TIME Television

Friends Is Headed to Netflix

ANISTON SCHWIMMER
Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer appear in the baby birth episode of NBC's hit series "Friends," airing in a one-hour season finale on Thursday, May 16 at 8 p.m., EDT. The episode may well cement "Friends" status as the most popular show on television for the 2001-02 season. (AP Photo/NBC- Warner Bros. Television) Anonymous—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The iconic NBC comedy will be available for streaming on January 1

Continuing a seemingly ceaseless burst of Friends nostalgia that’s been going since the tenth anniversary of the sitcom’s finale, Netflix announced that the entire series’s run will be available for streaming beginning January 1, 2015.

It’s a major deal, given the popularity of the NBC sitcom to this day, not to mention the sheer volume of episodes involved. (Despite the fact that TBS always seems to be airing the same few episodes, there were 236 installments of the show.) Friends is widely available on syndicated television, but given the wide variations in tone season to season, the opportunity to choose whether to watch a low-drama episode where the gang hangs out or one from the height of the Rachel-Ross-Joey love triangle is a significant boon to Friends devotees.

Netflix’s original offerings have tended to prompt so-called binge viewing due to their sheer volume of incident. House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black both rely on cliff-hangers and twisty plots that compel viewers to watch the next episode. But given the excitement around Friends hitting the streaming service, it’s not hard to imagine the exact opposite sort of television being just as binge-able. Friends is at its best when little of consequence is happening, in the long stretches of episodes where they’re all bickering over apartments or cleaning philosophies. It’s extremely comfortable and comforting TV — the sort that will lend itself perfectly to hours of consecutive watching this winter.

Read next: The Best Halloween Movies Streaming Right Now

TIME Television

It’s Not TV. And It’s Not Cable. It’s HBO, Online.

HBO's Post 2012 Golden Globe Awards Party - Inside
A view of the atmosphere at HBO's Post 2012 Golden Globe Awards Party at Circa 55 Restaurant on Jan. 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills. Jason Merritt—Getty Images

In a potentially big change, the network will give cord-cutters a way to get Game of Thrones online (and pay for it).

If you’ve been considering cutting the cord to your cable-TV subscription, HBO may have just handed you the scissors. At Time Warner’s investor meeting Wednesday, CEO Richard Plepler announced that beginning in 2015, HBO will offer a standalone online service, allowing broadband customers without cable TV to subscribe.

This move has been speculated–and by some cordcutters, fantasized–about for years. But the thinking was that it was some time off, if ever, because HBO had more to lose by ticking off cable providers than it had to gain from broadband content delivery. Apparently the balance has shifted, with 10 million U.S. households getting broadband-only service. As Plepler said:

That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO . . . We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.

The statement leaves a lot of details open–price, how much HBO programming will be available–but the upshot appears to be: you’ll be able to get pay for HBO streaming without cable or satellite service, essentially buying HBO GO or another, possibly more limited, online service. Does this makes sense for HBO? It seems to think so, aiming for a combination of tapping into new households and, maybe, monetizing some of those cable-less fans who’ve been borrowing HBO GO logins to watch Game of Thrones. (Not to mention possibly getting a competitive edge on Netflix.)

Without access to the numbers, I can only speculate on the math. HBO does risk making less money from cable carriers, since HBO’s service is worth less to the carriers if the carriers’ customers can get HBO without them. Maybe HBO plans on making up the difference in volume, or maybe the standalone package will be priced accordingly higher.

But however this particular deal works out, this is a potentially exciting development for TV viewers tired of watching their cable packages swell into bloated, gold-laden barges of tied-together offerings topping $200 a month. If big player HBO sees that it can offer a cable-free package and survive, that may lead the way for companies in other pricey TV sectors–live sports, for instance–which you’ve had to agree to buy a giant cable package to get.

It’s easier to imagine a future in which you cobble together a decent menu of entertainment with Internet service, over-the-air HD, and some combination of HBO, Netflix, Amazon and so forth. That cord-cutting, a la carte paradise isn’t here yet. But HBO may just have unleashed the dragon.

[Non-disclosure disclosure: HBO and Time Warner Cable used to be sister companies of TIME within Time Warner; Time Warner Cable and publisher Time Inc. were spun off as separate companies by Time Warner, which still owns HBO.]

TIME Television

Seth Rogen Confronted the Guy Who Canceled Freaks and Geeks

The cast of 'Freaks and Geeks' on Aug. 5, 1999.
The cast of 'Freaks and Geeks' on Aug. 5, 1999. Chris Haston—NBC/Getty Images

Apparently, NBC wanted the freaks and geeks to triumph over the cool kids

Fifteen years ago, Judd Apatow and Paul Feig created a show about ’80s-era high school burnouts and nerds; the show starred Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel and Linda Cardellini. Sounds like a can’t-miss hit, right? And yet, to the chagrin of the show’s cult following, Freaks and Geeks was canceled after only one season.

Though the show’s stars and creators went on to successful movie and TV careers, they — like the fans — never quite got over the decision to drop the show. That’s why when Seth Rogen was presented with the opportunity to confront the show’s creator, he did:

Rogen shared the dirty details of the conversation in an interview with HuffPost Live. The actor was visting Saturday Night Live to support his friend Bill Hader when he overheard someone say the name of the executive who canceled Freaks and Geeks. “I know his name, obviously, because we’ve talked about how stupid he is for the last 15 years,” Rogen said. With the help of fellow comedian Paul Rudd, Rogen asked him why he decided to kill the show:

He oddly tried to justify it. He was like, “You know, Judd wouldn’t listen to my notes.” I was like, “The notes probably were stupid.” … He was like, “You know, I kept telling Judd, ‘Give them a victory, give them a victory.’ And I was like, “The whole show was about how in high school you always lose all the time.” He went to a private school and was very rich as a child.

Rogen was careful not to out the former NBC executive, but apparently the executive didn’t mind naming himself. Garth Ancier, a television programmer since the ’70s, took to Facebook to make his case:

I thought we had a very nice chat about “Freaks & Geeks” on Saturday night. As I said, my only note to Judd Apatow over the entire series was that either the Freaks and/or the Geeks should win the occasional victory over the cooler kids — especially since Judd Apatow has taken that note in every hit movie since. I absolutely hated canceling this particular show. It was clear from the very beginning that F&G had great writing from Judd and Paul Feig, and a tremendous cast. This was an awful decision that has haunted me forever…but the show was consistently NBC’s least viewed. For what it is worth, I have watched all of the episodes over and over again on Netflix, and asked myself what I could have done better to save it.

When Rogen dismissed Ancier as a rich kid who wouldn’t understand the trials and tribulations of public high school, he posted yet another response on Facebook:

We may never know how the conversation really went down. (Paul Rudd, care to respond?) But whether Ancier is a villain or not, Freaks and Geeks will forever be remembered — alongside Sports Night, Rome and Happy Endings — as a show that was canceled far too soon.

TIME Technology & Media

HBO Will Finally Start Selling Web-Only Subscriptions Next Year

HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler and HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo speak onstage at the Executive Session panel during the HBO portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association on July 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills.
HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler and HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo speak onstage at the Executive Session panel during the HBO portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association on July 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills. Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images

Viewers won't have to pay for a pricey TV package to watch HBO shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire

HBO will begin selling web-only subscriptions in 2015, a major move for the television giant as it seeks to attract a younger generation of consumers more likely to skip paying for cable television in favor of streaming services like Netflix.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler said at a Time Warner investors’ event Wednesday that HBO will launch a “stand alone, over the top” version of its network beginning in 2015 that won’t require a pay TV subscription, Re/code reports. HBO is a subsidiary of Time Warner.

The new offering would likely mean that viewers will be able to watch hit HBO shows like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and others without having to pay for a TV service, similar to Netflix’s model for watching shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. However, HBO has so far offered few details about what content will be available on the service. HBO recently put some of its older but well-regarded content, such as The Wire, available to watch on Amazon’s streaming service, Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Time Warner made $4.9 billion in revenue from HBO last year, but it could attract more TV viewers by offering its standalone web service to customers who want to leave cable or don’t already pay for cable.

[Re/code]

TIME movies

Review: In Fury, Brad Pitt Wins World War II, Again

Columbia Pictures

The Inglourious Basterds star returns for another tour in this grisly account of an American tank crew in the war's last month

Correction appended: Oct. 16, 2014

“Done much killing?” tough Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) asks winsome newbie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). “No,” Ellison answers timidly. “You will,” the big guy spits out.

He’s not kidding. Fury, writer-director David Ayer’s war film to end all war films (fingers crossed), begins with Wardaddy killing a German cavalry officer with a knife, then cutting his eye out as a souvenir. It ends, a draining two hours and 10 minutes later, in a battle that makes the Alamo look like a pie dessert — à la mode.

This is War Movie 101: all fighting, nearly all the time. Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down pictured a similarly unrelenting siege (Somalia), as did, in a fantasy landscape, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Rohan). Saving Private Ryan traced an American unit’s trajectory across World War II–era France, and Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, once that film got past the fatal hazing of basic training, submerged the viewer in the Vietnam nightmare as seen by its edgy American invaders. Fury doesn’t come close to the achievement of those edifying cinematic ordeals, let alone to Samuel Maoz’s harrowing Israeli film Lebanon, which summoned a claustrophobic psychopathy by setting virtually all its action inside an Israeli tank. But Ayer’s movie has the admirable ambition of showing how even the Greatest Generation could brutalize and be brutalized by war.

Brad Pitt, you’ll recall, already won World War II in Inglourious Basterds. Hell, last year he won World War Z. So how can he and the near victorious GIs of the 2nd Armored Division be established as underdogs in a movie set in Germany in April 1945, just a few weeks before Hitler would blow his brains out in a bunker? Ayer’s solution: put ‘em in a tank, where their rumbling weapon was far outclassed by the enemy’s. Henry Ford produced the Americans’ thin-skinned Sherman tank; Ferdinand Porsche designed the Germans’ much larger, sturdier Tiger. It was, essentially, the Tin Lizzie vs. the Mercedes-Benz Super Sport.

And though World War II would shortly end, the U.S. soldiers couldn’t take it easy, like college seniors in the final term before graduation. Their mission was to roll through Germany, whose Nazi leaders called for every citizen to fight the invaders to their death. To the Americans, each person they meet is a potential sniper; every man, woman and child is cannon fodder. Some of the soldiers became efficient killing machines. Some of them may have liked it.

Norman, who looks about 12 and takes most of the movie to grow stubble on his sweet peach face, doesn’t like killing, doesn’t want it and, when he’s drafted as Wardaddy’s gunner, doesn’t know how to do it. His first job is to scrape the remains of his predecessor off the insides of the tank, nicknamed Fury. He is the token innocent, the audience surrogate, almost the girl joining a quartet of grizzled veterans.

Because their characters are reduced to their religious, ethnic or lowlife stereotypes, they may as well be called Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Mex (Michael Peña) and Animal (Jon Bernthal). Their tour has taken them to hell and halfway back, which makes them the rude tutors in Norman’s life-or-death indoctrination. “The war’s gotta end, soon,” Wardaddy says, in one of the boilerplate truisms that serve as this movie’s dialogue. “But before it ends, a lotta people gotta die.”

Sometimes, even a little death is a lot. Conquering one village, Wardaddy and Norman enter a house that holds two frightened young German women, Emma (Alicia von Rittberg) and Irma (Anamaria Marinca, star of the Romanian prize winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days). Irma makes lunch for Wardaddy, who sends Norman off to the bedroom with Emma in what may be their mutual deflowering. The assignation is meant to be tender, but the viewer has to wonder if Emma (or for that matter, Norman) is a willing participant, and if the scene doesn’t carry the lingering toxicity of sexual violence. Then the other tank troopers barge in, and Animal uncorks a flood of insults that amount to assault. By velvet glove or iron fist, barbarism rules.

That, Ayer would argue, is just war, daddy. And in staging his big battle sequences, he brings Fury to fitful life. The attack of three Shermans on a giant Tiger is choreographed for maximum impact, as is the looming face-off between Wardaddy’s crippled tank and about 300 SS troops marching toward it. Pitt, who at 50 still looks great with his shirt off, has the gruff charisma to play a dauntless soldier with killer courage and a vestigial streak of humanity.

He carries a film that could stumble under the burden of its clichés. You know that when one character who’s chomped out bits of Norman’s callow butt for most of the movie finally makes gentle amends, he’ll be the next to die. And that another character, having faced death countless times by German fire or misadventure, will survive through an act of enemy kindness. World War II was a historical event, but also a movie genre, and Fury occasionally prints the legend. The rest of it is plenty grim and grisly. Audience members may feel like prisoners of war forced to watch a training-torture film.

The original version of this story misspelled the name of Brad Pitt’s character. It is Don “Wardaddy” Collier.

TIME Television

Jay Leno Breaks His Silence on The Tonight Show‘s Joan Rivers Ban

Jay Leno
Jay Leno. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) Sebastian Scheiner—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The former late-night host says the ban on Rivers was "awkward"

Joan Rivers’s ban from The Tonight Show was finally broken this year, when the late Rivers appeared in a brief segment on new host Jimmy Fallon’s premiere episode and later sat on his couch. But until then, the Rivers ban had been an uncomfortable reminder of one of pop culture’s chilliest break-ups. Johnny Carson, the longtime Tonight host who’d employed Rivers as permanent guest host, never spoke to her again after finding out she’d left the show to star in an (ultimately short-lived) Fox late-night franchise.

But between Carson, who initiated the ban on Rivers, and Fallon, who broke it, came Jay Leno, who upheld the ban, in what he’s now describing as an “awkward” situation. Leno, interviewed on Access Hollywood in promotion of a new CNBC show about cars, said that “I didn’t want to [have Rivers as a guest] while Johnny was alive out of respect for Johnny. I don’t think he wanted to see her on the show and that’s why we didn’t do it.” Leno claims he never discussed the ban with Carson, but that it was upheld by vague mutual understanding.

But Carson died in 2005 — some nine years before Leno’s last Tonight broadcast. Leno told Access Hollywood interviewer Billy Bush:

“It got a little awkward by that point too. Joan was sort of going on and on about me and I thought, let’s let the ground lie fallow for a while and see what happens, but she always kind of kept it going! And I like Joan — I mean, that was the first autograph I ever got, was Joan Rivers… I went to see her at the Chateau de Ville in Framingham[, Mass.] and we were friends, and by then it just got to be awkward and then we never did it.”

For her part, Rivers, who appeared several times on Leno’s competitor David Letterman’s Late Show during the ban, spoke to the press with glee after appearing on Fallon’s Tonight Show. Making an obscene gesture, Rivers declared, “To Jay! Well, Jay. Twenty-three years. I’m still here and you’re going to be selling cars.”

Jay Leno’s Garage will premiere on CNBC in 2015.

TIME celebrities

Taylor Swift Becomes a Crazy Cat Lady in This Diet Coke Commercial

Featuring a new 1989 song

Comedy legend John Cleese recently told Taylor Swift that her cat Olivia Benson was “the weirdest cat I’ve ever seen in my life.” But Olivia Benson is probably having the last laugh (meow?) now, because Cleese’s own absurdly large feline certainly isn’t starring in a new Diet Coke commercial with the “Out of the Words” singer. During her appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Swift joked that her crazy cat lady phase was “a few years down the road,” but it seems it has arrivied early in the new clip.

You can even hear a new track from the singer’s upcoming album, 1989, in the background. And unlike the Jack Antonoff-assisted sonic departure “Out of the Woods,” it’s the most straight-out-of-Red, traditionally-Taylor Swift-sounding track we’ve heard from the record so far.

TIME Television

Jay Leno’s Coming Back to TV With a Car Show

2014 Carousel Of Hope Ball Presented By Mercedes-Benz - Arrivals
Comedian Jay Leno attends the 2014 Carousel of Hope Ball at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

Leno's taking his obsession with cars to primetime

Less than a year after Jay Leno retired from The Tonight Show, the comedian is returning to primetime TV, this time on CNBC. The series will likely be based on Leno’s Emmy Award-winning web show “Jay Leno’s Garage” and is set to premiere in 2015.

On the web series, Leno geeks out over everything automotive, from the best investments to read test. “This show will be about anything that rolls, explodes and makes noise,” Leno said in a statement. Maybe it’s all the explosions that draw 1 million subscribers to the “Jay Leno’s Garage” YouTube channel.

 

TIME Television

See Why Jennifer Garner Rented 120 Goats

Garner rented the goats to care for her property

Jennifer Garner needed a way to get rid of the rats and the ivy on her Los Angeles property, and somehow, the answer was goats, she told Conan O’Brien Tuesday evening.

She rented the goats to eat up the ivy growing on her grounds, which also took care of the rat problem she was having because the rats were living in the ivy. The only downside to having the goats was that they were pretty loud. And while they may have done the trick once, Garner says the ivy has since grown back.

TIME Video Games

World of Warcraft Enjoys Over Half a Million Subscriber Bounce

Blizzard's indefatigable fantasy MMO picks up players as both its 10th anniversary and next expansion loom.

World of Warcraft‘s next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, trundles onstage November 13. And so Blizzard’s tireless fantasy MMO, slow-bleeding subscriptions for years, is experiencing a kind of bounce — to the tune of about 600,000 subscriptions. The new worldwide subscriber tally: in the vicinity of 7.4 million.

Blizzard hasn’t announced or confirmed the 600,000 figure; it’s the implicit takeaway subtracting one press release from another.

In early August, Activision Blizzard revealed World of Warcraft‘s subscription base had fallen to 6.8 million, down 800,000 from the prior quarter, when it stood at 7.6 million. The last time the game’s base was that low, the housing bubble hadn’t popped, The Sopranos was still on the air and the Governator was only midway through his California reign.

Yesterday, Blizzard slipped the 7.4 million figure into a press release about a Warlords of Draenor prelaunch patch. That number is current as of September 30, 2014.

At its height, World of Warcraft commanded 12 million subscribers. That was October 2010. Someone’s been plotting all these press release points on a Statista chart if you want to see the broad sweeps. The actual chart probably looks more like one of those chaotically scribbled volume-trading maps, with subscriber activity trending gradually down, marked by periods of noisy, frenetic re-acclimation.

A subscription surge was inevitable. It’s happened every time the company releases an expansion. Warlords of Draenor, which follows Mists of Pandaria‘s release two years ago, is Blizzard’s fifth expansion for the game. Its raises the level cap from 90 to 100, shines up the graphics, plugs in the customary new dungeons and raids, and for its new feature trick, gloms on user-created garrisons whereby players can recruit in-game characters to automate loot-gathering busywork.

World of Warcraft celebrates its 10th anniversary on November 23 (brace for the glut of press paeans). It’s one of the longest-running MMOs of all time, and it’s the most broadly played subscription-based MMO by any measure. Plenty of MMOs have lived longer–I believe Furcadia, which launched in 1996, currently holds the record–but the nearest rivals (like EVE Online, which launched in 2003) have only fractional populations.

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