Streamed & Screened: Movie and TV Reviews and InterviewsStreamed & Screened: Movie and TV Reviews and Interviews

Sting brings classics to 'Message in a Bottle,' movie theater experiences and the ongoing actors strike

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It's usually a busy time for television programming, but the ongoing actors strike has continued to slow things down. Yes, late night talk shows have resumed. And sure, "Saturday Night Live" is back on the air. 

But unless programming was completed and ready to go, there is not much else besides sports and some unscripted shows that don't need actors. And when there are shows to promote, the stars can't speak with media.

But there are a few cases where celebrities can talk. Take Sting, legendary musician and frontman for The Police. He is out promoting "Message in a Bottle," which is coming to PBS and features his music. Tennis legend Billie Jean King is also talking about her projects, along with pickleball. 

So the co-hosts talk about that limited programming, the movie theater as an event and the state of the strike. And they look ahead to next week's episode where they will discuss "Lawmen: Bass Reeves," which is coming soon to Paramount+.

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About the show

Streamed & Screened is a podcast about movies and TV hosted by Bruce Miller, a longtime entertainment reporter who is now the editor of the Sioux City Journal in Iowa and Terry Lipshetz, a senior producer for Lee Enterprises based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Episode transcript

Note: The following transcript was created by Headliner and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Terry Lipshetz: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Streamed and Screened and entertainment podcast about movies and TV from Lee Enterprises, I'm Terry Lipshetz, a senior producer at Lee and co-host of the program with Bruce Miller, editor of the Sioux City Journal, longtime entertainment reporter. And I suspect he's bringing us a little message in the bottle this week. What do you say about that?

Bruce Miller: Message in the bottle? Yes, our dear friend Sting. But, I got to tell you, this is the strangest time. We talk about the actors striking and they're not working, and everybody's worried about that. We're not getting content. But there also is a whole other area that's being ignored, and that's the selling of all these shows. We don't get those actors doing interviews about the product that they do have out there, because that's part of the deal with the guild, is that you are not going to promote something that will bring money into the producers until they settle this strike. So, as a result, they don't offer up, actors to me to interview like they have in the past. It'll be people like producers, directors, costume designers, a whole raft of people that you probably don't hear from, which is great. It's interesting. It's a new wrinkle in all of this. But it does hurt some of those people who have spent a long time working on something. David Oyelowo has been trying to get a passion project about Bass Reeves done for eight years. And he got the money from Taylor Sheridan, the Yellowstone producer who's behind all of this. And no, it is not connected with any of the Yellowstone series. People, want to say that it's 1883, it's tied in, it's not. But he got his support in this. They hired a writer. They have other directors and producers and people behind it. And he is kind of the galvanizing force behind this whole thing. And now, because they're selling this, this is coming out the early part of November, he can't say anything, which I just isn't that just disheartening here? You your life working on this, and then others have to talk about it for you. And all those people are very open and generous about giving him credit for what he did and what he wants to say with this. It has a very special message. But this is like down the line. You are seeing different series like this where they'll offer up people to talk to you. There's a movie, coming out limited, this month, and then wide in November, the, Holdovers It stars Paul Giamatti and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and it's directed by Alexander Payne. And this is going to be a big Oscar contender. The actors, they're not talking, they're not able to say anything about this. But again, that's one of those says, you know, it just kills me that I can't talk with them here and they can hear all these things because they're not available to promote the film. And so I think that's one of the things we don't think know. You see Entertainment Tonight on TV at night, and they're raving about something, or Taylor Swift is running around and she's doing things know Travis Kelsey. And it looks like things are normal, and, they're not. But what that also does do is open the door for other people to get a little attention. And one of the ones I did get to talk to was, yeah, it's, a dance show called Message in a Bottle. It's based on his music. Sting, in case you didn't know, did not want to have a Jukebox musical written about his music. He thinks that's a dumb idea. It's a horrible idea. And if anybody suggested that, he'd just say, no, I'm not going to be a part of that. But they asked him if they could use his music for a dance show in London. And they would tell a story through dance with him singing in the background. It would be his voice over this overarching story that's all told in dance. And he thought, you know, that's an idea that sounds interesting. And they did a couple of numbers, pitched it to him and showed it to him. And he said, I'm in this I could do, because it's nothing I considered. It's not like all these other shows. It's something new and different. And for him, it was, a very moving experience. He said, I cried when I saw it the first time. Just me. And then he said, when I saw it with an audience, I cried again because I saw how emotional it was for them. But so, as a result, we're getting to talk to people like Sting. Come on, that's not bad, because he's not directly involved in it as a participant. Yes, they use his, Voicing tracks over this. But he's not sitting there singing. He's not a performer. He's, a subject of this. And then Billie Jean King has a series where she pairs up women in sports to talk about the struggle that they've had. And I got to talk to Billie Jean King. And that was fun. That's on PBS as well. So you're seeing this kind of shift to people behind the cameras maybe getting attention. And this is a good idea.

Bruce Miller: This is good to give them that kind of attention. Fargo is coming out, and they've offered up people in Costuming and hair and makeup. And you go, who cares about the hair and makeup in Fargo, right? It has a very important part of this year's episodes, and I wish I could tell you more about that. But they won't be bad people to talk to because it's very involved. There are things that happen in the new series of Fargo that involve hair and makeup and Costuming that you go, wow, how did they pull that off. Yeah. So they will be interesting people to talk to that we probably wouldn't if they said, well, we've got John Hamm to interview. Would you like to talk to John Hamm? And you go, of course I want to talk to Jon Hamm. But maybe this will be a wakeup call for those who are scheduling these things into looking, up beyond the star names and down the line a little bit more. Because a lot of people put a lot of effort into these films and series and whatnot, and they don't get any attention whatsoever. Maybe during the time of awards, where there's a category, you might see one of the trade papers do a special edition about costuming, and then they talk to the costume designers of the top ten films and maybe they'll get a nomination for something. But for the most part, those people toil in anonymity they don't get a chance to get the spotlight. So we'll see what happens. But it is fascinating for the time. But I don't want to go two, three, four years talking to editors and composers and directors when easily the actors are there and they can talk about their contributions.

Terry Lipshetz: At least with someone like Sting, who is very well known as a solo artist with the Police Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He did act also. He was in, I think, Dune, in the 80s. So he is a very well known subject. So he can speak very well to that type of program. And then you get someone like Billie Jean King, who, of course, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Getting someone like her on the record, it's like getting an A list actor, of course.

Bruce Miller: And she's fun because I said, what do you think of pickleball? Come on. Isn't pickleball kind of trying to edge tennis out of the way? And she says, oh, Pickleball. She said, I hate the sound of the ball hitting the racket. She said, there's something so marvelous about hearing a tennis racket and a tennis ball. But, a pickleball, it's hard. The racket is hard. And she says, you just hear this in your head all the time, and it drives you crazy. But she said they also have more injuries in pickleball than they do in anything else.

Terry Lipshetz: Really?

Bruce Miller: Yeah. She said a lot of her friends she said it's good that they're trying it because they're getting active and they're moving, but they're not, reducing injuries at all.

Terry Lipshetz: Wow. Because I've heard quite the opposite that pickleball is a good way to keep seniors active. I know even my mom, who's had both knees replaced and I think a hip as well. She's joined the pickleball phenomena as well.

Bruce Miller: There you go.

Terry Lipshetz: Everybody's doing pickleball.

Bruce Miller: Billie Jean's worried about her.

Terry Lipshetz: I'll let her know with the Billie Jean King, is that getting into the battle of the sexes?

Bruce Miller: Because that's it's the anniversary of Title IX or beyond the anniversary of Title IX. And she thought it would be a great idea to pair up other kind of pioneers in different fields to find equality and what they had to go through. And she talks to the, soccer players that were Olympic medalists and what their lives were like. And they talk about the things like, we were getting $10 a day to play soccer. And that's basically just our food money. And what can you buy for $10? You'll be eating junk food. SUNY Lee, who is, a gold medalist from the last Olympics, and she talks about her challenges and what she faced after she came home, as an Olympic gold medalist. So you have these pairs of people who are kind of weighing in on what the situation has been. And if it goes well, I think it's two episodes. If it goes well, that will then maybe lead to a frequent series of face offs between different people.

Where is streaming going? What is the benefit of going to the theater

Bruce Miller: This weekend, there is a film that's, premiering on Peacock that also is in theaters. And so you're seeing this again. We're wondering, where is streaming going? What is happening with all of this? How many times will I go to theater? What will I go to the theater for? What is the benefit of going to the theater? And I don't know if you have had any remodeling done at theaters near you, but I have near mine. And all of the seats are recliners that are heated. And they have, like, a full menu of food, which I don't remember when I was growing up at all, the only place you could get food was at a drive in theater. And now you don't find drive in theaters anymore. But the drinks that they're offering, it's a bar. And at my theater, they end up the kids who are under 18 or under 21 or whatever age they need to be to be able to serve beverages, adult beverages suddenly can't stand over by the liquor. They can't be near that in any way. And so there's like, the kid who's chosen to be the liquor kid. And so if you order popcorn and a drink, they've got to go call on the guy who is the liquor guy, and he has to do the drink for you. So I find that just kind of fascinating because it will change. And then in the lobby, there are so many games, there are so many claws that you're grabbing at for it's like a carnival. It's a carnival. Yeah.

Terry Lipshetz: It feels like movie theaters today. They're almost going toward becoming like an arena or a stadium for a sporting event. And we've talked about this in the past, where movies are going to be more of an event. Right. You'll pick and choose which ones you're going to go to. Kind of like a sporting event. I'm a huge baseball fan. I probably watch 100 plus baseball games a season from my couch. But I only go to the stadium two, three, four times a year. Kind of like going to a movie theater at this point for me as well. So then you're going to spend okay, I'm going to spend $1015 per ticket, and I'm going to spend on pizza and, maybe a hamburger and a chicken sandwich. Then it becomes more than just getting a bucket of popcorn and the Raisinets, which I hate. I hate Raisinets.

Bruce Miller: Yeah, I don't like those either. No, I don't like Milk Duds either. So if you're a Milk Dud person.

Terry Lipshetz: Sorry, do you like those little the Sno-Caps? The nonpareils?

Bruce Miller: No, that's an old person's thing. I am. But there you are. But that would be one like, mom would get it and you go, oh god, this is not I don't care for it. Thank you. You can have them. I'm good. Yeah, I'm of the era where we brought the candy to the.

Terry Lipshetz: Know. You talk about the remodeling. I'm actually really worried about the AMC Theater. That's literally 2 miles from my house, maybe even less a mile, because it's older and it feels like they never will. And even during COVID when a lot of places were shut down, theaters were shut down, a lot of people would complain to the Village because they were letting their parking lot get overgrown. Now, they still seem to be doing okay. I mean, I drove by last weekend when the Taylor Swift movie opened, and that place was packed and every Showtime was sold out. But a lot of times when I go there, it's in a weird place. It's not near Milwaukee. It's not near Madison. It's kind of in the middle of the suburbs. And it feels like it may not survive. And I might have to drive 30 minutes to a theater.

Bruce Miller: We had an AMC here that they did four screens to see what would it be like? And they remodeled the four screens and it went well. And then they went and did another four. So it kept going in increments. And finally they got it all remodeled. So it could be just their time. It isn't their time yet. But I think look at the Taylor Swift movie that is a pure example of all of this AMC was they, made a direct deal with Taylor Swift. Right. And to get that in and two weeks in a row, number one movie. Now, come on. And again, it goes back to my philosophy is it has to be an event. If it's an event thing, you are going to go out of your comfort zone. And you're not going to sit at home and watch it on some streaming channel. You are going to go out. You want to see that. You want to be a part of that event. And as I noticed, they're spending money. If I'm sitting. 1989. Was that what the ticket price was?

Terry Lipshetz: Right.

Bruce Miller: Like that because of her album, right? Okay, so I'm in for $20. Then we're making an event of it. So I'm not going to just sit there and say, no, I'll have water. You're not going to do that. You'll get a beverage. And if you're an adult that has to bring a bunch of little girls with you'll, get the adult beverage from the kid able to handle that for you. Yeah. And so you're going to make a little more of it, but you probably won't go as often. That's the real stickler of this. In my day, we would go at least twice a week to the movies because there'd be more than two movies that were new each week. And I would, usually go on a Friday and go on a Sunday. And that is so out of the realm of anything today. If I go once a week to a movie theater as just a regular patron, that's saying something. And I'm one who goes to all of the movies because they don't have that much content available.

Hallmark has started the Christmas movies

Bruce Miller: Or if they do have the content, I can get it in an easier form. I don't need to see it at a theater. But I do think they're stepping up their game and they're making it more attractive. You know how you always would complain it's kind of dark, like they need a new bulb in their project, or, it's fuzzy, they didn't focus it. Or I'm sticky on the floor. Those things you don't see that much anymore. And, they do make a big effort of bringing in the blow guns and everything and cleaning up the place before you get in there. But then you also don't have the ability to sit all day long. I remember going to a theater and you'd say, I want to see this again. And you just sit still, and it start in, like, ten minutes.

Terry Lipshetz: Right?

Bruce Miller: So that doesn't happen.

Terry Lipshetz: No.

Bruce Miller: Hear you out, and they make sure that you're out of there. But it is a shift, and I'm wondering what's going to happen now. We're getting into the big Oscar movie, period. I mean, there is a lot that's on the agenda that's supposed to be coming in the next two months, and big, big names and the idea that they're going to muzzle these people. They have to get this solved quickly. It's almost like finding the speaker of the House. It’s like it has to happen. This is too much.

Terry Lipshetz: It's weird, too, because there's a lot of competing forces. Because all of a sudden, after the writer strike ended, we knew, obviously, that late night TV would come, know Jimmy Fallon was back, john Oliver was back. But then all of a sudden, Saturday Night Live came back, and I had to do a double take, like, well, wait a second. How is Saturday Night Live back? Because these are actors. And it turns out that the show well, it's covered by a different contract. It's more like late night it's under the late night TV game show, whatever weird. But it's not these are actors acting. So how can we have these actors? So are we going to get nothing but a bunch of variety shows now? But it's really strange. And it just feels like, this has got to get worked out soon because you can't and then I know actors, too, can go overseas because there's certain obviously in Europe there's different contracts, there's different mean. You know, production of films in the UK. Or EU haven't necessarily shut down like they have over here.

Bruce Miller: Could you really call bad Bunny an? I mean, but yeah, look at, the talk shows at night. They aren't asking people from films or TV shows to come and be their guests. They’ve been doing a lot of Broadway people. I noticed that Josh Groban has been making the rounds and he's in Sweeney Todd on Broadway. And, that's not covered. We've seen the cast, Daniel Radcliffe. Jonathan Groff. So you'll see those people kind of they're actors, but they're not in a film. They're not in a so you're and you'll see athletes and musicians. They're going to make, hey, well, this is all going on, but who knows what will happen? The other thing that I think you did not realize is that we have started the Christmas movies. Hallmark is like hardcore. And I think they have new movies every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, maybe Sunday. I don't know. Do you have to get stuck into that?

Terry Lipshetz: No, my wife doesn't watch those Hallmark Christmas movies. Or at least I don't think if she does, she's watching them without me because I get stuck in the kids ones. We will watch whatever ones come out on Netflix or Hulu or TV or but, but even, at least with them, they're middle schoolers now. So some of that stuff is just baby stuff. It's little kids stuff. So we're not going to watch that. But it is coming on fast. I know my wife and one of my daughters went just to Kohl's the other day to do clothing shopping. And they came back and they said Christmas music was playing in the store. You got to be kidding me. It's not even Halloween.

Bruce Miller: We had Christmas in July. Remember that? They were allowed buying all those Christmas movies in July. And now suddenly it's the real time. But Christmas is not that far away. If you add up the days, it's not like that long from now. So they're getting deep into it with the Hallmark Channel. And nothing stops those people. I'm sure they're making them in Yugoslavia or God knows where, just to make sure that they can get like 153,000,000 Christmas films done all, on basically the same set, saying the same things with just different people. Who were in a different career. It's always somebody comes home to a small town and realizes that, oh, I really do kind of like it here. I don't need to be a high paced business person in New York City. I can live in East Overshoot, Tennessee, and I can be a know who's happy here. With whomever? The local cobbler. I will marry the local cobbler and that'll be my life.

Terry Lipshetz: And Reba McIntyre is your mother.

Bruce Miller: I have found that with those, I'll sit and start watching one and I fall asleep and I wake and it's a different one and it's the same thing. So if you worry about, the resolution, no problem. It's there.

When would the actors strike end?

Terry Lipshetz: My biggest concern right now is when we had this discussion several months ago regarding when would the actor strike end and you were a little bit more optimistic about it than I was. No, I'm starting to think like I might be right on, on this one. I don't remember the exact date, but I thought it was going to be like late November is when they would nail it down. Because at that point everyone would head into freak out mode knowing that NFL is about to end, college football is about to then, you know, there's nothing. It's, it's NBA, NHL, and not a whole lot else until baseball season resumes. And those aren't exactly huge, TV drivers either. We're running out of and CW.

Bruce Miller: Look at the CW. They are grabbing everything from every country. They've just announced a couple of new series from, you know, aren't those always on BBC or BBC America or something? So we see them somewhere else, but now they're picking up whatever strays they can find and they're sticking it on the CW. And so I think until the content runs out, you know, we're going to see Korean shows and we're going to see just everything until they're ready to blink. And when they blink, I don't know what will happen. The folks in New York say that Broadway is suffering because it's too expensive and people are not seeing that as an. You know, you always thought, well, maybe they could film some of those things and throw them on some streaming service, whatever. But that doesn't seem to be like another pool for them to pick from. So the bottom line is they've got to get this stopped. Otherwise we're going to run out of talent. Talent will switch to something else. I don't know if you follow these things, but a lot of actors that you might have seen on some shows realize they can't get work and they end up becoming real estate salespeople. And so the actor that you liked in whatever sitcom is suddenly selling real estate now in Los Angeles and probably making more money is more secure than he was ever before. And you think, wow, you would turn on this thing that was your lifelong dream. Because everything's going bust in your business. And I think that's one of the things they'll look at. You will lose actors that you were fond of because they can't find the place to go.

Next week, we talk about a new series from Taylor Sheridan called Lawmen: Bass Reeves

Terry Lipshetz: On that note, anything else? We have Sting. We have Billie Jean King. I know we'll look forward in the coming weeks to things like Fargo.

Bruce Miller: Yeah. Next week, I do want to introduce you to the people from Lawman, Bass Reeves. It's a new series, a limited series that's from the Taylor Sheridan kind of house.

Terry Lipshetz: Right.

Bruce Miller: And in there, we are able to talk to, one of the directors. One of the directors who considers himself a reggae director oh, nice. And how he brings that sensibility to the series. And then also the guy who wrote the series. And he worked very closely with David in terms of what do you want to say with this and what is coming out of this. They had a lot of research. They went down the road about everything they could find about Bass Reeves, and then they decided, okay, but there's got to be another kind of overriding story that we're going to tell with this. And what is that overriding story? And you'll hear from them next week. But I do want you to get into this because it's going to be a big thing, Paramount Plus. And, they do talk about where does it fit with Yellowstone.

Terry Lipshetz: Okay. Yeah. And that's good, because we'll talk more about that next week because my wife, she signed up for something. And we do have, like, a 30 day trial if we want, of Paramount Plus. And I did see that Bass reuse trailer, and I thought, that looks kind of interesting. And I have not seen any of the Yellowstone series. So is it maybe worth my time? So maybe we could talk about that next week.

Bruce Miller: When you see it, you're going to go, wow, look how lavish this is. It really looks like a huge movie, huge cast, great sets, a lot of buffalo, if you can believe that.

Terry Lipshetz: yeah.

Bruce Miller: And so we'll talk more about it because I want that one to hit your radar. I want you to think about that, and then we'll talk about some of the other new movies and things that are coming out.

Terry Lipshetz: Sounds good. All right, well, on that note, thanks again, and we will see you again next week on another other episode of, Streamed and Screened.

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