAMING TODAY?

Until now, I've been focusing these sections exclusively on releases available via subscription or ad-supported free streaming services, but I'm going to start highlighting selected new Video on Demand releases, using the acronym VOD. These are films or shows that you can purchase or rent through services such as iTunes, Amazon or YouTube. New VOD releases come out on Tuesdays.

TIFFANY HADDISH PRESENTS: THEY READY: This new collection of six half-hour stand-up episodes features up-and-coming comedians personally selected by the "Girls Trip" star. They include Chaunté Wayans, April Macie, Tracey Ashley, Aida Rodriguez, Flame Monroe, and Marlo Williams. [Netflix]

KNIGHTFALL: Season 2 of the period drama series -- which aired on History Channel in the spring -- hits Netflix today. The scripted show tracks the history of The Knights Templar, with a focus on the (fictional) warrior and leader Landry du Lauzon (Tom Cullen). Season 2 introduced Mark Hamill to the cast. [Netflix]

SHARKFEST: National Geographic presents its sixth annual collection of summer shark-themed documentary specials. [Hulu]

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS: The third film in Legendary's "Monsterverse" franchise finds Godzilla facing off against new enemies, including the giant pteranodon Rodan and the three-headed Ghidorah. [VOD]

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2: Patton Oswalt, Harrison Ford and Tiffany Haddish joined the voice cast for Illumination's animated sequel, in which house pets go on epic adventures when their humans aren't around. [VOD]

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO: Co-writer Jimmie Falls stars in this semi-autobiographical indie drama about a man attempting to reclaim his childhood home in San Francisco's Fillmore District. [VOD]

CHARLIE SAYS: Matt Smith plays murderous cult leader Charles Manson in this drama about the relationship between a grad student and three of Manson's followers. Mary Harron ("American Psycho") directs. [VOD]

ALL IS TRUE: Kenneth Branagh directed and stars as William Shakespeare in this 2018 British drama about the last years of The Bard's life. [VOD]

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4. Comedian Nathan Fielder signed a one year overall deal with HBO to produce multiple series. The first project that Fielder will oversee for the network is "How To... with John Wilson," a first-person documentary series in which comedian Wilson will intrude on the lives of fellow New Yorkers, attempting to provide advice or guidance. The "Nathan for You" vet is also working on a secret HBO pilot, about which nothing has been announced. – SLASHFILM

[The full run of "Nathan for You" is streaming for free on Comedy Central, with ads, and on Hulu. It's one of the best and most original comedy series of the current decade and I strongly urge you to check it out. - Lon]

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TRULY TUESDAY: "FREE MEEK" ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

Over the course of five half-hour episodes, Amazon's "Free Meek" covers a lot of ground and tackles a number of complex topics. It's a dense series, frequently frustrating and emotional, that reminded me at times of Netflix's "Making a Murderer," if it had an upbeat, life-affirming finale. This is an important story for Americans to hear, and one that's still frankly kind of shocking, even years after activist movements like Black Lives Matter brought issues with the criminal justice system to the forefront of our national conversation. 

The film covers the full life of rapper Meek Mill (born Robert Rihmeek Williams), beginning with his childhood in some of the poorer neighborhoods of Philadelphia, which had been ravaged in the 1980s by the crack epidemic and the ensuing mass incarceration of young black men. But the action really takes focus when Meek is 19 years old and arrested during a drug raid on the home of his cousins. Meek is sentenced to 11-23 months in prison, followed by 10 years of probation, and it's that last part -- the probation -- that will plague him for the next 11 years until he's well into his 30s. 

The film chronicles the rise of Meek's career as a recording artist -- becoming a hometown Philly icon, collaborating with Rick Ross, signing with Roc Nation, releasing a string of popular albums -- and the various minor offenses and violations that constantly bring him back to the courtroom of Judge Genece Brinkley. The film really does have it in for Judge Brinkley, who's depicted as almost entirely irrational, with a personal fixation on Meek that borders on obsession. 

I'll be honest: they make a very convincing case. Even the lawyer brought in to represent Judge Brinkley's side tells the filmmakers that she's a lunatic the moment he thinks they've cut his microphone. (Fortunately, they had not.) But it's still surprising to see an individual so clearly singled out as the VILLAIN of an entire docu-series, particularly one that's about fundamental problems in criminal justice nationwide. She's going to have to change her name or something.

Though the series does a great job of following the details of Meek's case specifically and making it a compelling narrative, "Free Meek" has a lot more on its mind than just this single story. Toward the end of his journey through the justice system, Meek decides to dedicate his life to working on some of the problems he's observed first-hand and helping others who have been unfairly incarcerated. The series is at its strongest when it's drawing these parallels, between the unfairness and double-standards faced by Meek Mill and thousands or even millions of other black Americans in every state in the US.

"Free Meek" is not always a pleasant story, but it's fast-paced and compelling -- with a lot of very frank and open interview subjects, including Meek Mill and his family -- and I breezed through all five episodes very quickly. This is a solid single-afternoon watch if you don't have much else going on that day.

THE BASICS

Title: "Free Meek"
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
Episodes: 5 (1 season)
Running time: 33-45 minutes each

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5. Dade Hayes in Deadline argued that the likely merger of CBS and Viacom could create a streaming powerhouse. CBS has introduced two major streaming services -- CBS All Access and Showtime -- which the company predicts will have a combined 25 million subscribers by 2022. Viacom, meanwhile, has largely eschewed subscription services (though it owns one associated with its BET network and another based around the preschool "Noggin" brand). Instead, the company has focused on ad-supported free offerings, including Pluto TV, which the company acquired in January for $340 million. Viacom also comes with libraries of content from Paramount and Nickelodeon that could help fill out CBS streaming platforms. – DEADLINE

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6. The final trailer for Netflix's "Dark Crystal" prequel series, "Age of Resistance," is online ahead of the show's August 30 debut. The series is set on the strange world of Thra many years before the events of the 1982 Jim Henson fantasy film and finds a trio of Gelflings leading a rebellion against the villainous Skeksis. As with the original film, the series relies largely on puppetry and practical effects in lieu of animation. – POLYGON

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7. Netflix will produce the original sci-fi film "Pyros" starring Reese Witherspoon. The film is based on the Thomas Pierce short story "Tardy Man" -- first published in 2018 in The New Yorker -- with Pierce himself scripting the adaptation. It's about a team of technologically-augmented firefighters who are exclusively tasked with retrieving personal items for wealthy people from burning houses and buildings. Witherspoon will also star in the upcoming Apple original series "Morning Show," which just got a first-look teaser. – DEADLINE

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8. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will produce a new comedy series for Quibi set at a family-run Hawaiian resort. The series, "Last Resort," centers on how the family reacts when a tech billionaire tries to buy up their island property. The series was inspired, in part, by controversial plans to build an astronomical observatory on Mauna Kea, a mountain with sacred significance to Hawaiians and other Polynesian cultures. Johnson and Dany Garcia will executive produce through their Seven Pounds banner, while filmmaker Paul Feig is also on board as a producer through his company, Powderkeg. Quibi is a mobile-only streaming platform focused on short-form content; it's expected to launch in Spring 2020. – VARIETY

[The Variety article doesn't include this tidbit, but the set-up also seems to me like a nod to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's contentious Hawaiian compound. - Lon

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9. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix is using its clout to influence technology companies and hardware manufacturers. In one example provided by the report, Netflix barred all of its original productions from using the ARRI Alexa camera because, the company argued, its 3.2K resolution sensor could not deliver true 4K resolution. Though this caused dissent among some cinematographers, ultimately, ARRI produced a new version of the camera with a 4.5K sensor to satisfy Netflix's requirement. The company has also formed the Netflix Post Technology Alliance along with MTI, Adobe, Sony and other companies, providing them with guidance to create tools and software that will conform to Netflix standards. – THR

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10. YA author Lauren Oliver signed a first-look deal to create series aimed at teen viewers for Amazon Prime Video. Amazon is already working on a series based on Oliver's book "Panic," which will be the first original YA series to debut on the platform.

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Lon Harris is the writer and editor of Inside Streaming, and was the very first person to ever write an Inside newsletter. He lives in Los Angeles, California, and also writes about TV and film for Fandom, Screen Junkies, Rotten Tomatoes, Gamma Ray and others. He competes on The Movie Trivia Schmoedown as "The Professor." You can follow him on Twitter @lons

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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