Netflix wins Squid Game 23 times

Mel Brooks, 95, finally making long-promised sequel

What to know

  • Squid Game will make Netflix $891 million… How do you measure a hit show? A rare peak inside Netflix reveals that the blockbuster Korean series, which only cost $21.4 million to make, will return nearly a billion for the streamer. To put that in perspective, you’d need to win Squid Game 23 times to make that much money. Oh the irony that a show so obviously against capitalism and greed will end up lining the pockets of a massive corporation. And speaking of the Squid Game, pretty bold of SNL to straight up spoil most of the show this weekend! 🦑

  • DC dropped all the trailers this weekend… Forget Comic Con, the new Hollywood trend is to host your own fan event and release all your upcoming trailers at once. This weekend was DC’s turn, giving us trailers for the Peacemaker series, The Flash movie, and Robert Pattinson’s The Batman, which looks a lot like a Batman movie! 🦇

  • Hollywood avoids a strike, but IATSE members are pleased… Union leaders struck a deal at the last minute to avoid a strike, but apparently the union members aren’t satisfied with its terms. Keep an eye on how this develops and continue to hope that crew members get fair hours and working conditions 🪧

  • Mel Brooks to write History of the World Part II variety series at Hulu… In an unbelievable turn of events, Mel Brooks is finally paying off one of comedy’s great teases. Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes, and Ike Barinholtz are on board to help 95-year-old Brooks write the 8-episode show. Just wonderful news! 📖

  • Y: The Last Man canceled at FX… Shocking turn of events considering the hype around the show and the long journey it took to get the graphic novel to the screen. But FX programmers are smart, they know when something doesn’t work 🤷‍♂️

  • Redbox teams with Lionsgate on original content… Yes, Redbox is still a thing! And they’re cranking out a lot of original movies! Physical media ain’t dead yet 📀

  • Disney pushes back some 2022 Marvel films, Indy 5… aw man, I was really looking forward to UNTITLED MARVEL on 7/28/23 📆

  • Ryan Reynolds is taking a ‘little sabbatical’ from movie making… He needs more time to sell Mint mobile plans, Aviation gin, and make viral TikToks 📱

  • Michael Caine is not retiring from acting… he’s just taking a little sabbatical 🇬🇧

For more pop culture news, discussion, and what-to-watch recommendations subscribe to my pals over on the Kickball Friends podcast🎙

What’s new this week:

  • Dune - Oct 22 in theaters and HBO Max sci-fi film | 🍅 89%

  • The French Dispatch - Oct 22 limited theaters Wes Anderson film | 🍅 80%

  • Invasion - Oct 22 Apple TV+ sci-fi series | 🍅

  • Insecure s5, Curb Your Enthusiasm s11, - Oct 24 HBO comedies

What to watch

When was the last time something surprised you? I mean really surprised you? Put you back on your heels and expanded your perception of the world, even just a little bit? I can tell you when it was for me. It was last week when I put aside everything else I was watching and plunged head first into Netflix’s Squid Game. I knew it was a hyper-violent Korean head trip in which people play deadly children’s games. I also knew it was massively popular — which doesn’t always translate into quality on Netflix. Aside from that I was as blind as the players awaiting their next game announcement. But I knew if I didn’t watch it soon I’d either be spoiled or miss the cultural moment.

So I watched. I watched all 9 episodes a lot faster than I tend to consume TV.

Isn’t it nice when something is really popular because it’s good? There is no secret formula or magical algorithm: Squid Game is a success because it is excellent. It is the cream rising to the top. It is the very type of show you immediately text 10 people about, asking if they’ve seen it. In addition to its brilliant twists and jaw-dropping moments of beautiful what-the-fuckery, Squid Game is visually arresting, mathematically plotted, punishingly resonant, and heart-searingly performed. Like the Squid Game itself, it’s hard to believe it’s real and yet endlessly alluring and captivating.

Not since Lost has there been a science fiction show that so nimbly balances character work with stylized high concepts. In lieu of Lost’s flashback format, Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk makes the genius choice of letting his characters opt out of the game, return to their lives, and then actively choose to return to the game. Episode 2, fittingly titled “Hell,” gives us back stories, motivations, and important plotting that makes all this seem plausible. But Hwang doesn’t stop with his main cast, he fills in even minor characters with deep wells of humanity. A minor player on the brink of death suddenly shows off brilliant math skills. Where did that guy come from! Or what about the married couple in the game! Hwang also deserve heaps of credit for leaning into a predictable hero’s journey but still managing to throw surprise after surprise at us in the way he plays with how we get there and what happens after.

The story goes that it took Hwang Dong-hyuk 10 years to get Squid Game made and at one point he had to pawn his laptop to make ends meet. The reason that story rings true is because we can feel its DNA in the show. Hwang satirizes and skewers capitalism with a fervor only someone who has been on its bad side could. Squid Game is resonating with more than 100 million households because Hwang depicts poverty and desperation with truth and courage. It’s fascinating that two of the most successful critiques of capitalism from recent years (this and Parasite) are South Korean exports. We simply don’t get shows this brutally honest about society from American creators.

There is so much to praise in Squid Game. One could argue that a key factor to its success is its distinct costumes and sets. The former of which will be unavoidable this Halloween. Hwang’s brilliant cast is also a clear ingredient in the quality stew. From supporting players to the top of the call sheet, I dare you to find one performance that doesn’t stick with you for days after watching. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking that should a season two happen, many of them won’t be coming back.

I’m not sure I could give a more full-throated recommendation than this. Squid Game is the television event of the year, maybe of several years. It further solidifies Netflix and South Korea as cultural tastemakers. It deserves a place atop your watch list, but not because it’s popular, but because it’s good. It might just surprise you with how good.

For all past ‘what to watch’ recommendations, see the full list here!

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