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4000 Reasons to Watch Netflix

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a largely predictable affair: everyone jumped on the “wearable tech” bandwagon but with limited innovation and a lot of Fitbit clones, the Oculus Rift headset wowed even more than last year but remains a prototype with a nebulous future, Valve’s Steamboxes have become a reality and they look likeā€¦ PCs.

Meanwhile, as signalled last year, television manufacturers have thankfully dropped their push for 3D, accepting that most people do not really care about it in the living room environment (if at all). They are instead moving towards affordable 4K or “Ultra HD”. At four times the number of pixels in “Full HD” 1080p, this allows for substantially larger and more immersive screens whilst retaining visual fidelity when sitting at the same distance away. The problem is the immediately obvious lack of content: I think it is safe to assume that last year’s $1,750 REDRAY player will not be appearing in the average consumer home any time soon.

NetflixGreat as 4K TVs may look, content is what drives adoption. Broadcast content is years away, as is a new standard for home content that would be incompatible with current blu-ray players. This is where Netflix’s announcement could herald one of the biggest shake-ups from this year’s CES. It announced that future Netflix Original series (including the forthcoming second season of House of Cards) will be shot in 4K, and they will be remastering Breaking Bad in 4K. By the end of the week LG, Sony, Samsung and Vizio had all announced Netflix support on their new 4K TVs.

That essentially makes Netflix the de facto destination for 4K adopters, which should worry the rest of the content industry. The only serious competitor seems to be Amazon in the US, but in Europe they have done little to impress since their acquisition of LoveFilm and its streaming service. Given Netflix’s latest UI shifts towards a presenting a personalised channel of on-demand content, I can think of many worse companies to be at the head of the pack.

Being Human

The cast of the pilotBeing Human was easily one of the most intriguing pilots I saw last year (and probably the only thing I watched on BBC Three). The supernatural drama was broadly about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who end up in a somewhat unusual flatshare. Existential overtones abound as each of them is struggling to cope with their own condition, but together they find some balance of normality.

Given the silence that followed, I assumed it was unsuccessful and never picked up. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it appearing on the BBC’s schedule for the start of 2009, although it appears there have been some not insignificant changes. The premise remains the same, but of the main cast only Russell Tovey returns as the socially awkward werewolf George. The replacements for vampire Mitchell and Annie the ghost seem to fit a general desire to make the show more mainstream, losing some of the pilot’s gothic sensibilities.

The cast of the the seriesMitchell suffers particularly from this, morphing into a largely uninteresting good-looking charmer, albeit with a generic “conflicted vampire” struggle to control his bloodlust. This is, presumably, intended to draw in female viewers. In the pilot Guy Flannagan’s delivery had a strange precision that made his words seem like those of someone far older than he looked, while Aiden Turner never seems anything but a twenty-something. Meanwhile Annie seems less oddball but more unstable. Because these characters no longer all come across as outsiders (Mitchell is too socially adept, and Annie presumably was in life) the original group dynamic is lost and they do not seem to hang together quite so well anymore.

These negative (if more attractive) casting changes are not insurmountable if the scriptwriting can hold up, but if the changes do represent an apparent move towards the mainstream, this does not bode well, stripping the show of its uniqueness and relegating to a generic supernatural drama that is unlikely to last long in the wild before being put down.

"Luck is the residue of design."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2021 Priyan Meewella

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