Americans now have one more choice in their +-filled lives.
They’ve already confronted Disney+, Paramount+, Discovery+, AMC+ and, for a brief blip, CNN+. Now – starting Sunday (Jan. 15) – they have MGM+.
This one has a flashier name than most. (MGM is “one of the most venerable and beloved brands in the history of our industry,” claimed Michael Wright, the MGM+ president; one of its first new shows, “Murf the Surf,” shown here, reflects ’60s-style pizzaz.) It also has a smaller impact; unlike some of its plus-pals, it:
— Is a new name for an existing service, Epix.
— Will exist in two forms – as a separate streaming service and a premium cable channel.
— And will be both relatively modest in its price ($5.99 a month) and its quantity.
Other streamers opened with an avalanche of new shows. MGM+ starts with the season-opener of the much-praised “Godfather of Harlem” (9 p.m., rerunning at 10 p.m. and 1:15 a.m.) and promises more.
The same producer, Wright told the Television Critics Association, will have “Hotel Cocaine” next winter, set in “the glamorous epicenter of the Miami cocaine scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.”
Wright has renewed other Epix series – “Billy the Kid,” “Rogue Heroes” and (on April 23) “From” – and is adding a British mini-series, “A Spy Among Friends,” on March 12.
Also, there are documentaries. “San Francisco Sound” arrives this fall; on Feb. 5, “Murf the Surf” traces the guy who found fame as a surfer and a convicted jewel thief and murderer; he became, director R.J. Cutler said, “television’s first true-crime celebrity.”
He did it with flair, said Ron Howard, a producer of the four-part documentary. “He looked like ‘77 Sunset Strip,’ ‘Hawaiian Eye,’ ‘Route 66.’ He was just wearing their clothes (and had) the hypnotic power of charisma.”
Still, having an occasional new show doesn’t give you a streaming service. Wright insists he’ll show “an abundance of new and classic-quality studio movies.”
Those don’t automatically come with the name “MGM.” The studio has been bought and sold many times, often shedding its library in the process. Ted Turner landed the biggest films – “Wizard of Oz,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Casablanca” and more – when he bought it in 1986. They’re now part of the Turner cable channels and the HBO Max streamer.
Since then, MGM has kept being bought and sold – most recently to Amazon, which also owns Epix – while making new movies and getting rights to old ones. On its first day (Sunday, Jan. 15), MGM+ will show many of them – from “That’s Entertainment” (1979) at 6 a.m. to “Rocky” (1976) at 1:55 p.m., James Bond’s “No Time to Die” (2021) at 4 p.m. and “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022) at 6:50.
Wright also points to other recent movies, including the Aretha Franklin film “Respect” and Lady Gaga’s “House of Gucci,” plus “Lost City,” “Dog” and “A Quiet Place II.” Talking to the TCA, he introduced two of his series:
— “A Spy Among Friends” (March 12), a six-parter with Damian Lewis as British spy Nicholas Elliott, who was stunned to find that his friend Kim Philby was selling secrets to the Soviets. “None of us have the courage to actually live in that (spy) world,” said Guy Pearce, who plays Philby. “But the idea of friends betraying friends, and keeping secrets from very close friends, is something we can relate to.”
— “From,” which starts its second season April 23, with strangers trapped in a town they can’t leave. It was created pre-pandemic, producer Jeff Pinkner said, but seems more relevant now. “The whole world knew what it was like to have your reality, your sense of … the world around you, shattered.”