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Friday, April 12, 2019

Game of Thrones Finale Set for Record Ratings

Written by Jon Williams

This Sunday begins the long-awaited and highly anticipated eighth season of the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. The abbreviated final season will consist of just six episodes (although four of those will run around 80 minutes, 20 more than the typical episode) and will culminate in the series finale on May 19. Over the course of the show’s seven seasons to date, its ratings have continued to climb, making it one of the most-watched cable series. With nearly two years of hype building up since the Season 7 finale that aired on August 27, 2017, plus the anticipation of who—if anyone—will survive to take the Iron Throne, the eighth season’s viewership numbers are sure to set new records, and the series finale will likely go down as one of the most watched of all time.

On network television, of course, those numbers are untouchable. The series finale of M*A*S*H on February 28, 1983, drew upwards of 105 million viewers, making it the most-watched television episode ever. The only other broadcasts that garner that type of viewership are the American Super Bowl each year. The closest any show has come since was ten years later, with the series finale of the hit sitcom Cheers, which came in at 84 million on May 20, 1993. Before M*A*S*H, the record was held by the wrap-up of The Fugitive on August 29, 1967, watched by 78 million people. Rounding out the top five most-watched series finales are two more sitcoms: Seinfeld (May 14, 1998) with 76 million and Friends (May 16, 2004) with 52 million. In the realm of science fiction and fantasy, the record is held by Star Trek: The Next Generation, which came to an end on May 23, 1994, with an audience of 31 million.

Network broadcasts, though, have always had the advantage of being available to anyone with a television set, without the necessity of additional equipment or subscription fees. That’s why ratings for shows airing on cable networks are measured in a category of their own. For cable series, the top two most-watched series finales belong to HBO, the same network that airs Game of Thrones. First up is the mob drama The Sopranos, whose controversial blackout ending aired June 10, 2007, to 11.9 viewers. Coming in second, and holding the top spot until The Sopranos came along, is Sex and the City, which bowed to an audience of 10.6 million on February 22, 2004. Those numbers are especially impressive considering HBO is a premium network which has traditionally required an additional subscription fee on top of a cable package. Then in third place is the acclaimed AMC drama Breaking Bad, which, like Game of Thrones, started off to relatively modest ratings and then steadily built over time. That show finished up on September 29, 2013, with 10.3 million viewers.

So how will the Game of Thrones finale fare? Obviously it won’t approach the numbers of network shows like M*A*S*H or even Friends, but it has an excellent chance of setting a new record for cable shows. Season 7 averaged upwards of 10 million viewers, and the season finale drew over 12 million. With anticipation at an all-time high, the numbers for Season 8 should leave those behind easily. And with two more novels to come in George R.R. Martin’s novel series and a spinoff series in production from HBO, the fever is sure to last for years to come.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Super Bowl LIII Musical Performers

Written by Jon Williams

This coming weekend, the biggest American sporting event of the year will take place. Super Bowl LIII will determine the year’s NFL championship in a matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots. Beyond its implications for the sport, the Super Bowl has become a huge cultural event, with over a hundred million people likely to watch in North America. Even people who normally don’t follow football tune in—for the camaraderie of sharing the event with friends, for the innovative commercials that air during the broadcast, and, of course, for the halftime musical entertainment.

With such a wide audience, it’s no wonder that the halftime show is such a coveted slot for musicians. The featured performer this year will be multiplatinum rock band Maroon 5. They’ve been a fixture in the music scene since 2004, when singles like “This Love” and “Sunday Morning” propelled their debut album, Songs About Jane, to multiplatinum status. They’ve released five more studio albums since then, all of them selling over a million copies. Their most recent, Red Pill Blues, was released in 2017, driven by singles like “What Lovers Do” (featuring SZA) and “Girls Like You” (featuring Cardi B). Singer Adam Levine has also helped to keep the band in the spotlight by serving as a judge on the hit musical talent show The Voice since its inception in 2011.

Traditionally the Super Bowl halftime show is a collaborative affair, and this year is no different. One musician joining Maroon 5 for the festivities will be rapper Travis Scott. After several EPs and mixtapes, his debut album Rodeo was released in 2015 and went platinum on the strength of singles “3500” and Antidote, as well as guest appearances from stars like Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and the Weekend, to name just a few. He followed that up in 2016 with Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, another platinum outing. His newest album, Astroworld, was released in August of last year and is still a staple near the top of the Billboard albums chart. Scott is nominated for three awards at this year’s Grammys, which will take place a week after the Super Bowl.

Another musician joining Maroon 5 and Travis Scott onstage will be Big Boi, who hails from the Super Bowl’s host city of Atlanta. Along with Andre 3000 as the multiplatinum hip-hop duo Outkast, Big Boi came into the spotlight in the mid-1990s. The duo has released six albums together and won six Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album and Album of the Year for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2003. Since their last album together in 2006, Big Boi has focused on his solo career. His debut, Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, came out in 2010. He’s followed it up with two more albums, the most recent of which, Boomiverse, came out in 2017.

While the halftime show is the musical focal point of the Super Bowl, it’s also an enormous honour for a musician to get the opportunity to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the game kicks off. This year that honour goes to another Atlanta native, Gladys Knight. With a career dating back to the early 1960s, she is a true R&B/soul music legend, both with her band the Pips and on her own. Known for her early work, she has continued to record, with her most recent album, Where My Heart Belongs, coming in 2014.

With so many people watching the Super Bowl and its musical performances, patrons will no doubt be interested in hearing more from these incredible artists. Make sure to have plenty of their CDs on your shelves, and if your library is a hoopla Digital customer, don’t forget to direct your patrons there as well—they’ll find these artists and more, available with no holds, no waiting, and no late fees.

Friday, January 25, 2019

2019 Preview: Television

Written by Jon Williams

Last week we finally got a premiere date for the return of one of television’s most acclaimed and popular shows. On April 14, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones will debut on HBO. The finale of season seven aired on August 27, 2017, so fans have been not-so-patiently waiting for nearly two years for it to return. Game of Thrones has become known over the years for its shocking plot twists, and the six-episode final season is sure to deliver plenty of drama and action as the fate of Westeros is decided.

A number of beloved shows are coming to an end in 2019. Out today on Netflix are the final six episodes of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the award-winning comedy series created by Tina Fey. In the comedy realm, both Veep and Broad City will take a bow with one last season each. The currently airing season five of Gotham will be its last, while Elementary will wrap after its upcoming seventh season. The fifth season of zombie detective show iZombie will end that story. The streaming prison drama Orange Is the New Black will also come to a conclusion after its seventh season, while the action-packed spy series Homeland will finish with its eighth. Finally, Academy Award nominee Rami Malek is back for one last round of the acclaimed Mr. Robot as its fourth season will be its last.

However, for all the series coming to an end, there are a number of new shows premiering that will vie for the attention of viewers looking for something to watch. Coming next month is Miracle Workers, a Heaven-set comedy based on the novel What in God’s Name by Simon Rich and starring Steve Buscemi and Daniel Radcliffe. Also coming in February is Boomerang, which follows the 1992 Eddie Murphy movie of the same name. In March, look for Turn Up Charlie, a streaming comedy created by and starring Idris Elba as a washed-up DJ who takes on child care duties for his friend’s daughter. Horror fans can look forward to NOS4A2, a series based on the novel of the same name by Joe Hill. And later this year, live-action Star Wars finally comes to the small screen with The Mandalorian, a series created by Jon Favreau and set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

There are also a number of limited series and one-time television events for viewers to look forward to. This weekend will see a live production of Rent, the popular musical that made its stage debut in 1996 and came to theatres in 2005. On Monday comes the first episode of I Am the Night, a six-episode miniseries starring Chris Pine and directed by Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins. In March, Cosmos: Possible Worlds, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson, follows up the popular 2014 scientific series that itself followed on Carl Sagan’s 1980 show. Beginning in April is a six-episode miniseries adaptation of Les Miserables, a non-musical version based directly on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel. Then in May comes a live production of the musical Hair, which originally came to the stage in 1967 and was adapted for film in 1979.

And then there are the shows that are coming back for another season, but not ending. Next month The Walking Dead returns from its midseason hiatus, carrying on after the departure of Andrew Lincoln, whose character, Rick Grimes, has served as the show’s main character up to this point. When that season ends, the spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, will return for its fifth season. American Gods, adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel, returns for a second season in March. Also in March comes the fourth season of the Showtime drama Billions, while April brings the return of the acclaimed Killing Eve. This year will also see the long-awaited third season of the hit sci-fi/horror series Stranger Things after a nearly two-year wait.

Television is in the middle of a golden age, with so many quality shows that it’s difficult to keep up with everything. With so many viewers perfectly content to sit down for marathon binge-watching sessions, you can help keep your patrons happy and entertained for hours on end by making sure your television collections are robust and up to date. Use the links above or SmartBrowse on our website to find more, and let us know what you and your patrons are looking forward to watching in 2019.

Friday, January 11, 2019

2019 Preview: Movies

Written by Jon Williams

With the Golden Globes taking place this past weekend, awards season is officially in full swing. As we look back and celebrate the best of 2018, let’s also take a peek ahead at some of the delights that 2019 has in store for us at the box office.

Marvel movies have dominated the box office for years, and fans are eagerly anticipating a conclusion to the galaxy-altering conflict that was set up in last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. That will come in April, when Avengers: Endgame brings the heroes’ conflict with Thanos to a close and resolves their fates—for better or worse. Before that, though, comes Captain Marvel in March, starring Brie Larson as the titular superhero in a ‘90s-set adventure that introduces her to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then, in July, Spider-Man: Far from Home gives Tom Holland’s popular webslinger a second standalone and the MCU its first foray into its next round of adventures.

Live-action remakes of animated Disney classics have proven to be popular, and 2019 has some big ones coming. First up is Tim Burton’s take on Dumbo, the 1941 tale of a bullied elephant who eventually becomes the star of the circus when he realizes his large ears can help him to fly. Then in May, as summer movie season is rounding into full swing, comes Aladdin, starring Will Smith in the role of the genie who helps humble beggar Aladdin win the heart of Princess Jasmine. July will see the release of The Lion King, which sees Jon Favreau direct a star-studded ensemble cast in a photorealistic update of the 1994 traditionally animated version.

As popular as these live action movies are, animation, both traditional and digital, is going nowhere. The fourth installment in the Toy Story franchise is coming in July, nine years after Toy Story 3 in 2010, while the sequel to the 2013 blockbuster Frozen is set to hit theatres just before Thanksgiving. Much closer than either of those, though, is The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, the follow-up to Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s 2014 hit, in theatres next month. Also in February is How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the anticipated final installment in a trilogy that includes films from 2010 and 2014. Other animated movies coming our way this year include a Secret Life of Pets sequel (June), an Angry Birds sequel (August), and a new Addams Family movie in October.

The horror movie genre has undergone a renaissance in recent years, and that looks to continue in 2019. It begins in March with Us, an original film from Jordan Peele, the writer and director behind the 2017 horror hit Get Out. In April comes Pet Sematary, a new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1983 novel and a remake of the 1989 film. Speaking of King adaptations, It: Chapter 2, which follows up the highest-grossing horror film of all time, comes to theatres in September. In between those two movies, in June, horror fans can look forward to Child’s Play, a reboot of the 1988 movie that spawned six sequels featuring the iconic murderous doll Chucky. In August, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark comes out, based on Alvin Schwartz’s collections of tales that have haunted kids’ dreams since they debuted in 1981. And while it may not quality as horror, exactly (more of a “zom-com”), the long-awaited sequel to Zombieland arrives at last in October.

Need more? Tyler Perry’s Madea returns in March in A Madea Family Funeral. David Harbour steps into the horn-stumps for a Hellboy reboot in April. Keanu Reeves is back for a third round as John Wick in May, while a new generation of Men in Black hits theatres in June. Quentin Tarantino’s look at the Manson Family, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, comes in July, followed soon after by Hobbs & Shaw, a Fast and Furious spinoff. In September, Downton Abbey will make the jump from the small screen to the big screen, while October will bring adaptations of the popular novels The Woman in the Window and The Goldfinch. In November, a third installment of the Kinsgman series is on its way, before the year finishes strong in December with a new Jumanji movie and, of course, the third and final film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

So that’s just some of what’s on our radar for 2019 at the box office, and you can be sure that it’s just a fraction of all the good stuff that’s coming our way. Let us know what you and your patrons are looking forward to, and stay tuned for information on when these movies will be available for you to add to your collections.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Rock Hall Names New Inductees

Written by Jon Williams

Last week the 2019 slate of inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was announced. This year’s class comprises seven bands and solo acts: Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, the Cure, Radiohead, Roxy Music, and the Zombies. The induction ceremony will be held on Friday, March 29, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Here is a brief look at each of the acts joining the ranks of the Hall’s famous and influential members.

Stevie Nicks is the first woman to be inducted twice, as she is already included as a member of the band Fleetwood Mac, inducted in 1998. Her solo career, which is being honoured this time around, began with the release of the album Bella Donna in 1981. Driven by the hit “Edge of Seventeen” as well as collaborations with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”) and Don Henley (“Leather and Lace”), it hit number one on Billboard’s album chart. Since then, she has continued to tour and record with Fleetwood Mac while maintaining a stellar solo career as well, releasing eight studio albums under her own name, most recently 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault in 2014.

Janet Jackson will take her place in the Hall alongside her famous brothers as a member of this year’s class—the Jackson 5 were inducted in 1997, and Michael Jackson joined as a solo artist in 2001. From an obviously musical family, Janet’s entrance into the world of entertainment actually started with acting. Still, she couldn’t escape the world of music, beginning her recording career as a teenager. Her breakout came with her third album, Control, released in 1986, shortly before her 20th birthday. She has gone on to record eleven albums, with the most recent being 2015’s Unbreakable.

Def Leppard was one of the biggest rock bands in the world in the 1980s, but they have refused to be defined or constrained by the “hair metal” label. Forming in the late ‘70s, their debut album On Through the Night came out in 1980. Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) were two of the biggest albums of the decade, dominating the charts and spawning a number of singles. The band suffered through such tragedies as drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a car accident and the passing of guitarist Steve Clark, and their star dimmed as pop metal declined in popularity as grunge ascended. Nevertheless, they have persevered, continuing to tour and record to this day. Their latest album, the self-titled Def Leppard, came out in 2015.

The Cure formed around the same time and have undergone a number of lineup changes in their forty-plus years, with frontman Robert Smith being the only constant member. Their debut album, 1979’s Three Imaginary Boys, kicked off a rather prolific career that saw them release thirteen albums in thirty years, culminating in 2008’s 4:13 Dream (currently unavailable). While the Cure has not released an album since then, the band has been touring, and there are plans to record and release new music in 2019 in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of their debut.

Radiohead is the “newest” act of this group, forming in 1985 and bursting onto the scene with the single “Creep” in 1992. That landed on their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey, the first of their nine albums, the newest of which is 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. The band has continued to experiment and evolve throughout their career and the accolades have followed, winning the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album three times. Their most recent release is a 20th anniversary edition of their 1997 album OK Computer with new tracks, and members Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke have also gained acclaim in the world of film music.

Roxy Music is a highly influential art rock band that came together in 1970 and released their self-titled debut album in 1972. Their recording career lasted just ten years, but they put out eight albums in that time, the last being Avalon in 1982. Since then, the band has been an on-again off-again venture, with the individual members often contributing to lead singer Bryan Ferry’s solo albums. That was the case with 2010’s Olympia (currently unavailable), originally conceived as a Roxy Music album and even featuring Brian Eno for the first time since 1973’s For Your Pleasure, but eventually released under Ferry’s name.

The Zombies are the oldest act joining the Hall in 2019, forming in 1961. The band put out just two albums in the 1960s—their 1965 debut and 1968’s Odessey and Oracle. They disbanded around the time of that second album’s release and didn’t reunite until 1991, when they recorded the album New World (currently unavailable) and then split again. Singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent got back together in 1999 and have continued to tour and record since, with their most recent album being 2015’s Still Got That Hunger.

In 2019 these musicians will cement their legendary status as they join the ranks of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and your music-loving patrons will want to discover or re-discover their catalogues. Make sure you have plenty of their incredible tunes available—use the links above or SmartBrowse on our website to find their albums as well as concert films and other related media we have available.

Friday, December 14, 2018

George R.R. Martin Goes Back in Time

Written by Jon Williams

For the past two weeks, a new book from George R.R. Martin has been at or near the top of the bestseller lists. No, it’s not the one that fans have been so eagerly anticipating: The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth installment in his Song of Ice and Fire series. It is set in the same world, however. While the books of the series itself concern themselves with the aftermath of the rebellion that toppled the reign of the Targaryen dynasty in the fictional realm of Westeros, Fire and Blood tells the earliest history of those Targaryen kings.

A Song of Ice and Fire is probably more popularly known by the title of its first volume, A Game of Thrones. Published in 1996, it was the first book of what was originally planned as a trilogy. The next two installments, 1998’s A Clash of Kings and 2000’s A Storm of Swords, did not come close to finishing the story, as Martin’s expansive style and an increasingly involved plot necessitated expanding the series to seven books. Those plot complications have also slowed down the writing. The fourth book, A Feast for Crows, came in 2005, and the fifth, A Dance with Dragons, in 2011.

And that’s where the series stands at the moment. A vocal segment of fans has grown increasingly dismayed at the long wait for the next book, with some even speculating that Martin wouldn’t even finish the series. On a recent blog post, however, he assured fans that The Winds of Winter is still forthcoming, and that he would indeed finish the series. In the meantime, there has been plenty to keep everyone occupied. The HBO series Game of Thrones debuted its first season in 2011 and has gone on to establish itself as a television phenomenon. It surpassed the source material from the novels with its sixth season, and the eighth and final season will premiere in April of 2019. Those who are really into the books and show can learn the Dothraki language used by the fierce horse lords (including Khal Drogo, played by Aquaman's Jason Mamoa). And readers/listeners looking for more Westeros backstory will enjoy A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, detailing the adventures of hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, the future king Aegon V Targaryen.

In a related but (at least supposedly) not connected vein, Martin also offers The Ice Dragon, a tale aimed at children and young adults, a sharp contrast with the gritty and bloodthirsty mode of A Song of Ice and Fire. These fantasy worlds are what Martin is most known for, but he’s equally at home in other settings. The Wild Cards series he edits and compiles is a sci-fi alternate history of the post-WWII U.S. that has been infected with an alien virus. And while it’s currently unavailable on audiobook, his novella Nightflyers is the basis for a ten-episode TV series currently airing on Syfy.

So for your patrons who are watching Nightflyers or gearing up for the final season of Game of Thrones, or even just patiently waiting for The Winds of Winter (not to mention A Dream of Spring, the final volume), there is plenty of material from George R.R. Martin to keep them entertained. Check out the titles listed above, and be sure to visit our website to find music from Game of Thrones as well as other related materials.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Lion King Trailer Excites Movie Fans

Written by Jon Williams

When Disney released The Lion King into theatres in 1994, it was an instant hit. Using animation to bring the classic tale of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the animal kingdom, the movie featured a star-studded voice cast including James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, and Matthew Broderick, to name just a few. It made more than $300 million during its initial theatrical run, won Academy Awards for its music, and spawned two direct-to-video sequels, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1½, not to mention a Broadway play.

Now, as we approach the movie’s 25th anniversary, Disney is preparing to release a live-action (or photorealistic CGI, at least) remake of The Lion King. Coming in July of 2019, it is set to feature even more famous voices, if that’s possible, than the original. James Earl Jones will once again lend his iconic voice to Mufasa, and he’ll be joined by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, and John Oliver. Oh, and Beyoncé. The first teaser trailer for the movie dropped last week during the NFL games on Thanksgiving Day and has already been viewed hundreds of millions of times online.

The new movie is being directed by Jon Favreau, who is no stranger to this type of project, having brought the 2016 live-action version of The Jungle Book following the 1967 animated classic, which is currently in Disney’s Vault. Other recent live-action updates of Disney’s animated classics include 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (from 1991’s animated version), 2015’s Cinderella (1950’s animated version, currently in the Vault), and 2010’s Alice in Wonderland (from 1951’s animated version). Lest anyone think this is a new concept, however, please recall the 1996 live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, adapted from the 1961 animated original (both of which are currently unavailable).

Of course, Disney’s lineup of animated classics is a rich vein to mine, and there are a number of other live-action adaptations in the works. 2019 will be a big year for them, with Dumbo (from director Tim Burton, who also did Alice in Wonderland) in March and Aladdin (starring Will Smith as the Genie) in May. Lady and the Tramp is also on the agenda for some point during the year, while 2020 will see an adaptation of Mulan. A remake of Pinocchio is still further out on the horizon, but has been in the news in the past couple of days due to the possibility of Tom Hanks joining the cast in the key role of Geppetto.

These live-action remakes have proved to be incredibly popular, and the original animated versions have proven to be all-time classics for generations. Make sure you have both versions of all these wonderful movies on your shelves for patrons to enjoy.