Posts with «television» label

'Billions' is the latest TV show to create a PR problem for Peloton

This post contains spoilers for the sixth season of 'Billions.'

Peloton can't quite escape the publicity headaches from TV shows featuring its products. According to The New York Times and The Verge, the premiere episode of Billions season six includes a scene that, like the Sex and the City follow-up And Just Like That, paints Peloton's Bike in a less-than-flattering light — if not quite as dire as before.

The scene depicts Mike "Wags" Wagner (played by David Costabile) having a heart attack while riding his Peloton spin bike. Unlike the And Just Like That scene, however, Wagner survives — he even references the AJLT scene, telling staff that he's "not going out" like that character. Billions' executive producers told The Times the moment was filmed in spring 2021, months before AJLT's debut, and that the team overdubbed the reference to the other show in postproduction to reflect "what Wags would say."

Peloton stressed in a statement that it hadn't provided the Bike or otherwise greenlit the use of its brand for Billions. It even celebrated parts of the episode, noting that the show highlighted the "strong benefits" of a cardio workout. When the AJLT scene caused a panic, Peloton faulted the character's lifestyle and suggested the bike at least delayed the inevitable. It went on to create a promo to defend its products in response, although it pulled that ad soon after when the focus of the promo, actor Chris Noth, faced accusations of sexual assault.

The Billions scene isn't the biggest PR crisis Peloton has faced lately. The company's stock price plunged after a (since-denied) claim it halted production due to slowing sales. However, it does illustrate Peloton's odd position. While its fitness gear is still considered iconic, the company is no longer quite so revered by shoppers or the entertainment business.

Apple's WeWork drama 'WeCrashed' premieres March 18th

Apple is nearly ready to release its tale of WeWork's tragic fall. The company has announced that its Apple TV+ limited series WeCrashed will premiere March 18th. The eight-episode drama stars Jared Leto as former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann, who wielded hype to earn a $47 billion valuation only to lose most of it (and his job) when the IPO process revealed ugly financials and leadership. Anne Hathaway plays Adam's wife Rebekah, who served as an executive (including the head of WeGrow) and whose relationship with Adam was "at the center of it all," according to Apple.

The trailer sets expectations quickly. The Neumanns portrayed by Leto and Hathaway are full of overly grand visions, portraying WeWork as nothing less than the future, a "movement" aiming to "elevate the world's consciousness." The clip also highlights the cult-like devotion to the company and its notoriously summer camp-like retreats. It's not certain how well the performances will hold up across a whole series, but Apple at least seems to understand how WeWork's reality was never going to match the buzz.

This isn't the first streaming take on WeWork's rise and sudden decline. Hulu's 2021 documentary was an imperfect but prominent take on the Neumann couple. Apple's effort clearly has star power, however, and the behind-the-camera talent has experience with well-received titles like Little America and This is Us. If nothing else, it's clear Apple hasn't given up its TV+ strategy of counting on big names to draw in viewers, even if the projects are slightly unusual.

Amazon series starring actors on the autism spectrum debuts this week

A show that stars three actors who all identify as being on the autism spectrum will debut on Amazon Prime Video this week. Rick Glassman, Albert Rutecki and Sue Ann Pien play three 20-something roommates who are also on the spectrum in As We See It.

Creator Jason Katims is best known for his work on Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, which featured a character with Asperger’s syndrome. He said all of As We See It's “neurodiverse roles were cast with neurodiverse actors” and “two neurotypical roles were cast with neurodiverse actors," according to Disability Scoop. Some writers, editors and other crew members are neurodiverse too.

Katims said his son has autism, and their experience inspired As We See It. "I think the show affords us a window into the hearts and souls of three-dimensional, loving, beautiful, complicated human beings who happen to be on the autistic spectrum, played by actors who identify as being autistic," Katims said. "It shouldn’t be revolutionary. But it sort of is."

Several other shows from recent years have featured characters with autism, including Netflix's Atypical, The Good Doctor, Prime Video series The A Word and even Sesame Street. However, it's rarer for a series to feature characters with autism played by performers who themselves are on the spectrum. As such, As We See It could bolster authentic on-screen representations of autism.

All eight episodes of As We See It's first season will hit Prime Video on Friday.

Doctors and scientists call on Spotify to create misinformation policy

Doctors, health experts and scientists battle COVID-19 misinformation on daily basis. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have adopted policies in an effort to curtail rampant false claims, but some don't have rules in place. A group of 270 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators have sent an open letter to Spotify following a recent episode of TheJoe Rogan Experience, calling for the streaming service to adopt a clear policy and to fulfill its "responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation." 

On the December 31st episode of his podcast, Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist who says he's one of the creators of mRNA technology. It's unclear whether that's true. During the chat, Malone made baseless claims about COVID-19, including the idea that "mass formation psychosis" led people to believe the vaccines were effective and the notion that President Biden had withheld data that supported ivermectin as a valid treatment. The episode quickly went viral among both critics and fans as Rogan averages over 10 million listeners per episode. YouTube removed a video of the interview and Malone was recently banned from Twitter for violations of the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policy.

"By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals," the letter explains. "[The episode] is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing."

In April, The Verge reported that Spotify was okay with a Rogan episode on which he encouraged 21-year-olds to not get vaccinated. A company source indicated the message wasn't "outwardly anti-vaccine" and he didn't "make a call to action," The Verge's Ashley Carman wrote at the time. Spotify has taken down more explicit examples of vaccine misinformation, including a song from musician Ian Brown and a podcast from Pete Evans. The company has said in the past that it "prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health." And that when something violates those guidelines, it is removed.

However, as this open letter points out, Spotify doesn't have an official misinformation policy like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. The group is asking for the platform to do just that, rather than to directly take action against Rogan or remove the episode in question. They want the company to create rules that would hold podcast creators accountable for the content of their shows.

Spotify paid a reported $100 million to lock down The Joe Rogan Experience as an exclusive podcast in 2020. The show was the most popular on the platform in 2021, both in the US and globally. When Rogan faced criticism over his choice of guests, including another example of pandemic misinformation in an episode with Alex Jones, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the platform didn't have editorial responsibility over podcasts.

"We have a lot of really well-paid rappers on Spotify too, that make tens of millions of dollars, if not more, each year from Spotify." Ek told Axios. "And we don't dictate what they're putting in their songs, either." 

Spotify didn't respond to Engadget's request for comment on both the open letter and the company's misinformation policies.

'Star Trek Discovery' is taking an unexpected break as 'Star Trek Prodigy' returns

Star Trek: Discovery is taking an unscheduled break in the season after its next episode on December 30th, Gizmodo has reported. It'll be off for a month and a half until February 10th, essentially making way for the next season of the kids-oriented Star Trek Prodigy, set to return on January 6th. 

Discovery took a similar mid-season break in season one, but this time there's more content to fill the gap. After it returns in February and finishes its run, the second season of Picard should be about ready to launch. The idea of having enough Star Trek series to run them nearly continuously was Paramount's goal when Discoveryfirst launched in 2018

Discovery's fourth season has got off to a strong launch creatively, thanks in part to a more episodic format that will make it easier for casual fans to follow. From a content standpoint, however, the season started controversially when Paramount announced that the series would be pulled from Netflix in non-US territories. Season 4 is now streaming on Pluto TV in some countries in Europe, at least until Paramount+ can expand to those regions. 

'Star Trek: Discovery' finally embraces standalone storytelling in its fourth season

The following contains minor spoilers for season four, episode six of 'Star Trek: Discovery' (and vague discussion of episode seven).

There’s a bit of a trend or tradition among Star Trek shows, starting with The Next Generation. Somewhere around season three or four the show finds its way and actually becomes good, if not great. This isn’t a phenomenon limited to Trek, of course, but only Trek has a specific name for it: growing the beard. This is in reference to commanders William Riker and Benjamin Sisko, who both started their respective shows clean-shaven but grew beards around the time The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine got noticeably better. And Discovery might finally be ready to do its own metamorphosis, but instead of a beard it’s a change of format that has fans talking.

One of the complaints about Discovery’s first three seasons — besides the grimdark tone, the infallibility of Michael Burnham and all the crying — was that it largely embraced a more serial format, where each episode was another installment in one long ongoing storyline. Sure, there were occasional one-off adventures, but each episode was still firmly focused on the larger story.


Season four started off in the same manner, with the season premiere and second episode dedicated to setting up the new status quo of rebuilding the United Federation of Planets and introducing this season’s big threat: the Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA). However, unlike previous seasons where each episode would have been focused on one step toward finding a solution, the problem-solving has taken a back seat to a largely standalone A-plot.

The shift could be first seen in episode three, where Burnham and her crew are tasked with tracking down a rogue member of the Qowat Milat (as I described them to my editor: ninja nuns). The DMA is more of a C-plot in this episode, with the B-plot position occupied by the story of Gray Tal and his new android body. Episode four was Tilly trying to train and keep a group of Starfleet cadets alive (in a plot reminiscent of Voyager episodes ‘Learning Curve’ and ‘Good Shepherd’). Episode five saw the crew tasked with evacuating a planet threatened by the DMA. The anomaly may have been the instigating force in the episode, but it was in fact interchangeable with pretty much any other planetary threat since the episode was focused more on Michael’s struggle to free six prisoners on the surface.


This week’s episode finds Discovery traveling into a subspace rift created by the DMA and becoming stranded, with the ship’s newly sentient AI Zora unable to lead the crew to safety. However, while the anomaly is once again the cause of Discovery’s problems it’s also, once again, an interchangeable threat. The real drive of the episode is the problem-solving to get the crew out, and the personal struggles of characters like Zora and Cleveland Booker.

Next week will bring the Dark Matter Anomaly back to the forefront, but that’s only logical since the seventh episode marks the rough midpoint of the 13-episode season as well as the end of our calendar year. It’s not unusual for many television shows to use this time to “check in” on their major storylines and advance those plots to the next phase. But it is unusual for Discovery in that it doesn’t represent as clean a divide as in previous seasons: season one went from the Klingon War to the Mirror Universe, season two went from the mystery of the Red Angel to battling the evil AI Control. Next week’s episode represents a smoother transition than previously.


That smoothness is mostly due to the fact that the ongoing storyline hasn’t been given as much time to openly flourish, instead bubbling in the background while the show instead focuses on character-building single-shot adventures. Standalone episodes might feel outdated in an era of streaming and binging, where viewers can get their answers right away so there’s no need to make each individual chapter feel “complete.” There’s no chance to become unsatisfied by the content of an episode when the next one is merely seconds away. Even shows that premiere week by week have fallen into the trap, assuming that most viewers will binge the show later on anyway, with only the diehards watching each installment as it drops.

But for most of its existence at this point, Star Trek has been a franchise for the die-hards. The people who can’t wait for the next episode, the people who will read and write recaps on their favorite pop culture sites and those who share theories on social media. Paramount+ has put a lot of its chips on the strength of this die-hard base, stacking its production schedule with five different Star Trek shows that rarely overlap, meaning a fan who wants to see everything as soon as possible will need to maintain their Paramount+ subscription all-year-round.


While fan complaints may have played a big role in Discovery’s decision to switch to a more episodic format, it’s likely that the desire to keep fans on the hook for the show’s entire run played an even bigger part. When Discovery was the only Star Trek show, and one of the few Paramount+ offerings period, it was common for viewers to only sign up for a subscription when they wanted to binge something — sometimes even within the free week the service offers to new customers. Shows like Lower Decks, Prodigy and the upcoming Strange New Worlds already operate with a more episodic format, meaning Discovery could have created a “hole” in an ongoing subscription for viewers, a chance for them to take a break from Star Trek and from paying $6 a month.

With an episodic show it’s a lot harder to ignore it while it’s running; each episode represents a complete viewing experience, making the wait between episodes less excruciating. And when Discovery encounters new worlds and new adventures every week, it gives the fans something new to talk about, instead of rehashing the same old theories about the ongoing storyline again and again until the season ends. Star Trek was just made for episodic viewing, and embracing the format will make it easier for Discovery to hold fan interest over time.

Netflix drops a surprise teaser for its 'Witcher' prequel

The Witcher: Blood Origin, a prequel to Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Anderzej Sapkowski’s dark fantasy novel series, will debut in 2022, and you can watch the first trailer now. In a surprise move, Netflix shared footage from the show as part of season two of The Witcher. The trailer is attached to the final episode of the season as a post-credits scene. And as of the writing of this article, Netflix has yet to upload the clip to YouTube.

THE WITCHER: BLOOD ORIGIN is coming to Netflix in 2022

— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) December 17, 2021

Per Gizmodo, the trailer doesn’t provide many story hints, but what it does do is offer a look at Michelle Yeoh as Scian, one of the protagonists of the tale. Blood Origin will center on the Conjunction of the Spheres, the moment in the Witcher universe where humans, elves and monsters all came to inhabit the fantasy world of the series.

Blood Origin is just one of several Witcher-related projects Netflix has in the production pipeline following the success of the first season of its live action adaptation. The company recently greenlit a third season of the show, in addition to a second animated movie (following Nightmare of the Wolf) and a kids and family series.

Nick Offerman will play Bill in 'The Last of Us' on HBO

Ron Swanson is coming to the world of The Last of Us. Yesterday, Murray Bartlett, a cast member on the upcoming HBO show based on the video game, said that he recently shot scenes with Nick Offerman, a person who hadn't yet been linked to the production. Now, Naughty Dog has confirmed a report from Variety that Offerman is playing the loner Bill in The Last of Us. Bill had a small but crucial role in the original game that was played by W. Earl Brown, who said earlier this year he wouldn't be reprising the role in the HBO show.

Offerman is not the first person to be cast as Bill. The role was originally offered to Con O’Neil, who previously had worked with show runner Craig Manzin on his Chernobyl series (also on HBO). According to Variety, O'Neil had to back out of the role due to scheduling conflicts.

Welcome to The Last of Us, @Nick_Offerman! We're so stoked to see you bring Bill to our TV screens!

— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) December 7, 2021

In addition to filming scenes with Bartlett, Offerman should get plenty of screen time with series leads Pedro Pascal, who is playing Joel, and Bella Ramsey, who plays Ellie. While there have been plenty of leaks from location shooting around Canada that shows this production is well underway, there's no word yet on when The Last of Us will arrive on HBO. It's expected sometime in 2022, though. 

Netflix's new 'Cowboy Bebop' trailer shows first footage from the show

Netflix has previously given us glimpses of its live-action adaptation of the classic anime Cowboy Bebop. Its latest trailer, however, shows actual footage from the series for the first time. You'll see scenes of the crew in action, from the time they met and decided to team up to the time they start hunting criminals in exchange for bounty. It shows fight scenes with Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), their spaceship (the Bebop) and their corgi Ein. No Ed yet, unfortunately.

The streaming giant first announced its live-action adaptation way back in 2018, but it wasn't until earlier this year that production wrapped for season one. While the cast and crew have been shooting since 2019, production was paused after Cho got injured on set, and the coronavirus pandemic delayed things even further. Since then, Netflix has been preparing for its debut. In addition to releasing teasers for the show, the company has added all 26 episodes of the anime to its catalogue, so you can marathon all things Cowboy Bebop without having to hop services. (The anime is also available on Hulu.) 

Netflix's live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop will start streaming on November 19th.

Apple's first Korean TV series is about brain hacking

Apple TV+ will expand into a new territory when it launches in South Korea on November 4th. In a case of perfect timing, the streaming service's first series from the country will debut worldwide on the same day (or a day earlier if you're in the US).

The brilliantly titled Dr. Brain is a sci-fi drama based on a webtoon of the same name. Lee Sun-kyun of Parasite fame (he played Park Dong-ik, the father of the well-off family) stars as brain scientist Sewon. After Sewon's family suffers a mysterious accident, he hacks the brains of the deceased to access their memories and learn clues about what happened.

The six-episode series is co-written, directed and executive produced by the highly regarded filmmaker Kim Jee-woon, who's perhaps best known for The Good, The Bad and The Weird and I Saw the Devil. A new episode of Dr. Brain will hit Apple TV+ each week until the finale on December 10th. 

It's a busy fall for sci-fi projects on Apple TV+. Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov's books of the same name, debuted in September, while alien invasion series Invasion premiered last Friday. A movie called Finch, in which Tom Hanks plays a man who takes a road trip across post-apocalyptic America with his dog and robot, will hit Apple TV+ on November 5th.