The Buzz: Hulu takes a Chance

Television:  Hulu and Chance: The past several years has seen a television arms race. Every channel, from the broadcast to cable to over-the-top streaming services, has been searching for original IP in the time of peak TV. There is nothing more important to have a prestige series. Even niche cable channels like Lifetime and the IFC Channel has dipped their toes into serialized television and prestige comedies. Television products has never felt more like a barren wasteland.

On the internet, the three big services, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix, has engaged in buying up property on the festival circuit, making deals with studios to exclusively hold stream their property and make their own shows. Netflix has had the most word-of-mouth success with House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things and the Marvel Television Universe dominating cultural conversations. Amazon Prime has had great awards success, mainly on the back of Transparent but also with Mozart in the Jungle. Their pilot season strategy by picking up which shows to order by letting its users view and review all their new pilots. The latest season is going to see three new series picked up.

Hulu has desperately tried to make their claim in the original programming sphere. Just recently, the service had announced that they were ending their free streaming service with commercials to a purely subscription basis. This is the new landscape, a far cry from Hulu’s original model of being a streaming service for newly released television episodes.

Yet, their original programming has failed to latch onto the cultural conversations. The Path made a minor ripple earlier this year and Casual has been more of a critic’s darling than must watch television. Some might point to the fact that Hulu has tried to stick to a traditional television model by releasing episodes of their shows one week at a time. This goes against the model of binge-worthy television that Netflix has made their money on. In a world of constant new cultural obsessions, the once a week model slows down the cyclic nature of the current television digestion. At a time when the cultural conversation on a show is just as important as the number of people who watch it, this can be the death knell. That is why shows which still follow the traditional television model like HBO’s Westworld and Game of Thrones does so well; it ends on cliffhangers and creates questions to keep the conversation going until next week’s episode.

Chance is Hulu’s newest attempt to enter the prestige television stratosphere. It has a return to television as a lead in Hugh Laurie, fresh off an Emmy nomination, and the clout of director Lenny Abrahamson, who had just received an Academy Award nomination for Room. The series follows neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Eldon Chance, a moody, divorced, glum of an individual. The San Francisco that he operates in is just as dark as his outlook of his world.

The show opens with the aftermath of a car crash that leaves a woman chronically depress. More of his patients have suffered through similarly glum circumstances. But, the show posits if this is just chance or a series of occurrence that results from choice. You see, the title is not just the name of the main character but the overall question of the show. Very deep.

The main crux of the show comes when Dr. Chance is visited by a mysterious woman (Gretchon Mol), Jaclyn Blackstone. Mol does well as both a femme fatale type and the traditional Hitchcock blonde in the vain of Kim Novak. He begins to become obsessed with this mysterious woman, shedding all passivity to try to become a savior. Of all the psychiatrist offices in the world she had to come into his. But, is that chance? Is it destined?

The allure of this mystery should be intriguing but it is not. This is just another entry into a myriad of other shows about good men going through a dark road to slowly become bad. Chance begins to investigate the seedy underbelly of San Francisco, meeting a mysterious wise furniture dealer (Clarke Peters) and his silent heavy (Ethan Suplee).

The show moves at a snail’s like pace, possibly due to the fact that Hulu has already contracted for two seasons with 10-episodes each. What Chance represents is the worst of prestige television; a show that believes in its own sordid tale and serialized nature when in reality there is nothing beneath the superficiality.

The show has the tagline, “Trust No One.” The only problem is that it is clearly obvious who Chance should not trust. The show is so in obsessed with trying to recreate Vertigo with themes of duality, duplicity and San Francisco, but everything is hampered with clichés that it is eyerolling. Chance is wasting Hugh Laurie who should be great as this type of character, but there is no humor in the series. Everything is so glum because depression equates to good in the eyes of the creators of the show.

The so-called “peak TV” has created a slew of shows with the same problems of Chance. It takes the wrong lessons from the great serialized dramas and creates clichés. Hulu seems desperate to find that show to equate them with Netflix’s dominance, which is slowly becoming the Kleenex of streaming services in its ubiquity. Chance will not be that show.

Rewind: Mulholland Drive: Vertigo has created many imitators. It is no wonder why it was named the best film of all-time by the Sight and Sound poll, the census of films. As we saw, the television show, Chance owes a great deal to the Hitchcock classic. But, the best film to take all the mysteries of Vertigo is without a doubt David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Naomi Watts plays an actress new to LA, whose cheery optimism is a harbinger of doom. She is so good in the Hitchcock blonde role that one must wonder what Alfred might do with her talents. But, what Mulholland Drive does that many other Hitch imitators do not do is creates a nightmarish, dream-like layering of complexity. Like a person with little sleep, you forget what is true and real. The filmic eye is not always reliable. That is what makes Vertigo great and what makes Mulholland Drive great.

Coming Soon: Trailer Clichés in Life: Let’s look at all the clichés you can have in a science fiction film trailer about discovering possible alien life.

A spacey piano score backed by distortion of sound. Check.

Archived audio of JFK talking about the extremity of space travel. Check.

Shots of the stars having a good time and doing work in space. Check

Shit hits the fan aka something hits something in the space station. Check.

Sustained piano note to denote suspense. Check.

Ryan Reynolds wisecracking. Check.

Only black actor in film dies in the trailer. Check.

Character argue about whether to save only black character in film as he dies. Check.

Everyone floating around doing action scenes. Check.

Factual inaccuracy of having a flamethrower in a space station that is mainly oxygen which in real life would cause everything to blow up. Check.

Archive audio suddenly seems ironic. Check.

Anyways Life comes out on Memorial Day next year. Yay?


In the Loop:  Film critics do not often make headlines unless it about a fan backlash over a superhero movie they do not like. But, last Tuesday, after A&E Network announced a partnership with Entertainment Weekly to cross-promote the Critics’ Choice Awards across platforms has led to key film critics to resign from the organization. Writers from Variety, Buzzfeed, Us Weekly are just among the few who have left the Critics’ Choice organization. This organization has broadcast critics across many different media organizations to give out awards to deserving winners. The uproar over the Entertainment Weekly partnership stems from the blatant promotion of one brand which is against the organization’s intention of setting aside any one brand and just celebrating the work.

Disney, on the backs of tentpole films and animated films, are poised to break the industry record for highest box office grosses in a given year. As of November 1st, they had made $5.85 billion in global sales, breaking Disney’s own personal record. Universal has the record with $6.89 billion in 2015. Disney success has come from their purchasing of tentpole films and IP with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Finding Dory and Zootopia. Dr. Strange and the new Star Wars film will undoubtedly add to that total, possibly setting a new industry record.