Saturday April 19, 2014





Hewlett: Drawn back to cable TV after all these years

Who out there watches cable TV on a regular basis? Go ahead, raise your hands. Don’t be shy.

As of this writing, I’ve actually tuned in to the same first-run TV show twice in a row. This is the first time I’ve done that in about seven years.

It’s not that my wife and I don’t have cable TV. We do, because it’s cheaper to have a TV-phone-Internet package than a phone-Internet package. Bastards.

Hey, at least this way I get to watch football and hockey.

The show that brought me back to cable TV is The Following. And I don’t pledge to continue catching it every week. Not that I don’t enjoy the program — a thriller about a former FBI agent tracking a cult of serial killers — because I do, up to a point, that is.

I won’t tune into The Following on Monday simply because I don’t have to.

For television, as with film, the medium is changing. Services such as iTunes, Apple TV and Netflix have changed the way we consume television and feature films.

All I need to do is subscribe to The Following on iTunes and the latest episode automatically downloads as soon as its first-run telecast ends. I can watch it whenever I want.

This level of convenience pretty much negates any need to watch “regular” TV ever again. There is much rejoicing.

But it doesn’t stop there. Sites like Netflix and Amazon.com are taking their respective streaming services a step further and creating original content.

That’s right, not only will viewers be able to stream the latest movies and TV shows from the websites, but each has a weekly series in the works.

Netflix will debut the 13-episode horror-drama Hemlock Grove in April. Based on the novel by Brian McGreevy, the series follows the investigation into the murder of a young girl.

The streaming service has brought in some pretty big guns to navigate the program, recruiting director/producer Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) to executive produce and direct many of the episodes. Former Bond girl Famke Janssen stars.

As for Amazon.com’s foray into weekly programming, the site has picked up the rights to turn the hit movie Zombieland into a series, recruiting cult-horror director Eli Craig (Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil) to direct the pilot episode.

Here’s a little bit of UFI (Useless Fraking Information) for you: Zombieland screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick originally pitched the project as a TV show to CBS before it was optioned as a movie.

Netflix has another series, House of Cards, debuting by the time you read this. Director David Fincher (Se7en, the U.S. remake of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) leads this political drama, which stars Kevin Spacey.

The point of all this, you ask? Clearly, streaming TV and movies is the future of home entertainment. Many independent films are now released via video on demand before they hit a select number of screens.

That means TV is in trouble. If the only reason geeks like me are holding on to cable is because it’s cheaper to keep it, something is wrong with the medium. And it has nothing to do with commercials, although most are annoying.

There’s a chance Hemlock Grove, Zombieland and House of Cards will flop. And I’m not sure how the sites hosting them will profit when subscribers pay a monthly fee. I am, however, curious to see what happens.

As TV people like to say, stay tuned.


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