Saturday, April 25, 2015

Adventures in Netflix

I had a Netflix account for literally years. At the time that I first subscribed to Netflix they did not even have streaming video. Back then one could only receive DVDs through the mail. I still had my subscription when Netflix introduced streaming video in 2008, although I could only watch streaming video on my computer. Sadly, I had to cancel my Netflix account in 2011 when I lost my old job. Without a steady income, I could hardly afford the luxury of Netflix. Of course, since that time things have changed a bit. Netflix's streaming business has since overtaken their DVD business. Netflix also separated the two, so that one can subscribe to their DVD service, their streaming service, or both.

Since I cancelled my Netflix account there have also been changes in technology. While Smart TVs were around before 2011, they have become much more common in the past few years. In fact, it would be this past November that my household would get our first Smart TV. It was our new Smart TV that was the impetus for my brother to subscribe to Netflix's streaming service. After all, unlike the old days we would not have to watch Netflix streaming video on our computer screens, but we could actually watch it on a TV set. While many people might not mind watching movies and TV shows on a computer, my family has always preferred a somewhat larger screen.

Quite naturally my brother set up profiles for the whole household and told all of us the password. The end result has been that I have been able to experience Netflix for the first time in four years. In some respects I am impressed by how Netflix's streaming service has changed in the past four years. In others I am a little disappointed. I have to say that I am largely impressed by Netflix's selection of television shows. They have several British shows, including Call the Midwife, Doc Martin, Sherlock, Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War, The IT Crowd, and so on. They also have the Canadian cult shows Murdoch Mysteries and Bomb Girls, and the Australian series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

Of course, as would be expected Netflix does have a wide array of American TV shows to choose from. They have Angel, The Blacklist, Breaking Bad, Frasier, House, Leverage, Lost, Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, every Star Trek series ever made (including the animated series), The X-Files, and many, many others. One major change made not that long after I cancelled my Netflix account is the service's acquisition of original TV shows.  I have not yet watched Netflix's first original series, House of Cards, but I have watched both Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Daredevil and I was impressed with both. I plan to watch Orange is the New Black, which I have also heard good things about. The one area with regards to television shows where I am disappointed with Netflix is classic television. Netflix really does not have that many classic TV show to choose from, and most of the ones they do are easily accessed elsewhere: Adam-12, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Andy Griffith Show, Cheers, Columbo, Leave It to Beaver, M*A*S*H, The Rockford Files, The Twilight Zone, and so on. My one suggestion to Netflix with regards to television shows is that they should try acquiring several classic TV shows that one cannot see on Cozi TV, Hulu, Me-TV, Retro-TV, TV Land, or a dozen other places.

I do have to say that in some respects I am disappointed in Netflix's selection of movies. The simple fact is that many recent hits are not available on the streaming service. Do you want to watch Marvel's The Avengers? You can't do it on NetFlix. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies? It's also not available on Netflix. That having been said, Netflix does have several other films one might not see elsewhere. I was impressed that they have the French film Populaire, which I have wanted to see for ages. And Netflix does excel with regards to certain genres. I rather suspect most fans of Asian martial arts films would not be disappointed with their selection. While it could use a good deal of improvement, Netflix does have a good selection of classic films. Indeed, they have several Buster Keaton movies available for streaming (all of which I added to my queue), as well as other silent classics such as Metropolis and Nosferatu. Much to my surprise they even had four movies starring my beloved Margaret Lockwood besides The Lady Vanishes: Highly Dangerous, Hungry Hill, Night Train to Munich, and A Place of One's Own.

There is one major complaint I do have about Netflix. By default Netflix is set to automatically play the next episode of any TV show one is watching. Now one can go into Playback Settings on one's PC and uncheck the box labelled "Play next episode automatically". Unfortunately, this seems to have no effect on a Smart TV, which is where I do all of my Netflix viewing. While I realise that many people who binge on TV shows might appreciate having the next episode of a TV show play automatically , those of who do not binge on TV shows (at least with any regularity) find it more of an irritation. They really need to fix it so that when one has the "Play next episode automatically" box unchecked in one's settings on his or her PC, episodes will not automatically play on a TV set.

Over all I do have to say that I think Netflix's streaming service is well worth the money. The past few weeks we have already gotten a lot of good out of it. I've watched several episodes of Doc Martin, Farscape, Firefly, Keeping Up Appearances, and Vicar of Dibley, among other TV shows, as well as the movie Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. I can't say how Netflix compares to other services, such as Hulu, but if one enjoys more recent TV shows and original programming, it is a very good service.


KC said...

I also returned to Netflix recently after cancelling the service for a year. It got to where we had too many viewing options and it seemed like no one in the family watched it. I kept hearing about the original shows though, and they have a lot of independent films that I was curious about from last year's festivals. It's been fun to come back and check out all the new stuff, but I'm thinking I'll probably put my account on hold again eventually, so I can make full use of Warner Archive Streaming, Amazon Prime, etc.

Hal Horn said...

I have kept my Netflix (my wife uses it more than I do); QUINCY M.E. is a favorite there among the classics, and even with the access to it and others on Me, Cozi et al I enjoy the option of getting it commercial free.

Lately Warner Archive Instant is where I've been spending much of my time, because they have a lot of shows that have been very hard to find, both short-lived (HONDO, FLO, BRONK, MAYA etc) but also long running shows that have become harder to find (DAKTARI, 77 SUNSET STRIP, SURFSIDE SIX etc).

My wife also uses Amazon Prime a lot. Hey, entertainment budget can apply to in-house entertainment too. :)

Terence Towles Canote said...

Hal, the Warner Archive streaming service is what I'd like to have, but I don't know if they have an app for Samsung Smart TVs. It would certainly have the selection I'd be most interested in--the classic Warner Bros. TV shows. I had an Amazon Prime account for years and I'd like to get one again. I actually used it more than Netflix.