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Streamers like Netflix have been giving us one disappointment after another lately

Updated Mar 12th, 2024 3:41PM EDT
Masters of the Air on Apple TV+
Image: Apple

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When’s the last time you’ve been properly blown away by a streaming TV show or movie? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question for myself, personally, whereas I can attest that too much of the content from the major streamers has had the opposite effect on me lately. From Netflix to Apple TV+ to Max, I’ve found myself in recent weeks hyped up for several new TV shows or films, only for those expectations to be dashed — and I’m either left feeling meh or worse by the result.

There is, of course, a gradient to the kind of disappointment I’m talking about, and we can start with Netflix — specifically, with a handful of new titles there, some of which left me feeling just a little let down while at least one had me questioning why it was even made in the first place.

The first is Avatar: The Last Airbender (with a 60% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing).

Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix
Gordon Cormier as Aang in “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Image source: Netflix

A beloved animated franchise getting the live-action treatment is always fraught with some degree of risk. In the case of this show, though, it had at least two things going for it. The early footage, including the trailer, suggested breathtaking scope and action, plus lavish attention to detail. Also, the series only needed to be superior to the disastrous 2010 film adaptation from M. Night Shyamalan, which remains stuck with a crazy-bad 5% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Where I agree with the critics who’ve felt let down by the show, though, is in things like the pacing as well as the overall feel. The show has Netflix’s increasingly standard eight-episode length, which, in my opinion, quite often creates a bit of a rushed vibe. So much has to be jammed into those eight episodes, which might also explain the weird tone issues I noticed. Avatar: The Last Airbender is about kids who engage in moments of youthful levity while, in the next moment, there are traumatizing images of war and death.

Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix
Kiawentiio as Katara, Gordon Cormier as Aang, and Ian Ousley as Sokka in “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Image source: Robert Falconer/Netflix

Overall, a solid effort, but it nevertheless left me with a “meh” taste in my mouth, possibly because my expectations were too high. Meanwhile, here’s a quick snapshot of a few additional streaming titles that also disappointed me to one extent or another. In no particular order:

Mea Culpa (Netflix) — Hoo-boy, this next one is just a complete misfire all around. I wanted to like this latest from Tyler Perry, starring Kelly Rowland as a criminal defense attorney who takes on the case of a seductive artist accused of murdering his girlfriend. Unfortunately, though, not even the commanding presence of the former Destiny’s Child singer could save this Netflix film, with critics and viewers largely in agreement that both the script and acting here are pretty weak.

Mea Culpa on Netflix
Kelly Rowland as Mea, Shannon Thornton as Charlise, and Sean Sagar as Kal in “Mea Culpa.” Image source: Bob Mahoney/Perry Well Films 2/Courtesy of Netflix

Spaceman (Netflix) — Here’s another disappointment that I desperately wanted to like. I should have had a clue, though, from the fact that the book this Netflix movie is based on bored me to tears. In Spaceman, Adam Sandler plays a Czech astronaut on a voyage into deep space. His marriage is on the rocks, and he comes to befriend an alien stowaway on his ship, the two of them going on to have all sorts of deep, philosophical conversations.

While the movie certainly looks fantastic, its overall feel is just one of dullness and of a striving to say something important that never quite materializes. A New York Times writer put it very well: There are many space movies, like this one, that come up short because they’re not measured not by what they are but what they wished they were.

Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler as Jakub in the Netflix movie “Spaceman.” Image source: Netflix

Damsel (Netflix) — I have a few theories why this next Netflix movie starring Millie Bobby Brown hasn’t exactly been received warmly by critics (it has a very middling 57% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes as I type these words).

I can’t prove it, but I suspect Netflix’s trailer for this movie from director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo took some of the enjoyment and surprise out of it. We had a good idea about the big twist from the trailer, which is that Brown’s character would be thrown down into a cave to tangle with a dragon. Also, I think there was an overall tone problem here, wherein the movie is probably too violent for younger audiences but not serious enough for older viewers.

It’s easy enough to armchair quarterback these kinds of things after the fact, of course. Here again, I had high expectations going into Damsel but ended up finding myself surprisingly disappointed. I also suspect I’d have rather seen this on a big cinema screen than on my iPhone.

Millie Bobby Brown
Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in “Damsel.” Image source: John Wilson/Netflix

The Gentlemen (Netflix) — Sometimes, the problem with a Netflix release is that a series should have just been a movie, while a movie would have worked better as a series.

We watch Guy Ritchie movies, and in this case a Guy Ritchie TV series, not to learn some profound truth about the world but to be thoroughly and deliriously entertained in true lock, stock, and smoking barrels fashion. And we very much get that here, in Ritchie’s Netflix series that’s set in the same universe as his 2019 movie of the same name. Theo James plays the estranged son of an English aristocrat who gets caught up in a world of criminality — specifically, in a kingpin’s cannabis empire based in London.

I don’t know that this will be a popular opinion, but stretching the Ritchie style over eight hours felt like a bit much to me; I prefer him in wham, bam, thank you ma’am two-hour bursts — the length, in other words, of a feature film. The pacing here drags at times, given that there’s no way to maintain Ritchie’s same kinetic style at a constant rate over all eight episodes. He’s great fun at the cinema. TV shows, not so much.

The Gentlemen on Netflix
Theo James in “The Gentlemen” on Netflix. Image source: Netflix

Masters of the Air (Apple TV+) — This is another one that arguably suffered from sky-high expectations. How could it not, when it represents the third installment of a trilogy that also includes HBO’s Band of Brothers and The Pacific? I agree 100% with my colleague Chris Smith, who writes about the show that, eventually, “you realize that the character development you wanted isn’t happening. Not only will you not care about most characters, but you might not remember who most of them are.

“That’s where Masters of the Air fails for me. No matter how amazing the bombing action is — and it’s clear that that’s the focal point of the series — the explosive action alone isn’t enough to make the TV show a must-watch for me.”

Masters of the Air certainly looks great. No expense was spared in recreating those epic dogfights. I just wish the same care and attention would have been shown to character development, similar to how invested we all got in the members of Band of Brothers’ Easy Company.

Masters of the Air on Apple TV+Image source: Apple

True Detective: Night Country (HBO/Max) — Once again, the consequence of elevated expectations rears its head.

Without spoiling anything for those of you who might not be caught up yet, the supernatural elements of this season just did not resonate with me. I thought the execution was clunky, and in particular, I found the finale to be a letdown. I haven’t really liked any of the new characters, who quite often make the dumbest decisions, and I found the callbacks to earlier seasons of the show to be, for the most part, unnecessary. And with a 56% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, based on more than 2,500 ratings, it looks like I’m not alone.

Jodie Foster in True Detective: Night Country.
Jodie Foster in “True Detective: Night Country.” Image source: Michele K. Short/HBO
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.