There are a variety of words I use to describe The Mandalorian. Awesome is not one of them. When I sum it up into a logline, it goes like this: “Dangerous bounty hunter betrays everything about his lifestyle except weird obsession with wearing a helmet to nurture a cute, telekinetic, 90-year-old baby.” From the jump, it has felt as if it were badly written but overproduced fanfic. Like someone (John Favreau) just watched the core nine episodes of the Skywalker Saga for the first time last year, called dibs on the most marketable moments/characters/settings – Yoda, Boba Fett, Tattoine – and mashed them all up with little concern for cannon, fandom, or integrity. It often feels like a child playing with action figures, but the child has 5 million dollars to spend on each trip out back to the sandbox.
Season two came to a close last week with another #predictable cameo, which this show prefers to substance or depth. But how did we get there? Well, Darth Vader Lite – ahem, I mean Moff Gideon… yes, Gideon kidnapped Grogu aka “Baby Yoda,” and Mando was dedicated to getting the child back. He had the help of recent New Republic recruit-ready-to-abandon-her-post-for-Mando Cara Dune of course. Let’s not forget overweight Boba Fett, who showed up last week with Tennac Shand [Mae from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.]. This whole crew of Mandalorians was ready to fight to restore Mando to his rightful position in life: a lactating doula taking care of Baby Yoda.
Friday night television is a safe haven for most. It celebrates the end of another hard-working week, as you can sit back and put your feet up and unwind in some seriously entertaining television. Some of the most exciting programmes of the week are aired on a Friday evening in the United Kingdom, but what should you be choosing to watch?
Gogglebox – Channel 4
What better way to look back at the last seven days of television than watching some television experts watching the same programmes and poking fun in them? The simple answer: nothing. Gogglebox has become one of the most celebrated programmes in the UK, with millions tuning into to see what their favourite Goggleboxers have had to say about some of the most newsworthy TV moments of the week. It is the perfect way to get your weekend underway.
Diseases are scary. As such, they are among the most beloved topics for horror and science fiction authors and screenwriters. As a result, we have many great series (and some that are not so great) to choose from if we want to be in the mood for the current coronavirus situation (or perhaps to sigh in relief saying, “see, it could be worse”). Thanks to the many streaming services around, many of them are accessible at all times…so let’s take a look at some of the best.
Honorable Mention:Helix (Season One – 2014) Helix is less a medical thriller and more a horror series, but it deserves a spot in our list because of its topic: a deadly virus developed and let loose in a remote complex in the Arctic. Its first season follows a team from the CDC, led by Dr Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell), sent to Ilaria Corporation’s remote Arctic bioresearch station to handle a viral outbreak. There, they find out that there are two strains they have to face: a deadly one with no cure and another that turns the infected individuals into zombie-like vectors that seek out and infect everyone they can. As you might expect, there’s more to this story than just a viral outbreak – mystery surrounds station director Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) and the entire board of the corporation behind it.
In the United States, there are 103 dedicated sports channels, covering everything from Gridiron to English soccer. Flick through the TV stations at any given time and you are almost guaranteed to come across a live sporting event, no matter how low key it may be.
Action, tactics, excitement, and personal narrative are what draw in audiences in their hundreds of thousands to watch live sports. When the commentator describes the personal journey that Bill Brown has been on to get to the world shin-kicking finals, it makes you want to keep watching.
These stories, moments of drama and tales of triumph over adversity aren’t just unique to the sport. They are all, in fact, vital components of poker, a game that is currently experiencing huge growth in viewing figures.
In this article, we take a look at the growth of poker on television and take a look at some of the best moments broadcast on TV to show you why you should be watching it.
A look at how WSOP poker events were covered by CBS in the 1970s
Cards On TV: When Did It Start?
Poker is gambling and gambling is seedy. That was the view of millions of people in the mid-twentieth century. It’s no wonder then that poker wasn’t as popular back in the 1950s and 1960s as it is now.
However, towards the end of the swinging sixties, the game began to grow in popularity with a younger, more diverse crowd of players. That shift prompted TV network CBS to broadcast a one-hour highlight show of the World Series of Poker in the early 1970s.
Whilst the initial shows may have been low on critical analysis and light on the discussion concerning poker strategy, it was wildly entertaining. The show’s producers focused more on the personal stories of the players and how this might impact their psychology around the poker table. There was plenty of discussion surrounding their interactions with one another around the table than the actual card play.
The coverage went down well with a national audience and positive viewing figures persuaded network chiefs to persist with their coverage into the next decade.
British TV show Late Night Poker was the first to pioneer the under-table camera which revolutionised future poker coverage
Cards On TV: The Evolution
Coverage of the World Series of Poker remained largely the same for 20 years after it was first broadcast. That was until a British TV show called Late Night Poker pioneered an under-table camera that allowed viewers to see the cards of every player at the table.
Pundits and commentators began to focus more on the tactical style of players, explaining the permutations of hands to TV viewers. The under-table camera also allowed the personality of individual players to shine through to the audience.
Bluffs and tells were now more obvious to viewers, which allowed players to develop their own brand and alter-egos, similar to how wrestlers do in WWE. Since then, the focus of poker television coverage has been on the personal drama of the players.
Huge personalities have emerged from the world of poker, and now viewers around the world tune in to watch their favourite card shark, knowing their backstory, motivations and playing styles.
This dramatisation has helped to create some incredibly memorable TV moments, just like…
Accountant To Superstar
In 2003 an accountant from Atlanta qualified for the WSOP by winning an online poker tournament and single-handedly boosted the popularity of the game across the globe. Up until playing in the WSOP, Chris Moneymaker had almost exclusively competed online, which, in 2003, was a lot rarer than it is today.
At the time, many professional players and commentators looked down their noses at online poker. It was believed that the virtual model of the game was so different from the real-life alternative, that no-one from the online poker world could succeed in an actual tournament.
Chris Moneymaker didn’t just prove the critics wrong in winning the WSOP, he completely destroyed their argument in the manner of his victory. With all the cards on the table and absolutely nothing to show for it, Moneymaker went all-in against his opponent Sammy Farha.
Despite having a winning pair of nines, Farha buckled under the pressure and folded, allowing Moneymaker to win the WSOP. That final hand victory was one in the eye for critics of online poker, and according to commentator Norman Chadd, ‘the bluff of the century’.
The King Is Dead, Long Live The King!
In 1999 Johnny Chan was looking to make it an unprecedented three WSOP Main Event victories in a row. Back then Chan was one of the biggest names in world poker, with a daredevil playing style that tantalized TV audiences and left commentators reaching for ever-higher octaves of excitement.
Perhaps Chan’s own-hype had got to him in this final hand though, as he went all-in against young challenger Phil Hellmuth, holding just A♠7♠ against Hellmuth’s 9♠9♣. Such was Chan’s aura at that time, that audiences and commentators alike expected the cards to fall in his favour.
The K♣K♦10♥ flop gave Chan some potential outs, but neither the Q♠ turn nor 6♠ river helped rescue the hand for Chan and deliver a third-consecutive win.
It was the start of a wonderful career for Phil Hellmuth, who at the time of writing has combined live tournament winnings of over $22 million. Beating Johnny Chan, however, back in 1999 will remain one of the proudest moments of Hellmuth’s career.
It was all captured live on television too, helping to memorialise it in history as one of the greatest moments in WSOP poker.
It’s hard to argue that the remake of the 1960 original Ocean’s 11 was not a hit. The cast, direction, screenplay, everything worked because, even as a revival, Ocean’s Eleven was fresh. The sequels were bound to have a hard time hitting the mark. Ocean’s 8 performed well domestically but grossed the worst in the series in terms of global revenue, its $297,718,711 a far cry from the first movie’s $450,717,150. A comparison of all four titles suggests audiences are less easy to impress now. Producers are, of course, not done with Ocean and his crews. The current surge in TV show reboots makes fans of this particular franchise keen on the idea of it being adapted for the small screen. Looking at the industry’s landscape, would an Ocean’s Eleven TV series likely be a gem or a flop?
With Netflix and Amazon Prime changing the game, TV is not what it used to be. More productions and greater accessibility have created a discerning audience with broad tastes. Getting it right is a challenge, but the fact that Syfy’s 12 Monkeys succeeded in pleasing fans of the original 1995 title for four strong seasons means that it’s not impossible. Good judgment in all aspects of concept and direction – and a decent budget, too – can result in a production that resonates with viewers and sets the next new standard in TV series production.
Movies-turned-TV shows have existed for decades. Among the 20 titles listed on Rolling Stones is Serpico, an extension of Al Pacino’s 1973 movie, except with David Birney as the titular character. Its theme is the closest relatable to an Ocean’s Eleven adaptation, but it also demonstrates how the market for such stories has strengthened over time, considering the popularity of crime dramas now. If Ocean follows his trademark ingenuity and innovation onto the small screen, an audience will definitely be there to greet him.
After all, bold heists and mobsters are just as entertaining to binge watch. The growing Now You See Me franchise comes to mind, as well as several must-watch mafia shows of the past, like The Sopranos (1999-2007) and Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014). If Martin Scorsese, who was heavily involved in Boardwalk Empire, has faith in TV’s ability and willingness to host quality productions, then there are high hopes for an ambitious project like Ocean’s Eleven.
How Ocean Fits
Whether in a book or the small or silver screen, there’s a recipe for creating a heist scenario that’s engaging and memorable. Out of the eight key elements explained by LitReactor, three would benefit the most from a series format. Firstly, characters, good and bad, need time to reveal themselves – their lives and reasons for either turning to crime or building an empire of casinos. They breathe life into a story. The more likeable and interesting they are, the more immersive the series. This also applies to their relationships, thinking back to how Danny Ocean meets and forms a friendship with Linus, Matt Damon’s character. A TV show is a great way of fleshing out the personalities and dynamics that could affect the heist.
The basic part of a story like this is the plan itself. It has to be intricate, unpredictable, and dangerous. If the Breaking the Bank at Caligula’s mission in GTA: San Andreas seems complex, a fictional robbery on TV needs to be even more so to be realistic. Breaking down the scheme, its twists and hiccups, over a number of episodes instead of an hour and a half would allow it all to sink in better. A typical problem with heist movies is the pace – too fast to keep up. While this does motivate some viewers to watch it all over again, a production’s creators taking the time to ease their audience into the plot is always appreciated. People also become more mentally and emotionally involved.
Finally, as already pointed out, plausibility is important. Apart from the plot, the story’s situations and settings need to be believable. Since the Ocean’s series largely takes place in casinos, for example, a TV adaptation could have viewers look deeper into these places and what they mean to the story’s structure and concepts. Its on-screen representation lies, not just in the terminology, but the crowd and suspense, the joys and lights. A production with looser time boundaries is an opportunity to build detail and atmosphere that the movie never had. As viewers, and even participants in casino games, films and online experiences have allowed us to enjoy the casino from the comfort of our home. With the use of live HD video streaming for games such as Betway roulette, fans of casino games can find greater immersion than ever before. With this in mind, having a TV series that can flesh out these experiences can similarly provide viewers with the thrills of playing at a real-life casino.
If this dream is ever realized, though, it would have to be exceptional to compete with other shows, as originality and intrigue increasingly become common ingredients among filmmakers. Let’s not forget how Marvel dropped all its top earners, including Daredevil, with season 3 bringing the hero’s tormented story to a dramatic close. But Ocean’s Eleven has many features that would shine on the small screen. Whoever accepts the challenge is unlikely to take them lightly.