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Paramount+ Launches with New Shows, Deep Catalog

Yes, believe it or not, there’s yet another player in the streaming game, but this one is surprisingly affordable and promises one of the densest catalogs to date. Merging the weight of the CBS brand with the history of one of the most successful studios in film history, Paramount+ launches today with a minimal amount of new, original content, especially when compared to high-profile programs that helped push Apple TV+ and Disney+ off the ground. But Paramount+ isn’t exactly a new service as much as it is a rebranding of CBS All Access, home to critically acclaimed original shows like “The Good Fight,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Star Trek: Picard.” Somewhat surprisingly, Paramount+ will be cheaper than CBS All Access, coming in at $10 a month or $100 a year for a commercial-free plan, with a commercial option for only $5 a month coming in June.

The main anchor for Paramount+ is the long history of the CBS networks, including not only the broadcast home of hits like “NCIS” and “Blue Bloods,” but networks like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, and the Smithsonian Channel. It will also be the home to films from the Paramount, Miramax, and MGM companies, with the promise of some new hits coming to Paramount+ first, which has already been reported will be the case with “A Quiet Place 2.” At launch, there are over 2,500 titles in the library already, and new films will be released on the platform, including a show based on the hit game “Halo” and a prequel to “Yellowstone.”

Finally, there will be original Paramount+ programming, including three offerings screened early that have dropped today, March 4th, as well as the newest adventure for everyone’s favorite animated underwater creature in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.” They are as follows:

“Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years”

Remember “Muppet Babies”? Family classics often get prequels and it’s that time in the cultural cycle for SpongeBob Squarepants, Patrick Star, Squidward Tentacles, and the rest of the gang. “Kamp Koral” features a 10-year-old SpongeBob at summer camp, and it maintains much of the sense of humor that has made Mr. Squarepants an international star. In other words, it’s goofy and playful, never taking itself too seriously. Personally, I prefer the look of the original series more than the boxy CGI here, but the writing is pretty much the same for this show that was originally planned to air on Nickelodeon, and was then moved to Paramount+ to accompany the newest movie. Six episodes will drop today with more planned for the future.

“For Heaven’s Sake”

The most distinctive new property on Paramount+ is this comedy-documentary from the producers of “American Vandal.” Whereas that Netflix comedy was a spoof of documentaries, this is a genuine non-fiction piece, an investigation into the disappearance of a man named Harold Heaven, who went missing in the brutal Ontario winter in 1934. Harold’s great-great-nephew Mike Mildon collaborates with Jackson Rowe to investigate a case close to his family’s heart, even interviewing his mother and father in the process. It’s a charmingly self-aware series that goes on a little too long (eight episodes is a bit much) but it does a remarkable job of poking fun at the true crime genre (part of their pitch to get the series off the ground includes “We have a drone to take good overhead shots”) while also presenting a legitimately interesting mystery. This is really fun, intriguing stuff, and I hope it finds an audience.

“The Real World Homecoming: New York”

It’s incredibly hard to believe it, but it’s been nearly three decades since MTV launched “The Real World,” forever changing the reality TV landscape. To commemorate that occasion, the producers have gathered the original “seven strangers” and dropped them in the same loft that changed their lives back in 1992. Once again, these people are ready to stop being polite ... and start getting real. And the producers have recognized the weight of the moment in which this reunion is premiering, focusing a lot of energy on the pandemic—it filmed just in January of this year—and the racial issues that boiled over in 2020. Fans of the original will remember that race was a major part of the series, especially in the dynamic between Julie Gentry and Kevin Powell, who had a notorious fight, and the producers have centered that again, at least in the premiere. How the show reflected race then, and how things have changed makes for interesting subtext, but fans of “The Real World” will also just enjoy seeing how these people have grown up. Julie has a daughter nearly the same age that her mother was when she went on the show, for example. It’s fascinating how much these people have changed, but almost more fascinating how much they feel so much the same. 

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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