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.
This Friday is Disney+ Day. Leave it to Disney to brand the anniversary of their streaming service. It’s hard to believe the streamer has been part of the television universe for only two years, but its stratospheric success has already proven an age-old maxim to be true: content is king.
I experienced the "magic of Disney" firsthand raising my two daughters. They loved the movies, theme parks, and anything with mouse ears or princesses. I didn't mind. Disney always put quality first and tried to keep things simple. As a parent, I appreciated that.
When Disney entered the streaming world, no one knew what to expect. They had always protected their titles, banishing films for years in the name of exclusivity and maintaining intrigue. An opportunity to finally put that kids treasure chest on full display was at hand.
Disney had the brands — its namesake, FOX, Pixar, Marvel — but this was a whole new world. Netflix dominated, Amazon and Hulu were making their way in, and other networks were about to join the streaming fray. They noted the pros and cons of the entrances of all streaming services and launched with a flourish that now has them rivaling mighty Netflix.
In retrospect, the road to streaming success isn’t all that complicated, but a lot of Max-es, Plus-es and Peacocks didn't get it right. Just follow these simple steps:
Titles - You need lots of them. The more the merrier. Overwhelm us with options. Fill every niche. Disney had the kids covered, but they wisely marketed to grownups as well. Star Wars and Marvel are powerful film brands, but expanding those universes into television was critical to streaming success.
Ease of Use - Disney+ boasts one of the simplest interfaces to navigate. Big brands are lined up to select from, coupled with some great screen visuals. New programming is always featured on top, and related programming is right nearby. The theme parks provided a good lesson in getting people to where they need to be as quickly as possible.
Exclusive Hit Programming - The oldies and goodies will always be there, but what keeps viewers coming back for however many dollars per month they're spending? Star Wars spinoffs (and any movie after Jedi) were previous disappointments, but Jon Favreau created must-see streaming TV with The Mandalorian. The MCU can be overwhelming, but WandaVision and Loki provided quirky takes on second-tier characters. These huge universes expanded in a natural way, and there was only one place to check them out.
Growing Library - Takes on classic titles are a no brainer and The Simpsons and the Muppets are a treasure trove. New film releases now have an exclusive home. Acquisitions like Hamilton and originals worth watching like Big Shot provide ever more value. Keep the new stuff coming.
Disney+ is sticking to its plan launching a variety of new shows and specials this Thursday to mark its second anniversary, including:
Home Sweet Home Alone - Updating and expanding a bankable holiday franchise even featuring a Macaulay Culkin cameo
The World According To Jeff Goldblum - One of the quirkiest (and tallest) men in showbiz returns for a second season.
Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett - A documentary look at origin and legacy of Star Wars’ favorite man of mystery
Movie premieres - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Jungle Cruise join the streaming world
Olaf Presents - A series of shorts from everyone's new favorite snowman (sorry, Frosty)
The Simpsons in Plusaversary - Expect plenty of deep references and laughs showing off Disney wares
There will be other shorts, universe celebrations, and an overwhelming amount of content to peruse on November 12th. This is what Disney does best. It's like the SpectroMagic parade or fireworks at Epcot — dazzle and overwhelm the audience, and they'll come back for more.
Happy two-year anniversary to the big mouse. Another year has passed, and the streamer is older and wiser.
THIS WEEK’S SPTIMNBAFOBYMB!
(Shows Premiering That I Might Not Be A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Swap Shop (NETFLIX) – Thank you for your call! Tuesday.
CMA Awards (ABC) – 55 years of celebrating country's finest. Wednesday.
Love Never Lies (NETFLIX) – Lie detectors and dating... they're running out of variations. Thursday.
Carole Baskin's Cage Fight (DISCOVERY+) – Brace yourself, Tiger King fans…. Saturday.
Yellowjackets (SHOWTIME) – A high school soccer team survives a plane crash. Desperate times follow. Sunday at 10pm.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Rita Hayworth and a comedic comfy couch…
Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman (HISTORY)
Tuesday, November 9th 10pm
Morgan Freeman narrating a show about legendary prison escapes — how did this take so long to happen? The kicker on this new series is Morgan walking us through these escapades step by step with the use of TV technology.
The man who can got things from time to time at Shawshank is the right voice to describe these devious minds behind bars. Learn the choices these prisoners made on whether to get busy living or get busy dying.
The Shrink Next Door (APPLE TV+)
Friday, November 12th
Finding the right therapist can be quite the adventure. Troubled Marty Markowitz (Will Ferrell) goes to a therapist (Paul Rudd) who was recommended by his rabbi. Let's just say there are "complications" with the treatment.
The premise sounds like a big screen comedy, but the miniseries is based on real people and adapted from a hit podcast that chronicled their fates. Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson also star in yet another tale of a licensed doctor taking advantage of a troubled patient.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.