DeFlip Side #197: Full Stream Ahead

DeFlip Side #197: Full Stream Ahead.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

We are witnessing an evolution of Science Fiction entertainment, as it streams into the future.

This year’s ComicCon in San Diego saw a bonanza of announcements from corporations cashing in on their genre IPs by leveraging them across multiple media platforms. DisneyPlus will host new shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring actual big-screen Avengers; The Orville is moving from Fox to hulu; and the recent merger between CBS and Viacom is sure to open bold new frontiers for the Star Trek universe — beyond the ambitious slate of shows already in development for CBS All Access.

It’s a good time to be a Science Fiction devotee, as the powers that be are lining up to tap the pockets of ardent fans, banking on their fervor to get new programming platforms off the ground. And who can blame them? The proven success of existing streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime proves that if they build it, we will come.

But it’s a win for us too. For the first time ever the fan community gets to directly determine what sinks and what soars when it comes to small screen adaptations of the genre properties that we love. Programmers have keyed into the fact that we demand quality — whether from original series like Stranger Things and Black Mirror on Netflix, or adaptations like Good Omens and The Boys on Amazon Prime.

Speaking of which, both of those shows are amazing.

Good Omens is based on the classic apocalyptic novel by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, in which an Angel and a Demon team up to thwart the coming Anti-Christ because they really like the world and don’t want it to end.

The show stars Michael Sheen as the Angel Aziraphale and David Tennant as the Demon Crowley — both of whom are pitch perfect in their respective roles. And boasts an incredible supporting cast, including Jon Hamm as the smarmy Angel Gabriel and Frances McDormand as the Voice of God. The show is witty and intelligent, and not only does the book justice, but expands on it in ways that makes the adaptation a success in its own right.

This is not surprising considering the circumstances surrounding the series’ creation. Gaiman was breaking the story as Pratchett lay dying. He says he received a letter from Pratchett saying “Please do this for me.” Prachett passed shortly thereafter, and from that point on, Gaiman said he had one guiding principle:

“I just wanted to do something Terry would have liked.”

Judging from the critical and fan reaction to the miniseries, I’d say Gaiman nailed it.

The other adaptation I mentioned is The Boys, based on the comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. I’d never heard of this book, and the show likely wouldn’t have pinged my radar except that I saw a promo for it during the Good Omens miniseries.

The Boys is set in a world where superheroes not only exist, but are governed by a giant corporation who handles their licensing, PR and public personas. The world’s most popular heroes are a team called The Seven, led by a Superman-type called Homelander.

But the story is told from the point of view of a mild-mannered normal nerd named Hugh. When one of the Seven inadvertently kills Hugh’s girlfriend in a particularly brutal accident, Hugh gets drafted by a mysterious man named Billy Butcher to help expose the seamier side of the Seven in a quest for justice. Butcher is played brilliantly by a foul-mouthed Karl Urban, in the role of a lifetime.

The Boys follows in the tradition of Watchmen — but is a site less melodramatic and a whole lot funnier. The heroes are not just power mad psychos, but nuanced characters with interesting stories. If you want to know where the real sociopath lies, look no further than Elisabeth Shue, playing the Seven’s corporate handler — the puppet master pulling the metahuman strings.

The Boys is irreverent and compelling and I can’t wait to see where it goes in season two.

Now there are undoubtedly many of you balking at the prospect of paying for several different streaming services just to watch one or two shows on each. To which I say okay; but consider the bigger picture. What are you currently paying for cable? And how many of those channels do you actually watch?

To use myself as an example, I pay more the $200 a month for hundreds of channels I never use. My wife and I spend most nights watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie and Frasier because current network shows just suck. I find myself turning to my iPad and even my phone to get the kind of new programming that I really enjoy.

So if you’re giving me the option to buy a smart tv and pay around $50 a month for a few streaming services that feature shows I actually like, then it’s a no brainer. And whether you agree with me or not, this is the way the television is headed.

And if shows like Good Omens and The Boys are a harbinger of things to come, I say bring on the streaming revolution.