So here people are, emerging from two months of socially responsible tele-viewing.
They’ve spent the pandemic with Netflix or Disney+, with Apple or Acorn or Amazon or whatever. Now they’re ready to do something else, maybe mow the lawn or play with a child or …
Or not. A new streaming service, HBO Max, debuts Wednesday (May 27) at $15 a month. With everyone from Bugs Bunny (shown here) to Tony Soprano, it’s capable of gobbling up many more months of quarantine time.
As it turns out, the “max” is far bigger than the “HBO.”
Yes, this has HBO’s shows, past and present. That’s topped by “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones,” but also includes “Veep,” “Sex and the City,” “Westworld,” “The Wire,” “Succession,” “Barry,” “Insecure” and more.
But that’s just the start. HBO is owned by Warner Brothers; Max has most Warner movies and TV shows, including “Friends,” “Big Bang Theory” and, later this year, “The West Wing.”
Beyond that is a long history of Hollywood dealmaking.
Warner had sold the TV rights for its early Looney Tune cartoons – Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig and such. Eventually, those rights were re-sold to United Artists … which was gobbled by MGM … which was bought in 1986 by Ted Turner.
That deal meant Turner owned classic movies in the MGM library – “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz” – plus lots of classic cartoons. He then bought the way-less-classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons (“Flintstones,” “Yogi Bear”). He used the movies to start TNT and Turner Classic Movies, the cartoons to start The Cartoon Network. And in 1996, he sold his entire cable empire – including CNN and TBS – to Warner Brothers.
Through other deals, Warner already had HBO … and DC Comics … and the WB Network, which later became half of the CW network.
More deals came two decades later. HBO Max has added TV shows from BBC (“Luther,” “Dr. Who”), movies from the Criterion Collection and anime movies from Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononke,” “My Neighbor Totoro”)’
Even before adding original shows, that makes this an imposing collection, with:
– Superheroes. Disney has the Marvel and “Star Wars” characters; Max has DC. That includes movies (“Wonder Woman,” “Aquaman,” “Justice League” and the Superman and Batman films) and CW shows, including “Batwoman.”
– Animation. There are new and old Looney Tunes, plus the anime films and shows from the Cartoon Network (“Rick and Morty”), MGM and, later this year, “South Park.”
– Other movies, new (“A Star is Born,” “Crazy Rich Asians”), older (“When Harry Met Sally,” the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) and older still (“Citizen Kane”).
– Other TV shows, from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” to CW’s “Nancy Drew” and “Katy Keene,” CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and TBS’ “Search Party,” which will add new episodes.
– And originals. On opening day, kids (and others) will have “The Not Too Late Show With Elmo,” the “Craftopia” craft competition and the new Looney Tunes. For others, there’s “Love Life” (Anna Kendricks’ comedy anthology), “Legendary” (in the underground dance ball scene) and “On the Record,” with sexual-assault accusations about music mogul Russell Simmons.