TV

How to live your best streaming life - and for less than $100 per month

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With so many streaming services currently competing for your dollar, how will you decide what to keep and what to cancel? I’ve been trying to decide for myself what to keep and what to sign up for that would all work within my budget.

I would call myself a streamer, not a cord cutter and yes, there is a difference. To me, if you are a true cord cutter, then you live life with just a internet connection or maybe the basic Netflix package. That’s it. Streamers don’t spend money on traditional cable packages, instead subscribing to many different platforms.

This is just a guide to explain what I would spend my money on. The goal is to get everything important to me while spending less than the average American spends each month on TV only. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average American spends around $100 a month on just cable or their satellite bill. Crazy, I know.

So I will try to keep my budget somewhere between 70 and 90 dollars a month. The best part about all of these services is that none of the streaming services come with an annual contract. You can come and go as you please, only subscribing during the time of year that you want to.

Let’s start with the most essential subscriptions first, the ones that I will never consider canceling: Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. The trickiest one for me to put in some sort of category is Amazon Prime because it has so much value beyond just what you get with Prime Video.

What I decided to do is take the yearly cost of 120 dollars and divide that by 12 to get the grand total of 10 dollars a month. Sound good? That puts Netflix and Hulu as my super must-haves.

With Netflix, I have the premium plan for Netflix at $16.00 a month because I have a 4K tv and Netflix has a ton of 4K content. For most people, Hulu isn’t a must-have. But for me, I’ve really enjoyed how quickly it gets shows the day after they finish on broadcast and its original programs have gotten better. Now that Disney owns a huge chunk of Hulu, it will be interesting to see that service’s content over the year to come. That being said, I have the no-commercial plan of Hulu, which runs me 12 dollars a month. I

So for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, I am paying just 38 dollars a month and you could arguably watch anything you really wanted to at that price.

If those services are my top three choices, the next has to be DC Universe. I couldn’t imagine life without it at this point. It provides so much content all the time that can’t possibly all be consumed.

Not only do you get classics like Batman the Animated Series, but also new original content like Titans and the upcoming Doom Patrol with much more to come. I signed up for the promotional rate of $75 dollars for 15 months, which was a crazy no-brainer. It comes out to a whopping five dollars a month. As I often explain on the podcast, I’m a new comic book fan which makes a subscription to DCU mean even more. I probably read about 30 dollars worth of comics a month. For me, that’s an amazing value.

That brings my monthly total up to 43 bucks a month with some services still remaining. With my top-tier services out of the way, there are still several more that can get my hard-earned money each month. To me, all of these services are easily interchangeable and I can come and go as I please.

HBO Now is in this category for me. It’s a crazy $15 a month and I wouldn’t usually pay for it consistently. I also have CBS All Access for six dollars a month. But you can pay $10 for no commercials and the ability to download shows. During the TV season, CBS All Access really shines because you can watch all of CBS’s programming right away. I was going to cancel it at the end of the current TV season, but I’m looking forward to The Twilight Zone so I’m keeping it around. Additionally, I subscribe to ESPN+ at five dollars a month for no real reason other than I enjoy all of the 30 for 30 films and they’re all available. Plus, you get access to a ton of sports.

Including those second-tier services, I am now up to 69 dollars. That gives me all the crazy content I could ever want for less than $75. I’ll add another $10 to my monthly total when the Disney+ service launches later this year. Disney has already announced several shows for the service and it will include all of the Marvel and Pixar movies as well. For someone with a three-year-old, that’s a no brainer and will save me from having to buy the movies.

All of this puts my grand total at $79 per month. Obviously, it could be cheaper for you depending what services you decide are most important. That’s the great thing about streaming — no contracts — and you can subscribe to various services at different points of the year. Hopefully, my example helps you decide how you can manage your subscription life.

Daredevil is the Man Without Netflix, joining Iron Fist and Luke Cage in cancellation

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It’s fair to say that Netflix is getting out of the Marvel business. Sure, there will be a Season 3 of Jessica Jones and a second season for The Punisher. But the cancellation of Netflix’s flagship Marvel series, Daredevil, surely means the inevitable end of that partnership.

Multiple outlets reported the news Thursday evening. (If you keep track of such things, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva and Dominic Patten were first on it by a nose.) Daredevil’s cancellation comes nearly two months after the streaming network announced that two of its other Marvel series, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, weren’t being renewed for additional seasons.

— Related: Iron Fist won't get a third season on Netflix, taking away Danny Rand's TV chi

[Editor’s Note: Naturally, this news comes after we already recorded Episode 15 of The Amusement Park Podcast. We will almost certainly talk about this next week!]

Season 3 of Daredevil just launched six weeks ago on Netflix. The future of the show seemed uncertain in light of the other Marvel cancellations, but strong reviews among media and fans presumably gave it a chance for renewal. Yet no announcement for a fourth season came from Netflix or Marvel, which made fans nervous. That led to a recent online campaign to #RenewDaredevil on social media.

In the past, these sorts of campaigns and petitions have had mixed success. But a few have paid off, which kept hope alive. Yet it’s also worth asking whether or not a campaign flooding social media or petition flooded with names would have even mattered.

Season 3 showrunner Erik Oleson even told fans on Twitter that he pitched Season 4 to Netflix. (Season 1 was run by Steven S. DeKnight, while Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie oversaw Season 2.) Obviously, executives weren’t convinced. Or they had already made their decision.

Earlier this month, ScreenRant reported some surprising information that surely factored into Netflix’s decision-making process. According to data from analytics company Jumpshot, viewership for Daredevil’s third season had dropped 57 percent compared to the first weeks from Seasons 1 and 2. (Iron Fist dropped 64 percent, while Luke Cage suffered a 59 percent drop.) It’s the closest data to ratings available, since Netflix doesn’t release those numbers to the public.

The Luke Cage cancellation was the true indication that Netflix was no longer enamored with its Marvel shows. A Season 3 renewal seemed like a formality before producers clashed with executives over creative direction.

Related: Luke Cage joins Iron Fist in Netflix cancellation line, literally becoming TV Heroes For Hire

But Netflix doesn’t own the Marvel shows as it does with other series on the network like Stranger Things, Ozark, Bojack Horseman, The Crown, Master of None, GLOW, Narcos and so many, many others. Marvel licensed its shows to Netflix and produced them through ABC. So if the series were expensive and viewership was waning, Netflix obviously felt it was better off going with the properties from which full profit could be derived. And there is a lot more content now available on Netflix than there was when the deal with Marvel was signed in 2013.

(Netflix probably isn’t thrilled that Disney is launching a competing service either, one which will eventually take away many of the movies and TV shows which currently provide so much of its content.)

As has been the case for the past couple of months, the question now becomes whether these series can find new life elsewhere. Netflix’s official statement ended by saying “the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.” The presumption is that the shows could jump over to Disney’s new streaming service. Disney+ is developing Marvel series featuring Loki, Scarlet Witch, and a Falcon-Winter Soldier team-up. Whether or not Disney+ is interested in carrying more adult content like Daredevil along with its family-friendly fare remains to be seen.

But the two Star Wars live-action series soon to launch on the service figure to appeal to older audiences. Maybe a Daredevil or Luke Cage wouldn’t be quite as dark. Or if Marvel would prefer to emphasize stronger violence, language and sex for its street-level heroes, the company also owns a stake in Hulu and might provide a better platform there. (Marvel already has a Hulu series with Runaways, which launches its second season on Dec. 21.)

If this is it for Daredevil on TV, Season 3 ended with what could be perceived as a series finale. (Though there was something of a cliffhanger that would’ve led into a Season 4.) No Marvel character has suffered more than Matt Murdock, which the Netflix series (along with The Defenders) certainly got right. Charlie Cox was an excellent Murdock (and Daredevil!) and no one will ever be a better Wilson Fisk than Vincent D’Onofrio. We’ll always have those long-take fight scenes in hallways, stairwells and prisons.

Disney announces second Star Wars series, this one featuring Rogue One's Cassian Andor

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Are you ready for a prequel to a prequel? Lucasfilm is betting that the answer for Star Wars fans is yes!

During Disney’s latest earnings call, CEO Bob Iger announced that Lucasfilm is developing another Star Wars series for Disney’s streaming service. The new show will feature Cassian Andor, portrayed by Diego Luna, who was one of the key players in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Though it’s probably unnecessary to say at this point, the series will take place before the events of Rogue One.

(And if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s pretty damn good and available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon.)

In Star Wars mythology, Andor is part of the Rebellion during its formative years and eventually becomes a spy working in opposition to the Empire. The new series will follow those beginning years of the resistance, presumably leading up to the events of Rogue One. Will we see droid K-2SO in this story? Let’s hope so, though a CGI character would obviously significantly add to the series budget. But maybe that’s not an issue!

According to Lucasfilm, the show will be a “spy thriller” with stories “filled with espionage and daring missions.” Andor showed he was a darker, more ruthless character in Rogue One, and that could be an intriguing angle to the Star Wars mythology, following smaller operations that don’t necessarily involve battles in space and world-destroying technology. Or maybe Disney+ (which is the official name of the service, not Disney Play) will surprise us.

The newly announced Star Wars series will be the second from a galaxy far, far away on Disney’s upcoming streaming service. The Mandalorian will be first up, executive produced by Jon Favreau (with directors including Taika Waititi, Rick Famuyiwa and Bryce Dallas Howard) and taking place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The show has been described as sort of a Western in the Star Wars universe, following a warrior from the same planet as Jango and Boba Fett.

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It’s expected that The Mandalorian will debut on Disney+ in late 2019, months after the streaming service launches. But it’s possible that the series won’t be released until after Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on Dec. 20, 2019. In that case, we might not see the Cassian Andor series until 2020 or 2021.

The two Star Wars series will join the three shows that Marvel is developing around Loki, Scarlet Witch, and the Winter Soldier and Falcon. Iger confirmed the Loki series is being made, but didn’t comment on the other two shows. Regardless, Disney+ (corporate synergy with ESPN+) is looking more appealing with each week, poised to take more of your monthly streaming dollars beginning next year.

DC Universe's Swamp Thing casts its Alec Holland and title creature

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The upcoming Swamp Thing series on the DC Universe streaming service has been slowly building its cast. But of all the actors joining the ensemble, the most recognizable being Will Patton (Halloween) and Virginia Madsen (Designated Survivor), the actor portraying the title character had yet to be announced. That is, until now.

On Tuesday, Warner Brothers revealed that Andy Bean (It: Chapter Two) will play Alec Holland, the scientist fated to become a plant-based monster in a horrible accident. But Derek Mears will suit up as the creature, getting what presumably is the juicier role as the Swamp Thing.

The 6-foot-5 Mears has plenty of experience playing a monster during his career, portraying Jason Voorhees in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake, Moloch in Sleepy Hollow, and the Kree Captain in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That should be a good pedigree for stepping into the large footprints left behind by Dick Durock in two Swamp Thing movies and the 1990s syndicated TV series.

As could be expected on a TV series budget, Swamp Thing will not be CGI imagery on the screen. Writer and executive producer Gary Dauberman told Slashfilm in September that the creature will be created with practical effects, though he promises the physical costume will look less like a man in a suit than Durock’s version of the character did.

Dauberman also mentioned that the DC Universe series will indeed be an origin story for Swamp Thing (as it should be), and Alec Holland’s presence in the story confirms that. What isn’t yet known is whether or not we’ll see more of Bean as Holland in flashbacks throughout the show’s 13 episodes.

Via DC Universe, here’s an official description of the series and its title character:

"Emerging from the swamp with a monstrous physique and strange new powers over plant life, the man who was once Alec Holland struggles to hold onto his humanity. When dark forces converge on the town of Marais, Swamp Thing must embrace what he has become in order to defend the town as well as the natural world at large."

Circling back to Bean and Mears’s castmates, Patton will play the bad guy of the story, businessman Avery Sunderland, while Madsen is portraying his wife Maria. The cast also includes Jennifer Beals (Taken) as local sheriff Lucilia Cable, Crystal Reed as Abby Arcane (a very important name to fans of the Swamp Thing comic books), Maria Sten as reporter Liz Tremayne, and Jeryl Prescott, who will play fortune teller and sorceress Madame Xanadu.

Swamp Thing will debut on DC Universe sometime in 2019.

Luke Cage joins Iron Fist in Netflix cancellation line, literally becoming TV Heroes For Hire

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One week after Netflix’s somewhat surprising cancellation of Marvel’s Iron Fist, the streaming network followed up with what has to be viewed as a shocking decision: Luke Cage will also not be renewed for a third season.

As with the Iron Fist news, Deadline was the first to report that Luke Cage is being canceled. (No soft landing for Danny Rand on another Marvel Netflix show.) What makes Netflix shutting down the series especially unexpected is that a renewal for a third season was considered a formality. Not to mention that the announcement comes on the same day that Daredevil’s Season 3 debuted. (Maybe this is sort of a warning to fans: If you want a fourth season for Daredevil, you’d better watch.)

According to Deadline’s Dominic Patten and Nellie Andreeva, scripts had been written for at least half of Season 3 and received notes from both Marvel and Netflix. The production wheel was turning. But Marvel and Netflix executives reportedly didn’t like the scripts that showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and his staff had produced, nor the direction that the writers were pointing Season 3. As much as “creative differences” can often be a vague explanation for why a project fell apart, that’s apparently what really happened here.

Via Deadline:

“Add to that, the writers’ room was put on hold for a week in September, as the streamer and the Disney-owned company were figuring out the mechanisms of changing the deal for the planned Luke Cage third season from the original 13 episodes to a slimmed down 10 episodes. It eventually escalated to behind-the-scenes turmoil in the past two days and demands for changes in creative regime. With Marvel and Netflix seemingly intractable and in different sides of the disputes, a harsh cancelation became the only viable exit strategy, it appears.”

Many might think that Luke Cage and Coker earned the creative benefit of the doubt after two successful seasons on Netflix (although we don’t know exactly what “successful” means, since viewership numbers and ratings aren’t released). And asking for a shortened 10-episode season seems justifable, considering the prior two seasons felt stretched out to fill 13 episodes.

But the Deadline report points out that Netflix is a very different landscape than it was when those four Marvel series were greenlit. Netflix doesn’t own the series, as it does with shows like Narcos, Master of None, Altered Carbon, Ozark and so many more that now exist on the network. So an expensive show like Luke Cage (along with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, Iron Fist, and The Defenders) really has to perform. The presumption was that it did, but obviously, the series didn’t perform so well that it was a no-brainer to renew.

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So does Luke Cage have a future? The immediate response from many fans was that the series could bounce over to Disney’s streaming service, which could probably use the content. Yet the Marvel Netflix series are of a more adult nature and it’s unclear whether or not Disney Play wants that sort of programming alongside family-friendly movies and TV shows.

With both Luke Cage and Iron Fist canceled, however, the opportunity is there for an overhauled series that could give comic book fans the “Heroes For Hire” team-up that they’ve wanted ever since those characters were adapted for TV. Such a show could also incorporate the Misty Knight and Colleen Wing characters that are just as, if not more popular than the marquee superheroes.

Frankly, it could also provide some programming that features minorities, something that is arguably lacking among the current content set to launch on Disney Play.

But if Luke Cage isn’t right for Disney, what about one of Netflix’s streaming competitors? The show has an established brand, and star Mike Colter is a popular, recognizable face now. Amusement Park Podcast co-host Chris Cox suggested that Hulu would be an excellent landing point, and they’re already in the Marvel business with Runaways. That could be a really good fit. (Some might suggest Amazon too, but the guess is that the same issues with ownership and expense would come up there.)

Netflix is still in the Marvel business. Jessica Jones has been renewed for a third season (though that might be it for the series, with showrunner Melissa Rosenberg moving to Warner Brothers) and The Punisher will get a second run. If Daredevil’s Season 3 is successful, a fourth season seems likely. But a “Daughters of the Dragon” or a new series with another street-level Marvel character like Moon Knight probably isn’t going to happen at Netflix.

The creative leash clearly isn’t as generous as it was before and the pressure to perform has increased. At this point, maybe it’s natural that Marvel and Netflix will eventually part ways (especially with Disney Play now in play). What’s become clear is that nothing can be taken for granted. Yet will one door closing mean another one opening?

Iron Fist won't get a third season on Netflix, taking away Danny Rand's TV chi

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Danny Rand may refer to himself as “The Immortal Iron Fist,” but Marvel’s martial arts master has reached his mortality on Netflix.

As first reported by Deadline, Netflix and Marvel announced that Iron Fist would not be returning for a third season, becoming the first of the Marvel Netflix shows to be canceled. That news is somewhat surprising because Iron Fist’s second season — with Raven Metzner taking over as showrunner from Scott Buck — was widely viewed as a vast improvement to the subpar first run of the series.

Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers or ratings, but it’s apparent that bad reviews for that first season and a lackluster reaction to The Defenders carried over to Iron Fist’s second run. What surely makes the cancellation decision particularly disappointing to fans is that the second season ended on a high note with a clear direction toward continuing the story.

** Spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched Iron Fist, Season 2 **

The final episode of Season 2 ended with Rand passing the Iron Fist power over to Colleen Rand, who was using her newfound abilities — channeled into her katana sword — to protect New York’s Chinatown. Consequently, Rand sought to find out who had allowed adversary Davos to gain the power of the Iron Fist and traveled to Asia (with Ward Meachum) to investigate.

It’s revealed that the two are looking for a man named Orson Randall. Readers of the Ed Brubaker-David Aja Immortal Iron Fist comic books know that Randall was the Iron Fist of World War I. The last image we see is Rand revealing that he’s regained the Iron Fist power and is able to channel his chi through a pair of pistols, which is exactly how Randall wielded his talent.

[End of spoiler alert]

That ending ramped up anticipation for a Season 3, but Netflix’s decision puts that in serious doubt. However, it also opened the door to a variety of speculation.

With Disney launching its new streaming service, Disney Play, it’s a possibility that Iron Fist could find new life there. But if viewers haven’t really responded to Iron Fist, is that a series that Disney wants to feature on its new service? Especially when mini-series with character like Loki and Scarlet Witch are in development?

More intriguing than another Iron Fist run would be a “Daughters of the Dragon” series featuring Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. But maybe those characters will appear in upcoming seasons of Luke Cage or Jessica Jones, both of which are expected to get third seasons on Netflix. (Maybe we’ll get that “Heroes for Hire” Luke Cage-Iron Fist team-up in Season 3.) Daredevil (whose third season premieres next week) and The Punisher could get additional seasons as well.

So Netflix isn’t getting out of the Marvel business. Maybe they’ll even look to replace Iron Fist with another “street-level” character like Moon Knight. There’s some wishful geek thinking.

An open letter to The Big Bang Theory

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Dear Big Bang Theory,

I have loved you for almost 12 years now. We have had a lot of laughs, a few cries and overall, a tremendous relationship.

However, I agree with the masses: it’s time that your amazing 12-year run come to an end. Your 12th and final season premiere was uninspired and gave many the impression that you are just going through the motions. The second episode of the week (on Sept. 27) was better and even had me thinking of how good the old times were. 

I have so many favorite episodes that it would be impossible to write them all down. Here are a few that come to mind: The one where Sheldon turns himself into a virtual presence device was hysterical.

I loved the episode that explained what happened to the elevator. When Amy and Sheldon met was another classic.

How about the one where Howard got into a little predicament with the robot hand? Another favorite Howard episode was where he had to explain to the guys why he and Bernadette broke up after a couple of dates.

Oh, how about when Sheldon wins the award for top scientist and he gets drunk at the awards ceremony and, well, I can’t spoil that episode. Just be prepared to laugh.

The point is that you have been a great show, usually the number one show in America, but all good things must come to an end. Your entire run has been something special. You have made millions of fans laugh every single week for 12 years. That’s something that very few shows can say. You will end your run in the same category as M*A*S*H, Cheers, Seinfeld and Friends. The Office is arguably in that same class. However, it was never the same once Steve Carell left. 

For the last 12 years, I have looked forward to each and every Monday or Thursday night (depending on football season) because I knew that I would get to watch characters that I have basically, for lack of a better term, fallen in love with. So many laughs, so many memories.

Now, however, it’s time for you to end. As each character developed, you got further and further away from the actual premise of the show, but I get it. Even in real life, very few people remain the same over 12 years.

The only character that has basically been left behind is Raj. Other than the fact that he can now talk to women, he has been forgotten and ignored because no writer had a clue what to do with him.

I miss the video game schedule that the guys went by at the start of the show. Or how Sheldon could only eat certain things on certain days. The quirks of each character pulled me in and nothing can beat those early seasons.

But the last two years have gotten stale. No longer always funny, but usually good. That’s why it’s time to end the show. Nothing can last forever. It was an amazing run and I will always remember you, Big Bang Theory, thanks in part to owning every episode and the fact that TBS still runs the show a ton of times each day.

Big Bang Theory, thank you again. You will always be in my heart and nothing can change that. 

Yours truly,

Chris Cox