Friday, 1 February 2019

Television: The real love of our lives

The Beginning

Your Wealth is a custom Enterprise briefing for people just like you: Executives, entrepreneurs and builders who know that time isn’t money, but that time and money are feedstock for the one thing that matters most in life: Your family, however you define it.

Once a month, in partnership with our friends at CIB Wealth, we’ll bring you a hand-picked selection of ideas, tips and inspirational stories that will help you make the most of your time, enhance our wealth, and build a better life with the people you love.

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Your Life

Since the inception of the mechanical television in 1925, television has been in a state of constant evolution but remains a staple in most of our lives. Although many of us now choose to stream shows and movies — or even watching news broadcast — online, rather than being tied to the living room TV set, few people abstain from consuming broadcast television altogether.

Rumors of the imminent death of linear TV may be exaggerated — but Netflix is trying its hardest to get you online: Although we should all hold off on penning the obituary of TV’s old guard for the moment, Netflix’s spending plans makes clear its intentions to cement its status as the preeminent streaming superpower. This year, the biggest streaming service in the game will bump up its spending on content to a stunning USD 15bn and hike its marketing budget to almost USD 2.9bn, Todd Spangler writes for Variety. The company — currently with a market-leading subscriber base of 139.3mn — is looking to ramp up its production of original films and TV series as rival media giants Disney, Warner and NBC pull programs from the platform and establish themselves in the streaming market.

The Netflix model of spending is having inflationary effects on the costs of TV production and this is fomenting “a sense of panic” among company execs, Variety says. As Netflix and others join the likes of HBO in airing bigger, more cinematic TV series, high production costs are becoming the new industry norm. Following interviews with more than a dozen executives, Variety pegs the average production cost of high-quality TV series at USD 5-7 mn per hour — a significant rise from USD 3-4 mn just five years ago. “It’s an arms race,” says Michael Pachter, a research analyst at Wedbush Securities. “It’s going to be that way until somebody realizes they’re just beating their head against the wall and not getting anywhere.”

Whether it’s online or with an actual TV set, we here at Enterprise are zealous consumers of television — albeit with widely varying tastes, ranging from historical documentaries to sci-fi series to the guilty pleasure known as reality television. Our watchlists include many of the usual suspects, including award-winning series like Game of Thrones and This is Us, but we also bring you a few other suggestions that even the television aficionados among you may not have heard of.

Must-watch documentaries: Far and away, our current top-recommended documentary to watch is Wild Wild Country, a Netflix docuseries that follows the story of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree and the Oregon-based cult he led, which ultimately launched the US’ first-ever bioterrorism attack. The docuseries will enthrall anybody with an inexplicable curiosity in cults. For those of you with a vested interest in psychology, we encourage you to watch Three Identical Strangers, which details the story of identical triplets separated at birth as part of an elaborate (and unethical) adoption study. Once these give you a newfound appreciation for documentaries, we recommend you go further down the documentary rabbit hole with other top picks, courtesy of Wired.

Must-watch comedy shows: Ellen DeGeneres’ Netflix special, Relatable, is a standup comedy show we eagerly waited for last year — and it did not disappoint when it finally premiered in December. We’re also fans of Iliza Shlesinger’s Elder Millennial and Donald Glover’s Weirdo, each of which tackle relatable topics with unparalleled wit and humor.

Must-watch drama series: The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 best-selling novel by the same name, the dystopian series hits on powerful themes such as patriarchy, language, and freedom, all couched within a dramatic sequence of events that speak volumes about the nature of the human race.

The best TV content will always be anything you can relate to — for us, that’s office shows. Seeing yourself in one of the characters of an office drama or sympathizing with competitors in a reality show is truly the complete TV experience. Office-based shows can either implicitly or explicitly teach lessons on team leadership, office conflict management, and how to instill happiness and avoid creating an environment of fear at your workplace, Paycom says.

We would be remiss if we didn’t pay homage to sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which has explored our changing relationship with technology ad infinitum. With the release of the episode Bandersnatch — the show’s foray into interactive film — we’ve reached a new level of meta. Two questions present themselves immediately: Does Bandersnatch represent an irrevocable slide into a future of interactive TV? And is this something we would even want?

Viewer or voyeur? Participant or puppet master? As Kathryn VanArendonk writes for Vulture, what distinguishes Bandersnatch from previous explorations in the interactive genre “is its clean integration of technology and storytelling.” It is “a hybridization of ‘choose your own adventure’ novels, video-game logic, and TV, with the technological benefits of a streaming platform to make instantaneous, completely seamless switching from one decision point to another.” The premise is multilayered in a way that is typical of Black Mirror — a program already known for posing uncomfortable questions about choice and intentionality, the ethics of media consumption, and how we are implicated in the commodification of human beings and social values for entertainment purposes.

Where to now? Even leaving aside the thorny issue of how Netflix may be using the data it collects when we take part in this interactive TV experience, critics remain divided as to the creative merits of this new medium. Bandersnatch is undeniably clever and worth watching for its novelty value alone. But we feel inclined to agree with Wired: “When the show finally ends, you feel respect for creator Charlie Brooker’s ingenuity, but you don’t come away feeling changed, as you might after a tightly written, sharply edited, well-constructed hour of television. The more malleable the story, the less cogent the experience.”

Religion and race are two topics often difficult to handle with grace on TV, and contemporary politics have made it all the more difficult for certain demographic groups to find their rightful place on-screen. Remember the infamous episode of “Homeland” that featured a scene with Arabic graffiti reading “Homeland is racist” because the show’s producers have no knowledge of Arabic? We certainly do. That episode was one in a long-running and intense public discourse about how Arab, Middle Eastern, and / or Muslim characters are treated in American TV shows. Here’s one data point for you: Jack Shaheen’s documentary “Reel Bad Arabs” surveys Arab characters in thousands of films from 1896 to 2000 and found a grand total of twelve characters who portrayed positively.

And then there’s the show about heaven and hell that’s not about religion at all. NBC’s “The Good Place” is not about religion, or theology, or even the afterlife, writes Vox, but rather about ethics, moral evolution, and the big questions of the here and now. Selfish Eleanor wakes up after her untimely death to find that she’s been placed in what she assumes is the Good Place along with a philanthropist, a “sweet but dumb bro,” and a moral philosophy professor. When they eventually discover that they’re actually in the Bad Place, the show’s questions of morality and goodness kick in. “The Good Place” may dabble in the weighty questions of ethics but it plays theology for laughs. The closest the show gets to God is the Judge, “A frazzled, burrito-gobbling bureaucrat whose days are dictated by her lunch breaks.”

Your top 5

Your Time

We hate to break it to you, but the amount of time we spend watching TV really does affect our physical and mental health. Studies have shown that regular TV viewings result in a drop in IQ proportionate to the amount of time spent watching TV, in addition to physiological changes in our brain structure typically tied to aggression, says FastCompany’s Stephanie Vozza. After committing to a month of no television, Vozza says she (naturally) found more time in her day to get around to long-pending tasks and errands, and even felt less stressed after cutting off her exposure to drama-filled series.

Part of the issue is the content we choose to consume. “There are tons of programs that challenge [the] brain, such as shows about history … The problem is that [TV] is a difficult instrument to control. Some things have more destructive qualities, and TV is one of them. Just like sugar is a deceitful food, TV is a deceitful presentation of life,” says the founder and president of a non-profit research organization focused on brain health. His recommendation is watching as many hours of TV as you spend exercising. Chances are, this formula will at least somewhat reduce the amount of time you dedicate to your TV intake, thereby encouraging selectivity in the content you consume.

But streaming services are leaving us with no shortage of TV content to sift through.This abundance can make us feel as though it’s impossible to choose what to watch next: A classic paradox of scarce resources competing for unlimited wants. And the mystery lends itself to an even bigger problem, feebly rewatching shows we’ve already seen a hundred times over. Too much choice is indeed overwhelming, agrees the New York Times’ Aisha Harris. We opt for familiarity and dare not explore. We used to simply let the experts do the choosing — all we needed were a TV channel, cable or subscription, and trust in a carefully thought out schedule of broadcasts.

One start-up trying offering a solution to the overwhelming abundance of content is TV Time, a platform enabling users to follow series they like, view and upload reactions, and receive tailor-made recommendations based on their activity. TV Time COO Dan Brian says the company has a registry of 8 bn episodes. Unlike single-service based recommendations offered by the likes of Amazon, Netflix or Hulu for recommendations, TV Time uses more expansive recommendation algorithms based on across-the-board TV behavior.

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Your Money

Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Hulu – it can be a lot to keep track of, especially when it comes to deciding which subscriptions are worth paying for. This Washington Post calculator spits out your ideal streaming bundle based on the shows you watch and the streaming services you can’t live without. It’s basically the KonMari method for managing your TV shows.

Have you ever naively passed on your Netflix or Spotify information to a sibling or coworker? Chances are they probably went on and shared it with their own select group of friends and favorite coworkers, who then did the same. Now, the account you pay for yourself is probably carrying a ridiculously wide web of moochers and their mothers who just discovered the magical world of streaming. And, at this rate, it’s not far-fetched that your bawab is jamming to his favorite tunes on Anghami with your account.

Should this be worrying you? Yes. You probably don’t even remember the password you used when you made that account eons ago … but odds are it’s the same password you use for at least one other account. Now your ex’s mother’s best friend probably has access to your junior high MSN conversations and your long-dormant MySpace account — you know, all the stuff you hope stays buried deep in the darkest corners of the interwebz.

Can you do something about it? Absolutely. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, or Spotify, you can check and manage what other devices are using your account and cut them loose, WIRED lays out the details on how you may do that. So, there you have it, folks — you can now make sure that fewer couples can afford to go out and enjoy themselves on Valentine’s Day thanks to the money they saved on all these accounts, while you sit home alone— because if you can’t have fun, no one else should.

Your Family

Anyone with little kids knows that kids’ TV can be intolerable: Shrill, improbable, and skull-numbingly boring. (Those interminable pauses on Dora The Explorer where the kid-audience is supposed to answer the question Dora just asked on TV kill us.) Luckily, this Den of Geek! list has you covered with shows you might actually enjoy watching with younger members of your family. Notable mentions go out to Peppa Pig for tackling single parent families, promoting tolerance on issues of class and race, and showcasing strong female leads; and Adventure Time, whose brightly colored and action-packed shows will appeal to little ones but whose humour is pitched to adults.

And then there are animated series definitely not made for kids, many of which tackle serious issues better than most shows. Cracked leads off with one of our favorites, Rick and Morty, and its explanation of nihilism: When Morty tries to explain to his sister — who just found out she was an accident and probably made her parents’ lives worse — that he’s actually a different Morty from another dimension, he rounds off this revelation with: "Don't run. Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's going to die. Come watch TV." And there it is. Other notable mentions go to Steven Universe for dealing with trauma in ways we haven’t seen elsewhere, and Big Mouth for its hilarious and closely-observed treatment of adolescence.

Your Style

One hairstyle to rule them all: We don’t know how, why, or when this happened, but everyone on TV nowadays has the same hair. As Vox points out, black women, white women, brown women of all hair colors and textures appear on screen with the same straight-on-top and curly at the bottom blow-out. We’re not ashamed to say that some of us didn’t even notice this trend — it kind of crept up on us like the standard formula mainstream / pop songs us that makes them all sound the same.

Apparently, it solves a variety of filming concerns, but we can’t help pointing out that The Hair is boring enough to flatten the rich and pluralistic world of hair, which could lead impressionable youngsters to believe this is the hair you “should” have. And before you think we’re blowing things out of proportion, check out Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, or any of these numerous stories (here, here, here, here, and here) about women and girls facing real-life repercussions for their hairdos.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2018 Enterprise Ventures LLC.