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Playing to families

Culture | Netflix says it’s developing more family-friendly content after recent shows hit a nerve
by Laura Finch
Posted 8/03/18, 03:54 pm

After angering some pro-family audiences with recent programming, Netflix this week promised to release more shows that appeal to families and people of faith.

Viewers recently have had several good reasons to criticize the streaming service: Last month, comedian Michelle Wolf held a “salute to abortion” on her daily Netflix variety show; in early June, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to criticism of a drama depicting teen suicide by commenting, “Nobody has to watch it”; and with last month’s release of Anne with an E, Season 2, Netflix raised the ire of conservatives, book purists, and smaller Christian media outlets—though not as much as one might expect, considering multiple homosexual storylines.

Netflix rarely discloses viewership numbers, though they track them obsessively. The company can identify, down to the subscriber, who is watching what content, how often, and in how much time. (In 2015, Netflix said it had identified one watcher who streamed an entire season of House of Cards—13 episodes—in the first 13 hours after its release, with only three minutes of break time.)

The numbers must be telling Netflix that more family-oriented shows will perform well. On Sunday, Cindy Holland, the company’s vice president of original series, told reporters that families are an important audience for Netflix, and that it was “focused on really building out a robust slate of family-friendly programming.” When pressed about what kind of programing, she gave no specifics.

“We have 109 million members and they’re not all going to like the same things,” Holland told The Hollywood Reporter in December. “We have a good opportunity to provide a really broad, diverse, and deep slate of programming. We’re creating 50 series that are very different from each other. Maybe a member will like two or three of them, maybe they’ll like 10 of them. But most folks aren’t going to want to watch all of the same things.”

One show that’s rumored to be in the works: a series based on the Amish book series, Big Sky. Brian Bird, who also created When Calls the Heart, The Case for Christ, and Touched by an Angel, is slated to produce the project.

Associated Press/Photo by Richard Drew (file) Associated Press/Photo by Richard Drew (file) Former Trump administration official Manigault Newman speaks at a New York event in 2017

On the shelves

A tell-all by a former protégé of President Donald Trump will come out on Aug. 14, publisher Gallery Books has announced. Unhinged is by Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice who then served in the White House in the administration’s early days. She quit after a year, saying she was worried about the country and would never vote for Trump again. Predictably, Gallery Books called the memoir “explosive” and “jaw-dropping.”

Manigault Newman joins a queue of former White House employees looking to cash in with book deals. Journalist Michael Wolff set the stage with Fire and Fury earlier this year. Mainstream journalists—MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski for one—who typically salivate at the slightest presidential gaffe dismissed his book as gossipy and error-ridden. But Wolff laughed all the way to the bank: Fire and Fury debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list and was the most popular book to date for publisher Henry Holt and Company. Deals have already been made for a movie and a sequel. Though Wolff insisted the goal of the book was to prove Trump unfit for the presidency, he also admitted to blogger Erik Wemple that Trump had been his golden goose.

Since then, former FBI Director James Comey and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer have put out books. Anthony Scaramucci, who served as White House communications director for 10 days in 2017, has one due out this fall. As columnist Mollie Goodfellow wrote in The Independent, this presidency “has been a great boost to former Trump colleagues looking to get into the book trade.” —Lynde Langdon

Associated Press/ Photo by Nick Briggs/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 Associated Press/ Photo by Nick Briggs/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 The cast of Downton Abbey

At the movies

Fans have waited with the steadfast sensibility of a British noble since rumors surfaced a year ago that a Downton Abbey film was in the works. Focus Features finally confirmed the film’s production this month. The movie will feature the original cast of the critically acclaimed TV series, a high-brow soap opera set between 1912 and 1926 that aired on PBS in the United States. —L.L.

Nothing new under the sun

Ever feel like the photos your friends post online all look the same? The Instagram account insta_repeat compiles montages of lookalike posts to prove that, sadly, we are not as original as we’d like to think. —L.L.

A final challenge

Actor Alan Alda, 82, says he has Parkinson’s disease. The former M.A.S.H. star said on CBS This Morning that he was diagnosed three and a half years ago. Alda said he’s not angry, and considers it a challenge. He saw his thumb twitch while watching interviews he had done and thought, “It’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story on this from a sad point of view, but that’s not where I am.” —Les Sillars

Laura Finch

Laura is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course.

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