This Ain’t No Show, Mister

W Bob and David

“And this ain’t no show, mister” is one of the lines in the opening sketch of With Bob and David, referencing their previous 90s sketch comedy cult-classic, Mr. Show. The claim that it is not the same as their previous show may be playing it safe for the expectations of long-term fans; but that is the only area where they play it safe. Each sketch contained within the four-episode season comes from an outlandish premise, always swinging for the fences. And like its predecessor, the sketches always find a way to tie into one another within each episode; whether it’s a character that crosses over from one sketch to a next (typically used as a punchline), or even a photograph on the wall that then becomes the next sketch. Across the episodes, these range from being utilized cleverly to just being a cute tie-in; but the joke is ever-present and is a reason why this sketch comedy is a cut above many of the other sketch shows out there – they are able to create built-in laughs between sketches. Other shows have to worry about setup and the introduction of new characters; but this one already has you laughing as it does that.

However, a sketch comedy series is only as good as its best skits.   Shows like Key and Peele would go viral on a nearly weekly basis with their craziest skit of the week, often calling out things that society is aware of, and in many cases, uncomfortable with. While the skits on With Bob and David are universally funny, they mostly lack that social/political punch. One exception is “Know Your Rights With Gilvin Daughtry “, a sketch where David Cross plays a character that is trying to make a YouTube-esque video demonstrating rights citizens have against police officers in situations like vehicle checkpoints. The sketch lampoons rights-obsessed citizens, but its shocking ending attacks the other side as well. This sketch has the most social awareness of what is going on in the country. Many of the other sketches, such as spoofs of Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” (where the prey finds many ways to make the hunter handicap himself) and cooking shows such as “Chopped” (a contestant keeps adding to his backstory in hopes for sympathy votes) are quite funny, but aren’t concerned with a social consciousness. That’s completely fine, and likely plays to the fact that this new incantation of the show will live on forever on the bandwidth of its distributor, Netflix.  It isn’t as necessary to live in the ‘now’ when your product is eternal.

At just two hours long (and an additional hour-long “making of” documentary that I haven’t watched yet), With Bob and David is a really enjoyable season of sketch comedy. Each star has gone on to much bigger things since their first go-round together, but show that it is still fun to have the gang back together. These misters can still put on a fun show.


Upcoming Original Streaming Content: November, 2015

As new options are delivered on close to a weekly basis, streaming content is quickly becoming the new cable television for many families.  However, there is one area that the streamers haven’t caught up to broadcast or cable television yet: the advertising of new content.  Most advertising seems to be done either in-house, through the service itself or on their social media pages.  Perhaps that is part of the model – there isn’t as much of an immediate need to advertise when a show is available until the end of the time; word-of-mouth can help obtain new viewers.  However, that doesn’t help the person researching for new options.  This monthly post aims to help those that are looking for what is coming next.

Master of None

Streaming Provider: Netflix

Release Date: November 6th, 2015

The stand-up comedian working their act into a half-hour television program has been a sub-genre for quite a long time now.  Seinfeld is probably still the most famous incantation of the formula; still living on in syndication and quoted daily.  It has become even more en vogue recently, with the arrival of the critically acclaimed Louie, by comedian Louis C.K.  What puts Louie on a separate playing field is how it is able to show the humorous day-to-day relations of its comedian, yet doesn’t shy away from becoming emotional or downright philosophical.  This rise in popularity has given other stand-ups the opportunity to try their own hand at a LouieMaster of None is Aziz Ansari’s (Parks and Recreation) chance.  Released for stream on November 6, the show looks to bring his brand of humor to a story about the struggles of non-Caucasian actors to be cast in rewarding parts.

With Bob and David

Streaming Provider: Netflix

Release Date: November 13, 2015

A sketch-comedy show from the minds of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross – the two that created the cult HBO show, Mr. Show.  I’m not sure how sketch comedy will work with today’s binge-watching culture (my biggest complaint of a binge is that episodes bleed together, and that’s even when there’s an overarching narrative).  But the trailer is funny; and this seems rather low-budget, making it an extremely low-risk move for Netflix to tap into a different cult audience.

The Art of More

Streaming Platform: Crackle

Release Date: November 19, 2015

Crackle looks to get involved with the high-stakes dramas.  The free-streaming provider was able to get a cast of movie regulars, such as Dennis Quaid, Kate Bosworth, and Cary Elwes for this one.  It looks like it might fall into a “bad guys doing bad things” trap as many other shows that doesn’t provide very likeable characters, but if it allows Quaid to ham it up then there can definitely be fun to be had here.

The Man in the High Castle

Streaming Provider: Amazon Prime

Release Date: November 20, 2015

Based off of a novel by Phillip K. Dick, Amazon’s high-concept parallel world strikes this month, after having a pilot that debuted some time ago.  The show takes place in an alternate timeline, where the Allied Forces lost World War 2, and the United States of America is now under rule by the Axis powers (based off the imagery, mostly by Nazi rule).  Though it doesn’t seem to have many recognizable stars, the show is executive produced by Ridley Scott (The Martian), and creator/writer Frank Spotnitz, who was one of the brains behind much of the The X-Files.  It looks like a promising release into Amazon’s growing catalog.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Streaming Provider: Netflix

Release Date: November 20, 2015

Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the next in a line of inter-related stories within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Releasing a few months after the popular Daredevil, it has some large shoes to fill, this time with a character that is only familiar to the most hardcore fans of the genre.  As far as I’m concerned, this is what Marvel should be doing with the renewed interest: bringing niche characters to the forefront.  It obviously worked well in 2014 with the smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy.  However, I wonder if Marvel is a little nervous here – they have attached their name to the title of the series; a move that surely is an effort to help create awareness.  The trailer continues the dark tone that the previous series did, only this time looks to add some horror elements.  Netflix has what is likely the “must-watch” show of November with this one.

About Stream Conscious

Mission Statement

2015 has been already become a monumental year for streaming original content.  Streaming media has long since taken over as the new brand of cable, and the brands that run the streaming platforms are coming into their own; learning just how much they can bring to the world.  Throughout the various sites, new original content is released almost weekly, with Netflix leading the way.  This summer it seemed as if Netflix released a new show, season of a pre-existing show, documentary, or comedy special so often that it would be difficult to see everything that they did.  This all culminated with the release of their first original feature film, Beasts of No Nation, which is getting early Oscar buzz.  Even if it doesn’t win any Academy Awards, if the film even gets nominated then it will be a potential game changer to the film industry as a whole – companies like Netflix are willing to pay top dollar to acquire the rights to a show or film for their platform.  While Netflix is certainly setting the curve right now, the other streaming brands are going to start to play catch-up.  Amazon Prime and Hulu are the other most popular subscription based options; and their streaming content is also increasing in size proportionate the public interest.  As great as 2015 has been, trends show that we should be optimistic that 2016 will be even better – even more monumental, and it should offer even more content.

That is where this blog comes in.  There are many blogs that cover the industries of television and/or film.  This blog will focus solely on the streaming aspect of the industry.  The purpose of this blog will be to chronicle the rise of streaming media, as the brands start to throw more and more stuff at the wall.  This blog will offer reviews of new shows as they premier, news about upcoming shows, reflections, recommendations for movies that are released to stream, occasional lists, and much more.

The Reviewing Process

In a recent interview, The Hateful Eight, the ever-candid Quentin Tarantino discussed his problems with television criticism.  In sum, he complains that critics pass judgment on an entire series based off of the pilot.  In a rush to be the first to produce a review (and perhaps because that is all critics are given), this is all that there is time for.  Tarantino feels that this is unfair, because judgment is being passed on one hour of a potentially 12+ hour program.

I find his complaint to be valid, but illegitimate.  It is valid criticism of the model – most everyone agrees that pilots for shows usually are not strong indicators of the quality of the show.  Netflix recently conducted research on how many episodes a viewer of a show needed to watch in order to be “hooked”.  It typically is further into the series than one episode.  However, the complaint doesn’t hold water in that it holds journalism to a standard that is impossible in the internet age – to sacrifice being one of the first to release a review in order to watch the show in its entirety, as it airs.  For better or worse, our news consumption is simply way too immediate to follow that model.

For this blog, I plan to write reviews with Tarantino’s critique in mind.  Most of the time, I won’t write reviews just on the pilot.  However, time probably won’t permit me to watch an entire season of television and get out a review, let alone my sanity.  Binge-watching culture is a thing of the present, but I find that going anything further than a few episodes at a time leaves one’s brain stir-fried.  What I will do for reviews is watch 3 episodes.  I believe that three episodes is enough to get a pulse of a show – characters are typically established by this point, and there is probably even an ongoing plotline.  Seasons that go to streaming websites typically range from 10-13 episodes, so watching 3 episodes before a review means that I will have seen roughly 25-30% of the season.  But most importantly, it will help me to keep timely reviews.  Of course, this only matters for the shows that follow the Netflix model of releasing all the episodes at once – for the companies that slow roll them weekly, I will probably just review the pilot the old-fashioned way.