A couple of years ago, I started a short-lived series here on the website looking at my weekly picks of films and TV shows on Netflix. Since then I’ve subscribed to several additional services and I thought now would be the ideal time to revisit the idea of taking a weekly retrospective of shows – new and old – that have caught my eye across different streaming media services.
Every week I’ll be taking a look at some of the highs and lows I’ve uncovered from the UK versions of Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Britbox. As someone who doesn’t have access to regular television, these (along with catch up services) are a lifeline to me and my family for accessing quality content each week.
So, without wasting any more time, on with this week’s viewing choices…
Muppets Now (Disney+)
One of my all time favourite shows from the 70s, The Muppet Show was classic television. Hi-octane comedy, characters you instantly fell in love with and an irresistible appeal to adults and children alike. It’s no wonder that they have ensured for so long. This is actually the third attempt to revive the characters for television. The short-lived Muppets Tonight replaced the theatre with a television studio, but the format failed to grab audiences despite having huge guest stars. The Muppets, released in 2015 by ABC, looked at the “real lives” of the characters but this failed to capture the feel of the original series either, perhaps straying too far from the original chaotic formula too much and lasted just a single season.
Moving on to this show, created exclusively for Disney+, and it’s another attempt to bring the madcap humour to the small screen. Returning to the style of the original series, it brings it right up to date for the modern era. Today’s audience is used to bite-sized content. Being entertained by Twitch streamers and YouTubers. Many of whom are providing us with entertainment in short bursts of information, sketches, music, tutorials and so on. Muppets Now takes the light entertainment music hall theatre and presents it as if it were a series of weekly YouTube minisodes.
And surprisingly it works rather well. Scooter takes the role of show co-ordinator behind the scenes pulling all of the submitted videos together dealing with video calls from the other characters who submit their mini shows to him, mixed in with each show as it’s “uploaded”. A lot of fan favourites are here – Swedish Chef, Miss Piggy, Muppet Lab – along with some new faces. It’s only six episode long but well worth bingeing.
It’s astonishing to think that this live action series from Gerry Anderson first aired fifty years ago. As the title suggests, the series centres around a secretive global organisation SHADO and its operatives who are protecting the Earth against attack from an unknown alien force. Using a variety of defenses at their disposal on land, sea and air as well as their operational facilities on the Moon, they protect the Earth from the unknowing population.
Despite most shows from Gerry Anderson being produced for a children’s audience this was his first that was really aimed at the adult market. With mature and sometimes dark themes and storylines it’s an incredibly powerful series. Being a product of its time you have to look past the outdated vision of the future that the show portrays (it’s set it 1980 and misses the mark wildly) and ignore the bizarre fashions and you’ve got an incredibly well paced and superbly acted sci-fi drama series. I remembered watching this as a child and revisiting it now it’s lost none of its charm or appeal.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond (Prime Video)
Now I have a confession to make here. I used to be an avid viewer of The Walking Dead when the show first made its debut. But like so many viewers, in recent years, my interest waned as storylines became repetitive. Having to wait for new shows to hit Prime Video – truth be told – didn’t really bother me as it stopped being a show I looked forward to. The spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead, was something I struggled to engage with as well. Both felt like a chore to the point that I’m now several seasons behind the rest of the world!
Now we come on to the latest in the franchise, The Walking Dead: World Beyond which has been produced exclusively for Prime Video. Set ten years after the start of the zombie outbreak it follows a group of teenagers fleeing from a survivor camp. Campus Colony, built around a university campus, has tried to create some sense of normal life – education, social structure and community. All of this is thrown into turmoil on the tenth anniversary of the zombie outbreak when visiting dignitaries from the mysterious Civic Republic arrive.
Two of the students – whose father went missing several years earlier, supposedly to assist the Republic with their work to find a cure for the virus – decide that the Republic can’t be trusted. After receiving cryptic messages from their father, come to the conclusion that he is in trouble and need their help. With two fellow students, they break out of the camp and set off to rescue him.
The first episode, “Brave” essentially sets up what is going to be a teen zombie slaying road trip series. Right from the beginning – from the music choices and the unsteady camerawork – you can tell that this is a series aimed at the teen market, intended to draw them into an already flagging franchise. For those already disillusioned with The Walking Dead, this will do nothing at all to change your opinion of it. Throughout it felt jaded, and almost as if it were crafted by committee to tick boxes rather than produce a series that would be entertaining.
All the clichés are there – characters with dark pasts, hidden secret connections to each other, a search for missing relatives, predictable character deaths. There’s nothing original here and sadly nothing to recommend about it.