As you might guess, after dental surgery I’m “catching up” in my TV time… Not feeling a lot like running around; and doing so with pain suppression not such a good idea anyway…
I’ve added Vudu activation to my Roku. So far, only the free stuff. (select the channel in the Roku, give it an email address, it sends you an email with the link to send you to their site where you add a password, then you are good to go.) Now I’m in position to do a comparison of Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu. (Hulu wants money so I’m not signed up to it, yet. We’ll see if there’s a reasonably free / cheap way to evaluate it, too). In some future posting I’m thinking a comparison of the nature of those services might be a nice thing to do. But for now, I’m still mostly Netflix. Which brings us back to this posting.
I’m very impressed with Netflix. So far, nothing else even comes close. The big draw for me is that once you’ve paid your $10 (or whatever it is) you have it all. Vudu gives you a couple of free tasters, but then it’s like $9 to $40 per movie or series. Amazon is in between the two on behavioiurs. But what really has come to impress me is the “Netflix Originals”. I started off expecting them to be cheap trash to fill out the lineup. Like a lot of the 10,000 Roku “channels” that’re really not worth the time. In reality, the Netflix Originals are very good.
First it was House Of Cards. Binge watched the whole thing. It seems a ‘take off’ of the Clintons. Husband grubs his way to the presidency, wife is covetous of the power, expecting to be anointed next. Trail of sexual misdeeds and dead bodies behind them both. It does a decent job of portraying what the world of “for keeps” politics when played by sociopaths just might be like. A couple of more were similarly good. Latest is that I just finished watching Black Mirror. A Sci-Fi series that looks at the dark side of technology and how it could go wrong. Just the thing for a computer security guy who spent decades looking at the dark side of technology and how it does go wrong…
Here’s the “official Site”:
The Internet Movie Data Base has nearly nothing about it.
A television anthology series that shows the dark side of life and technology.
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Stars: Daniel Westwood, Hannah John-Kamen, Beatrice Robertson-Jones | See full cast & crew »
They have a set of reviews. My only “complaint” about it is that they seem compelled to sprinkle F-Bombs and “Shit” though the episodes. I don’t mind too much, but it means the spouse will never watch it with me. A very audience limiting thing and the F-Bomb long ago lost the “shock value” as a motif. Oh Well.
It is mostly set in the UK, near as I can tell. In the tradition of Twilight Zone, each episode is stand-alone. It isn’t a series so much as a collection of short stories. Each unique, and each raising interesting questions to ponder.
A few stories repeat the themes of “Social Media Gone Bad”, and cell phones feature prominently in many stores. No surprise, really, since the overall motif is “tech gone bad”. One story has people obsessing over being voted up or down. Everyone rating every encounter with others, on the spot, from their phone. Drop below a 2 you are a pariah and can’t get a job, over 4 you are awarded better jobs, houses, etc. Then things show their dark side…
Another has soldiers with a visual overlay built into their brain. It lets them see maps and share intel on the battle field. But, it turns out, the “Brass” is also using it to make the enemy look like alien horribles when they really are just genetically “undesirable” citizens…
Generally speaking, I found each episode compelling in one way or another.
Where The CW series (The Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, etc.) are fun bits of fluff and “bubble gum for the mind”, these Neflix shows are thinking pieces. I like both sets, both genres, but for very different reasons. (iZombie, especially, is just a cute trick on an old idea that actually makes if fresh, with zombies as “regular folks with a medical condition” as long as they get some brains for dinner. All nicely tongue firmly in cheek… I mean, funny sympathetic Zombies? For real!..)
But Black Mirror is intended to make you think about where we are headed, and even where we are, and be a bit uneasy about it.
The Wiki has more than IMDB:
Black Mirror is a British science fiction television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker and centred around dark and satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone works, usually set in an alternative present or the near future. The show was first broadcast on the British Channel 4, in 2011. In September 2015, Netflix commissioned a third season of 12 episodes. The commissioned episodes were later divided into two seasons of six episodes; the third season was released on Netflix worldwide on 21 October 2016, with filming of the fourth underway in June 2017.
Regarding the programme’s content and structure, Brooker noted, “each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.” The series has received critical acclaim and has seen an increase in interest internationally (particularly in the US) after being added to Netflix.
Several of the Netflix Original Series are from the UK or Australia. I suspect as I explore more of them I’ll find other countries in the mix too. Netflix is trying to expand to a global player, so that’s their future direction. For UK folks, they’ve already seen this show starting in 2011. For me, it was a new experience.
In particular note the phrase “critical acclaim” in that Wiki. That seems to be the thing that Netflix is bringing to the table. They don’t want just “me too” filler, they are picking things that are actually good to add to their lineup.
So having started off avoiding “Netflix Originals” as I had other things I wanted to watch, especially some familiar series and then catching up on some I’d missed and wanted to see (like Crossing Jordan where many Star Trek players found follow-on bit parts and that seems to be the conceptual model for Bones; but I’d been busy and missed most of it when first aired). I’ve now watched a few Originals and found that they are quite good. The stuff I’d like to see on TV, but the US Networks just won’t (or can’t) do. One, “3%“, is in Portuguese and set in Brazil. Captioning was fine and the story and players were well worth reading captions to watch. Eventually, Netflix will have enough “various languages” content they will need to sort them that way, but for now, some bits are Spanish or Portuguese or… Just the thing for folks wanting language practice too ;-) But most of it is English (of various dialects…)
That it all is 100% free of commercials is something that’s got me hooked, too. Even though The CW airs new episodes first, and I’ve got them on my Roku as a “channel”, I’ve gotten used to uninterrupted story lines. I’ve found I’m happy to wait until the “next season” shows up on Netflix and gain 1/3 of an hour for every hour of show… (roughly, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3… I’m increasingly intolerant of that time theft.)
It has been weeks since I used the Satellite Dish (DirecTV) for anything. It just seems so limited now, and everything packed with time costing commercials wall to wall… I’m now 100% comfortable with the idea of cord cutting. Might just do it early. I’ve got 9 months to go. With neither me, nor the spouse, actually watching it anymore, I need to do a “penalty vs keep” cost comparison and decide “Is it worth it”? I’d expected a harder time “letting go” and figured between Fox and HBO there would be something hard to replace. I was entirely wrong. Roku and Pluto TV cover more news from more places including several of my favorite alternative sources. Netflix has more series and movies than we can possibly get through. What else do we need or want?
So that was the case even before I’d watched a few Netflix Originals. At this point, I’ve done 3 series (I think…) and a few movies of theirs. Not one has been a tosser or disappointment. Some more my style than others, but production values are good, plot lines interesting, actors very good, and the variety makes the common broadcast TV look like high school drama class re-dos of old stories. (The only real exception to that condemnation being CBS who have managed to put together a decent set of shows with interesting characters and plots. Blue Bloods. NCIS (several). And Star Trek on their pay-to-play channel, that we’ll likely be buying soon just for that.)
I note in passing that Netflix subscribers are up, mostly on international growth, and their stock price popped on that news.
For anyone who hasn’t made the “leap” yet to internet TV, my recommendations are pretty simple:
1) Get a “dumb” TV. That way you can yank the “smarts” any time you like for privacy / security / anti-hacking purposes. A Roku does not have a camera nor a microphone in it, and you can’t crawl up the HDMI cable to activate anything in the TV (so far… that I know of…)
2) Put a Roku on it. You get tens of thousands of channels of “junk”, but also enough stuff that matters to make it worth way more than the $45 (to get the better one). Plus, you can unplug it when desiring higher security. You can get “local news” from all over the world (many USA local stations news too) so I can check the local news and weather in Orlando before flying out or in Chicago before visiting friends. RT, Al Jazeera, Sky, France 24, ABC, NBC, CBS, Reuters and about 2 dozen more including the conservative NewsMax and the ultra Progressive MSNBC. It also has Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon, CBS Pay, and a few other high end “aps” on it.
3) Sign up for Netflix.
At that point, with Roku and Neflix running, spend 6 months just sorting through all the stuff to watch. Not actually watching all of it, just realizing you have about 2 decades of stuff to watch, much of it quite good (mostly on Netflix). Realize, too, that it seems like a few years of new stuff shows up each year…
Then, and only then, think about what is lacking in your choices. So far, the only thing lacking for us has been new “must see” shows from CBS (especially for a hard core Trekkie with a new Star Trek coming out…)
Beyond that? Well, I’ve not really gotten there yet. Still exploring. The simple truth is that the combo of a Roku and Netflix saturates my viewing time with things better than expected. I’m having trouble figuring out why I ought to spend 45 minutes figuring out what “Sci-Fi” channel on the Roku has neat old 1940s and 50s and even 60s movies I’d like to re-live (or fill in that I missed at the time) and / or why I ought to explore Hulu or Vudu; when I could spend that time on a really nice Netflix Original that’s already queue up in my watch queue…
Well, I’m going to “get there” in the next month or two. Just because curiosity and a need to optimize solutions drives me. The Spouse just launches Netflix and is done, almost all the time. (Some particular CBS shows are the rest). We, together, will be ‘binge watching’ the entire suit of Star Trek moves that are presently on Amazon, since we got it / them for free since she picked up Amazon Prime for the shipping cost savings. (Vudu wanted something like $45 each to ‘buy’ them. We don’t need to buy them, we need to watch them. Sure, they will expire on Amazon eventually. So?…) But who knows when we’ll have the 30 or 40 hours of time to watch them in one go ;-) I’m caught up in the Netflix Originals for the next few months and she is working her way through the entire history of Blue Bloods, the Star Trek TV Series, and Crossing Jordan and a couple of others on Netflix.
It is really amazing just how much you can get and watch for “nearly nothing”. Compared to the time cost of endless commercials, well, it’s a “no brainer”. I think the lifetime for broadcast TV and “commercials on internet TV” is getting shorter. I’m still willing to put up with some, on things like Reuters, but I can already feel the tolerance shrinking. Even though it’s only a 30 second spot every once in a while. Forget the 3 minutes solid on regular TV. Much larger percentages of my “Tube Time” (or is it “panel time” now? ;-) is preferentially going to the solid viewing block sources. Netflix is leading that parade…