The Netflix Classics Massacre of 2015

mara_Corday-screamsUpdated 7/6/15

The comings and goings on Netflix Instant have become headline news for every site on the Internet, with monthly additions and subtractions reported with near-Kardashian fervor.

But as Americans dim their digital devices and hit the beaches and barbecues this holiday weekend, the world’s most popular streaming service is making some changes nobody is talking about. On Sunday July 5, Netflix is quietly purging more than 200 movies, TV shows and documentaries from its library without warning or explanation. No genre or era is immune from these expirations, with classic films (as always) taking the hardest hit. Even Netflix’s usually secure collection of Pre-1930 titles is facing the ax, with 19 silent movies reportedly disappearing Sunday at midnight (local time – Netflix rolls their expirations out across the time zones).

“It’s a massacre,” said David Speranza of What’s On Netflix Now, a curated blog that tracks what’s notable on the streaming service. “The (previous) big purges were always noted by the media, but this one has been done off-schedule so no one notices.”

Netflix typically doesn’t announce impending deletions (which usually have to do with licensing expirations), so Speranza does his own research and relies on reporting from eagle-eyed readers. Speranza’s site first reported this news on Friday, and updates continue to flow in in the comments.

“Netflix is increasingly stingy about sharing this info, but this is unprecedented, because it’s being done so sneakily,” he added via direct message. “They’ve been dropping more and more titles without any notice at all.”

Poster_-_Quiet_Man,_The_01Admittedly, many of the films disappearing in this purge are obscure and unlikely to be missed by many. But these expirations are in addition to the hundreds of titles that left the service at the end of the June, including THE QUIET MAN (1952), THE APARTMENT (1960), THE GRADUATE (1967), THE ODD COUPLE (1968), PATTON (1970) and TAXI DRIVER (1976). While high profile older films like these routinely cycle in and out, it’s the niche titles that are increasingly being shown the door.

That’s bad news for fans of any retro content, but classic TV lovers have reason to be be concerned by a spate of recent deletions.

As Netflix directs financial resources toward in-house productions like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bloodline, Grace and Frankie, and Marvel Comics spin-offs it can control in all the markets it serves, classic TV reruns licensed on a territory-by-territory basis are increasingly becoming an endangered species.

In June the streamer axed all episodes of the original Mission: Impossible (1966-1972) and the first ten seasons of Hawaii Five-O (1968-1979), along with Knight Rider (1982-1985), the ABC mini-series The Winds of War (1983), Beauty and the Beast (1987-1989), Amazing Stories (1985-1986), Wings (1990-1996), Young Indiana Jones (1992-1993), and Melrose Place (1992-1998).

And the bloodletting continues this month with Dragnet (1967-1970) and Miami Vice (1984-1988) nabbing their last perps on July 14 and Leave it to Beaver (1957-1962), ADAM-12 (1968-1975), Quincy M.E. (1976-1983, and Magnum P.I. (1980-1988) streaming off into the sunset on July 29. All told, that’s nearly 2,000 episodes of classic TV that will disappear from Netflix Instant in just four weeks.

The good news is that many of these shows are still available via Amazon Instant, iTunes and other VOD services, but you’ll have to pay to own them, per-episode or per-season. And that’s increasingly the digital business model for all but the best-known classic films and shows. As daily Netflix viewership threatens to exceed that of broadcast TV,  rights holders are increasingly fighting back by diverting content they control to branded subscription portals like CBS All Access, which now streams Mission ImpossibleHawaii Five-0, Beauty and the BeastMelrose Place, and Wings. (Note that while the latter two didn’t originally air on CBS, they were produced by corporate cousin Paramount and are now controlled by CBS Television Distribution.)

Ironically, as streaming transforms the TV business, the classic films and reruns that were once inexpensive fodder for programmers may end up costing fans more than they bargained for.

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July 5 pre-2000 GOINGs (Note: updated 7/6/15 with additional expirations (titles w/out links). 

ORPHANS1920s (Silent) – 17
Fantômas II: Juve vs. Fantômas (1913)
Fantômas III: The Murderous Corpse (1913)
Fantômas IV: Fantômas vs. Fantômas (1914)
Fantômas V: The False Magistrate (1914)
Cabiria (1914)
The Doll (1919)
Harakiri (1919)
Anna Boleyn (1920)
Sumurun (1920)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
The Wildcat (1921)
Warning Shadows (1923)
The Hands of Orlac (1924)
Strike (1925)
The Beloved Rogue (1927)
Tempest (1928)
A Throw of Dice (1929)

1930s – 4
Earth (1930, Silent)
The Struggle (1931)
Happiness (1935, Silent)
Rhodes of Africa (1936)

1940s – 6 
Charley’s Big Hearted Aunt (1940)
I Thank You (1941)
Allotment Wives (1945)
Fashion Model (1945)
My Brother’s Keeper (1948)
Once a Jolly Swagman (1949)

1950s – 23 
Prelude to Fame (1950)
So Young, So Bad (1950)
The Rocking Horse Winner (1950)
Meet Me Tonight (1952)
Egypt by Three (1953)
The Large Rope (1953)
Canyon Crossroads (1955)
Simba (1955)
The Boss (1956)
Checkpoint (1956)
Emergency Hospital (1956)
Flight to Hong Kong (1956)
Three Bad Sisters (1956)
Dangerous Exile (1957)
Hell Bound (1957)
Just My Luck (1957)
Monkey on My Back (1957)
Machete (1958)
The Mugger (1958)
Violent Playground (1958)
Counterplot (1959)
The Last Mile (1959)
Pier 5, Havana (1959)

awfuldrorlof1960s – 28 
Cage of Evil (1960)
The Music Box Kid (1960)
September Storm (1960)
Vice Raid (1960)
The Cat Burglar (1961)
The Clown and the Kid (1961)
A Cold Wind in August (1961)
Flame in the Streets (1961)
Mary Had a Little (1961)
All Night Long (1962)
The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
The Sadistic Baron von Klaus (1962)
Incident in an Alley (1962)
Bitter Harvest (1963)
The Ceremony (1963)
Escape from Hell Island (1963)
It’s All Happening (1963)
It’s All Over Town (1963)
That Kind of Girl (1963)
Day of the Nightmare (Don’t Scream, Doris Mays) (1965)
Primitive London (1965)
Knives of the Avenger (1966)
David Holzman’s Diary (1967)
Dr. Orlof’s Monster (1967)
Killers Three (1968)
The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968)
It Rains in My Village (1968)
Confessions of Tom Harris (1969)

1970s – 21 
Gentlemen in White Vests (1970)
Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)
Leo the Last (1970)
Love 600 (Stehaufmadchen; Jill in the Box) (1970)
Die Screaming, Marianne (1971)
Burke and Hare (1972)
Face Off (Winter Comes Early) (1972)
Crimson (1973)
The Diamond Hunters (1975)
Flying Devils (1975)
Someone I Touched (1975)
Deadly Hero (1975)
The Belle of Amherst (1976)
Brotherhood of Death (1976)
Crime and Passion (1976)
Million Dollar Rip-Off (1976)
Cracking Up (1977)
Mad Bull (1977)
Terraces (1977)
The Getting of Wisdom (1978)
On the Yard (1978)

WELLES1980s – 27 
The Club (1980)
For the Love of It (1980)
Joe Dancer: The Big Black Pill (1981)
Joe Dancer: The Big Trade (1981)
Joe Dancer: The Monkey Mission (1981)
Leave ‘Em Laughing (1981)
Maya (1982)
The American Snitch (1983)
Camera Afrique (1983)
Chinese Boxes (1984)
A Matter of Sex (1984)
Where is Parsifal? (1984)
Condor (1986)
The Eleventh Commandment (1986)
Revolt (1986)
I Love New York (1987)
Keys to Freedom (1988)
The Family Album (1988)
Goodbye, Supermom (1988)
In Dangerous Company (1988)
The Last of England (1988)
Never on Tuesday (1988)
Cold Feet (1989)
Lady in a Corner (1989)
Lost in New York (1989)
Marked for Murder (1989)
Ministry of Vengeance (1989)

1990s – 30
The Day We Met (1990)
Dead Sleep (1990)
Assassin of the Tsar (1991)
Shoot (1991)
Almost Blue (1992)
A Demon in My View (1991)
Intimate Stranger (1991)
Carry on Columbus (1992)
Hammer Down (1992)
Primary Motive (1992)
Rain Without Thunder (1992)
Those Secrets (1992)
And God Spoke (1993)
The Nostradamus Kid (1993)
Dead Beat (1994)
…At First Sight (Two Guys Talkin’ About Girls) (1995)
Destination Vegas (1995)
Hourglass (1996)
Nobody’s Business (1996)
Where Truth Lies (1996)
Cupid (1997)
Flipping (1997)
Honeymoon (1997)
The Roe’s Room (1997)
Frogs for Snakes (1998)
Pete’s Meteor (1998)
After the Rain (1999)
Beautiful People (1999)
The Fumbleheads (1999)

There are also more than 60 post-2000 expirations including episodes of the Ken Burns documentaries Jazz (2001), The National Parks (2009) and The Dust Bowl (2012), as well as other PBS content. For the complete list visit What’s on Netflix Now. This story was updated July 5 with clarifying information. For some background on how Netflix decides what stays and what goes, read this

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San Diego Movie House Launches 24-Hour Noir-A-Thon Fundraising Campaign

THISSFilm noir usually spins tales of extreme behavior in the service of vice. Today in San Diego, two film buffs will push themselves to the limit to use the genre for something virtuous.

Beginning at the noirish hour of 3:00 a.m.(PT), Miguel Rodriguez and Beth Accomando will lock themselves inside the movie theater they co-founded and jointly program for a 24-hour Noir-A-Thon fundraiser. Rodriguez (an educator and podcaster) and Accomando (a KPBS Arts reporter) will watch all 14 films in Turner Classic Movies’ day-long Summer of Darkness series on the big screen at the Film Geeks at the Digital Gym Cinema, and cinephiles from across the country are invited to pledge their support to the indie movie house with cold, hard cash (or jack, as they say in noir) via the campaign’s Indiegogo page.

TCM has pledged to match every donation dollar-for-dollar, up to the $5,000 campaign goal. Plus, everyone who donates any amount during the 24 hour noir binge will receive an exclusive TCM Summer of Darkness button. 

The-File-on-Thelma-Jordon“Classic films are a big part of what we program at the theater, so having TCM’s support in this is an honor,” Rodriguez told me via email. “The funds will go toward supporting our mission to provide a home for independent, fringe, educational, and arthouse cinema, and to provide an exhibition center for creators and filmmakers from around the globe.”

Rodriguez and Accomando will live tweet their marathon – “the only time we’ll ever pull out our phones in the theater,” Rodriguez promises – and supporters can check in on them on YouTube, where they’ll be posting thoughts on the films. Locals are also invited to join in the fun at the Cinema beginning at 10 a.m., with free beer and pizza for all at 9 p.m. as they approach the home stretch.

“We’re not leaving until it’s over,” Rodriguez said. “Unless one of us gets bumped off.”

To join me in supporting the Film Geeks at the Digital Gym Cinema visit their Indiegogo page. For a complete TCM Summer of Darkness programming schedule, click here

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Where You Can Watch The Dukes Of Hazzard – And Why You Should

hiNothing makes me want to do something more than somebody telling me I can’t. And apparently I’m not alone in that sentiment.

After my reporting of TV Land’s cancellation of The Dukes of Hazzard Tuesday kicked off a national media frenzy a day later, the suddenly-controversial TV series has jumped to the top of the Amazon sales charts. DVDs of the 1979-85 CBS series now occupy the six top slots on the DVD Best Sellers list, with a collection of two reunion movies charting at number 12.

For fans who disagree with TV Land’s decision to pull the show – and, based on the traffic this site has gotten in the last few days, there’s a lot of them – this is great news. Now for the bad news: season 1 and season 4 are already out of stock, and you’ll have to wait as long as two weeks for the e-tailer to ship the other five.

Perhaps sensing an opportunity, Amazon is streaming the 1979 Dukes pilot episode free of charge. You’ll have to endure some commercials in return for a free lunch at the Boar’s Nest, but the episode is uncut and in its original 4:3 aspect ratio (unlike the remastered, widescreen versions TV Land had been airing).

BossIn fact, Amazon streams all seven seasons of the series, but unlike the thousands of TV shows and movies included with their $99 Prime membership annual fee, a visit to Georgia’s fictional Hazzard County is gonna cost you a little something extra. Digital copies of individual episodes are priced at $1.99, or you can buy a full season for $19.99 (most of which goes to Boss Hogg, I assume).

Now let’s run the numbers.

Collecting the complete series of The Dukes of Hazzard on DVD (which will require paying a mark-up to a third party seller for the first season) will cost you at least $215 (plus shipping). Buying the series electronically from Amazon nets out at about $140.

Best of all, you can watch the episodes on your TV using an easy-to-set-up Internet streaming player. (I’d recommend a Roku, which is the most transformative piece of consumer electronics I’ve ever owned.) The shows are commercial-free and you can watch them whenever and wherever you want, using Amazon’s apps for your iOS or Android tablets and phones.

As a 10-year-old in 1979, the automotive slapstick of cousins Bo, Luke, and Daisy, their Uncle Jessie, and chief antagonist Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane was a weekly ritual for me. Is the show silly? You bet. Intentionally so. Is it racist? I watched it for years and that thought never occurred to me. It still doesn’t, and I’m about as liberal as they come. But as I’ve learned over the years, affection for classic TV and film can make strange political bedfellows.

This country needs to engage in a serious national dialogue about race, but that conversation has very little to do with The Dukes of Hazzard. I respect the perspectives of those who take issue with use of the Confederate flag in any context, but I’d encourage folks to revisit The Dukes of Hazzard before they dismiss it as a racist relic. There’s a line the narrator (country music legend Waylon Jennings) says in the pilot episode that I think sums up seven years of storytelling:

The Duke family was in the whiskey business 50 years before the Declaration of Independence. They fought everybody from the British to the Confederacy to the U.S. government to stay in it.

It’s that rebellious spirit that appealed to me a kid, and still resonates for many audience members today. Focusing only on the roof of a car misses the forrest for the trees and it demeans a vital issue with a nonsensical sidebar.

But perhaps more importantly, this sort of revisionist censorship runs the risk of having a chilling effect on access to all classic film and television. Because anything that’s old is going to include portrayals and perspectives that may be problematic to contemporary sensibilities. Instead of burying beloved classics on the Internet or in museums, let’s watch and learn from them.

The fight to save classic film and TV has begun, and that fight may just have started in Hazzard County.

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TV Land Pulls “The Dukes of Hazzard”

firstBo and Luke Duke may be “makin’ their way the only way they know how.” But that’s just a little bit more than TV Land will allow.

The Viacom-owned cable network quietly removed The Dukes of Hazzard from their programming schedule yesterday in the wake of recent controversy regarding the show’s extensive use of the Confederate flag. The 1979-85 series had been airing twice daily at 4:36 p.m. and 5:38 p.m. (ET) and, according to listings at TV Guide.com, was scheduled to continue in that slot. The classic Western Bonanza will now air in its place.

A TV Land spokesperson confirmed via email that the series has been removed from the schedule, but offered no further comment.

Thirty years after the CBS hit rode off into the Georgia sunset, The Dukes made headlines once again last week when Warner Bros. (which produced the series and still retains the rights) announced they would no longer license the show’s Confederate flag-emblazoned 1969 Dodge Charger (known as The General Lee). An on-line petition has since been launched by fans, arguing the series “was about family values, fighting corruption, helping friends, neighbors and even strangers… no matter what color they were.” Ben Jones (who played Cooter) also posted a defense of the series (and the flag) on Facebook.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.14.23 PMTV Land, which began life in 1996 as a destination for retro reruns, has been seeking recently to shed its classic TV identity. The channel announced a rebranding on June 23, seeking to “overhaul of the network’s brand identity to complement a slate of new, original programming.” TV Land made its first foray into originals with the Golden Girls-esque sitcom Hot in Cleveland in 2010, but broke through this year with Younger, a comedy-drama about a forty-something (Sutton Foster) posing as a Millennial.The Darren Starr-produced series broke ratings records for the channel and attracted a more youthful demographic, including a 180% gain among women 18-34 in primetime.

Country Music Television (CMT) had also been airing The Dukes of Hazzard recently, but a quick check of their website indicates no scheduled broadcasts. CMT is also owned by Viacom.

There’s no word on whether or not The Dukes of Hazzard will return to TV, but all 145 episodes remain available on DVD and for VOD streaming on Amazon Instant for $19.99 per season.

Where you Can Watch The Dukes of Hazzard – And Why You Should

Hat tip to TV Classics ‘R Us and the Classic TV Shows Facebook page, which first reported this news. 

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George Winslow (1946-2015): Child Star of the 1950s Who Upstaged Icons

Winslow

Even if you love old movies, there’s a good chance you won’t recognize the name George Winslow.

And that’s unfortunate because Winslow, a former child star who died on June 14 at age 69, was one of the funniest film actors of the 1950s – in any age group.

With a deadpan demeanor and husky voice that suggests a kid version of comedian Steven Wright, “Foghorn” (as he was sometimes credited) had a brief but prolific career, appearing in ten films released between January of 1952 and August, 1958. But in that short span he managed to steal scenes from heavyweights like Marilyn Monroe (in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, as Henry Spofford III), Richard Widmark (MY PAL GUS), Cary Grant (ROOM FOR ONE MORE and MONKEY BUSINESS), Clifton Webb (MISTER SCOUTMASTER) and Jerry Lewis (ARTISTS AND MODELS) before retiring in 1958 and receding into anonymity as a Northern California postal worker.

Born George Karl Wentzlaff on May 3, 1946, Winslow got his start on the NBC radio game show People Are Funny, auditioning in hopes of winning a free bicycle. He briefly became a semi-regular, and his unscripted interactions with genial host Art Linkletter caught the ear of Grant, who was set to star in Norman Taurog’s ROOM FOR ONE MORE at Warner Bros. Taurog cast him as Teenie, youngest son of George (Grant) and Anna Perrott Rose (Betsy Drake), a New Jersey couple who achieved national fame in the 1930s and ’40s as advocates for foster care.

Poster - Room for One More (1952)_10And now I interrupt this obit for a confession: when I had seen ROOM FOR ONE MORE previously, I had dismissed it as a heavy-handed message movie, with laughs that were only unintentional. And then I re-watched it the day after I learned Winslow had died.

Here’s a Pro Tip for the film fan seeking to memorialize a recently departed actor by watching one of his films: don’t pick a tearjerker. Because you just might just lose your shit.

Based on Anna Rose’s popular memoir of the same name (published in 1949 after serialization in Reader’s Digest), ROOM FOR ONE MORE opens with the author visiting an orphanage with a group of prospective adoptive mothers. Administrator Miss Kenyon (Lurene Tuttle) explains how long the waiting list is for an infant, then reveals a snowy playground teeming with unclaimed tweens and teens.

“But you must be able to find homes for some of them?” Ana insists.

“We’d like to be able to find homes for all of them,” Miss Kenyon replies.

ROOMAnd before you can say “Angelina Jolie,” the Roses have welcomed a troubled adolescent girl into their already crowded home. But Jane (Iris Mann) isn’t just another orphan, she’s an abused teenager who has survived multiple suicide attempts. Jane is soon followed by Jimmy John (Clifford Tatum, Jr.), a polio survivor so emotionally damaged he has lost the ability to speak (until he starts shrieking at night when left alone).

Despite the metal braces on his legs, 12-year-old Jimmy John insists on hiking through the snow to earn his stripes as an Eagle Scout – an award which is presented in the elaborate ceremony that concludes the film, with his new family in attendance.

Seriously, I can’t even type this right now without choking up.

Yes, my mother and father were foster parents (undoubtedly influenced by the Roses) and that led to them adopting me in 1969 and my sister (from South Korea) in 1973. And yes, I was a Boy Scout who spent many an evening at Pinewood derbies and merit badge ceremonies in the basement of our church. But despite the schmaltzy classic film that is my own real life, I’d always been able to shield myself from the sentiment of ROOM FOR ONE MORE with snarky bravado.

But not this time.

“Are you okay?” my girlfriend asked, as she looked across the couch at me sniffling.

“Shut up,” I said. “Remember, you’re adopted too.”

Room-for-One-More-PosterHere’s the thing about George Winslow: he is exactly what ROOM FOR ONE MORE needed. As a five-year-old rookie he does the heavy lifting, ably carrying the comic relief of a movie that gets far heavier than your average family film of the 1950s. He’s so good, in fact, that Warners essentially upped him to co-star status with Grant and then-wife Drake on the film’s poster, where his character is cheekily identified as “Teenie the Meenie” (a reference that never appears in the film, as far as I remember).

It’s fairly well accepted that Howard Hawks’ GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is Winslow’s best film, and ROOM FOR ONE MORE won’t change anyone’s mind on that score. But ROOM is an excellent introduction to the extraordinarily natural talents of George Winslow before the movie business turned him into a self-parody.

ROOM FOR ONE MORE is a touching, old fashioned film that will give you a good, cathartic cry if you let it. And come to think of it, what better way is there to honor the best of classic Hollywood’s deadpan kids than with a sloppy show of emotion?

Winslow was once quoted as saying he didn’t like acting, which is probably why he didn’t continue with it into adolescence and adulthood. But I hope he understood how much he means to many classic film fans, and this one in particular.

ROOM FOR ONE MORE (1952) is available on manufacture-on-demand DVD from Warner Archive and is available for digital rental at Amazon Instant. Hat tip to Citizen Screen for being the first to report Winslow’s passing. You can read her tribute to him here

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Lifetime’s A DEADLY ADOPTION is Brilliant – And Don’t Believe Anyone Who Tells You It’s Not

willFor 30 years, Lifetime has been making predictable movies about women in peril, marriages on the skids, and adorable children in danger. These competently produced but uninspired films usually feature familiar faces from TV and provide disposable diversion for the channel’s core female audience.

Saturday night, Lifetime paid homage to that history while simultaneously mocking it with a delightfully bizarre inside joke.

A DEADLY ADOPTION follows the Lifetime blueprint, but with a surprising twist: Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig, two icons of contemporary comedy, play the lead characters. Ferrell is Robert Benson, a recovering alcoholic and author of self help books. Wiig is his wife Sarah, a stay-at-home mom who operates a baked goods stand at a local farmer’s market, selling sugar free treats concocted for their diabetic daughter Sully (Alyvia Alyn Lind). 

All is ostensibly well until the Bensons decide to take in pregnant, unmarried Bridget (Jessica Lowndes). Sarah, as we learn in the film’s prologue, is unable to conceive after a tragic accident, and the couple hopes to heal by adopting the baby Bridget can’t afford to keep. Bridget has other ideas, of course, and with the help of her tattooed grifter boyfriend Dwayne (Jake Weary) she turns the Benson’s seemingly idyllic life into a bloody nightmare.

When the existence of A DEADLY ADOPTION was first revealed earlier this year, the film’s pedigree – two Saturday Night Live vets and a writer (Andrew Steele) best known for farce (he also wrote SNL) – led to assumptions it would be a parody. But Lifetime didn’t promote it that way, nor did they offer much explanation for why two huge movie stars were playing roles that in past decades would have gone to Ed Marinaro and Tracey Gold.

Taken strictly at face value, A DEADLY ADOPTION is not funny. This seems to have been a disappointment to critics and audience members who believed they were owed the sort of broad antics Ferrell and Wiig routinely deliver on movie screens. But what’s most brilliant about the film is the very thing for which people are condemning it: it’s not obvious. And more importantly it’s not jokey, because Lifetime Original Movies are not jokey.

If parody is exaggeration for comedic effect, A DEADLY ADOPTION succeeds because it distills the art form to its essence, heightens each trope, and delivers an enjoyably metatextual deconstruction, while simultaneously being the thing it is deconstructing. More simply: A DEADLY ADOPTION isn’t (just) a parody of a Lifetime Original Movie, it is a Lifetime Original Movie. Only more so, and with Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig.

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Ferrell and Wiig don’t wink at the audience even once, playing exactly the sort of bland, khaki-clad yuppies you’d expect. (Ferrell’s wiry comb-over and close-cropped beard are themselves worthy of Emmys.) Lowndes is appropriately hammy as the batshit crazy pregnant girl, delivering expected howlers like “I’m your new mommy!” with bug-eyed glee. And Bryan Safi is great as Wiig’s seemingly gay co-worker, who communicates his character entirely through coding (perhaps as an homage/indictment to a past when gay characters on Lifetime, or TV in general, could’t be obviously out).

Steele fills the script with unnatural expository dialogue and hackneyed set pieces, managing to squeeze in one laugh-out-loud line  – “You know the dangers of diabetic Ketoacidosis!” – while still remaining true to the characters. And director Rachel Goldenberg uses every trick in the cheesy book, including cutting to a distant wide shot as a major character is murdered, with a sound effect of flapping birds filling the morbid silence. The climatic sequence in which she allows multiple characters to run around with life-threatening gunshot wounds harkens back to the bloodless fakery of classic film noir and is alone worth the price of admission (which was free, but you get my point).

As with great mockumentaries like ZELIG (1983) or THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), A DEADLY ADOPTION likely confused viewers who didn’t know if it was serious or a joke. Let me clear it up for you: it’s both. My girlfriend, a regular viewer of the Lifetime Movie Channel, got caught up in the plot, yelling things at the screen and predicting story points as she would with any other Lifetime Original. She reveled in the obvious, even though she was totally in on the joke. I enjoyed the remarkable subtly, shocked that the network who brought us Lindsay Lohan in LIZ AND DICK was committing this fully to an experimental joke very few might get.

And if you’re wondering why Lifetime decided to blow up their own brand after three decades, just look at all the attention A DEADLY ADOPTION has generated. They attracted eyeballs that have likely never been there before (mine included) and, in the process, promoted buzz-worthy new shows like Unreal (which I sampled after the movie and recommend). Nowadays you have to throw bombs to get attention, and A DEADLY ADOPTION may be just the sort of so-bad-it’s-good bomb Lifetime needed.

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TCM Without Cable or Satellite on Sling TV

tCMIn the last three years, a single search term has brought more people to this blog than any other: “How can I watch TCM without cable?” And the answer has always been the same: you can’t.

Now you can.

DISH Network’s Sling TV, a $20-per-month Internet TV service that streams channels to your TV, PC, tablet, and phone, announced today that they’ve added Turner Classic Movies to their channel lineup. TCM will be available in the Hollywood Extra tier for an additional $5 –  a total cost of $25 per month. Other film-centric networks in that tier include Sundance TV, EPIX, EPIX 2, EPIX 3 and EPIX Drive-In, which also airs classic films, along with cult, sci-fi and horror titles. (Here’s the EPIX schedule.)

You can watch Sling TV at home in high definition via an Internet-connected smart TV or a Roku streaming player, Roku Stick, Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. And If you’re a technophobe, don’t worry. Set up is easy and intuitive and the cheapest option will run you no more than $35. (Sling also offers discounts on Amazon streaming devices for new customers, including a free Fire TV Stick when you prepay for three months of service.) And you can watch remotely on your Mac, PC, Tablet or phone via a free app for iOS or Android devices.

Now, let’s take a look at the numbers for folks who decide to give Sling TV with TCM a try.

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With a monthly subscription fee of $25 paid to DISH, plus at least $40 for decent speed (10-megabit or more) broadband service paid to, you guessed it, your local cable provider (you can’t escape them!) your total monthly cost will net out at about $65. But considering that you’re probably already paying for broadband, this is likely less than your total cost now to watch TCM via a cable or satellite provider. 

Now the bad news: Sling TV is available only to customers in the United States and, according to a customer service rep I spoke with, Sling TV will not support the Watch TCM mobile app. Sling will offer access to TCM via its own app, which you can use on your phone or tablet as long as you have a WiFi signal. So, if you love to access Watch TCM on your phone via your cellular network (as I do while walking the streets of New York City), this may not be a great solution for you. Note also that Sling is a “single stream” service, which means you can’t watch on multiple devices at the same time.

Initially Sling will also not offer on-demand movie options for TCM like many providers do (Time Warner Cable currently offers 6-8 titles for free, on-demand viewing). Today’s announcement does suggest that additional on-demand options for TCM are coming, but no further details have been offered.

Sling’s programming choices are still somewhat limited (no local broadcast channels, no Showtime yet) and adding beyond the basic Best of Live TV tier will cost you additional money (which would eventually total more than you’re paying for your current cable bundle). But, if you’re a cord-cutter who watches local TV with an antenna and is looking to add TCM without a cable or satellite package filled with channels you don’t care about, this may be the day you’ve been waiting for.

At some point in the near future, TCM may be available direct-to-consumers via a subscription video-on-demand service you can access without cable or satellite (like the excellent Warner Archive Instant streaming service). And I’ll be the first person to tell you when that happens. But until we get there, Sling TV sounds like a good stopgap for cord-cutters. And they’re offering a free 7-day trial to check out the service, which I just signed up for. So continue to watch this space for more details.

The Future may not be here entirely, but every day brings us one step closer.

For more info on Sling TV visit their website

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