Peacock adds to the flood of streaming choices

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By Richard Roeper

Signal Contributing Writer

The question I used to hear all the time: “What’s good in theaters right now? What should I see this weekend?”

The question I now get all the time: “Where do I find that movie (or show) you liked so much?”

A reasonable query. After all, there’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, CBS All Access, HBO Max and HBO Go, Quibi, Showtime, Epix Now, BET+, Starz, Kweli TV, PBS Passport, MUBI, OVID, et al. There’s an enormous amount of streaming content available for home viewing (which could lead to an astronomical monthly bill if you’re not careful), and it can be overwhelming, but consider that if we had been on lockdown in say, 1970, your viewing choices on a Tuesday night would have been:

“The Mod Squad,” the ABC Movie of the Week, “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Lancer,” “The Red Skelton Hour,” “The Governor and J.J.,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Debbie Reynolds Show.”

That’s it. That’s the lineup.

The latest entry in the streaming game: NBCUniversal’s Peacock, with some 20,000 hours of content — everything from current NBC staples such as “Law & Order: SVU” and “Saturday Night Live” to libraries of “30 Rock,” “Frasier,” “The Rockford Files” and “Columbo,” to hundreds of movies including the “Jurassic Park” franchise, to Telemundo content and original, big-budget movies and series. Peacock is spreading its wings with a free one-week trial, after which you can opt for a free tier, in which you’ll receive about half of the available content, or premium packages at $4.99 or $9.99 a month, with access to all of the material and either a limited number of ads or none at all.

Here’s a look at two of the high-profile original series debuting on Peacock:

‘Intelligence’

Some 16 years after the “Friends” shared one last group hug and headed off into the syndication sunset, David Schwimmer returns to episodic comedic TV with “Intelligence,” a sporadically funny but rudderless workplace comedy in which Schwimmer’s Jerry Bernstein is half nerdy Ross, half Michael Scott. Jerry is a socially inappropriate, unduly overconfident American NSA officer who has been sent across the pond to act as liaison with a British cybercrime unit. “I think we could learn a lot from each other, especially from me,” Jerry announces upon his arrival. He thinks he’s in charge. He’s not.

As is the case with workplace sitcoms from “Taxi” to “Cheers” to “The Office” to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” to “Superstore,” we’re introduced to the ostensibly colorful cast of core characters — in this case, a curiously small and not particularly well-developed group that includes the geeky Joseph (Nick Mohammed, who created the show); the Dame Judi Dench-ish, no-nonsense head of operations Christine (Sylvestra Le Touzel); the wallflower cat lady Mary (Jane Stanness), who is constantly picked on by her colleagues; and the hipster hacker Tuva (Gana Bayarsaikhan), who observes everything with detached irony.

Through six episodes, “Intelligence” relies on familiar and easy setups such as everyone in the office having to take a lie detector test (ooh, wonder if we’ll learn some personal secrets about the gang!) and is more concerned with some admittedly clever and politically incorrect one-liners than character development. (Upon meeting the relatively diminutive Joseph, Jerry calls him “John” and says, “Do you mind me asking if you have dwarfism in your family?”) Each 22-minute episode delivers a few chuckles, but is almost instantly forgettable.

‘The Capture’

The limited dramatic series “The Capture,” which originally aired on BBC One last year, is a much more impressive and time-worthy vehicle. This is a slick and entertaining if sometimes overly complicated conspiracy thriller in the vein of “24” that takes the concept of Fake News to mind-bending levels.

Callum Turner is outstanding as Shaun Emery, a British soldier who has been convicted of murdering an unarmed Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan, but on the day of his sentencing, his brilliant defense barrister, Hannah Roberts (Laura Haddock), introduces evidence indicating a technical malfunction in the helmet-cam footage and “proving” Shaun’s actions were justified. That night, CCTV cameras catch Shaun and Hannah kissing at a bus stop, and then Shaun violently drags Hannah away, and she goes missing.

At least that’s what the footage shows. As we soon learn, “deep fake technology” allows various organizations with separate agendas to doctor virtually any recorded footage to “correct” events, to charge the innocent with crimes they didn’t commit, to fabricate murders, to bend reality to their sometimes nefarious needs. Shaun is the antihero of the story, but it’s Holliday Grainger’s Det. Rachel Carey who becomes the main protagonist, as she works tirelessly to unpeel seemingly endless layers of trickery and deceit and double-crosses and triple-crosses. This is a great-looking, well-paced, timely thriller, with excellent work by Turner, Haddock and Grainger, and scene-grabbing supporting work from Ron Perlman and Famke Janssen. Even the watchers and the watchers watching the watchers in “The Capture” are being watched, a nifty trick that keeps us involved throughout.

Copyright 2020 Chicago Sun Times

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