Peacock enters streaming fray with paid, free subscriptions

ap photo This image released by Peacock shows Nick Mohammed, left, and David Schwimmer from the series “Intelligence,” which will be available on the new streaming service Peacock.

LOS ANGELES — Peacock is joining the streaming world with a few feathers plucked from its intended array of original programs.

Amid a stubborn, industry-wide production halt forced by the coronavirus, Peacock subscribers have to wait for a reimagined “Battlestar Galactica,” the podcast-based “Dr. Death” with Jamie Dornan and Alec Baldwin, and reboots of “Saved by the Bell” and “Punky Brewster.”

Nine new programs will be released on Peacock’s launch day, Wednesday, bolstered by some 20,000 hours of library fare from its parent company, NBCUniversal, along with outside acquisitions. Besides TV shows and movies that viewers already know and love, including “The Office,” “Cheers” and “The Matrix,” sports and news are an uncommon part of the mix.

“We always saw the value proposition of Peacock being significantly broader than just the originals,” said Matt Strauss, its chairman. For the budget-conscious, that includes a no-fee option.

Peacock joins a streaming field that has dramatically expanded with recent additions Disney+, Apple+ and HBO Max joining the old-guard that includes Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. With the number of choices — and sheer confusion — facing viewers, here’s highlights of what the newcomer is offering.

Pole position

In Peacock’s reduced first wave of originals, “Brave New World” clearly is the lead entry with its glossy production, pedigreed literary roots and a cast lead by Alden Ehrenreich (“Solo: A Star Wars Story”), Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey”) and Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones”).

The nine-part series is based on Aldous Huxley’s enduring 1932 novel of the same name, a cautionary tale of a modernistic social order in which people are genetically engineered to fit a caste system and serenity is found in a drug.

Does Ehrenreich feel the pressure of being a foremost part of the enterprise’s launch?

“The only thing you can really bank on is whether you have the goods,” he said. “Luckily, there seems to be a recognition that when something is really powerful, really good, that it will find its way through whatever it needs to. As far as the rest of it, you kind of have to just give it up.”

Ross who?

The “Friends” reunion (for rival HBO Max) is on hold, but David Schwimmer has staked out his own turf in the comedy “Intelligence.” Leaving Ross the romantic behind, Schwimmer plays Jerry, a blustering U.S. agent deployed to work alongside his British counterparts.

Jerry starts off as he intends to continue, heaping demands on peeved Chris (Sylvestra Le Touzel), director of the U.K.’s cyber crime and terrorism unit, and directing insults at bumbling computer analyst Joseph (series creator Nick Mohammed).

Schwimmer bluntly describes his character as arrogant and ignorant, not to mention “racist, misogynist, homophobic.” The challenge was to ensure the laughs come at Jerry’s expense, not those he derides, the actor said, but he’s somehow made sympathetic.

“He’s not the most likable character on paper,” Schwimmer said.


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