Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Paramount+ arrives this Thursday. You know, the giant mountain climbed by all those characters from CBS, Viacom networks and Paramount in those Super Bowl ads. It is the first major streaming network rebranding since HBO Max, but Paramount opted for the plus sign instead (another Apple innovation Disney also chose to follow).
Paramount+ is not a great name, but it's better than its predecessor CBS All Access, which no one ever understood. And it's a much better name than Peacock, which still reeks of "marketing genius" and zero practicality. This one was in the cards when Spike got rebranded as The Paramount Network. Everything is in a name – just ask Netflix.
But what exactly is Paramount+? When CBS and Paramount merged in 2019, it made sense to gather their properties under one roof. A major network, plenty of cable channels, and the Paramount film library is a worthy depository of content. After watching the confusing launch of HBO Max, Paramount has had the time to do this the right way.
CBS All Access had potential but a ridiculous price point for what it offered. If you’re a Star Trek fan, it’s bliss. It featured The Good Wife follow-up The Good Fight which stands on its own as a provocative watch. But aside from a few other originals, everything else was CBS reruns, and it felt pretty underwhelming.
If you currently have CBS All Access, all you’ll have to do on Thursday is go to Paramount+ with your existing login. That's it. Your account automatically transfers. Lesson learned from the HBO Go Now Max disaster.
If you're new to the service, there will be separate plans a la Hulu for limited commercial or ad-free viewing (ad-free includes download capability). If you sign up annually versus monthly, you'll save a few bucks. The code PARAMOUNTPLUS gets you 50% off for a full year which would seem to be the way to go.
Here are some Paramount+ pluses. All the CBS shows in one place plus Star Trek originals, The Good Fight and Chappelle's Show. A deep dive into old CBS programs is on the table as well. On the movie side, some new releases will be offered shortly after theatrical release, along with old school franchises like Star Trek and James Bond. They also promise live sports like the NFL and plenty of soccer.
This one is all about taste. If you have an affinity for any of the titles above and are excited about the next Mission Impossible film, Paramount+ could be for you. Any streaming service is worth a shot during its first year at a price point where they're practically giving it away. Break out your climbing gear and give Paramount+ a shot. Worst case, you just jump off the mountain into a sea of other streamers.
Time for this week’s edition of SPTINAFOBYMB
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be)
The Voice - Season 20 kicks off Monday night with Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and a returning Nick Jonas in those twirly chairs.
VICE - Season 8 of this gritty news magazine premieres on Showtime this Sunday. The actual news is too depressing for me to watch.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
This week features a long-awaited return to McDowell's, an awards show that I'm part of, and royalty from both sides of the pond…
Coming 2 America (AMAZON)
Friday, March 5th
I'm never going to complain about seeing Eddie Murphy on screen trying to make us laugh again. The timing of this sequel isn't the greatest, but seeing royalty from Zamunda on American shores is never a bad thing.
Expectations are high for this sequel as Eddie has been quite selective about appearing in anything for a long time. Most of the original cast is back, older and wiser. Eddie and Arsenio Hall held off doing a sequel for a very long time because the original is so beloved.
This was supposed to be a Christmas theatrical release, but COVID took care of that. Amazon paid a pretty penny to stream this one, and laughing at home will not have the same effect as being in a packed movie theater. Here’s hoping this sequel leads to Eddie staging another comeback — to stand up.
Critic's Choice Awards (The CW)
Sunday, March 7th 7pm
Full disclosure – I am part of the Critic's Choice Awards. I belong to one of the associations that votes on the best stuff out there when it comes to TV and movies.
This used to be a private affair where geeky critics (like me) choose the best quality entertainment removed from all the hype. Times have changed. This awards ceremony is now live in primetime with host Taye Diggs revealing the results.
It may sound a lot like the Golden Globes, but there are key differences. Take a look at the nominations from both organizations. Neither is flawless, but I'd argue we are more on the mark for award-winning shows and movies than the Globes or any other award-giving organization. If you're looking for Oscar or Emmy contenders, this is the show to watch.
Oprah with Meghan and Harry (CBS)
Sunday, March 7th 8pm
Oprah Winfrey will sit down with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for a "wide-ranging" 90-minute primetime interview. Of course she will. The special starts with Oprah chatting with the Duchess of Sussex about becoming a royal, and then Harry joins to chat about moving to the United States.
This will air on CBS. Doesn't Oprah have her own network? She is doing stuff for OWN, Apple TV+ and now CBS. Her show ended years ago, but she’s everywhere speaking to everybody about everything.
This will be a contrast in royalty. Harry and Meghan wanted no part of the royal family and lead independent lives here entering the entertainment world. Oprah has been an entertainment queen for decades who never required a crown. Perhaps Harry and Meghan will bestow a title upon her before this chat concludes.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.