What is "Facebook Watch?" If you said, "another ingenious/devious way for Facebook to consume every last second of my life," you wouldn't be wrong. If you said, "haven't a clue," you wouldn't be alone.
And if you said one of the more important initiatives by the world's largest social-media company, you'd be spot on. Launched last August, Facebook Watch is Facebook's answer to YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and every other streaming service, including, soon, Apple and Disney. On this, the first anniversary, it's now packed with reality shows, docuseries, sports (including Major League Baseball) and news (ABC's "On Location" launched recently), as well as a handful of scripted series.
Nevertheless, lightly promoted and sporadically viewed, Facebook Watch remains something of an enigma—a stealth enterprise that can be hard to define if not exactly hard to find. The tab is right there on your homepage, right below "Messenger."
Why the vaunted importance? One reason: Millions of teens have abandoned Facebook, and most of the scripted series—overwhelmingly teen and young-adult-oriented—are tasked with bringing them back.
So, what's worth watching on Facebook Watch? Here's a quick glance at three key—and definitely watchable—scripted series.
This comedy is about Isobel (Zoe Chao) and Cam (Meredith Hagner), best friends in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles the first season, who then relocated to New York for the second, which wrapped Sunday. Introduced at Sundance, and later Outfest, in 2017, Isobel was described by producers as "a woman living fully in the bi-sphere—bisexual, biracial and now bicoastal." Indeed, her sexuality is fluid or, better word, evolving, while season 2 ends with what appears to be an orientation commitment.
With "Strangers," think "Girls" along with a splash of "Broad City." The "Girls" comparison is intentional or unavoidable, in part because creator Mia Lidofsky was at one time assistant to "Girls" director Jesse Peretz. Like most of Facebook Watch's scripted content, there's an indie vibe here. Like all Facebook Watch content, the production values are decent, far from profligate. What's best about "Strangers" are the performances (full of vitality) and the writing (amusing and self-assured).
"Strangers" appears to be a success, in part because viewers have told it so. "With the Watch platform, you get the opportunity to see in real time the audience response and engagement," executive producer Michael Clark, said in an email.
"Strangers" got nearly 8 million streams for the opening episode and a small fraction of that thereafter. This seems to be a pattern with most Facebook Watch shows. Lots of people sample, few return.
Based on a Norwegian web series, each episode unfolds in real time, and characters post to Instagram while it's in progress. "SKAM" (the word means "shame") is also a hit, or appears to be one. About 10 million views were counted for the launch back in April, but fewer than 2 million for week 8. The show was recently renewed.
Any adult, say, over the age of 30 coming to "SKAM" enters terra infirma, brimming with cognitive cues and sub-verbal expressions, all immersed in the lingua franca of social media. Hey, it's about teens. With a handheld camera and extreme tight focus, "SKAM" explores the fictional world of Bouldin High School in Austin, specifically the world of one Megan Flores (Julia Rocha), a lonely, awkward kid who has a boyfriend, Marlon (Till Simon).
It's a sharply drawn portrait of the jungle—that high school one—with some good performances. But "SKAM" can also be a formless dreamscape, adrift in emotions and inner lives. Of course, it's possible that's its chief appeal, too.
'SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS'
Finally, there's "Sorry for Your Loss," which launches Sept. 18. There's an embargo on reviews until early next month, but it's hardly giving too much away to observe that this, too, is good. Big Beach TV is the production company.
The cast is especially notable for a Facebook Watch scripted show—indie star Elizabeth Olsen in her first series; Tony and Olivier Award winner Janet McTeer; and "The Last Jedi" breakout Kelly Marie Tran.
"Sorry" is about Leigh Shaw (Olsen), who's immersed in grief following the death of her husband, Matt (Mamoudou Athie). Her sister, Jules (Tran), and mother, Amy (McTeer), try to help, and so does her brother-in-law, Danny (Jovan Adepo), who's adrift in his own grief.
A tragedy? Yes, but also a comedy. Above all: Facebook Watch's most important launch to date.
Explore further: Is Facebook going to reinvent TV with Facebook Watch? Well, it's trying