Monday, January 25, 2021

LARRY KING: Talk Show Legend, CNN Pillar, Dead at 87


He actually had a storied career in radio and television even before he became known worldwide with his talk show on cable network CNN, but it was on that talk show which carried his name, that Larry King became a household word around the globe. His then-uncommon interview style made all of his guests comfortable enough to talk without the least concern of having their opinions challenged. Thus, King got to talk with such a wide variety of people, from celebrities to politicians and even convicted killers, an incomparable feat. It is thus a sad day for mass media that this particular giant finally fell. has it that legendary TV and radio personality Larry King passed away this January 23, at the age of 87. The sad news was broken by his son Chance on the morning of Saturday, as well as on his authenticated Facebook page. The latter carried an official statement revealing that King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. No cause of death had been announced, but it was publicized only this January 2 that King was hospitalized at that hospital in December of last year due to COVID-19.

The Larry King “method” of interviewing was ably demonstrated by the man himself on “Larry King Live” in the over 25 years that it had been part of the CNN programming lineup. While he followed the standard Q&A format, King made a point of letting those he interviewed speak their piece without interruption from him. He was non-confrontational; his questions were open-ended; he rarely read up on his guests’ works; and he put them at ease by the way he leaned forward to listen intently to what they say. The total number of King’s CNN interviews was a staggering 30,000, all divided into 6,000 episodes of his show before he officially retired back in 2010.

Colleagues particularly on CNN were devastated at Larry King’s passing. Network founder Ted Turner said he felt the announcement like a “punch in the gut.” CNN President Jeff Zucker hailed King as one of the factors that made the pioneering news channel a staple on cable TV. From the Dalai Lama to Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, from Yasser Arafat to all US Presidents starting from Gerald Ford, King helped CNN audiences learn more from them at the same time he did. The world of news media is lesser now that he is gone.

Image courtesy of CBS News

Sunday, January 24, 2021


In 2019, the Walt Disney Company launched its exclusive digital streaming service, pointedly named Disney+. After pulling out almost all of its library of digital content from other “general” platforms like Netflix, the House of Mouse put all of them into Disney+ and sweetened the deal with some sweet original programming across its primary “labels” of Disney, Marvel (Cinematic Universe) and LucasFilm’s “Star Wars.” Unfortunately, the services was initially available only on North America, Europe and Australia, with months and then years crawling by before South America, North Africa, India, Japan and Indonesia got it. The rest of the world either withered on the vine or resorted to using VPNs.

But for certain, unspecified parts of Southeast Asia, the Disney+ drought may soon be coming to an end. IGN reports that binge watchers in the region may soon be able to legit watch “The Mandalorian,” “WandaVision,” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (yes, that is real) among many others, courtesy of a Disney+-merged streaming service that is reasonably near. That would be Hotstar, one of the top media platforms from India owned and run by now-Disney subsidiary Star India. Hotstar is already established in Indonesia, and is expanding to Malaysia and Singapore and, hopefully, the rest of SEA.

Hotstar usually carries sports content and domestic programming from India (particularly of Star India), but ever since its integration with Disney+ back in early 2020, there is now a dedicated content tab on the Hotstar home page for all the hottest stuff courtesy of Disney+. Recall that the main streaming platform carries not just Disney films, animations and TV series, but also Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. And they all could be had in Southeast Asia sooner or later, as a post from the new official Hotstar Malaysia Instagram account teases so teasingly.

Disney+ Hotstar was available in India for a yearly subscription worth about US$14. The platform’s rates and subscription duration in its new SEA stomping grounds are not yet known; there are concerns that the price may spike, but that is just speculation. For now, the best Southeast Asians outside of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore can do is wait and hope.

Image courtesy of Soya Cincau


Season 3 of “Cobra Kai,” the surprise hit sequel series to the “Karate Kid” series of the 1980s, has been a massive cash cow for its current streaming home at Netflix, the same way it had been for YouTube Red (now YouTube Premium) during its first two seasons. Fans may be eager to see what happens next when the former rival karate classes of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) unite by necessity against the increasingly monstrous Cobra Kai led anew by original founder Kreese (Martin Kove). But that probably will not come for one more year.

In the meantime, quite a number of outfits have been doing homages or even cross-promotions with “Cobra Kai” with its incredible streaming success. According to Comic Book Resources, one particularly stand-out example by Netflix involves a cool new Cobra Kai-esque workout routine developed by Billy Blanks. If the lead stars of the series are big names in the Eighties, then Blanks would be prominent in the following decade with the popularity of his Taekwondo-Boxing hybrid exercise program, aka Tae Bo. A video on the Netflix YouTube page features Blanks as an “honorary” Cobra Kai sensei who is giving his Tae Bo routine the “Strike Fast, Strike Hard, No Mercy” treatment.

William Zabka starts things off with a nifty introduction about Blanks, who then declares that viewers who wish to follow his new exercise routine will be pushed like never before. The video workout, which lasts about 40 minutes, comprises of limbering warm-up stretches and push-ups, before moving on to the trademark stances, footwork and moves that are signature to Tae Bo, but with the intensity of Cobra Kai as seen in the show. The fact that Blanks and his exercise companions are conspicuously dressed in Eighties workout gear is yet another fun viewing bonus.

There is no word yet on when production for “Cobra Kai” season 4 will commence, much less when it might come out on Netflix. There is speculation fueled by cast member Barrett Carnahan that a spinoff featuring the earlier days of evil Karate master John Kreese is being conceptualized. Carnahan portrayed a younger Vietnam War-era Kreese in flashbacks of the character during season 3, which depicts the future founder of Cobra Kai as a well-meaning all-American boy who is twisted by his wartime experiences and the betrayal of his first martial arts teacher into the amoral yet charismatic specter that has haunted Johnny and Daniel since.

All three seasons of “Cobra Kai” are viewable on Netflix.

Image courtesy of Men’s Health