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Inside Streaming (Dec 9th, 2019)

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1. Netflix dominated the Golden Globe nominations in both television and film categories. With 17 nominations for films and 17 more nominations for TV shows, Netflix was the most-honored distributor in both mediums by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Golden Globes. Three of the five Best Picture nominees -- "The Irishman," "Marriage Story," and "The Two Popes" -- were released by Netflix, along with 3 of 5 nominees each in the Best Screenplay and Best Actor categories. "Marriage Story" is the most-nominated overall film, with 6 nods. On the TV side, HBO was beaten out for the most Golden Globe nominations title for only the third time in the past 20 years. HBO's "Chernobyl" tied this year with Netflix's "Unbelievable" and "The Crown" as this year's most-nominated series. Here's a full list of the nominees. – DEADLINE

2. During a panel at the CCXP event in São Paulo, Brazil, Amazon debuted the trailer for Season 2 of the satirical superhero comedy-drama "The Boys." The series follows an ongoing conflict between a group of arrogant, self-serving, and corporatized superheroes -- known as The Seven -- and a gang of vigilantes without powers, the titular Boys. In addition to the main cast from Season 1, Aya Cash, Goran Visnjic, and Claudia Doumit will join the cast for Season 2 as new characters. "The Boys" is based on a comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. No release date has yet been set for the new episodes. – TVLINE

3. WHAT'S NEW ON STREAMING TODAY?

A FAMILY REUNION CHRISTMAS: A special holiday-themed episode of the comedy series starring Tia Mowry-Hardrict. Jackée Harry, who played Mowry-Hardrict's mom on the '90s sitcom "Sister, Sister," guest stars. [Netflix]

MISS UNIVERSE 2019: The 68th Miss Universe pageant -- hosted by Steve Harvey -- was held on Sunday night at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, and aired on Fox. The broadcast comes to Hulu today. [Hulu]

LIGHT OF MY LIFE: Casey Affleck wrote, directed, and stars in this 2019 indie drama set in a dystopian future where a plague has wiped out most of the female population. [Amazon Prime]

THE HEART GUY: Drama series from Australia starring Rodger Corser as an arrogant big-city heart surgeon who embarks on a new life as a local doctor in his rural hometown. It's back for a fourth season. [Acorn TV]

4. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige previewed the Disney+ MCU tie-in series "WandaVision" at CCXP in Brazil. According to Feige, Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen) will fully assume her comic book persona and alter-ego "The Scarlet Witch" in the Disney+ series, and its events will directly inform the plot of the theatrical film "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Feige also hinted that the "multiverse" concept would play into other MCU titles during the franchise's Phase 4, including the Disney+ "Loki" series. Disney also released a promotional image from "WandaVision," resembling a still from a black-and-white 1950s sitcom, and some behind-the-scenes shots from the set of "Falcon and Winter Soldier." "WandaVision" will debut on Disney+ in the sping of 2021. – COLLIDER

5. MONDAY REVIEWS: "SERVANT" AND "TRUTH BE TOLD" ON APPLE TV+

SERVANT

Apple's new mystery-thriller series "Servant" has been sold largely through its association with filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, who's on board as a producer and directed the pilot. This is not terribly surprising, as the project has a lot of similarities to Shyamalan's other work: it's moody and atmospheric, it's set in Philadelphia, it's an examination of faith and the power of belief, it's based around a high-concept premise, and it builds to unexpected, even shocking, twists. But though I don't exactly know where "Servant" is going after just four episodes, it appears to be a very different animal from the filmmaker's usual fare.

M. Night Shyamalan movies, when they work, succeed because they're so grounded. We accept Cole's strange, ghostly visions because the world around him in "The Sixth Sense" feels so lived-in and real. (For example, his nuanced relationship with his mother.) "Unbreakable" isn't just a story about a man who discovers he's a superhero; it's about a man reconnecting with his true self, and we understand this transformation because we spend so much time with him and his family. These are observant and humane dramas with supernatural elements. "Servant," on the other hand, feels like it's taking place in some kind of dream-world alternate reality, where nothing quite links up, and it's impossible to get a read on anyone.

At the start, we're introduced to a wealthy and successful couple, Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean (Toby Kebbell) Turner; he writes recipes and consults fine dining restaurants, she's a TV news correspondent. Their first and only child died as an infant, causing Dorothy to descend into a fugue state; the only way to bring her back was to present her with a lifelike doll, which she pretends is her dead son, Jericho. In the first episode, as a way of keeping up the charade and allowing Dorothy to process her grief in her own time, the couple hires Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), a live-in nanny to care for the "child." Only, to Sean's dismay, Leanne's a bit TOO willing to play along and refuses to break the reality that Jericho is real. 

More and more mysterious circumstances continue to develop, and the show really does become very intriguing, like a jigsaw puzzle where you only get a certain number of pieces to put together at a time. It works largely because of a lot of narrative sleight-of-hand. Though "Servant" presents itself as a story about Dorothy AND Sean, in reality, we only get access to Sean's perspective, so we only ever have his working knowledge and understanding of the situation. Like him, we're constantly unsure of what Dorothy really knows about her reality -- does she remember losing her baby at all? How does she explain Sean's strange attitude at times in her own mind?

With its claustrophobic setting (almost the entire series plays out in Sean and Dorothy's home) and tight, suffocating cinematography (Shyamalan films a LOT of the pilot in extreme close-ups on the actors' faces), "Servant" ratches up the tension quickly, but isn't particularly forthcoming with information or story development. (As I said, at times, it doesn't even seem to be taking place in our own world. There are many occasions when I suspect a real person in Sean's situation would just call the police.) I'm not sure if it'll be able to keep up this pace and format for multiple seasons, but it's certainly held my attention so far. (Creator Tony Basgallop has said he's envisioning a 60-episode show that runs for 6 seasons. So... we'll see.)

Title: "Servant"
Where to Watch: Apple TV+
Episodes: 4 so far; 10 in Season 1
Running time: 30-35 minutes each
Genre: Psychological thriller

TRUTH BE TOLD

"Truth Be Told" isn't based on a podcast. It's based on a novel, "Are You Sleeping?," that first-time author Kathleen Barber was inspired to write after... wait for it... listening to the "Serial" podcast. So once again, we've got a scripted crime drama series that organizes itself around a podcaster investigating an old murder. The show mainly works, buoyed by solid performances by an ensemble packed with good character actors, but it struggles at times to overcome rote familiarity and reliance on a lot of genre tropes.

Octavia Spencer stars as Poppy Parnell, a dogged investigative reporter who once wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times, and now hosts a top-ranked iTunes true-crime podcast. Years earlier, Poppy made her reputation based on a series of articles covering the arrest and trial of a young man named Warren Cave (played by Aaron Paul as an adult), who was accused and ultimately convicted of killing his neighbor. Now, a new piece of evidence causes Poppy to question Cave's guilt, and reopen the case on her show, despite the suggestion of everyone else -- from the chief of police to her own family members -- that she leave well enough alone.

All the expected cold case beats are here in some form or another. Dark, shocking revelations about a suburban family who seemed wholesome and perfect from the outside; shadowy late-night threats to give up the investigation and drop the case; interviews with hostile subjects who inadvertently reveal more than they intended; pleas from concerned friends to give up all the late nights and spend more time with loved ones; second glances at old evidence that reveal new insights; intrusions of her work on Poppy's increasingly fragile home life; and so on. There aren't really a lot of SURPRISES in "Truth Be Told" for anyone familiar with detective shows.

But the execution is there. It's fun to see Spencer and Paul play off one another in their few scenes together (so far), and we're treated to a lot of fun turns from some other great performers, including Ron Cephas Jones as Poppy's reformed ex-con father; Elizabeth Perkins as Cave's mother, maybe the only one who's always believed in his innocence; Mekhi Phifer as an old flame who comes to Poppy's aid; Tracie Thoms as Poppy's jaded older sister; and Lizzy Caplan in a surprisingly subdued dual role. (Considering the formulaic nature of the material, I might have dialed up the campiness, and let the actors go a bit broader, but I understand why Apple may have favored the more restrained, traditional version.)

I liked "Truth Be Told," which feels very much like what a major TV network would have done with the same source material. But I'm not sure that's why Apple needs to aim for to breakthrough in the Peak TV landscape. They need some AMC, FX or HBO-level surprises, and I'm not sure I'm seeing it yet. (At least "Servant" is bold.)

Title: "Truth Be Told"
Where to Watch: Apple TV+
Episodes: 3 so far; 10 in Season 1
Running time: 40-45 minutes each
Genre: Mystery drama

6. During its holiday "Stream-o-Thon" promotion, the Roku Channel will present the first full season of HBO's "Game of Thrones" for free. This is Roku's second-annual Stream-o-Thon event, held between December 26 and January 1, which attempts to capitalize on bored people who don't have to work that week. Other premium content that will stream for free on Roku during "Stream-o-Thon" includes selected seasons of HBO's "Succession" and "Chernobyl," Epix's "Pennyworth" and "Get Shorty," Starz's "Power," Cinemax's "Warrior," and a number of Showtime dramas, such as "Billions," "Ray Donovan" and "The Affair." – TECHCRUNCH

[Despite all the hype around the final season of "Game of Thrones," it ultimately received only a single Golden Globe nomination, for Kit Harington's performance as Jon Snow. WOW. – Lon]

7. The second season of Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" will debut on January 24. "Sabrina" seasons are divided into two "parts," so technically, it's Part 3 -- consisting of 8 new episodes -- that will be released in January. "Sabrina" Season 1 featured 20 total episodes; the Season 2 order was shortened to 16. A brief teaser released by Netflix on Monday features Sabrina (played by "Mad Men" vet Kiernan Shipka) walking through some fog in a red robe, welcoming viewers to "hell." – CNET

8. Netflix participated in a somewhat naughty viral Twitter meme and got many other brand accounts to follow suit. Many accounts on Twitter last week, and over the weekend, tweeted the question: "What's something you can say during sex but also during..." with individuals filling in the last part of the prompt. Netflix joined in the fun, asking "What's something you can say during sex but also when you manage a brand account?," leading to a number of other replies from prominent brand spokespeople, including representatives of Yelp, Instagram, TED Talks, Snickers bars, and Casper Mattresses. The original Netflix tweet has been retweeted more than 100,000 times. – NBC NEWS

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

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