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A 40-minute special dropped by Netflix on Sunday checks in with some of the tangential players of the runaway hit, with only minor revelations

Calling all you cool cats and kittens Tiger King is back. Well, kind of. After the outlandish series took the world of memes and quarantine streaming by storm since its premiere in March, Netflix dropped a previously unplanned addendum on Sunday. The Tiger King and I, a special of short, softball interviews hosted by the comedian Joel McHale from his house in Los Angeles, featured interviews with eight people adjacent to Joe Exotic: Erik Cowie, Jeff and Lauren Lowe, John Reinke, Kelci Saff Saffery, Joshua Dial, John Finlay and Rick Kirkham.

McHale, a breezy interviewer in AirPods, mostly avoided the shows more controversial topics; if youre looking for further investigation into Joes crimes, the death of Carole Baskins ex-husband or the mistreatment of big cats in the US, this is not the place. But if 40 minutes of popcorn-style interviews (how many leather jackets does Jeff Lowe own? How are Finlays new teeth?) then Netflix has you covered. The Tiger King and I lacked the type of bombshells that characterized the series (as well as its directors, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin) but did provide some small updates on life after Tiger King memedom. What, if anything, did we learn? (For those who havent seen, Tiger King spoilers ahead.)

Disputed portrayals

Photograph: Netflix

Several participants have aired grievances with their portrayals in the series, most notably the big cat owner Bhagavan Doc Antle and Joes arch-nemesis Baskin, both of whom did not participate in the special. Baskin in particular took issue with the charge lobbied by several in the series (and fans online) that she killed her ex-husband, Don Lewis, in Florida. (Police have never charged her with the crime, though a sheriff in Florida has reopened the investigation; to date, tips have been fans with theories.)

On Sundays special, Lowe, the business partner who implicated Joe in his murder-for-hire conviction and took over his zoo, disputed his characterization. I think they tried to sensationalize the story a bit to give it a villain, he said. McHale was a light interviewer, treating Lowe more as a charming character rather than someone with a shady criminal history; he glossed over Lowes charges in Las Vegas (federal mail fraud and an illegal exotic animal business) but did ask about the couples nanny and Lowes wardrobe of leather jackets and Affliction T-shirts.

Dial, Joe Exotics campaign manager for his presidential and Oklahoma gubernatorial runs, disputed Lowes claim of unfairness: Truth hurts, he said, calling the series fair and balanced.

Saffery, a trans man who goes by Saff, said he wasnt too concerned about criticism of the show for misgendering him. I dont think it bothered me as much as it bothered everybody else, he said. I didnt really pay it any mind.

Joes ex-husband Finlay, who appeared mostly shirtless and with several missing teeth in the series (the result of meth use, which he discussed openly), told McHale he was not happy with his portrayal as a drugged-out hillbilly, since that was not me then. At that time, I was four to five years clean.

The toll of Joe Exotic

Photograph: USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images

Of course, most of the conversations revolved around Joe Exotic, the center of the series who has become a controversial hero to some viewers. High-profile fans such as Cardi B have suggested he was set up, and a question of pardoning Joe, legal name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, for his 22-year sentence in a murder-for-hire scheme against Baskin, has made it all the way to Donald Trump. McHale asked most of his guests if they were more loyal to Joe or the animals; Joe didnt get any takers. I think that justice was served, but I still dont want to see that man die in prison, said Saffery (though he said he would trust the tiger who bit his arm off over Joe).

Several also spoke to the lingering damage from their time in the Joe Exotic universe. Dial revealed that hes raising money for therapy to deal with the trauma of witnessing Joes husband Travis Maldonado accidentally shoot himself, point-blank, in 2017 Dials expression the moment he realizes Maldonados prank has gone horribly wrong, captured on security footage, is one of the seriess darkest and most tragic moments. Kirkham, who produced Joe Exotic TV for several years, said the attention from the series has caught up with him in Norway, where he now lives, but so have the nightmares. Despite the newfound fame from the hit series, I regret ever meeting Joe Exotic, he said.

Information holes ahead

Photograph: Netflix

The absence of the two major players in the series besides Joe, Baskin and Antle, went unmentioned by McHale; perhaps its because both have roundly criticized the series. Antle dismissed Tiger King as sensationalized entertainment with paid participants in a series of Instagram and Facebook posts, while Baskin posted a 3,000-word defense against the claim she fed her ex-husband to tigers. Neither of these disputes were mentioned. Instead, McHale simply asked the Lowes whether they thought Baskin killed her ex-husband, as Joe and many in his orbit long claimed. Unsurprisingly, they said yes.

Also missing from the special were James Garretson, Lowes former partner last seen riding into the sunset on a jetski, and Allen Glover, the alleged hitman hired by Joe to kill Baskin. Joe recently filed a malicious prosecution suit against both men, as well as Lowe and several others, in which he claims Lowe lied to authorities and planted evidence against him. This also went unmentioned.

Fantasy casting

Photograph: Netflix US/AFP via Getty Images

McHale jumped in to one of social medias favorite games since the series aired: who should play these outrageous real-life figures in the Hollywood adaptation? A scripted miniseries is already in the works with Saturday Night Lives Kate McKinnon slated to play Baskin, but other roles remain uncast. In Facebook posts somehow written while in prison, Joe has suggested Brad Pitt should play him. Asked by McHale to cast himself, Reinke picked Matthew McConaughey, Kirkham offered Billy Bob Thornton and Saffery offered Brandon Baker of Johnny Tsunami fame.

Big cats, little attention to cruelty

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Ranker, an online publisher that turns crowdsourced lists and fan rankings into a data business, is now turning its attention to the world of streaming services. The company this week launched a new app, Watchworthy, that helps you find something new to watch across TV networks and more than 200 streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Apple TV+ and many more.

Ranker, as you may already know, is the website that always pops up in search results when you’re looking for some sort of “best of” round-up — whether that’s in entertainment, music, sports, culture, history or across other topics. On the site, online visitors can vote on their favorites in categories as broad as the “best hip-hop artists” or as niche as the “best coconut oil brands.”

Ranker’s TV lists are among its more popular categories and one that makes the most sense for turning into an app. And right now, everyone is looking for something new to watch as we’re stuck indoors due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

While there are already a number of apps promising to offer TV recommendations — like Reelgood, TV Time, Yidio and JustWatch, for example — Watchworthy’s advantage is Ranker’s data powering its recommendations. Its machine learning platform applies first-party correlation data it has amassed over a decade from one billion votes on As the company explains, this makes its data more “statistically relevant.”

For example, its data indicates that “Better Call Saul” fans tend to like other gritty, dark dramas like “House of Cards,” “Ray Donovan” and “True Detective,” but also more cerebral comedies like “Nathan for You” and “High Maintenance.”

To figure out what sort of TV programs interest you, Watchworthy at first launch jumps you into a rating experience to provide it with your data. In 60 seconds, you fly through a ratings feature that uses a Tinder-like interface, where a right swipe is a “like” and a left swipe is a “dislike” (and up is “not sure”). After you thumbs up and down a selection of shows, you can begin to browse your recommendations.

In my test, this initial set of recommendations was already above average compared with some of the other apps I’ve tried. Your mileage may vary, of course, as it’s a highly personalized experience. Watchworthy may not have offered dozens of precise matches to my tastes at first, but it did remind me of several shows I had seen in passing and thought at some point I might like to try, as well as a few new discoveries.

Its suggestions are ranked by a “worthy” score that indicates the likelihood that the show is worthy of your time. You can also filter the list of recommendations by service, genre, run time and MPAA ratings.

The app got better after spending a little more time to like and dislike more shows and to personalize it as to which streaming services I was using. This allowed me to integrate recommendations from more sources — like HBO, Apple TV+, Disney+, Showtime and others.

However, I did get to the point where liking and disliking didn’t refine my recommendations further, so there is a limit to what Watchworthy can do. I also found the app to be a little lacking on the reality and nonfiction side of things. It tended to push recommendations of scripted shows, despite my having “liked” shows such as “The Great British Bake Off,” “Windy City Rehab” and “Queer Eye,” among others.

As you find shows you like in the app’s recommendations, you can add them to the universal watchlist in the app for easy access.

You can also create an account to save your data. Watchworthy at launch supports Apple’s private sign-in option, as well as Google, Facebook and email.

The homepage of the app also integrates Ranker’s existing TV lists. The website has more than 50,000 of these, but the app isn’t an endless scroll. Instead, it updates the home page with relevant, timely content. For example, today’s lists include “Shows For Self Quarantine,” “Shows To Distract You,” “Funniest Shows On Netflix,” “Best Family Shows On Amazon Prime” and other round-ups.

The new app serves not only as a discovery tool for TV viewers, cord-cutters and binge-watchers, but also as fuel for Ranker’s data collection business. Ranker licenses its data and insights to third-parties, like marketers, advertisers, researchers, developers and service providers. However, its data isn’t focused on demographics so much as it is on “psychographics” — meaning, your tastes. Ranker isn’t asking you for private information, only what you like.

In a way, Watchworthy serves as a demo app of what can be done with Ranker’s psychographic insights, in this case, for TV viewers. But the same sort of system could be built for other categories, like music, cooking, film, travel and more.

The company says this year it will also make its Watchworthy app available to connected devices, like Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. It also plans to add movie recommendations and shared watchlists.

Watchworthy is a free download on iOS with Android to come. On any mobile device, it works from

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Forget Nordic murder noir. Continuing our look at European culture, we find Scandinavian TVs new obsessions are go-getting young girls, wartime Royals and the Swedish origins of Spotify

Before 2011, it seemed inconceivable that the British could be gripped in their living rooms by subtitled TV drama, night after fraught night. Surely that was the stuff of arthouse cinema, not edge-of-the-seat primetime viewing. Then along came a trilogy of Scandinavian exports The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge and what was once niche entertainment became a nationwide obsession.

Soon, a single item of clothing was getting more attention in the British media than most series get in their entire life: Sarah Lund, the detective at the heart of The Killing, was as relentless in her wearing of Faroe Isle jumpers as she was in her pursuit of the murderer at large on the streets of Copenhagen. Scandi noir had arrived in Britain, and the connections it tapped into went much deeper than knitwear.

Relentless jumper wearer Sofie Grbl as detective Sarah Lund in The Killing. Photograph: Tine Harden/DR

According to Walter Iuzzolino, of Channel 4s foreign-language, on-demand strand Walter Presents, these shows held up a very interesting, distorted mirror to the British soul. Scandinavia has the same level of slightly gloomy, desaturated, rainy, cold, foggy, darkness, he says. But it also has beautiful aspirational interiors. This pared-back Scandinavian look triggers something. Its almost us, but not quite us. Its a version you like to spend time with because its tidy, its orderly.

But are we still spending as much time with our Scandi mirror-selves in 2020? It is true that lifestyle magazines have got over their craze for hygge, a term meaning anything cosy, cuddly or convivial; and, yes, Ikea recently announced its first major UK store closure. However, Nordic noir still seems to be going from strength to strength. That 2011 invasion has now given way to a steady flow. Ifits harder to name the big breakthrough Scandi shows these days, that is only because there are so many more contenders.

Swedens latest export is The Truth Will Out, a gripping detective drama based on the true story of one of the countrys most famous miscarriages of justice. In classic Nordic-noir style, it uses the fraught relationship between demoted murder detective Peter Wendel and his public prosector ex-wife to expose high-level governmental corruption. Already a smash hit in Sweden, The Truth Will Out has just appeared on Walter Presents.

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In terms of architecture, The Truth Will Out fully conforms to genre expectations, from the functional exteriors of looming government buildings to the cool uncluttered premises of flustered suspects. Indeed, architecture is so integral to the Scandinavian TV canon that two of that founding trio were named after spectacular structures: the five-mile resund Bridge that connects Copenhagen in Denmark to Malm in Sweden; and the Danish governments Christiansborg Palace, known informally as Borgen.

Whats more, there is always a blanket of snow on The Truth Will Outs rural scenes, just as there is on otherwise disparate dramas such as Wisting (the Norwegian serial-killer series on BBC iPlayer), Fortitude (Sky Atlantics English-language Arctic homage to the genre) and Icelands Trapped (soon to air its third season).

Still, people, not places, continue to define the best Scandi TV. When it comes to Nordic noir, says Mattias Bergqvist, chief TV critic of Swedish newspaper Expressen, Im convinced it all began with the Beck books by Maj Sjwall and Per Wahl, a wave of writing that continued with Henning Mankells Wallander and reached its peak with Stieg Larsson. That tradition of having well-evolved characters has been important.

Overtones of The Crown Sofia Helin, who played Saga in The Bridge, as Princess Mrtha in Atlantic Crossing. Photograph: Julie Vrabelova/Beta Film

Its no coincidence, then, that the Danish producer behind the original screen adaptations of all these works, Sren Strmose, is also the producer of The Truth Will Out, developed with Swedish crime writer Leif GW Persson. Strmose credits his successes in part to the glimpses he provides of Scandinavias utopian or apparently utopian welfare society. International audiences are curious about the cracks, he says.

Also, in possibly another echo with Britain, Sweden has long enjoyed an influence disproportionate to its size. Its a small country economically, he says, but internationally, its a humanitarian big power. And now you have the Greta Thunberg effect showing no one is too small to make a difference.

The UK office of Yellow Bird, Strmoses production company, has just produced its first series for Netflix, Young Wallander, and its working on another, about the rise of Swedish music streaming giant Spotify. It is a typical example of how Scandinavias big public broadcasters SVT, DR, NRK are being joined by newer platforms and production houses, among them Swedish streamers Viaplay. And there is no shortage of international buyers, eager to follow a TV trend with proven staying power.

Norways answer to Girls Young and Promising. Photograph: Eirik Evjen

As the Spotify project shows, the results are not all crime series either. State-of-a-generation dramas include Young and Promising (Norways answer to Girls) and the web series Skam (its answer to Skins), both of which have been very popular. Netflix cannily combined the two strands in Quicksand, a drama about a high-school shooting in an affluent Stockholm neighbourhood. Curiously, Scandinavian audiences typically like their period dramas British, but shows such as SVTs Our Time Is Now and DRs State of Happiness are changing that. The latter has been acquired by BBC Four.

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Fans of The Bridges chief investigator Saga Norn who lives her life gloriously unaware of social norms, possibly because she has Asperger syndrome will be pleased to hear that Sofia Helin, who plays the much-loved character, will be appearing as Princess Mrtha in Atlantic Crossing, a drama about the Norwegian royals during the second world war with overtones of the Netflix hit The Crown.

Even with bigger budgets, though, Scandinavias relatively small industry is stretched. It takes time to get experience, says Strmose. To manage big budgets, complicated long-term shoots, and work with wonderful, great egos. His great success has lain in utilising this newfound spending power without losing the charm and craftsmanship of a cottage industry. Scandinavian drama has always had that enjoyable repertory theatre feel, with the same faces popping up again and again. Now the likes of Maria Sundbom (The Bridge, Quicksand, The Truth Will Out, Before We Die) and Sren Malling (The Killing, Borgen, Dicte, 1864, The Investigation) will be even busier. And there wont be many complaints about that.

This industry might not be the biggest, or even the best, in Europe but what they do, they do to perfection, especially where those thrillers are concerned. Scandi is unique in its ability to deliver a compellingly dark thriller, says Iuzzolino. Theyve mastered that art better than anywhere else in the world.

Gloriously unaware Helin as Saga in The Bridge. Photograph: Jens Juncker/BBC/Filmlance International AB, Nimbus Film

Even the most successful exponents of Nordic noir, however, do sometimes chafe against the constraints of the genre. If you think about the original French meaning of the word noir, says Strmose, you associate it with cheerless lightning. But our lighting is not cheerless! His latest show, Thin Ice, is a climate crisis thriller set among the melting ice caps of east Greenland. Im trying to introduce the subgenre Nordic blue, to show the cheerful colours of our snow, ice and the sky above us.

Of course, corruption, greed, cheating and treachery take place in Scandinavia all the time. But [noir] doesnt reflect the humanity of our protagonists, or our interest in equality between the sexes, and the welfare state. To have a real democracy you have to constantly attack the cracks in the judicial system and the crime genre is one way to do that, hopefully creating debates.

Brave new show Caliphate with Gizem Erdogan, left. Photograph: Johan Paulin/Filmlance

The Truth Will Out was the big talking point of 2018. This year, it is undoubtedly Caliphate, a thriller about Swedish Islamic terrorists. Its not perfect, but its a brave show taking on pressing questions, says Karolina Fjellborg, TV critic of Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. She also recommends the dramedy Bonus Family and is not surprised by all of the appreciation of Scandinavian television. As a Swede who grew up watching all kinds of TV with subtitles, Ive never understood English-speaking peoples aversion to foreign-language shows. It was about time subtitles made a breakthrough.

Next year, meanwhile, perhaps the big show will be The Investigation, a drama about the real murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard a mini-submarine in Copenhagen harbour. It is written and directed by Borgens Tobias Lindholm.

Whether or not any of these shows will grip the UK, the international influence of Scandinavian TV is abundantly clear. In under a decade, these shows have created a global TV grammar, with seemingly every other talked-about show of the last few years boasting a Scandi feel. Black Mirror? Nordic. True Detective? Nordic with a Cajun twist. Succession? So, so Nordic. For a region famed for its tolerance and peaceful neutrality, Scandi TV has managed global domination.

Watch the season three trailer for Bonus Family

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Horniness, confusion and grief combine to give a suburban teenager Carrie-like powers in Netflixs explosive teen drama

If there is one undeniable fact that young adult movies and TV shows have taught us, it is that teenage feelings are extremely powerful. From Carrie massacring a whole prom with telekinesis to Sabrina Spellmans Big Witch Energy, we must both respect teen emotions and fear them at the same time. That is why middle-aged men mock fans of One Direction and BTS: theyre scared that, if not cowed by embarrassment, the energy could cause some kind of world-ending weather event. Which is why, when Sydney in I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix, from Wednesday 26 February) destroys a whole forest with her mind because shes really, really horny, it sort of feels realistic?

Lets recap. The show follows 16-year-old Syd (Sophia Lillis), who has moved to a boring Pennsylvania town with her mum Maggie and little brother Liam. Im not special and Im OK with that, she writes in the diary she has been told to keep by the school counsellor, in the wake of her dad killing himself in their basement. Yes, the basement of the house the family still lives in. And, like the old Native American burial ground trope, the basement channels Syds teenage rage into Carrie-like powers that levitate objects when she is upset and kill her brothers pet hedgehog.(RIP, Banana Bigglesworth.)

I Am Not Okay With This is from the producers of Stranger Things and directed by The End of the F***ing Worlds Jonathan Entwhistle, and anyone who has seen those shows, or Netflixs other huge teen hits The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or Riverdale, will recognise some familiar themes. A protagonist who feels like an outsider, powered by the boiling-hot rage of lifes unfairness (or, in Syds case, being asked to walk to the supermarket exactly once by her mum). A manic pixie dream boy; here, Syds neighbour Stan (Wyatt Oleff), who is every teenage girls ultimate fantasy a non-threatening weed dealer who drives a vintage car. Extremely stylish teenagers with impossibly good hair. A beautifully shot US town (Brownstone, where Syd moves, is a wash of 70s-style ochres). And a setting in that weird Netflix realm that could be any time in the last half-century (the characters go to 50s-stylediners, listen to 80s music, own 90s VHS tapes and have mobile phones).

At first, compared to its rival shows, I Am Not Okay With This feels a bit low stakes. Syd is not on the run for murder or fighting monsters created by shady corporations she has discovered that if she gets annoyed at someone, they might have a minor nosebleed. It doesnt have The End of the F***ing Worlds humour, or Stranger Thingss heart. But it soon becomes clear that Syds new supernatural powers might be fuelled not by grief but by the raging horn for her best friend, Dina. And thats where Syds EBTM (Extremely Big Teen Emotions) could actually save the show.

Instead of admitting she is gay, Syd goes into denial. Because shoving teenage feelings down under the bubbling lava of anger, horniness, confusion and grief wont result in them exploding out at the very worst moment like, say, the homecoming dance Syd agrees to go to with Stan, will it? Bring on the pigs blood and slam the fire exits shut: things are about to get interesting.

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Dave wins album of the year and fellow rappers Stormzy and Tyler, the Creator win best male categories as Capaldi crowns breakthrough year

Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi has topped the winners at the 2020 Brit awards, though a strong year for rap music prevented a clean sweep of his four nominations.

Capaldi picked up best new artist and best song for Someone You Loved, which spent seven weeks at No 1 in spring 2019, later topping the US charts and earning a Grammy nomination.

His debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent its title typical of the dry self-deprecation that has won him millions of fans on social media was the biggest seller in the UK in 2019, but it lost the top prize of album of the year to south London rapper Dave and his emotionally fraught Psychodrama.

Dave, who in his performance earlier in the evening called Boris Johnson racist, decried the lack of support for survivors of the Grenfell tragedy and called attention to the disparity in the media treatment of Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton, used his acceptance speech to celebrate his fellow south Londoners, and to acknowledge incarcerated Britons including his brother, Christopher.

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In September 2019, Psychodrama won the other top album award in British pop music, the Mercury prize. Dave is only the second ever artist to win both, following the Arctic Monkeys wins for their 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, Thats What Im Not. Dave had been this years joint top Brits nominee with Capaldi on four.

Continuing a successful year for rap music, Stormzy beat a strong field Dave and Capaldi, plus Harry Styles and Michael Kiwanuka to be named best British male. His win follows a triumphant year in which he topped the UK singles chart three times, began a five-continent world tour, and played a headline set at Glastonbury that is already regarded as one of the greatest in the festivals 50-year history.

LA rapper Tyler, the Creator added to his best rap album Grammy award with a Brit for best international male, beating Bruce Springsteen and others. In his speech, he taunted former prime minister Theresa May, who as home secretary banned him from coming to the UK for five years. The restriction ended last year.

The rap wins show not only the current depth and breadth of the genre, but also that the Brit awards have adapted following accusations of under-promoting black talent. Following the #BritsSoWhite outcry of 2016, the Academy of voters was diversified to bring in more people of colour, and black British stars including Skepta, J Hus, Kano and Jorja Smith have all since appeared on shortlists.

Those Academy changes also brought in more women to move the gender balance of voters close to parity, but the awards have been criticised this year for not featuring enough women on its shortlists, as well as the longlists from which voters select nominees. Mabel was the only British woman to be shortlisted across 25 slots in the mixed British categories of best song, album, group and new artist. Voters could choose from 86 male artists for best British male, but only 26 women for best British female, while there were only 36 albums featuring women out of the 198 longlisted.

Mabels opening performance at the 2020 Brits. Photograph: JM Enternational/Rex/Shutterstock

The lack of female nominees was a theme of the evening, with host Jack Whitehall skewering the Brits for failing to recognise women, and Foals, winners of best British group an exclusively male category expressing their desire to see more female artists in the category next year.

Joy Crookes, nominated for the rising star Brit award, was among those criticising the ceremony, telling the BBC: You take one look at that list to go theres not enough women on it. Its as simple as that you can tick all the boxes, but [diversity] just isnt there yet.

In the end, Mabel lost out to Capaldi in the best song category, but won best British female. Scoring a UK No 3 single and album last year as well as reaching the US charts for the first time, she is the daughter of another pop singer, Neneh Cherry, who won two awards at the 1990 Brit awards. Billie Eilish won best international female, adding to the five Grammy awards she won earlier this year.

The rising star award formerly the critics choice award had previously been announced, and was won by soul singer Celeste.

Two award categories from previous years, best international group and best video, were cut to make way for more performances at the ceremony a sign that the Brits is attempting to remain a vibrant TV fixture in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, and intent on creating potentially viral performances to be shared online. Other changes include the introduction of three performance stages around Londons O2 Arena where the awards are held, reducing the number of industry tables by 50%.

Performers at the ceremony, hosted by comedian Jack Whitehall, included award winners Capaldi, Dave, Eilish, Mabel, Stormzy and Celeste, plus Harry Styles and US rapper, singer and sometime flautist Lizzo. Rod Stewart reunited with Faces bandmates Ron Wood and Kenney Jones to close the show.

Brit awards 2020 winners in full

Male solo artist: Stormzy
Female solo artist: Mabel
Group of the year: Foals
Rising star: Celeste
New artist: Lewis Capaldi
Song of the year: Lewis Capaldi Someone You Loved
Album of the year: Dave Psychodrama
International solo male: Tyler, the Creator
International solo female: Billie Eilish

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In the streaming era, data on a show’s viewership and popularity is harder to come by. It’s no longer as simple as setting up a Nielsen box to get data on a show being watched across TVs, phones, tablets and the web. One company solving this problem for content owners, broadcasters and streamers alike is Whip Media Group, parent company to the TV and movie tracking app TV Time. The company announced today it has raised $50 million in Series D funding to continue to grow its business.

The round was led by asset management firm Eminence Capital and includes participation from Raine Ventures. To date, Whip Media Group has raised $115 million from Raine Ventures, Eminence, IVP and others.

Whip Media Group has a varied history. TV Time began as WhipClip, a source for a legal collection of GIFs from favorite shows. But following the company’s acquisition of French startup TVShow Time in December 2016, it pivoted to become a social TV community. The TV Time app allows users to track their favorite shows by marking episodes as watched, as well as join in the show’s community on the app where users discuss the episode; share photos, screencaps, and memes; take polls; and more. Its recommendations feature also helps users find more things to watch.

The company rebranded as Whip Media Group to reflect that it’s now home to a handful of businesses, including the TV Time app, as well as TheTVDB, an entertainment database for TV and movies and, more recently, the content value management platform, Mediamorph.

Though consumers only interact with the TV Time app, those engagements help fuel Whip Media Group’s larger business.

Today, the TV Time app has anywhere between 800,000 and a million active users per day. And 50% of users contribute some sort of data — for example, following a show, creating content, liking another user’s post, reviewing an episode, commenting and so on. To date, TV Time has tracked more than 15 billion episodes.

Initially, TV Time was using this data to develop a new type of ratings system for the cord-cutting era. But TV Time learned that a show’s ratings don’t matter to video-on-demand services that don’t sell advertising. Instead, what TV Time could provide was emotional data on how users responded to shows.

“By collecting [this data] we can build these models to not only say what people are watching, but also start to predict what they’re going to watch next,” says Whip Media Group CEO Richard Rosenblatt.

In addition, the engagement data can help streamers find out things they never could before — like which moment in an episode had huge spikes of user interest, i.e. “the most memed moment.” This data can help them to better market the show as well as help them think about the show’s direction for future seasons.

Now, with the acquisition of Mediamorph, Whip Media Group can also help to value content. This allows buyers and sellers to make determinations about where to sell shows and for how much.

This data is highly valuable to Whip Media Group’s clients, which include more than 50 of the biggest names in entertainment — like Disney, Warner Bros., Hulu, NBCU, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate, BBC, HBO, AT&T, T-Mobile, Liberty Global, Discovery and United Talent Agency. (There are other large, household names in streaming that also use the company’s data, but can’t be disclosed due to NDAs.)

When a content owner sells a show to a modern-day streaming service, they often have no way of knowing how it performs.

Whip Media Group, starting at the end of Q1, will be able to start making predictions about where a particular piece of content available for sale should go, says Rosenblatt.

“We will be able to roll out, starting in the first quarter, an ‘engagement score,’ where [content owners will] actually be able to look at how one piece of content engages a certain demographic or a certain geography differently than another piece of content,” Rosenblatt explains. “If you think about how ad networks got started 20 years ago — and you were trying to match the right consumer with the right ad, and all that mattered was if they clicked. Nothing else mattered. Google won because they had the best data, the best models…that’s what we want to do,” he continues.

“We want to put the right piece of content on the right platform, in the right country, to the right demographic. And we don’t think that there’s anyone else in this position like we are — that has all of that between Mediamorph and TV Time,” he says.

This data is more important than ever in an era where core classics are selling for as much as half a billion (like the “Seinfeld” sale to Netflix or “Friends” to HBO Max) or even more (like the billion-plus-dollar deal for “Big Bang Theory,” which also went to HBO Max.)

More broadly, global online television episode and movie revenues will reach $159 billion in 2024; more than double the $68 billion recorded in 2018, according to Research and Markets.

Whip Media Group’s new round of funding is being used, in part, to help pay for the Mediamorph acquisition, which was a combination of cash and stock. But the majority is being used to grow the business, including by expanding the company’s sales and data teams and accelerating product development.

The company has already hired 20 people so far and expects to hire 50 by year-end, mostly on the data and engineering sides.

“Whip Media Group is building software and data solutions that will transform the way content is being bought and sold throughout the global entertainment ecosystem,” said Ricky Sandler, chief executive officer of Eminence Capital, in a statement. “We believe in their vision and their exceptional leadership and technology teams and are excited to partner with them as they rapidly expand their business.”

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The actor on secondary school remorse, belly-button piercing and giving away spoilers

Born in Essex, Michelle Dockery, 38, studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 2004 she made her professional stage debut at the National Theatre, in His Dark Materials. From 2010-2015 she played Lady Mary in the ITV television series Downton Abbey, receiving three Emmy nominations. Her latest film is Guy Ritchies The Gentlemen, in cinemas now. She lives in London.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Falling flat on my face during a curtain call at the National Theatre. The play was Pillars Of The Community and I tripped on my long skirts. Epic.

Aside from a property, whats the most expensive thing youve bought?
A very nice holiday.

What is your most treasured possession?
A St Christopher my mum gave me. I travel a lot and always carry it with me.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The dodo. I like birds.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Spoilers. I am the absolute worst for giving away the endings of films. It just happens. I cant control it.

What is your favourite word?
Apricity. It means the warmth of the sun in winter and reminds me of my childhood.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Many things. I remember wanting to be a vet, a ballet dancer and a hairdresser.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Keeping Up With The Kardashians or The Real Housewives any season, any time.

What do you owe your parents?

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
A teacher at my secondary school. We used to write and sing songs about him. Sorry, Sir! You were a great teacher.

Have you ever said I love you and not meant it?
On a few occasions I act for a living!

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Audrey Hepburn, Chris Lilley, Paul Newman, Walter Matthau, Gene Wilder, Celine Dion and Maggie Smith.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Oh my God.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Carrie and Aidan not ending up together.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Several haircuts and my belly-button piercing.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Woodstock 1969.

When did you last cry, and why?
Watching Big Little Lies season 2. Shailene Woodley made me bawl.

How do you relax?
Sitting on the sofa watching TV with a cup of tea.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My friendships.

Where would you most like to be right now?
Anywhere in Italy eating pasta.

What keeps you awake at night?
Most things really. Im a night owl.

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Weimar-era detective show has sold to 100 countries, firmly establishing Germany as a serious player in blockbuster series

It has been sold to 100 countries, spawned international interest in the fashions of 1920s Berlin and, in 2020, Germans first TV blockbuster of the streaming era returns for its third season, promising more murder and mystery in the turbulent days of the Weimar era.

Based on the bestselling detective novels by Volker Kutscher, Babylon Berlin is the most expensive non-English language screen production ever. Its cast is a whos who of Germanys best actors, headed by Liv Lisa Fries, playing the impoverished stenographer and aspiring detective Charlotte Ritter, and Volker Bruch, who plays her superior, chief inspector Gereon Rath.

Both investigators harbour secrets, with Ritter turning to prostitution at night to subsidise her family, and Rath battling PTSD triggered by his experiences in the first world war as well as leading a complicated love life.

The backdrop is 1929 in Berlin, a city in turmoil as it undergoes profound cultural, economic and political change. Nazis lurk in the wings, ready to exploit the desperation caused by poverty and unemployment. The foundations of the young republic show signs of crumbling and, as if in expectation of its imminent demise, the citys inhabitants, including the protagonists, indulge in a frenzy of dancing, drug-taking and cabaret parties.

From left, Meret Becker, Jenny Schily, Leonie Benesch, Hannah Herzsprung, Liv Lisa Fries and Fritzi Haberland at the premiere of the third season of Babylon Berlin in Berlin. Photograph: Hayoung Jeon/EPA

At its recent red carpet premiere in Berlin, and the after-party event in a dairy factory from the Weimar era, cast and audience members wore cloche hats, flapper dresses, spit curls and drag queen looks, underlining how the show has caught the publics imagination.

A 1920s musical, guided tours of Weimar Berlin, including many of the locations in the show, a rise in popularity of burlesque nightclubs and table telephone bars, as well as a flurry of books and music, are among the cultural spin-offs.

Liv Lisa Fries plays the aspiring detective Charlotte Ritter. Photograph: X Filme

Liv Lisa Fries, wearing a 1920s-style cinnamon taffeta gown at the premiere, has also become caught up in the craze. Its fascinating. I know a lot of people wanting to have their hair cut in a bob like Charlotte, who are wearing her cloche hat. They also like the real world of this film, and how my character boxes her way through this very male world to fulfil her goals.

Its creators, the director-screenwriter trio Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries, and Henk Handloegten said they sometimes had difficulty keeping up with reality, citing economic and political upheaval around the world. Im reluctant to say it, but similar things are happening in the world today, said Tykwer. It has also been one of the big challenges. We have had to keep reminding ourselves to stick to the point of view of the characters in 1929, otherwise it will become cheap.

The production team on the set of Babylon Berlin. Photograph: X Filme

It has surprised some in the entertainment industry that Germany was so late in entering the field of television blockbuster serials, which has been dominated by the US, Scandinavia and the UK.

On the eve of the launch of the third season of Babylon Berlin, and with a fourth season in the pipeline, Germany is now considered to be firmly established in the genre.

A remake of Germanys hitherto most successful TV export, Das Boot, came out in 2018 to critical acclaim. Other series, such as Der Pass (Pagan Peak) and Acht Tage (8 Days) are also making an international impact. Deutschland 83, a drama based on recent German history, is particularly popular in the US and is also about to launch its third season. The sci-fi eco thriller Der Schwarm (The Swarm), based on a popular novel by Franz Schtzing, is creating a buzz even before shooting starts next year.

A scene from Babylon Berlin, season three. Photograph: X Filme

But critics in Germany have taken umbrage at the extent to which the compulsory TV licence fee, one of the highest in the world, has provided the bulk of the 40m (34m) funding for Babylon Berlin, which is co-financed and produced with Sky, whose subscribers will see it in January. German terrestrial television will not broadcast season three until the autumn.

Tykwer, also known for Run Lola Run and Perfume, defended the model. Many more people something like 10 times as many watched the first two seasons on the public television station ARD, he said. The year before it was shown on ARD, it didnt really exist for most German viewers, most of whom, I have to say, are still watching linear television.

Season three was kept under wraps until its premiere in December but the Guardian was allowed on to the Studio Babelsberg set. In reconstructed 1920s Berlin streets, with a pawn shop, a millinery, restaurants and brothels, fog, rain, the hoot of car horns and the stink of exhaust fumes, Tykwer was overseeing a key scene from the end of episode two.

Volker Ruth plays Chief Inspector Gereon Rath. Photograph: X Filme

We watched as Chief Inspector Gereon Rath, holding on to his trilby, dashed down the stairs of a tenement block, elbowing everyone out of his way, including a cartload of chickens. He caught the witness to the murder of a silent screen actress, bundled him into a car for the briefest of interrogations, before the man was immediately shot dead. Rath was left bewildered and sprayed in blood.

Its joyful to shoot, even if its physically draining, said Tykwer when the scene was finished. We shoot these 12 episodes in 100-120 days, whereas you would usually have 40 for cinema or 20 for a TV show. The dedication you need for something so long term is quite absurd.

After wiping the sweat from his brow, Bruch said he had learned a lot about the period while playing Rath. At school it was so squeezed between world war one and two, he said. So it was useful to have lots of historical experts to prepare us, everything from the police work to the politics, the psychology and the nightlife. They even taught us how to dance the Charleston.

My character is haunted by the past and that describes the era well because it was at this time, with German resentment over paying war reparations, and the suffering of living standards, that created political turbulence, which all leads to a horrific future we know too well.

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In the decade that was simply the worst of times, we went from Downton Abbey dross to a swaggering masterwork about the first modern lesbian. Costume drama has loosened its corset at last!

As a lens through which to view the past, period drama is the obstinate, headstrong girl! of British culture. If you want to get all Jane Austen about it, which of course you do. The genre most blindly beloved by the country has spent decades stubbornly shooing history away with a gloved hand in favour of a more manicured (read: posh, white) version of how we used to live. Backpedal to the comparatively sunny uplands of the late Noughties, when New Labour was in its death throes and phone hacking at News International crowned its head (OK, not so sunny). What were we saluting our slippers to on a Sunday night? Cranford! That confection filled with candied dames force-feeding cats laxatives to retrieve lost Victorian lace. Not exactly representative of the times. More like hitching up its skirts to escape them.

In contrast, the 2010s which to take a hammer to the Dickens quote was simply the worst of times were when period drama finally loosened its corset. When a genre characterised by nostalgia cast open the Georgian shutters to the realities of race, class and sexuality that had always been there. Sort of. It was also the decade that launched with Downton Abbey. Yet this, too, was in perfect keeping with the 2010s ever-rising levels of polarisation. In what other 10-year span might we have entered stage-right with Julian Fellowes elegant post-Edwardian drama, which ran for six buttoned-up seasons and culminated in the promise of a film only Americans could love. Then exited stage-left with Gentleman Jack, a sly, swaggering and deeply sincere masterpiece about a Yorkshire woman dubbed the first modern lesbian, directed by the Andrew Davies of the 2010s. Our new crown: Sally Wainwright.

It was in Wainwrights skilled northern hands that period drama shifted into the tanking present. Became raw, bleak, true, subversive, funny in the most off-kilter British sense. In To Walk Invisible, her stunning account of the three pinched years in which the Bront sisters wrote the novels that made them famous, we got a version of then that was viscerally now. There was poverty, alcoholism and not a marriage in sight. Everyone looked cold, all the time. In Gentleman Jack, Wainwright proved she could pull off a romp while crafting cliffhangers out of the trials and tribulations of 19th-century coal mining. Consider the high romantic finale, tuned in to by millions, that saw Suranne Jones roguish Anne Lister and her beloved, Ann Walker, declaring their love atop a windblown Yorkshire hill. Dont hurt me. Im not as strong as you think I am, Lister said, before adding with a soft-butch stoicism never before seen in a primetime period drama slot, Well, I am, obviously. As an antidote to the badly-acted costume drama playing out in parliament, it was perfect.

A soft-butch stoicism never before seen in primetime period drama … Gentleman Jack. Photograph: Aimee Spinks/BBC/Lookout Point/HBO

Most awkward, unsurprisingly, was the insertion of race into a genre that for half a century has been almost exclusively white. In Vanity Fair, the Sedleys servant, Sam, was black and, though not fleshed out enough, a great character: proud, dripping with contempt, endlessly ignored. His silent presence for such lines as better than sending him back to India into the arms of some dusky maharani, better than a dozen mahogany grandchildren foregrounded the everyday racism of the time without falling into the trap of anachronism. Howards End, the BBCs simultaneously old-fashioned and highly timely adaptation of EM Forsters great novel about Englishness, just about walked the line between representation and tokenism by making the Basts an interracial couple, and giving the Schlegels a black maid. These were changes so incremental they often felt uncomfortable. Nevertheless, they made the Merchant Ivory version seem as long ago as the novel. The race problem in period drama, as it was termed, was better addressed in series that focused on black and Asian history from the outset. Like The Long Song, a stellar adaptation of Andrea Levys Booker-shortlisted novel set during the last days of slavery in 19th-century Jamaica. It was intelligent, ambitious, heartbreaking.

Intelligent, ambitious, heartbreaking … The Long Song. Photograph: Carlos Rodriguez/Heyday Television

Turning to sex, which all period dramas must in due course, Harlots was a microcosm of 2010s confusion. On the one hand, it was your average sauce-fest inspired by the sex trade in Georgian London and overflowing with ever more purple euphemisms for cockstands. On the other, a criminally overlooked post #MeToo feminist triumph, created by and starring women and for once, focusing on the brutality of prostitution without reducing it to a load of actually quite sexy sex. At times it could be both at once, and I didnt know whether to be enraged or enjoy myself, which was probably the point. A similar discomfort was induced by The Crown, which was so sumptuous, eye-wateringly expensive, and bloody well done that you had to applaud, even while an actual royal was stepping down from all 230 of his patronages over his association with Jeffrey Epstein.

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Plex today is launching its own ad-supported streaming service, a rival to The Roku Channel, Tubi, Crackle, Vudu’s Movies on Us and others that offer a way to stream movies and TV for free without a subscription. The service will feature several thousand movies and shows from studios like MGM, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, Lionsgate and Legendary — deals which were previously announced leading up to today’s launch.

Though there are plenty of similar offerings on the market, what makes Plex’s new streaming service unique is its broad availability. Unlike many competitors, Plex has structured its deals in order to stream content outside the U.S. Plex told TechCrunch the majority of its content will stream in some 220 countries worldwide. This immediately makes it the largest ad-supported video service, in terms of reach — if you’re not counting platforms for user-generated video, like YouTube.

Like other free streaming services, Plex’s free content won’t require a subscription or any other commitments, but will instead be fully supported by ads.

Today, the service will feature both pre-roll ads and traditional ad breaks, but Plex promises an ad load that’s 50%-60% less than what you’d otherwise find on broadcast television. Currently, Plex is leveraging ad network partnerships to sell these ads, but says it may move into direct sales in 2020.

The service itself lives right within Plex’s media organization software. This app has evolved over the years to become more than just a DIY media player for home media. Today, Plex organizes your own media collections alongside podcasts, web shows, streaming news and music courtesy of a TIDAL partnership. The free, ad-supported content will now appear on the Plex sidebar under a new “Movies & TV” heading.

In this section, the content is organized in a somewhat Netflix-style layout, with image thumbnails for easy browsing and hubs for finding popular, trending or genre-specific content, for example.

Plex has also introduced several editorially curated hubs, as well as those personalized to the user, based on their cross-platform, cross-content watch history.

In total, there are around 70 hubs that could potentially show up here, Plex says.

Meanwhile, clicking through to each title will show you details like genre, rating, year, length, description and even critic scores and audience ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, among other metadata. The titles will stream in 1080p and you can mark items as played, as you can with personal media.

Sample titles available at launch include a number of classics, cult classics and even award winners, like “Rain Main,” “The Terminator,” “Overboard,” “Frequency,” “Evil Dead” (1 & 2), “Teen Wolf,” plus music concerts and documentaries featuring Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Deadmau5, and more.

The content is available across Plex platforms, including Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, smart TVs,
Android and iOS mobile platforms, Xbox, PlayStation, Amazon Fire TV and others.

“Plex was born out of a passion for media and entertainment, and offering free ad-supported premium movies and TV shows is just the latest step in our mission to bring all your favorite content together in one place,” said Keith Valory, CEO of Plex, in a statement. “What started more than a decade ago as a passion project to make accessing media on connected devices easier has evolved into the most comprehensive streaming platform in the industry, used by millions of people around the world,” he added.

TechCrunch first broke the news regarding Plex’s plans to enter the ad-supported movies market back in January, when it described a strategy similar to that of The Roku Channel.

Today, Plex has 15 million registered households using its service. Though the service is profitable, the percentage of customers who pay for its advanced features through a Plex Pass subscription is much smaller. That’s driven Plex to find new ways to generate revenue from its free users — and ad-supported content is an obvious choice, in that case.

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