3 Reasons Why Man Cannot Live on Netflix Alone

Well, this man, anyway.

Unknown

Netflix is the rare technological advancement that’s totally affordable but I haven’t adopted yet. For the longest time it was because I had no device to deliver Netflix to my TV—my gaming days ended way back at the PS1 (which, not to get on a tangent, but I’m very grateful for. As if writers don’t procrastinate enough, I can’t imagine having video games calling my name from the other room while I’m trying to get some writing done). Then, last Christmas I got a Chromecast, and suddenly Netflix re-entered the picture as an actual, viable option for our TV/movie viewing needs.

I’ve talked to people I know, and read the comments/opinions of people I don’t know on the internet, and there seems to be a resounding cry of “Screw the cable companies! Get Netflix and cancel your service provider! Netflix is all you need!”

images-2

I agree with the first half of that statement—seriously, screw cable companies. Satellite providers may be only marginally better, and that depends just on your personal experience with whatever company you use, but I hate cable companies. I mean, like, hate-hate. They aren’t regulated for the most part, and it’s basically like the wild west when it comes to their business practices.

But the second part…get Netflix and cancel my paid TV service altogether? I don’t think I can do that. Why? Funny you should ask.

1. Limited choices

From what little I know about Netflix’s menu of programming, TV shows are pretty easy to find—the vast majority of shows are available to binge watch at your leisure. Still, I’m sure with my luck there would be something I watch not on there. Then there’s the issue of movies. I don’t watch movies all the time, but I like having a wide variety to pick from, which from what I can gather about Netflix, is not necessarily the case. They are constantly working to get better, newer movies on their format faster, but their choices are a little limited for the time being. Again, this is just as I (an admitted Netflix ignoramus) understand it.

2. HBO

HBO holds a special place in my heart. Sure, they show movies. Yes, they have boxing. But how HBO got their hooks in me and kept them in is with their original programming. I’m thinking back as far as I can, and the oldest shows I remember watching are Tales from the Crypt, Kids in the Hall and Dream On. Then I got hooked on OZ, followed by the big daddy, still my favorite show of all time, The Sopranos (R.I.P. James Gandolfini—still missed). Since then, HBO has pretty much kept their momentum, with a few bumps in the road of course, with Six Feet Under, The Wire, and Big Love, and currently with True Blood, Game of Thrones, and True Detective.

Time is a flat circle.

Time is a flat circle.

And that’s just the scripted shows.

HBO just struck a deal with Amazon (another alternate TV viewing option) to stream their shows, but only shows that are at least 3 years old. Right now my wife and I are getting ready to watch the final season of True Blood (are they really going to let Tara survive the entire series?), then a cool-looking new show called The Leftovers starts next week, so we’ll be checking that out, and I just started getting into Veep and Silicon Valley. My point is, I’m in too deep.

images-1

Damn you, HBO…

 

Which brings me to…

3. I’m a creature of habit.

I’m writing this on Sunday morning. Once I’m done with this and any other writing I’m working on, I’ll go sit in front of the TV and see what’s on. I’ll look through the onscreen guide, flip to something I’ve never heard of or want to see what it is—I’ll channel surf. That’s what I do, and I can’t imagine not doing it with Netflix.

Last night I found myself watching some show called The Pool Master, about some British guy who was hired to build a dream pool for this (evidently filthy stinkin’ rich) couple in Kentucky. They wanted this dramatic pool built on the side of a cliff, deep enough to high dive off rocks—to cliff dive into their pool, basically—that would have a water feature and a fire pit, etc. It was a massive undertaking as the Brit had to figure out the logistics of digging out the hole for the pool, moving the enormous stones he wanted to use to construct their cliff diving thingie, and it was really interesting…for about ten minutes.

I love doing that kind of thing. Seeing something on and going, what the hell is that? And changing the channel to see just what the hell it is. I know if I cancelled my TV service I could still get a handful of basic channels (the networks) with an antenna, but I’ve been down that road during especially bad storms that take out the satellite signal, and living off antenna is not something I want to do again. Homo sapiens have evolved this far, I’m not going to take a giant leap backwards and watch TV off an antenna like some animal. That’s a slippery slope—where does it end, doing away with my remote and getting up every time I want to change the channel?

I know some of you remember...

I know some of you remember…

Despite all my ramblings, I’ll probably end up getting Netflix sooner rather than later. I think it’s actually a really cool service that would make a nice addition to my TV viewing experience. But to me, that’s all would be: an addition; an enhancement to what I already have. I’m not ready now, and may never be in the future, to cut myself off completely from the pay TV lifeline I’ve been weaned on for so long.

I’m curious what anyone can tell me about Netflix—are you happy with it? Do you find its choices limiting? Have you dropped cable/satellite altogether?

 

Could True Detective Be the Future of Television? And A Word About Philip Seymour Hoffman

I love TV. I really do. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between books and film as opposed to television among a lot of people. TV has always been looked down on a bit, seen as appealing to the lowest common denominator by putting out broader, more simplistic programming.

In a recent interview, Billy Bob Thornton said he feels that the tides have turned in that regard, and television is now the smarter, more sophisticated medium (you may be asking yourself Who gives a crap what Billy Bob Thornton thinks? and I couldn’t blame you, but that’s beside the point). In recent years TV shows have consistently raised the bar, starting in my opinion with The Sopranos, to the point that now some of the best stories being told are on the small (but ever growing in physical size) screen.

In a way, it seems like it should’ve been that way all along. Movies are forced to tell you a story in two—or in Martin Scorcese’s case, three—hours, whereas a TV show can take its time, pacing the story however they want; the problem is they often drag it out for far too long.

images

Enter True Detective, HBO’s new anthology series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as a pair of mismatched detectives trying to solve the case of a serial killer in 1990’s Louisiana, and being interrogated about the case in the present day. That description kind of makes it sound like some terrible stoner buddy cop movie, but I assure you it’s anything but. The tension that builds between the two due to their differing world views is palpable. The acting and writing is excellent, the direction and cinematography are top notch, and it totally reminds me of the feeling I used to get watching The Sopranos—that I was watching something special, not just any old TV show.

What makes True Detective even more unique is the anthology format: while the series is likely to be picked up for a second season, it’s already been set in stone that the current storyline with Harrelson and McConaughey will be wrapped up in this season’s eight episodes. When/if the series returns for season two, it will follow a similar format but have new lead actors solving a new mystery, in the vein of FX’s American Horror Story.

If I had the power to control anything in the world of television, I’d like to see the anthology make a comeback in a big, big way. When you think about it, it seems like a win-win for everyone involved: the networks wouldn’t necessarily have to pay for full 22 episode seasons, as anthologies can be as few or as many episodes as its creators want. Which is good, since paying bigger name actors and directors would likely mean a bigger budget. Also, from the actors and directors point of view, they can work on a quality project but not be locked down for several months out of the year, leaving them open for movie projects or sunbathing in the south of France, or whatever it is actors do when they’re not working.

There was a horror anthology on Showtime a few years ago called Masters of Horror (2005-2007) which, fittingly, showcased legendary horror directors behind the camera for one episode of the show apiece. My favorite episode of the series was titled Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, directed by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame and adapted from the short story by master of horror in his own right Joe Lansdale, but I digress. My point was that getting big names (be they actors or directors) for shorter commitments (and with definitive endings to the stories in sight) can benefit everyone.

Networks just love dragging shows out past their prime; it’s disappointing. My DVR is like a TV graveyard for once-promising shows that my wife and I lost interest in. Falling Skies. Revolution. Under the Dome. Even The Walking Dead, the one I would’ve thought I’d watch until the final frame. Having no end in sight means they have to stretch the shows to the point that I just don’t care about them anymore. But I can tell you this: I will be watching every episode of True Detective, and savoring every moment of it.

PS—I type this on Sunday afternoon, a few hours after hearing the news of the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. There isn’t really anything I can say about him that someone else hasn’t already said; he really was a brilliant actor, and I never saw him in anything where he wasn’t “on,” as they say. But rather than lament on the shocking loss, I’ll recommend one of his movies.

Everyone is mentioning Capote, for which he won the Oscar, as well as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master, and of course Hunger Games. But there’s one that has flown inexplicably under the radar ever since its release: Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) is an excellent thriller starring Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as brothers who aren’t as smart as they think, and find out just how incompetent they really are when they try to pull off a heist of their parents’ jewelry store and botch it something awful, with heartbreaking consequences. It costars Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney, and also happens to be the final film from legendary director Sidney Lumet, who went out on an extraordinarily high note with this film. Give it a watch and I’ll bet you like it. It’s a tragic reminder of yet another talented actor gone too soon.

Unknown-1