Nielsen: Netflix’s ‘The Diplomat’ Maintained Weekly Household TV Streaming Dominance Through April 30

Second-week access to Netflix’s U.S. government-themed drama “The Diplomat” held off the return of the final episodes of the streamer’s “Firefly Lane” relationship drama, according to new weekly household TV streaming data through April 30 from Nielsen.

Co-starring Keri Russell and Rufus Sewall as married U.S. foreign diplomats who stumble into a foreign ally’s power play, “Diplomat” topped nearly 1.4 billion minutes in viewing, well ahead of “Firefly Lane” with 1.1 billion. The latter co-stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as lifelong friends enduring shared emotions through work and personal relationships.

Both shows were the only content to each top 1 billion minutes  of viewing, finishing ahead of venerable “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul,” which rounded out the podium with 968 million minutes across 63 episodes after the final season became available to stream on Netflix. The SVOD pioneer again dominated weekly streaming, accounting for nearly 80% of the most-viewed programming across living room TVs.

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Rank SVOD Provider Program Name No. of Episodes Minutes Streamed (Millions)
1 Netflix The Diplomat (2023) 8 1,392
2 Netflix Firefly Lane 26 1,109
3 Netflix Better Call Saul 63 968
4 Netflix Sweet Tooth 16 924
5 Netflix Cocomelon 22 804
6 Apple TV+ Ted Lasso 29 795
7 Disney+ Bluey 120 715
8 Netflix / Paramount+ NCIS 341 667
9 Netflix Workin’ Moms 83 645
10 Netflix Grey’s Anatomy 397 640

Source: Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings (Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock and Netflix), Nielsen National TV Panel, U.S. Viewing through Television

Netflix: ‘The Diplomat’ No. 1 for Second Consecutive Week, Renewed for Season 2

The international political thriller “The Diplomat” remained atop Netflix’s  English-language TV chart and overall viewing list for the week ended April 30. The drama, starring Keri Russell and Rufus Sewall as married U.S. diplomats, generated 66.46 million hours across 84 countries.

Since its premiere, the political drama has gripped subscribers with more than 18 million views. Netflix May 2 announced it has greenlighted a second season.

Among non-English-language episodic programming, the Colombian drama “The Marked Heart” retained its top position with 46.31 million hours viewed. Meanwhile, “The Night Agent” (37.68 million hours viewed), “Beef” (24.5 million hours viewed), season four of “Love Is Blind” (12.08 million hours), South Korea’s “The Glory”  (7.7 million hours) and “Welcome to Eden” seasons one (15.7 million hours viewed) and two (37.54 million hours) all returned to the top 10 lists. 

New TV shows on the charts included season two of the Emmy award-winning series “Sweet Tooth” at No. 2 on the English-language chart with 48.34 million hours viewed (season one also re-entered the chart). The final seven episodes of season two of “Firefly Lane” added 43.5 million hours viewed, while the seventh and final season of “Workin’ Moms” added 18.2 million hours, and season three of “Indian Matchmaking” added 11.4 million hours viewed. 

On the movie side, A Tourist’s Guide to Love was No. 1 on the English chart with 20.9 million hours viewed. Returning to the chart were The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die (8.34 million hours), Murder Mystery 2 (6.2 million hours) and Chupa (4.3 million hours). 

On the non-English-language movie chart, the French action-adventure AKA debuted at No. 1 with 32.5 million hours viewed. The Polish romantic comedy Kiss, Kiss! added 6.6 million hours. Returning charters included the Thai thriller Hunger (8 million hours), the Turkish thriller Chokehold (10.6 million), the Swedish romantic comedy One More Time (5.7 million), the Mexican comedy Queens on the Run (3.5 million), the Spanish horror film Phenomena (1.6 million), and the Korean action-adventure and former chart topper Kill Boksoon (2.6 million)

Samba TV: ‘The Diplomat’ Scores Netflix’s Second-Consecutive Political-Themed Hit Series

More than 1.3 million U.S. households streamed the first episode of “The Diplomat” on Netflix during the live (April 20) plus three-day window, according to new data from Samba TV, which tracks viewership intel across 48 million connected televisions worldwide.

The series stars Keri Russell (“The Americans,” “Felicity”) as a career U.S. foreign diplomat who lands a high-profile job she neither wants nor believes she is suited for. Just as she was about to head to Afghanistan, the government enlists her to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom in the midst of an international crisis. It’s a role that has tectonic implications for her marriage to fellow diplomat/husband (Rufus Sewell) and her political future.

The show’s strong debut follows the equally strong bow for Netflix’s “The Night Agent,” the FBI-themed political drama that has already moved into No. 6 all-time as the most-streamed English-language series on Netflix with 605 million hours consumed in the first 28 days of release.

“Netflix continues to find success with its investment in American political thrillers,” Dallas Lawrence, SVP at Samba TV, said in a statement. 

“Diplomat” showrunner Debora Cahn’s resumé includes “The West Wing” and “Homeland,” both series tapping into the innermost workings of government.

Samba said that of all demographics tuning in, Baby Boomers over-indexed by strong double digits relative to the national average. Viewership was also fueled by residents of the center of political action, Washington D.C., over-indexing by 65%.

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Cocaine Bear

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/18/23;
Universal;
Horror Comedy;
Box Office $64.38 million;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence and gore, drug content and language throughout.
Stars Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Matthew Rhys, Ray Liotta.

Whatever expectations a title like Cocaine Bear might conjure in the mind’s eye, the resulting film more or less delivers. As director Elizabeth Banks describes the film in the bonus materials, Cocaine Bear is a comedy wrapped up in a horror film, the title taken as literally as possible to gift the audience with some dumb, goofy fun that pokes at what otherwise might be considered sensitive subjects.

The film is based on a true incident from 1985 in which a dead black bear was found to have ingested a duffel bag of cocaine that had been thrown out of a plane that crashed and whose pilot died after bailing out. That bear was later stuffed and put on display in a Kentucky mall.

The movie takes the premise and runs with it, reimagining the scenario as the bear becoming addicted to the white powder and then going on a rampage to find more.

The concept of characters on the hunt for cocaine already suggests a 1980s vibe, which the film further enhances with its music and wardrobe choices.

The tone is set from the outset, with Matthew Rhys as Thornton, seemingly having a party as he blissfully tosses duffel bags of cocaine out of his plane, then manages to knock himself out as he jumps.

The drug-filled bags land throughout the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest for an assortment of characters to find. Eventually, they all encounter the bear who will do anything to maintain its high.

As the bear cuts through the cast through an increasingly violent and cartoonish level of gory death scenes, the film is basically left with two groups trying to escape the woods. One is a mother (Keri Russell) searching for a couple of kids who got lost in the woods trying to escape from the bear. The other is a drug gang led by Syd (Ray Liotta in one of his final roles) trying to recover the cocaine.

According to Banks in the bonus materials, from her perspective the bear is the hero of the film, as the human characters are responsible for whatever mayhem is unleashed upon the forest.

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Most of Banks’ insights into the film are delivered in a commentary track shared with her husband Max Handelman, who also serves as one of the film’s producers alongside Banks.

Other behind-the-scenes materials on the Blu-ray include the nine-minute featurette “All Roads Lead to Cokey: The Making of Cocaine Bear” and the eight-minute “UnBEARable Bloodbath: Dissecting the Kills.”

A four-minute “Doing Lines” featurette is an amusing piece in which the cast and filmmakers read lines from the Cocaine Bear script, which is infused with an irreverence for the material befitting the subject matter.

There’s also an alternate ending, which wouldn’t have worked very well, and three deleted scenes that run four-and-a-half minutes. One is an extended clip of Russell and one of the kids trying to cross a river, in which the kid discusses his love of the “Rocky” movies, which expands on why he’s wearing a championship belt throughout the film.

Rounding out the extras is a two-minute gag reel.

Horror Thriller ‘Antlers’ Due on Digital Dec. 21, DVD and Blu-ray Jan. 4

The Searchlight Pictures horror thriller Antlers will be released digitally Dec. 21, and on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 4 from Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.

Directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro, the film explores the myth of the dreaded “wendigo” as a small-town Oregon teacher (Keri Russell) and her brother (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, seek to help a troubled young boy who possesses a strange secret. 

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Bonus features include:

  • “The Evil Within,” in which co-writer/director Scott Cooper offers a glimpse of the layers at play in his approach to making Antlers;
  • “An Exploration of Modern Horror with Guillermo del Toro,” in which del Toro traces the lineage of elevated horror in cinema, discussing the connection between mythology and human behavior;
  • “Artifacts and Totems,” in which the filmmakers discuss how they created this world of a small, tight-knit Northwest community of working-class Americans;
  • “Gods Walk Among Us,” an in-depth exploration of the digital and practical effects used to create the film’s primal creatures;
  • “Cry of the Wendigo,” about the folklore behind the wendigo from the film’s First Nations consultants;
  • “Metamorphosis,” about actor Scott Haze’s preparation for filming, including how he lost some 70 pounds in order to play a deeply tragic character; and
  • “Comic-Con @ Home with Scott Cooper and Guillermo del Toro,” in which Steve Weintraub moderates the Comic-Con@Home 2020 panel interview with del Toro and Cooper.

Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/31/20;
Disney/Lucasfilm;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $515.2 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sci-fi violence and action.
Stars Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams.

In the wake of divisive fan response to Disney’s approach to “Star Wars” since its purchase of Lucasfilm, the studio turned to J.J. Abrams to deliver a final chapter to the nine-episode trilogy of trilogies that has been dubbed “The Skywalker Saga.”

Watching Rise of Skywalker, however, it quickly becomes evident that the studio and the creative team in place to make these new “Star Wars” films had no firm plans in place for the overarching story they were trying to tell, let alone connecting them to the previous six chapters.

The resulting concluding chapter, while a fun, entertaining, grand-scale adventure filled with franchise references for fans to enjoy, still comes across as a bit of a disjointed mess, picking and choosing which story threads from the previous films to carry through (if not outright retconning them) as if on a whim, while introducing vast and sometimes bizarre new ones that don’t stand up to too much scrutiny (or, worse, require fans to turn to myriad tie-in books to explain it). While the “Star Wars” franchise has never been a stranger to these kinds of strained plot mechanics, the rumored behind-the-scenes troubles at Lucasfilm have made the seams of Rise of Skywalker especially noticeable, and the accompanying plot developments rather jarring.

So there are two ways to look at Rise of Skywalker — it’s fine for what it is, and there’s plenty to like in it, but it’s also a reminder of what could have been.

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Instead of flowing from the natural plot implications of the previous episode, The Last Jedi (which, contrary to the vocal complaints of a few haters, were abundant enough to fuel a decent third act, as evidenced by the earlier script drafts floating around the Internet), the new film decides to drop a plot nuke right at the beginning: Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) never really died and has been manipulating things the whole time. Leia’s Resistance, still recovering from the previous film, then turns its focus on fighting Palpatine, sending Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca, C-3PO and BB-8 on a mission to find a device containing the location of the Emperor’s hidden base. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) wants to eliminate Rey in exchange for the Emperor’s powers. Be prepared for some big reveals.

While reintroducing the Emperor, who was the underlying threat for the first six movies, is as good enough a reveal as any for how the Empire returned in the guise of The First Order for these films, its sudden inclusion in the third film without any clues planted in the previous two just calls attention to the lack of planning. For example, a properly planned trilogy with Palpatine as the hidden villain wouldn’t have bothered to make Snoke an actual person in the second chapter when the hologram form he displayed in the first movie serves as the perfect cover, a la The Wizard of Oz.

There’s also the fact that the Emperor’s return smacks of similarity to storylines from the “expanded universe” of “Star Wars” books, comics and video games that the studio and Abrams had very publicly said were no longer canon. If the end result is just going to borrow ideas from them anyway, why not adapt them outright? The problem with trying to replace them with something new usually means that if whatever you replace them with isn’t better, fans aren’t going to be too happy.

The big wrinkle in the plan, of course, was the unfortunate death of Carrie Fisher after the filming of Last Jedi. With Leia poised to play a significant role in Episode IX, original story plans were scrapped, and a new screenplay was constructed to build scenes around unused footage of Fisher shot by Abrams for 2015’s The Force Awakens. The obvious limitations of this had a ripple effect on the rest of the story, while Abrams’ presence in the director’s chair was meant to assure fans that the saga was in good hands, given how much of a box office hit Force Awakens turned out to be.

Of course, the dirty little secret that many fans didn’t want to admit about The Force Awakens when it first came out was how, as a shallow remake of the original 1977 movie, it wasn’t a very meaty beginning for a new trilogy meant to continue the larger story. For all its faults, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi at least tried to be about more than the sum of its parts, while re-framing the franchise for a new generation.

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Abrams’ return to Rise of Skywalker means the film, at the very least, benefits from his strengths of striking visuals and dynamic action. There are some great scenes in the film that will make fans smile, and truth be told, it’s a more enjoyable viewing experience than Force Awakens simply for being bold enough in its own right and not just wholly remaking an earlier film. However, when adding Rise of Skywalker to the context of Abrams’ whole career, it’s clear he talks a better game than he delivers.

This is readily on display in the two-hour The Skywalker Legacy behind-the-scenes documentary included with the film’s home video presentation. The program is a masterstroke in editing as it contrasts scenes being filmed for Rise of Skywalker with similar scenes from the original trilogy, complete with new and archival interviews with the same actors discussing their roles and the saga in general. It’s a fascinating piece filled with wonderful nostalgia, but also serves to highlight what a lesser copy these new films have been to those of the George Lucas era.

Speaking of which, for a film meant to conclude a nine-chapter saga, Abrams’ films are rather devoid of references to the prequels, despite where revisiting them would make more sense for the story. But, really, who can blame him for focusing almost all the screentime on the new characters he created for this new trilogy, since he was given the chance to do so? In Rise of Skywalker, Abrams even introduces a new little droid called D-O that looks like it was made from a desk lamp, which he himself voices as the droid comments on the scene going on, as if telling the audience how they’re supposed to feel about it (literally saying “sad” or “happy,” etc.).

In addition to the visual candy, the film’s most reliable highlight, as usual, is the score by John Williams, who does his level best to inject depth into the proceedings through his music. His efforts are the focus of an 11-minute digital exclusive featurette, but there’s also a segment about his work in the feature-length documentary. In his cameo as an alien bartender, Williams is surrounded by mementos of the first 51 of his Oscar-nominated scores. His 52nd nomination came via Rise of Skywalker itself.

The remaining extras are all behind-the-scenes featurettes, the best of which is “Warwick & Son,” a five-and-a-half-minute look at actor Warwick Davis’ previous roles in the franchise and how he was joined by his son for a cameo in Rise of Skywalker.

Other featurettes include a 14-minute look at filming a speeder chase, a six-minute video about creating an alien celebration in the deserts of Jordan, a five-and-a-half video about the creation of D-O, and an eight-minute look at the puppetry and makeup effects used to create the film’s creatures.

Vudu offers a couple of additional videos: a three-minute “Legacy” trailer and an eight-minute “End of the Saga” featurette.

It’s a bit disappointing that there were no deleted scenes included, given how much the filmmakers have been discussing in promotional interviews all that was cut from the film, but don’t be surprised if those and additional extras, like an audio commentary track, are one day included in an expanded home video release.