NOW TV Launches (and I Drink Free Cocktails)

On Monday night Mild Concern were invited along to the launch of NOW TV – a new online movie streaming service from Sky. The event included a short presentation, plenty of hands-on access to the new service and lots of food and incredibly strong cocktails. The cocktails will not be the focus of this post but if they were then they would be very positively reviewed.

Launching this week NOW TV allows online access to Sky Movies films on PC, Mac and selected Android smartphones; on iPhone, iPad in the next month, Xbox later this summer and YouView when it launches. From our extensive poking I am happy to say that NOW TV has a pleasing interface and is easy to use. Films are organised by genre and searchable by title, actor, or director. The films played instantly and picture quality was superb, though it should be noted that NOW TV is not available in HD. We did find a bit of an issue when we tried to watch Footloose (1984) but were assured that this was simply down to the fact that the service had yet to launch. Hopefully if you sign up now you will not be denied Kevin Bacon.

So the software works great and the cocktails were nice and strong, but is NOW TV worth your money? What NOW TV seems to be focussing on is its exclusive access to the latest films; there are up to five new and exclusive Sky Movies premieres, at least 12 months before they are available on other online subscription services. The recency of their films seems to have been achieved at a detriment to the range of films on offer. For your £15/month subscription you have unlimited access to over 600 titles. Compare this to Lovefilm with over 6,000 titles for £4.99/month and Netflix with over 1,000 titles for £5.99/month and NOW TV starts to look like a pricey option.

NOW TV is targeting people who do not have Sky but will struggle with being limited to only streaming films currently licensed to the Sky Movies channels and charging triple what their major rivals with wider catalogues are asking for. The good news is that NOW TV offers a ‘pay and play’ service on a longer list of 1,000 films with prices ranging from 99p for classic titles to £3.49 for the latest blockbusters. My suggestion would be to hold off on the £15 subscription and just pay to watch the recent titles you can’t get on a cheaper service elsewhere.

Anyone frustrated by Sky Atlantic buying up all the best American TV should keep an eye on NOW TV as it is set to add content from Sky Sports, Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Living. From what I could make out from our chat with the people from Sky through my cocktail haze TV shows will be available both through subscription and again on a ‘pay and play’ basis. What has yet to be decided is how much the addition of TV content will affect subscription costs or how much a single TV series will cost to watch. “We absolutely cannot discuss cost” was something I distinctly remember hearing as I sucked down a lemon and lime flavoured rum-based drink and took a pick and mix bag from a silver tray.

In summary NOW TV is not a service to rush out and sign up to right away but once it has content from Sky Atlantic added to its catalogue then I will definitely be taking a second look. Certainly worth noting that Footloose (1984) is only available through ‘pay and play’ for £1.99 while Footloose (2011) is available through the subscription service.

For more details on NOW TV, please visit: www.nowtv.com

Ramsay Street to Prime Time, Neighbours Stars in American TV

With my favourite former Neighbours star set to debut her new American series on BBC2 tonight I have decided to look back at the actors who have escaped from the show my sister used to make me watch, and are now regulars on American TV. These are the success stories.

Margot Robbie
Where did you come from?
Back on Ramsay Street Robbie played Donna Freedman, notable for wearing dungarees, hiding the departure of her father, being Ringo’s girlfriend and kissing Sunny, the least convincing exchange student ever. After a rocky start in the fashion industry Donna eventually left to study in New York.
Where did you go?
In one of the biggest hits of the new US TV season Robbie stars alongside Christina Ricci in Pan Am. Following the exploits of a group of air stewardesses, Robbie’s character Laura is on the run from her mundane life and is on a search for adventures in the sky and across the globe in the 60s. Pan Am premieres on BBC2 tonight (16th Nov) at 9pm.

Jesse Spencer
Where did you come from?
Spencer started his career in Neighbours as Billy Kennedy, son of soap royalty Karl and Susan. After five years of adventures including a kissing contest and carpentry, Spencer got bored and left the show, only to return once for a cameo in 2005.
Where did you go?
Now Spencer co-stars in one of TV’s most popular dramas as Dr. Robert Chase in House. Starring alongside fellow import Hugh Laurie, Spencer has solved many a medical mystery, gained and lost a fiancée, and left and rejoined the team at least once. House currently airs on Sky1.
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Strike Back: Project Dawn – Tonight

Section 20, an elite tactical unit, are back and are on the hunt for terrorist leader Latif. When one of their own is kidnapped they have to drop everything, after a bit of frisky business, and try to find their fellow operative and the terrorists who hold him.

I’ll admit to not having watched the original series of Strike Back – men running around foreign countries isn’t normally my thing – but having watched the first episode of this second series, Strike Back: Project Dawn, I was surprised and a little impressed.

It is clear that this is a co-production with an American company as the production values are far above what we expect on UK TV, and way above the embarrassing new series of Torchwood currently airing. It’s quite bizarre to see familiar faces from frothy UK series like Holby City and Hotel Babylon in a show with an almost cinematic quality.

Project Dawn is also notable for its swearing, sex and bloody violence, a mix normally reserved for American cable shows, though the writing here isn’t up to that standard. It doesn’t hold back, pulling no punches, and is all the better for it.

Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but anyone who enjoys a bit of action coupled with people staring at computer screens with worried expressions, tonight’s episode is worth a look. Try out our once exclusive clip posted earlier in the week.

Strike Back: Project Dawn airs tonight on Sky1 at 9pm. It certainly beats watching Sex and the City on Channel 4.

Strike Back: Project Dawn – Exclusive Clip

Evening all! Below we have an exclusive clip from the first new episode of Strike Back: Project Dawn airing on Sunday 21st August on Sky One. The clip includes prostitutes and someone being kicked in the face, if that’s your sort of thing have at it.

[flashvideo file=wp-content/uploads/Strike_Back.flv /]

One of the new recruits this year is Sullivan Stapleton from Animal Kingdom, if that isn’t enough to get you excited about this series following a rugged bunch of men in an elite tactical operations unit… never mind.

There’s also Amanda Mealing for you Holby City fans.

The Future of TV Comedy – Sky1

We conclude this brief peek at comedies on their way to UK television with Sky1, a channel not known for its original comedy. Sky1 has made a name for itself by importing the best US TV and making the odd mini-series or TV movie. Not long ago Sky pledged to invest 50% more in making original programming and this includes a lot of new comedies, none of them starring Will Mellor who until recently was in three BBC comedies simultaneously. A sign of how stagnant the Beeb’s comedy output has become.

Trollied
Jane Horrocks leads this new comedy set in a fictional supermarket Valco. With a genuinely funny trailer and a cast from Absolutely Fabulous, Being Human and Early Doors. This looks like the kind of working class comedy the BBC are supposed to be working on. It starts tonight at 9pm and we’ll certainly be taking a look. EDIT: We looked, it wasn’t very good.

The Café
Craig Cash, writer of The Royal Family and my favourite comedy to mention Early Doors, returns with a comedy written by and starring Ralf Little and Michelle Terry as Cash takes on directing duties. The show is set around a café (shocking) in Weston-Super-Mare and considering the creative talent involved will find humour in the everyday rather than broad slapstick comedy. Very excited about this one.

Spy
A high concept comedy, Spy follows a new recruit for MI5, Darren Boyd, as he is trained up by “The Examiner” played by Robert Lindsay. Could this just be a TV version of Johnny English, or is it something more? Does it need to be anything more? Darren Boyd is a reliable comedy performer and Lindsay should be fresh from his release from My Family hell. Hesitant intrigue with this one.

Mount Pleasant
Sally Lindsay of Corrie fame plays a thirty-something Mancunian whose life is presumably filled with humorous and relatable incidents. With Liza Tarbuck and Daniel Ryan amongst the ensemble cast my mind is drawn towards the hit-and-miss Linda Green. I like Lindsay so will at least give this show a chance, though it seems a little uninspired on the surface.

Starlings
Coming from Baby Cow Productions, Starling is certainly amongst some of the best comedy in recent years, and I don’t mean Early Doors. With a fairly ordinary premise of a family adjusting to living with their Granddad, along with various wacky relations and ex-boyfriends thrown into the mix, Starlings must have something special yet to be revealed for Baby Cow to be involved. They did make The Parole Officer though…

Gates
With a script edited by living legend, Jennifer Saunders, and starring Sue Johnston, from superb Jam & Jerusalem, Tom Ellis, from underrated Miranda and Joanna Page of Gavin & Stacey and Superdrug ads, Gates already has me hooked. Set at the school gates during the dropping off and picking up of their children, this is set to be a character comedy exploring what happens when your children choose your friends.

Stella
Speaking of Gavin & Stacey, co-writer Ruth Jones writes and stars in Stella as… Stella, a mother in her forties living in the Welsh valleys. Ruth Jones in a Wales-based comedy? Yes please. Anyone worried that it was James Cordon doing all the work in Gavin & Stacey… well, you’re probably wrong.

This is Jinsy
Technically this is a Sky Atlantic show but we’re on a roll here. With cameos from Harry Hill, David Tennant, Catherine Tate and Simon Callow this quirky character based sketch show set in the fictional town of Jinsy will be hard to avoid when it comes to air. A pilot commissioned by the BBC but ultimately rejected, this show has been described as a “less malevolent League of Gentlemen“. Not for everyone then.

I swear we haven’t been paid by Sky1, it’s just that such a large roster of new shows from true British comedy pedigree is hard to come by on terrestrial TV. It’s been a good while since we had the joy, and sorrow, of Roger and Val Have Just Got In. Come on BBC, pull your fingers out as Sky1 is bringing their ‘A’ game.

Mildred Pierce – Tonight

Mildred Pierce is a new miniseries fresh from HBO in America and shown on Sky Atlantic to prove that America is capable at making a good period drama too, though with less Hugh Bonneville.

Mother of two, Mildred Pierce, played by lovely Kate Winslet, is swiftly left by her husband. Having to fund herself she goes looking for work… and then she finds it. Yes, this is most certainly the first episode; not a huge amount of excitement but plenty of establishing of plot, era and character.

Everything looks great, almost cinematic if not playing in the wrong aspect ratio on my decrepit TV set, and the acting is top-notch… just not a lot happens. Luckily with the quality of production in Mildred Pierce you will most likely look past a lacklustre start with the hope of a more riveting continuing series.

Mildred Pierce airs on Sky Atlantic tonight, 25th June at 9pm.