‘The Last Dance’ Draws 23.8 Million International Household Viewers for Netflix

The Last Dance, the documentary series about basketball star Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls championship team, attracted 23.8 million households outside the United States on Netflix, the service announced May 20.

The miniseries, a co-production of Netflix and ESPN Films, aired on ESPN in the United States April 19 through May 17 with each episode being made available the day after airing to international audiences via the SVOD service.

“23 was always his lucky number! 23.8 million households outside the U.S. checked out The Last Dance in its first four weeks on Netflix,” the service tweeted.

Jordan’s jersey number was 23.

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‘World on Fire,’ ‘Ken Burns Presents: East Lake Meadows’ Among Titles Available on Disc and Digital From PBS

PBS Distribution has released eight new programs on disc and digital, including Helen Hunt and Sean Bean in World on Fire, a new addition to the “Frontline” series, as well as a Ken Burns presentation and two new “Nature” programs.

Masterpiece: World on Fire is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. The miniseries traverses the first year of WWII, from ordinary life in England to the beaches of Dunkirk, diving deep into the hearts and minds of those living their lives during this extraordinary time. In the summer of 1939, Harry, a translator at the British Embassy in Warsaw, is falling in love with Polish waitress Kasia. When German tanks roll into Poland and Britain declares war on Germany, Harry and Kasia face terrible choices. With her life in grave danger, can Harry help her — and if he can, how will he ever explain himself to Lois Bennett, the girl he left behind in Manchester? As the Nazi threat spreads across Europe, Kasia must choose between love and fighting for her country, Harry must find his place in the world, and Lois must seize new opportunities the war presents. The conflict overturns everything for Harry’s snobbish mother Robina; for Douglas, Lois’ pacifist father; and for her younger brother Tom, who joins the Navy and finds himself under fire in one of the first major battles of the war. In Berlin, outspoken American journalist Nancy risks her life trying to help her neighbors; while in Paris, Nancy’s nephew, medic Webster refuses to leave the city and the man he loves.

Ken Burns Presents: East Lake Meadows is available on DVD and digital. In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened East Lake Meadows, a public housing community on the edge of the city. Over the next 25 years, many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly African American, would call it home. Shoddy construction and a lack of funding left the project and surrounding landscape in disrepair and led to a rapid decline in the quality of life. As public housing in America became increasingly stigmatized, and a crack epidemic overwhelmed East Lake Meadows, the neighborhood became nearly uninhabitable, but residents nonetheless found ways to overcome violence and neglect, raise kids, find work, and create moments of joy. In the mid-1990s, Atlanta bulldozed East Lake Meadows to make way for new mixed-income housing, as government and philanthropic funds poured into the area in an effort to create a thriving community. Through the stories of the former residents, the documentary gives voice to some of the most marginalized people in our society and raises critical questions about how we have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for African Americans, and what responsibility we have as a people to ensure decent housing for our most vulnerable citizens.

Earth’s Sacred Wonders is available on DVD and digital. ­The earth’s architectural landscape, throughout history, has largely been sculpted and inspired by faith. Today, more worshippers than ever are flocking to these sacred structures and global landmarks. For some, these places are settings to quietly contemplate, but for others they are sites to find extraordinary acts of worship, dangerous challenges, and remarkable deeds of devotion, rarely seen by outsiders. Earth’s Sacred Wonders takes viewers on a journey, set against stunning backdrops, to discover the lengths that people will go for their faith. Filmed across five continents in 12 different languages, this program showcases how some of the most profound sites of worship are places of powerful spiritual significance and human drama.

Niall Ferguson’s Networld is available on DVD and digital. In this groundbreaking new series hosted by Niall Ferguson and based on his bestselling book The Square and the Tower, Ferguson visits network theorists, social scientists and data analysts to explore the history of social networks. From the Reformation and 17th century witch-hunting, through the American Revolution and to the nightmare visions of Orwell’s 1984, Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements. Reviewing classic experiments and cutting-edge research, Ferguson demonstrates how human behavior, disruptive technology and profit can energize ideas and communication, ultimately changing the world.

Blood Sugar Rising is available on DVD and digital. Diabetes is hidden epidemic that affects over 100 million people in the United States, costing close to $350 billion each year. It’s now predicted that one in three children born in this century will likely develop the disease. Blood Sugar Rising puts human faces to these statistics, presenting intimate stories of Americans living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and personal voices from the battle against the disease.

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Nature: Wild Florida is available on DVD and digital. Florida is well-known for its beaches, blue water and year-round sun, but it also has a surprising wild side. It is home to pine forests, coral reefs and the Everglades wetland, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Here, manatees swim in crystal-clear rivers, baby alligators practice their hunting skills and miniature deer roam free. But every year, this state faces the full forces of nature: from wildfires to flooding to powerful hurricanes. Now, a growing human population, climate change and abandoned exotic pets, like the Burmese pythons that can eat alligators, are also threatening this wild paradise.

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Nature: The Mighty Weasel is available on DVD and digital. Discover the truth about the infamous weasel family, often portrayed as villains and associated with unsavory behavior. We “badger” people, “ferret” out the enemy and “weasel” out of things. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation? To find out, follow the adventures of first-time weasel mom Bandita raising her kits in a unique garden, and meet tiny but mighty orphan weasel Twiz on her journey back to the wild. New, ground-breaking science uncovers the problem-solving abilities of the honey badger, the secrets behind the ferret’s legendary flexibility and the wolverine’s remarkable sense of smell.

Frontline: Amazon Empire — The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos is available on DVD and digital. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos built a business empire that is unprecedented in the history of American capitalism — delivering endless products, entertainment services and technology innovations to customers with just a click of a button. But what is the cost of Amazon’s convenience? “Frontline” examines Amazon and Jeff Bezos’ ascent to power — and his ability to shape everything from the future of work, to the future of commerce, to the future of technology. From award-winning filmmakers James Jacoby and Anya Bourg (The Facebook Dilemma), the documentary draws on interviews with current top executives and former insiders, as well as regulators and critics, raising tough questions about Bezos and the empire he built. Through these interviews, Jacoby and Bourg’s investigation presents an inside look at who Bezos is, and how he transformed a tiny company run out of a garage into a staple of American consumerism that critics contend is willing to dominate the market at all costs.

‘Looking for Alaska’ Traveling to DVD April 21 From Paramount

The limited series Looking for Alaska will debut on DVD April 21 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Based on author John Green’s (The Fault in Our Stars) award-winning first novel of the same name, the series, which debuted on Hulu in October 2019, is a story of friendship, love and loss.

Looking for Alaska follows Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer) who is searching for a deeper perspective on life and decides to enroll at the boarding school Culver Creek Academy. He finds a loyal group of friends and falls in love with Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth). After an unexpected tragedy, the close group of friends tries to cope with everything they’ve been through and find some answers along the way.

The three-disc DVD set includes all eight episodes, plus more than 40 minutes of bonus content, including 18 never-before-seen deleted scenes and two featurettes that incorporate an exclusive interview with John Green.

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The novel, released in 2005, is a New York Times best seller, a USA Today best seller, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist and one of TIME Magazine‘s 100 Best Young Adult Novels of All Time. Green was awarded the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award for Looking for Alaska, which was also named as one of America’s Best Loved Novels in a national survey conducted by PBS’ The Great American Read initiative.

 

‘Catherine the Great,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Disc Sets Among Titles Coming Home From HBO in December

HBO Home Entertainment is releasing some goodies on digital and disc in December.

Coming Dec. 3 on disc are the previously announced complete collections of “Game of Thrones” on Blu-ray and DVD as well as season eight on 4K Ultra HD steelbook, Blu-ray and DVD.

Available now for digital download is The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, a documentary on Elizabeth Holmes, who was touted as “the next Steve Jobs,” but had a spectacular fall. Holmes dropped out of Stanford to start a company that was going to revolutionize healthcare. In 2014, that company, Theranos, was valued at $9 billion, making Holmes the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Just two years later, Theranos was cited as a “massive fraud” by the SEC, and her company was worthless. Drawing on access to never-before-seen footage, the documentary reveals what happened and explores the psychology of deception behind Silicon Valley’s ‘‘fake it till you make it’’ mindset.

Due Dec. 2 for digital download is season three of “Room 104,” which tells tales of everyday people striving for connection and meaning inside a single room.

Coming Dec. 9 on digital is season six of “Silicon Valley,” the final, seven-episode season of the show following the exploits of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

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Also due Dec. 9 on digital is “Mrs. Fletcher,” about a mid-40s single mom working as the executive director of a senior center, who drops her only child off at college and returns home to a very empty house. Meanwhile, Eve’s son, a popular (though sometimes clueless) jock, finds college is a little more complicated than he expected and struggles to make connections with his more socially and politically aware fellow students. As mother and son find themselves alone for the first time, the series navigates themes of parenthood, sexuality, love and identity in a cultural moment when attitudes about gender and sex are evolving rapidly.

Also available for digital download Dec. 9 is the miniseries Catherine the Great, starring Helen Mirren as the storied Russian queen.

Finally, available for digital download Dec. 16 are the documentaries Wig, celebrating the early days of New York drag culture, and Ice on Fire, which focuses on many never-before-seen solutions designed to slow down our escalating environmental crisis.

Streaming Ideal for Miniseries

Some of the most compelling content I’ve seen this year has been in the miniseries category, mostly via streaming. In recent months, I’ve streamed HBO’s Chernobyl, Amazon’s Good Omens and Netflix’s When they See Us — all miniseries. I also watched the excellent Fosse/Verdon on FX — episode by episode, over time — but would gladly have binged it on a streaming service.

You see, I think miniseries are simply made for streaming. They seem to fit the distribution medium very well — not too long, not too short, perfect for binging.

Often, watching season after season of programming modeled on traditional TV via streaming is draining, especially since each new episode often automatically loads. It’s exhausting, like an entertainment marathon where I’d like a shortcut. These series waste time drawing out a plot that could so easily be encapsulated in a miniseries. I leave each season exhausted and yearning for an end.

That’s what miniseries provide — an end! They don’t have to add filler to draw out the season and tease another. They are like a long feature film, unconstrained by the roughly two-hour limit set because distributors thought viewers could only sit so long in a theater. Yet, they also break the bonds of the TV series, not constrained by the need to draw out the plot.

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In the revolution of streaming, one of the things I hope the industry reinvents is the length of content, which should expand and contract to meet the tastes of the viewer and the requirements of the story, not the constraints of the schedule.

‘Spanish Princess’ Coming to Digital July 29 and Disc Aug. 13 From Lionsgate

The historical miniseries The Spanish Princess will arrive on digital July 29 and Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 13 from Lionsgate.

The third installment in the trilogy that began with the Golden Globe-  and Emmy Award-nominated The White Queen (2014, Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television; 2014, Outstanding Miniseries) and the critically acclaimed The White Princess, The Spanish Princess tells the story of the strong-willed princess of Spain, Catherine of Aragon, played by Charlotte Hope.

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Drawn from the bestselling novels The King’s Curse and The Constant Princess written by Philippa Gregory, the miniseries returns to the world of Tudor royal court intrigue, told from the viewpoint of the women and shedding light on a previously untold corner of history, the lives of people of color living and working in 16th century London. Spanish princess Catherine has been promised the English throne since she was a child. She arrives in England with her diverse court, including her ladies-in-waiting Lina — a Spanish noble of African-Iberian descent — and the sweet and free-spirited Rosa. When her husband, Prince Arthur, dies suddenly, the throne seems lost to Catherine until she devises an audacious plan and sets her sights on the new heir, the charismatic and headstrong Prince Harry, who will one day rule as King Henry VIII.

‘Jesus: His Life’ Miniseries Coming to DVD Aug. 6 From Lionsgate

The miniseries Jesus: His Life arrives on DVD Aug. 6 from Lionsgate.

Executive produced by Joel Osteen, this story of Jesus Christ combines scripted drama with interviews from prominent religious and historical experts.

Starring Greg Barnett as Jesus, Cassie Bradley as Mary Magdalene, Abhin Galeya as Judas, Ramin Karimloo as Joseph, and Houda Echouafni as Mary, the miniseries explores the story of Jesus Christ through the people in his life who were closest to him. Each of the eight chapters is told from the perspective of different biblical figures, all of whom played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life, including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene and Peter.

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