Amazon Prime’s ‘The Candidate’ A Showcase for Mexico City, Executive Producer Says

Award-winning writer/producer Peter Blake, whose credits include “House,” “Billions,” “The Practice” and “ZeroZeroZero,” trains his sights on Mexico’s narco violence and political corruption in bilingual series “El Candidato” (“The Candidate”), which bowed on Amazon Prime in July.

“When we met with Peter, we found out he spoke Spanish — aside from other languages — and gave him carte blanche to explore how he wanted to create the series,” said executive producer Juan Rendon, who noted that Blake ran the writers’ room as well as penned some of the episodes.

“He had a very good understanding of Mexican current events and politics when we first sat to discuss the project,” added Rendon, who used to run the documentary division of U.S. Hispanic TV network Univision, where he came across a number of untapped stories.

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Made under the 2018 pact forged between Mexican TV giant Televisa and Amazon Prime to produce premium TV content, “El Candidato” follows two CIA agents, one a grizzled vet played by James Purefoy (“Rome”) bent on capturing an omnipotent drug lord played by Joaquin Cosio (“The Strain,” “Narcos: Mexico”), and the other a rookie (Eréndira Ibarra of “Sense8”). The candidate in question is a mayor with presidential ambitions, played by José María de Tavira, whose TV credits include “Rosario Tijeras” and “Diablo Guardian.”

The rookie is given the unenviable mission to find out the connections between the mayor, her old flame and the drug kingpin.

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The series showcases Mexico City as the vibrant, wealthy metropolis that it is. “It’s almost a separate character in the show,” said Rendon, who applauds Blake for bringing a “well-crafted writing structure” to the series.

Shot on location between November 2018 and March 2019, “El Candidato” boasts a formidable production team led by co-directors Jaime Reynoso, who’s worked on big budget films shot in Mexico such as Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, and Humberto Hinojosa, whose credits include “Luis Miguel: The Series” and “La Hermandad.”

Its stable of writers includes Ted Cohen (“Veep”), Max Hurwitz (“ZeroZeroZero”), Katherine Walczak (“The Flash’), Daniel Krauze (“Luis Miguel: The Series”), David Chasteen and Eva Aridjis (The Favor).

“El Candidato” also counts on the vast experience of one of Mexico’s most sought-after production managers/producers, Stacy Perskie, who has worked on a number of high-profile projects shot in Mexico, including “Narcos: Mexico,” Elysium, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, noted for its astonishing Day of the Dead opening sequence in Mexico City.

While Amazon Prime does not give out viewing numbers, the reviews from Mexico have been first-rate. The show has stirred up considerable debate as it explores the extent of U.S. involvement in the country’s long painful struggle with narco violence and government corruption.

“The series discusses a lot of uncomfortable truths in Mexico,” said Rendon.

A second season has yet to be announced.

The Umbrella Academy: Season 2

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars Ellen Page, Tom Hooper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Colm Feore, Justin H. Min, Ritu Arya, Yusuf Gatewood, Marin Ireland, Kate Walsh.

Season two of the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy,” which debuted July 31, is a binge-worthy, action-packed, emotional roller coaster, although it suffers from a few contrived plot points.

As the season begins, the time jump that left us on the edge of our seats at the end of season one goes awry and scatters the superhero siblings in time in and around Dallas over a three-year period starting in 1960. Some, having been stuck in the past for years, have built lives and moved on, certain they’re the only ones who have survived.

The villains this time around are a trio named “The Swedes” who are there to prevent Five from again changing the timeline as it seems the siblings brought the apocalypse back with them. “The Swedes” fulfill the same role as the iconic Hazel and Cha-Cha from season one, but they lack the same charm and comedy that made the original duo such a great part of the show. This new trio seems to have a greater history that unfortunately doesn’t get explored, leaving us with little attachment to their story.

While we may not get much in terms of backstory on “The Swedes,” season two isn’t lacking in expanded history for the members of the Umbrella Academy. We get to see more background behind the interpersonal connections of the different siblings, as well as how it affects their interactions now. The characters we already grew to love in the first season only become more fleshed out.

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However, the plot sometimes bogs down in order to present the emotional aspect of the show. Some episodes seem stretched to fill the season, as certain conflicts feel unnecessarily manufactured.

Still, despite a few weaknesses, season two is a satisfying continuation to season one of the comic book-based series, and it leaves us waiting in anticipation for the future of the Hargreeves siblings and the Umbrella Academy.

Season Two of “The Umbrella Academy” (Christos Kalohoridis/Neflix)

Pluto TV Inks Deal to Bring AVOD Platform to LG Smart TVs

ViacomCBS-owned AVOD service Pluto TV has inked a global distribution deal with LG Electronics to bring its platform to LG’s smart TVs.

Pluto TV is now available on LG 2020 smart TV models in the United States, with rollouts on 2016 to 2019 models to begin in fall 2020. Expansion plans to other regions will be announced at a later date. Pluto TV currently has a global footprint spanning 22 countries.

Pluto TV content is featured via LG’s proprietary LG Channels feature offering access to more than 200 free streaming channels. Once fully integrated later this year, more than 99 Pluto TV channels will be available on LG smart TVs, according to the service.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring Pluto TV and our leadership in free, ad-supported streaming television to LG’s lineup of critically-acclaimed smart TVs,” Brendon Thomas, VP of distribution for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Through this partnership, we are excited to have another opportunity to accelerate our mission to entertain the planet by bringing an unparalleled lineup of programming, with instant discoverability through the LG Channels experience, to millions of LG users, for free.”

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“In the highly unusual times we are living in, people are turning to home entertainment in even larger numbers than ever before,” Matt Durgin, director of North America partnerships at LG Electronics, said in a statement. “With the debut of Pluto TV on LG smart TVs, our customers now have access to an even more expansive and diverse roster of free streaming content that will keep everyone entertained and engaged at home.”

Pluto TV delivers 100,000-plus hours of free content to an audience of more than 24 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone, according to the service. It includes hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of titles on demand featuring content from more than 200 major media partners.

Former Fox Animation and Marvel Exec Grant Gish to Join ViacomCBS Adult Animation Unit

ViacomCBS announced Marvel Studios and former Fox Animation executive Grant Gish will lead its new adult animation unit as SVP of adult animation, entertainment and youth brands, overseeing linear and streaming animation, effective Aug. 31.

Gish joins ViacomCBS on the heels of its expansion into adult animation, driven by such shows as “South Park” and upcoming reimaginings such as Mike Judge’s “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Jodie,” based on the classic MTV series “Daria.”

Gish helped develop the Emmy Award-winning animated series “Bob’s Burgers” and oversaw the Emmy-nominated “American Dad” during his tenure at Fox Animation. He joins ViacomCBS from Marvel Studios, where he launched the adult comedy and animation group within the former Marvel Television division. Gish spearheaded Marvel’s foray into half-hour comedy and adult animation with upcoming Hulu series “M.O.D.O.K.” and “Hit-Monkey.”

“Grant has incredible instincts and a supercharged passion for animation,” Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer for ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Along with his extraordinary reputation and impressive successes with some of the biggest hits in the genre, from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ to ‘American Dad’ — his vision is exactly what we’re looking for to lead our adult animation unit.”

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“I grew up on MTV’s Animation Studios content where I’d run home from school to watch ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ eating pretzels on my couch,” Gish said in a statement. “With access to such a vast library of IP that will enable us to break through the clutter coupled with the opportunity to create a fresh slate, I couldn’t be more excited to join the E&Y Group that’s growing in droves under Chris and Nina’s leadership.”

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“We are thrilled to have Grant lead our new adult animation unit as we expedite the rapid expansion of our adult animation content,” Chris McCarthy, president of ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Adult animation is an incredibly powerful asset that truly works on every platform and around the world. It’s also pandemic-proof, which is why we are reimaging many of our beloved iconic IPs, unlocking incredible value.”

Netflix to Bow Limited Series With Amy Adams and Adam McKay

Netflix has announced the limited-series drama “Kings of America” with Amy Adams and Adam McKay.

The series centers on the stories of three powerful women whose lives were inextricably intertwined with the world’s largest company: a Walmart heiress, a maverick executive, and a longtime Walmart saleswoman and preacher who dared to fight against the retail giant in the biggest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

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Adams (“Sharp Objects”) will star as one of the leads and executive produce via her production company Bond Group Entertainment along with Stacy O’Neil.

McKay (“Succession”) is attached to direct the first episode and executive produce along with Betsy Koch via Hyperobject Industries.

Adams and McKay most recently worked together on Vice, which went on to receive eight Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Adams. They first collaborated on McKay’s 2006 comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Netflix’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ Top Binge on TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” was the top binge, while the BBC’s “Get Even” was the top show on the rise on the TV Time charts for the week ended Aug. 2.

The second season of “The Umbrella Academy” hit screens July 31. The series, based on the comic books of the same name, follows a group of superheroes adopted at birth by a mysterious billionaire who face the end of the world. As season two begins, the time jump scatters the siblings in time in and around Dallas over a three-year period starting in 1960. Some, having been stuck in the past for years, have built lives and moved on, certain they’re the only ones who have survived. The series also came in at No. 2 on the rising show chart.

Top rising show “Get Even,” which streamed beginning in February on BBC’s iPlayer service, July 31 began streaming on Netflix. The British crime show follows four private school classmates who team up to expose schoolwide injustices.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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 Top Binge Shows Week Ended Aug. 2 by Share of Binges:

  1. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix) — 5.55%
  2. “Good Girls” (NBC) — 2.87%
  3. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 2.40
  4. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.53%
  5. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.46%
  6. “Dark” (Netflix) — 1.35%
  7. “How to Sell Drugs Online Fast” (Netflix) — 1.25%
  8. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.24%
  9. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.24%
  10. “Cursed” (Netflix) — 1.18%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Aug. 2 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Get Even” (BBC iPlayer) — 98.9%
  2. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix) — 97%
  3. “Locked Up: El Oasis” (Fox Espana) — 95.5%
  4. “Last Chance U” (Netflix) — 92.2%
  5. “Good Girls” (NBC) — 83.6%
  6. “Wynonna Earp” (Syfy) — 75.9%
  7. “Euphoria” (HBO) — 48.9%
  8. “Manifest” (NBC) — 25.3%
  9. “Shameless” (Showtime) — 24.2%
  10. “The Alienist” (TNT) — 19.3%

ViacomCBS Announces Fall Launch of EyeQ Ad Platform

ViacomCBS announced the planned fall 2020 launch of ViacomCBS EyeQ, a connected video advertising platform that will serve as a single transactional point of entry for digital video content from the company’s portfolio of broadcast, entertainment, news and sports networks, according to the company.

EyeQ will bring together all of the company’s connected video assets — including BET, CBS Television Network, CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pluto TV and VH1 — allowing advertisers to access a viewing audience that measures 50 million full-episode monthly unique viewers in the United States, and 150 million across all content and all devices, according to the company.

“The launch of EyeQ marks the arrival of one of the biggest premium video platforms in digital media,” John Halley, chief operating officer of advertising revenue at ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “In unifying the operating backend and go-to-market of three large pre-existing players — CBS Interactive, Pluto TV, and Viacom Video — we have consolidated a massive audience footprint that will deliver quality, scale, and capabilities that cannot be matched.”

“EyeQ is game changing,” David Lawenda, EVP of digital sales and strategy at ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “It is a portal into 50 million highly engaged, full-episode viewers watching our content each month, with 80% of the consumption happening on TV glass. And ViacomCBS can now offer unified buying and frequency control across all of that scale, which is aligned to the needs of an advertising marketplace that is increasingly focused on incremental reach.”

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EyeQ will simplify transactions and reporting across the company’s digital offering and will support a variety of transactional models depending on advertiser preference, including programmatic guaranteed and private marketplace. It will offer multiple lanes of activation, including:

  • content segments, allowing advertisers to verticalize spend under scaled content categories;
  • broad demos, allowing advertisers to maximize reach across all viewership and platforms;
  • strategic segments, allowing advertisers to leverage syndicated behavioral sets or custom audiences through ad platform Vantage; and
  • creative, allowing advertisers to customize immersive brand experiences for greater impact through integrations, custom creative, influencers, and live experiences.

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EyeQ will also introduce a new reporting infrastructure to provide real-time data and tactical campaign guidance for advertisers to track spending across platforms, according to the company. Additionally, EyeQ will offer a range of solutions to measure the effectiveness of campaigns, including ad quality metrics, brand lift, attribution and social sentiment.

Pluto TV to Add Spanish-Language Network Nuestra Vision

ViacomCBS’s AVOD service Pluto TV will add Nuestra Vision, a Spanish-language network featuring Mexican programming for Hispanic audiences living in the United States.

The channel will be featured within the Pluto TV Latino category — a dedicated lineup of more than 20 channels on the platform for U.S. Hispanic audiences.

“Through the exciting addition of Nuestra Vision to the Pluto TV platform, we continue expanding our distribution as part of our mission to reach our target audiences, with premium content directly from Mexico,” Victor Herrera da Silva, CEO of Nuestra Vision, said in a statement. “As audiences continue looking for new and affordable ways to consume their favorite content, there is a great demand to deliver entertaining premium content that is also easy to access, and free.”

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“As Pluto TV continues working towards our mission to entertain the planet, increasing our global reach and weaving cultural resonance into our programming is very important to us,” Amy Kuessner, SVP, Pluto TV content strategy and global partnerships, said in a statement. “This partnership will allow us to keep moving forward in increasing our appeal and availability to audiences abroad.”

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Nuestra Vision provides a family-friendly offering, featuring a large Mexican movie library composed of more than 2,300 movies spanning from the Golden Mexican Movie Era to recent productions. Nuestra Vision also features sports programming, including live games such as men and women soccer tournaments, football games, boxing, lucha libre, baseball, and MMA, together with sports news and content. It also offers news produced live, as well as shows and interviews with Mexican and international talent and celebrities.

Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante Says Making Political Horror Mash-Up ‘La Llorona’ Was ‘Stategic’

Hailed by Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) as one of 20 directors who will shape the cinema to come, Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante continues his stellar career trajectory with La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), the third installment of a trilogy that kicked off with his 2015 Berlinale Silver Bear winner, Ixcanul (Volcano).

Winner of Best Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival sidebar, Venice Days, La Llorona turns on the household of a retired general accused of spearheading the genocide of Mayan peasants decades ago, a clear reference to a similar case in Guatemala. As his wife, daughter and granddaughter take refuge with him, the house is besieged by protesters and his spooked domestic staff flees, with the exception of his devoted housekeeper. The arrival of a mysterious indigenous woman, who has answered the call for hired help, further spikes the atmosphere of dread.

La Llorona is Bustamante’s first foray into the horror genre. “Our decision to explore this genre was not so much artistic, as strategic,” said Bustamante who notes that Guatemalans are still in denial of the massacre of Mayan peasants during the government’s counterinsurgency operations in the early 1980s.

“A study revealed that Guatemalans consumed mostly horror and superhero movies, so we saw the genre as a way to bring the realities of our dark past to them,” he said. Bustamante drew on such references as Dracula, and the psychological suspense of Robert Eggers’ The Witch as well as Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. “I wanted the mythical figure of La Llorona to be elegant, like Dracula,” he said.

He reimagined the Latin American fable of a grieving mother seeking revenge for the death of her children to symbolize the victims of the genocide.

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“My three films represent what Guatemalans consider the three biggest insults,” said Bustamante who sees Ixcanul, which centers on a Mayan teen trying to own her sexuality and her pregnancy, embody the biggest insult you can hurl at a Guatemalan: “Indio!” Calling a Guatemalan “Indio,” despite the country’s overwhelming indigenous population, is considered a massive insult. “It just shows how we discriminate against ourselves, how low our self-esteem is,” he mused.

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His second film, Temblores (Tremors) epitomizes the slur ‘Hueco,’ which is a local derogatory term for gay. Temblores delves into the homophobia prevalent in conservative Guatemalan society as a well-to-do family seeks conversion therapy for its gay patriarch.

La Llorona embodies the third insult, “Communist,” which is a carryover of the 1950s sentiment against communism, which later devolved into accusing those advocating for human rights and for reducing Guatemala’s vast wealth gap as communists, said Bustamante.

All three films touch on social inequality, racism and the lack of opportunity in Guatemala.

La Llorona stars María Mercedes Coroy, Margarita Kénefic, Sabrina de la Hoz and Julio Díaz.

The film will be available Aug. 6 on Shudder in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Cinedigm Partners With Bloody Disgusting for Ad-Supported Horror Streaming Network

Cinedigm and horror Web brand Bloody Disgusting have partnered to launch a new AVOD and ad-supported linear horror streaming network set to premiere in time for the Halloween season.

The network will offer a free source for horror content, targeting genre enthusiasts and casual viewers alike, according to a press release.

Featuring a mix of horror classics, contemporary cult favorites, and original programming, the channel will “reflect the programming and curatorial sensibilities” of Bloody Disgusting and the technology and distribution capabilities of Cinedigm, according to the release. Cinedigm will push the channel to more than 60 partners globally, which includes distribution partners such as Vizio, Samsung, Xumo and Tubi.

Horror is one of the most popular entertainment genres worldwide, representing over 9% of all film and entertainment spending and generating more than $1.2B in global ticket sales in 2019, according to the release.

“Despite a huge, mainstream fanbase, there is no dedicated ad-supported horror network on either basic cable or via linear OTT distribution,” according to the release. “Bloody Disgusting’s launch will fill an important void for operators in this popular genre.”

For nearly 20 years, Bloody Disgusting has been a destination for horror aficionados with an audience of more than 20 million dedicated fans seeking coverage of all things horror. The Chicago-based media company produces a namesake website and mobile app, and also produces the weekly show on YouTube “This Week in Horror” with a social footprint of more than 2 million engaged fans. Bloody Disgusting has also both produced and distributed films in the horror genre, including the Sundance Film Festival films V/H/S, V/H/S/2 and The Woman, as well as the TIFF Midnight Madness film Southbound.

The Bloody Disgusting channel will celebrate horror alongside feature presentations of their original films. New programming from Jon Grilz’ “Creepy,” “Bloody Disgusting’s Boo Crew,” “SCP Archives,” “Horror Queers” and “This Week in Horror” will also debut on the network this October with special trick-or-treat events planned for Halloween.

Cinedigm will also provide content from its catalog, which includes horror titles such as The Collector, Psycho, White Zombie and “Tales from the Crypt” and foreign favorites such as Destroy All Monsters, World of Kanako and Tenebrae.

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Bloody Disgusting has had more than 1.6 million downloads over the last 30 days, according to the release. Its podcasts regularly chart in the top 20 in their respective categories (Fiction, Film Review, and Film Interview). “Creepy” charts in the top five in fiction and is in the top 20 of all podcasts during the Halloween season. Both current and new podcasts will be made available in the consumer iOS and Android apps in addition to film and television programming. The company further expects to include additional mixed media content, including eBooks, comics and other content in the near future.

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“We are excited to bring our slate of original programming and network of podcasts to new audiences through this partnership. Cinedigm is the perfect partner to help bring this network to market,” said Tom Owen, president of Bloody Disgusting, in a statement.

“For nearly 20 years, Bloody Disgusting has been a leading tastemaker and the top media destination for the massive global horror fanbase,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Our goal is to partner with the market leader when we launch new channels, and in the horror genre, there is no better partner than Bloody Disgusting. We are excited to scare the hell out of the world together.”