Executive Producer Revisits Brooklyn in the ’80s in Mob Series ‘Gravesend’ Streaming on Amazon

William DeMeo went back to his roots for “Gravesend,” a four-episode series streaming now on Amazon Prime and distributed by Virgil Films.

He wanted to recall his neighborhood in the 1980s — the music, the cars, the people and the mob.

Though he toyed with the title “The Neighborhood,” the writer, director, star and executive producer settled on the name of his hometown.

“Gravesend is a section in Brooklyn where I grew up where a lot of these mobsters come from,” he said. “The name was pretty cool, too, because in the life of the mafia, the grave is usually the end of the road.”

Having acted in such productions as A Bronx Tale, “The Sopranos” and Gotti, DeMeo is no stranger to mafia stories, and Brooklyn in the 1980s was teaming with them.

“I can name 20 mobsters off the top of my head, very well-known mafia figures, who all came from this area, and they were all around and there was a lot of testosterone around,” he said. “The younger guys coming up wanted to prove something. They were some really dangerous, uncertain times. If you crossed certain people, there was a problem.”

In “Gravesend,” DeMeo plays Benny Zerletta, a young soldier in the Colezzo crime family circa 1986, who is conflicted, but entangled in the life — much like Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos.” (DeMeo starred as one of Paulie Walnuts’ crew, Jason Molinaro, in “The Sopranos.”) One similarity between the two series is that Soprano has a confidant in his therapist, and Zerletta talks over his problems with the statue of St. Anthony. But DeMeo stressed that “Gravesend” mostly just shares the same genre.

“There’s Westerns, there’s movies about law enforcement. You can’t change the genre, so you try to come up with different scenarios and circumstances,” he said. “’Sopranos’ was New Jersey, and with all respect to Jersey, Brooklyn is Brooklyn.”

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DeMeo said he chose to wear multiple hats for the series because he wanted control over a story so close to him.

“You know, it’s my neighborhood. It’s my story. It’s where I grew up,” he said. “All of those characters and the things that happened back then are very realistic to the way it really was. There are people that are very similar to these characters. This is the way it really was. The actions and the clothes and the music and the neighborhood, the people on the streets, the kids getting ice cream, the people outside of Coney Island, all of that, with the diners and the testosterone level. Literally, it was a dangerous place to be.”

“Gravesend” also explores a different time period than the HBO saga.

“The reason I picked the ‘80s was because it was the heyday of the mafia,” he said. “If you think of ‘The Sopranos’ — which was a show that I was on — it started in like 2000, and it showed how the mob was depleted and that they were meeting in malls and that they were kinda hiding out more as opposed to the ‘80s, the John Gotti era. Guys were more out in the open, and there was more stuff happening. There were a lot of killings going on in the ‘80s. Paul Castellano got killed in the middle of Manhattan at Sparks Steak House. The ‘80s is a time where you can show more of them in the streets. They were very powerful in the ‘80s.”

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It was also a time with distinctive tunes, and the music was a big part of setting the time period in “Gravesend,” with scenes at bars and dance clubs. It’s a soundtrack not often used in a mafia story, he noted.

“When you think about mafia movies, or just in general the Italian mob, you think of the Scorsese type of music, and it seems most of the time they’ll go with like the Rolling Stones or they’ll go with Italian music like Dean Martin,” he said. “I felt like that music that we listened to then back then, the freestyle music and stuff like that, that’s what we listened to. That was very popular music in the clubs and when you were driving in your car.”

The rides also helped evoke the setting and time period. As a car enthusiast himself, DeMeo was able to get his hands on some classics, including his own Buick Grand National.

DeMeo (left) with James Russo in “Gravesend”

Connections among New York actors helped him build a veteran ensemble cast, including Louis Lombardi (“The Sopranos,” “24,” “Entourage,” The Usual Suspects), James Russo (Django Unchained, Donnie Brasco, The Deuce), Paul Ben-Victor (The Irishman, “Santa Clarita Diet,” “Vinyl”) and Nick Turturro (BlacKkKlansman, World Trade Center).

“I have relationships with a lot of those actors,” he said. “You don’t have to second guess these guys. You know they’re gonna deliver. I don’t have to worry that they’re gonna come off as Hollywood guys. They’re New York actors most of them. They get it.”

The pizzeria made famous by “Saturday Night Fever” is one of the settings in “Gravesend.”

During one scene in the series that takes place in the pizzeria made famous by John Travolta in the Brooklyn-set Saturday Night Fever, Benny muses over his favorite Italian actors. As for DeMeo himself, Travolta, a personal friend he bonded with on Gotti, is his favorite. “I’m a huge Saturday Night Fever fan, so I love him,” he said. “But [Al] Pacino, who doesn’t love Pacino, and I worked with Robert De Niro in Analyze That. Robert De Niro discovered me from A Bronx Tale. [Sylvester] Stallone. To me, that’s the four.”

Each of the four episodes of “Gravesend” culminates in a cliffhanger, including the last, and DeMeo hopes to get back into production in the next six months to satisfy the fans — barring any continued stoppage due to the pandemic.

“I have thousands and thousands of messages through my social media asking, ‘What happened, when is there going to be more?’” he said.

Amazon Prime Rolls Out User Profiles

SVOD service Amazon Prime is rolling out user profiles, a feature long present on competing services such as Netflix.

In selected countries, one subscriber account can have up to six user profiles (one default primary profile plus five additional profiles, either adult or kids).

One general and one account for kids appears by default. When adding profiles, users can designate them for kids.

Prime Video will serve up only age-appropriate TV shows and movies (maturity rating 12 and under) to the kids’ profiles. However, all downloads including those from an adult’s profile, will still be available and can be accessed through the kids’ profiles. Search results and search suggestions are also filtered.

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The feature is supported across a range of devices.

Sketch Comedy Show ‘Kids in the Hall’ Making Comeback on Amazon Prime

The sketch comedy series “The Kids in the Hall” will be making a comeback on Prime Video.

With the return of all of the original stars, the eight-episode Amazon Original series, which will be a continuation of the original show, will be available to Prime members in Canada and around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.

First premiering in 1989, the original Emmy Award-nominated “The Kids in the Hall” starred Canadian comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, who will be reprising fan-favorite characters (and assuming some new ones) for the series’ next iteration. The original series earned multiple Gemini Awards along with the cast being honored with the Canadian Screen Awards Icon Award in 2019.

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The series will be executive produced by “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels.

“Even after 30 years, ‘The Kids in the Hall’ has retained its brilliance and originality,” Michaels said in a statement. “We are happy to be bringing back all of the original ‘Kids’ for the new series.”

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“We’ve been investing in Canada for several years and are excited to add to that momentum by making ‘The Kids in the Hall’ the first Canadian Amazon Original series,” said James Farrell, VP of international originals for Amazon Studios, in a statement. “‘The Kids in the Hall’ is an iconic show with a deep-rooted fan base. Several of our global hits, including ‘The Boys,’ ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ and ‘The Expanse’ have been filmed in Canada, and we are looking forward to continuing our work with talented producers and crew teams across the country to bring this series to our Prime members around the world.”

 

Amazon Prime Video’s NFL Deal Ends; League Coy on Successor

Amazon Prime Video has streamed NFL Thursday Night Football for the past two seasons. Whether that groundbreaking deal is renewed remains up in the air, according to media reports.

Prime Video, unlike Netflix or Hulu, has embraced live sports recently signing exclusive rights to English Premier League soccer. The New York Yankees reportedly are in discussions with Amazon to become the first MLB team to stream games directly to viewers who don’t have a pay-TV subscription.

The NFL is concerned whether Amazon can handle the capacity required to stream games to millions of viewers simultaneously — an interesting concern considering ESPN’s challenges streaming the Clemson, LSU college football national championship game on Jan. 13.

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“What Amazon’s doing over the next few weeks in the U.K. with their Premier League package will be very interesting to watch,” Brian Rolapp, EVP of media with the NFL, told a confab last month, as reported by Sports Business Daily. “They’re getting some pretty high ‘concurrents’ there.”

Rolapp said the NFL doubted any streaming service had the capacity to handle 25 million people simultaneously streaming a single game, much less in high-definition.

“It’s not just technical capacity the league is looking for. Production and promotion are just as important, he said. “In order to hold an NFL package, you’re … going to have to be able to distribute it at a high level of quality — no fan is going to accept less than HD, high-res all the time. You’re going to have to sell it from an advertising standpoint and market it. So we need to see that from any partner, and be satisfied with that before we entrust any game package to them.”

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Regardless, it’s likely money will play as important consideration going forward. Both DAZN and YouTube TV have expressed interest in football, with the latter a sponsor and distributor of Major League Baseball post-season games and World Series.

DAZN, of course, inked an exclusive deal with Mexican fighter Canelo Alvarez worth a reported $365 million.

Rolapp told the confab the NFL remains primarily interested in reaching viewers and fans across multiple distribution channels.

“We will not sacrifice reach for something less valuable, including a higher rights fee,” he said. “We will maximize our reach. We think we can get both, but the reach is really important.”

 

Amazon Ups Q3 Online Store Sales 21%

Amazon Oct. 24 announced third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) online store revenue of $35 billion, which was 21% higher than $29 billion in revenue in the previous-year period.

Online stores include product sales and digital media content available in both a physical (DVD and Blu-ray Disc) and digital format, such as books, music, videos, games and software sold on a transactional basis.

Subscription services revenue, which includes annual and monthly fees associated with Prime memberships, as well as audiobook, digital movies, e-book, digital music and other non-AWS subscription services, increased 34% to $4.95 billion compared to $3.69 billion last year.

Other Q3 highlights featured a new line up of Echo personal speakers; 20 new Fire TV products, including the first Fire TV Edition soundbar; the all-new Fire TV Cube, the fastest and most powerful Fire TV ever; the first OLED Fire TV Edition smart TV; and the first Fire TV Edition smart TV with far-field Alexa voice control.

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Fire TV announced more than 37 million active users worldwide and continues to be the No. 1 selling family of streaming media players in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and India.

The e-commerce behemoth introduced the all-new eero mesh WiFi system, which offers simple, reliable WiFi for streaming, gaming, and working from home — all for $99. The mesh WiFi system replaces your existing router and extends WiFi coverage seamlessly throughout your home, according to Amazon. In addition, eero is expanding to Europe — customers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom will be able to try the eero and eero Pro in early November.

Prime Video won 15 Emmy awards, with “Fleabag” receiving four, including Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Prime Video premiered four new Amazon Original series: “The Boys,” “Carnival Row,” “Undone” and “Modern Love.” In addition, Prime Video will see the return of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski, on Nov. 1; “The Man in the High Castle,” from author Philip K. Dick, on Nov. 15; “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” recent winner of eight Emmy awards, on Dec. 6; and the relaunch of series “The Expanse,” with an all-new season four, on Dec. 13.

Prime Video launched its third season of “NFL Thursday Night Football” with new features, such as Next Gen Stats on X-Ray, which gives fans access to deeper analytics and allows football fans all over the globe to customize their Thursday Night Football streaming experience.

Prime Video continues to create local Original Series around the world, including “All or Nothing: Brazil National Football Team” and “Soltos em Floripa” in Brazil; “El Juego de las Llaves” and “Derbez Family Vacation” in Mexico; “LOL: Last One Laughing” in Australia; “Truth Seekers” in the United Kingdom; “Inside Borussia Dortmund” in Germany; “El Corazón de Sergio Ramos” in Spain; “The Family Man” in India; and season three of “The Bachelor” in Japan.

Reports: Amazon Prime App Unavailable on Apple TV and iOS App Store

The Amazon Prime Video app disappeared Friday, Oct. 4, from Apple’s app store and Apple TV, according to news and social media reports.

“The developer has removed this app from the App Store,” is the notice that many mobile users received, according to reports. “Item not available” was another message when trying to download the app.

The app was also missing from Apple TV, according to reports.

It was a temporary glitch, according to Amazon.

“Earlier today, there was a technical glitch that impacted the Prime Video app on iOS and tvOS devices. The issue has been resolved, and the Prime Video app is now once again available in the App Store,” read an Amazon statement.

The glitch comes as Apple plans to launch its own streaming service, Apple TV+, Nov. 1 at $4.99.

Disney, too, is entering the market with Disney+ Nov. 12, and its CEO Bob Iger resigned from Apple’s board Sept. 10, the day the tech giant announced details about the pricing and release of its streaming service.

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In another streaming dustup, Disney is reportedly banning Netflix ads from all of its entertainment TV networks, including ABC, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Final Season of ‘Poldark’ Streaming on PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Sept. 30

PBS Distribution debuts the fifth and final season of “Poldark” on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel Sept. 30.

It’s a new century and with it comes the promise of a hopeful future, but the past casts a long shadow over Cornwall. Following the death of Elizabeth, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) resolves to put Westminster behind him and spend more time with the people he loves. However, when an old friend needs help, Ross is compelled to challenge the establishment and question his own loyalties to king and country. As the Enyses (Luke Norris and Gabriella Wilde) rally to join the cause, Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) must contend with dangers close to home, while George (Jack Farthing) courts corrupt powers whose influence spans the Empire.

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The subscription rate for PBS Masterpiece is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Amazon Punts on Ad-Supported Prime Video

As early pioneers of subscription video-on-demand, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu command a lions share of North American over-the-top video consumers.

Yet other than Hulu’s basic subscription plan, none of the services feature advertising – despite collectively having more than 100 million domestic subs.

With original content costs skyrocketing, industry analysts contend it’s only a matter of time before Netflix & Co. welcome Madison Ave.’s fiscal largess.

When asked on the July 25 fiscal call whether Amazon (i.e. Prime Video) might become a “bigger player” in video advertising, Dave Fildes, director of investor relations, largely avoided giving a straight answer.

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“We’ve taken some steps with live sports and [ad-supported subsidiary] IMDb TV, but we’ll continue to do things like add more OTT video supply, things like Amazon Publisher Services integrations and simplifying access for third-party apps and add more inventory through things like Fire TV apps and IMDb TV,” Fildes said.

Translation: Don’t expect to see ads on Prime Video anytime soon.

Instead, Amazon plans to focus ad-revenue growth through a suite of cloud-based platforms such as Publisher Services, which feature “transparent” ad marketplaces for mobile apps and intel “insights” on third-party consumers, among other features.

“It’s a matter of continuing to work with advertisers and brands and kind of building up not only awareness, but how things like sponsored products interact with customers and how they [perceive] them,” Fildes said.

Indeed, Netflix contends subscribers would react negatively to ads.

“We believe we will have a more valuable business in the long term by staying out of competing for ad revenue and instead entirely focusing on competing for viewer satisfaction,” CEO Reed Hastings said on the SVOD behemoth’s recent call.

At the same time, NBC Universal is rolling out a branded ad-supported streaming service next April for Xfinity subscribers. Non-subs will be able to pay for access.

“Our service is … a very innovative way of coming into the market,” Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, said on Comcast’s July 25 fiscal call.

 

 

Amazon Ups Q2 Prime Subscription Revenue 37%, Online Media Sales 14%

Amazon July 25 said it increased second-quarter (ended June 30) Prime subscription revenue 37% to $4.67 billion from $3.4 billion during the previous-year period.

Subscription revenue includes annual and monthly fees associated with Prime memberships, as well as audiobook, digital movies, e-book, digital music, and other non-AWS subscription services.

The Prime membership also includes free access to Amazon Prime Video streaming service.

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Online store sales increased 14% to $31 billion from $27.1 billion last year.

Online stores revenue includes product sales and digital media content available in both a physical (DVD and Blu-ray Disc) and digital format, such as books, music, videos, games, and software sold on a transactional basis.

In the quarter Amazon Prime Video received 47 Emmy nominations for its original programming, more than double from last year, including 20 nominations for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and 11 nominations for “Fleabag.”

Prime Video premiered the Jonas Brothers documentary Chasing Happiness, and original series, “Good Omens,” based on the novel by Neil Gaiman.

In addition, Prime Video is set to debut original series “The Boys,” from creators Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen on July 26, and “Carnival Row,” starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, among others, on Aug. 30.

 

Season Four of “Grantchester,” Season One of “Walter Presents: Killer by the Lake” Coming in July to PBS Masterpiece’s Prime Video Channel

Two murder mystery crime thrillers, Grantchester: Season 4 and Walter Presents: Killer by the Lake — Season 1, will begin streaming in July on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel.

The fourth season of “Grantchester,” streaming starting July 15, marks the final appearance of James Norton as crime-solving Vicar Sidney Chambers and introduces Tom Brittney (“Outlander,” “Call the Midwife”) as new cast member Reverend Will Davenport.

Walter Presents: Killer by the Lake, Season 1

“Walter Presents: Killer by The Lake” is the follow up to the hit French thriller, “Vanished by the Lake.” The series revisits troubled detective Lise who has started a new life with her husband and baby. The happy, rural idyll is suddenly shattered with the discovery of two dead women. Season one starts streaming July 19.

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.