Thursday, July 16, 2020

Peacock: NBCUniversal's New Streaming Service

Yesterday Peacock, the new streaming service ran by NBCUniversal, launched nationwide. It had been available to Xfinity subscribers since April 15 of this year. Peacock is unusual in that it has different tiers of service. The  Free tier allows one to watch a good deal of content for free, although one must sit through commercials to do so. The Premium tier is $5.00 a month and gives the user access to more television shows and movies, including Peacock Original programming. Also, with the Premium tier one does not have to watch commercials.

Now there are some downsides to Peacock. One downside to Peacock  for many is that one cannot watch the service on either Roku or Amazon Fire. Right now Peacock is available on Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Xbox One, Vizio SmartCast TVs, and LG Smart TV.  It will be available on Playstation 4 some time next week. As might be expected, one can also watch Peacock on their computer using the service's web player. 

Another downside with Peacock is that one cannot download shows and movies to watch later. This is a feature that Amazon Prime and Netflix have long offered, and is also available on such newer streaming services as Disney+ and HBO Max.

Of course, one downside of Peacock is one that it shares with many other streaming services. Quite simply, it can sometimes be hard to find what one wants to watch. Netflix breaks down its library into a wide variety of genres, as does Hulu. HBO Max breaks it library down into the various WarnerMedia properties (that is, DC Comics, HBO, Turner Classic Movies, and so on). In contrast, Peacock breaks down its library into such broad categories as "Free Laughs" and "Timeless Classics." Ultimately, if one wants to find a particular TV show, it might be easier to perform a search or to browse TV shows from A to Z.

While Peacock does as its downsides, it has one big upside. Namely, Peacock has an incredible library of classic NBC shows, Universal shows, and Universal movies to watch. As a classic movie fan who has been consistently been disappointed by the selection of classic films on other streaming services, I was somewhat pleased with the classics Peacock has to offer.  As might be expected, Peacock has a large selection of Universal Monster movies, including Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931),  Werewolf of London (1935), and yet others. Peacock even has a few of the Hammer Horrors to which Universal has the distribution rights, including The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) and The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). Peacock also has several Alfred Hitchcock movies, including The Birds (1963), Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), The Trouble with Harry (1955), and others.

Even beyond horror and Hitchcock, Peacock has a good selection of classic movies.  Among the classics available on the service are All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Charade (1963), Destry Rides Again (1939), Do the Right Thing (1989), Going My Way (1944), Monkey Business (1931), My Man Godfrey (1936), Pillow Talk (1959), Remember the Night (1940), Stella Dallas (1937), and others. In fact, so far the only thing that really disappoints me about Peacock's selection of classic movies is that they are missing a good number of key Abbott and Costello films. Where is Buck Privates (1941)?

Of course, I realise a lot of people will be more interested in the recent movies that Peacock has to offer. In that regard, Peacock's selection is respectable. The service includes such films as American Psycho (2000), the Bourne Trilogy, Jackie (2012), Jurassic Park (2001), Phantom Thread (2017), Ted (2012), The Matrix Trilogy, and others. If there is one complaint to be had about Peacock's recent movies, is that none of them seem to be very recent (nothing from 2018 or 2019 that I could find).

Strangely enough given Peacock is named for NBC's mascot, the streaming service is weaker with regards to TV shows than it is movies. While its selection of classic TV shows is better than many streaming services (especially HBO Max), it could be better. Among the classic shows on Peacock are Airwolf, Alfred Hitchcock Presents/The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Carol Burnett Show, Cheers, Columbo, Leave It to Beaver, The Munsters, and The Rockford Files. Conspicuously missing are any of the NBC Mystery Movie shows beyond Columbo (McCloud, MacMillan & Wife, and so on), as well as such classic Revue/Universal Television shows as Adam-12, Ironside, Night Gallery, The Virginian, Wagon Train, and yet others. Strangely enough, while Peacock has both of the McHale's Navy feature films (1964's McHale's Navy and 1965's McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force), they don't have the TV series McHale's Navy itself.

Of course, while Peacock may not have as many classic TV shows as I would like it to have, they do have a rather large selection of TV shows. One can watch most of the USA Network shows, from Monk to Royal Pains to Suits. Similarly, Peacock has most of the NBC shows produced in the 21st Century, including 30 Rock, A.P. Bio, The Blacklist, the various "Chicago" shows, Parks and Recreation, Superstore,  and so on.

Over all Peacock is not a bad streaming service, particularly when compared to similar streaming services such as CBS All Access. If they could make it easier to find TV shows and movies with  sections for various genres, as well as add some classic television shows, I think it would be one of the better streaming services out there. For anyone thinking of subscribing, I would say they should simply go with the Free tier unless they really want to see Peacock's original shows. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Help Cinema Detroit

If you are a member of TCMParty, the group of Turner Classic Movies fans who live tweet movies on the channel using the hashtag #TCMParty, chances are good that you are familiar with Paula Guthat. Paula co-founded TCMParty in 2011 and remains active in TCMParty to this day. Personally, I count Paula among my closest friends and, in fact, if it had not been for Paula I am convinced that I might not have made it through those dark days following Vanessa's death. Now Paula needs our help.

It was in 2013 that Paula and her husband Tim Guthat founded Cinema Detroit, the only seven day a week arthouse theatre in Greater Detroit. In the past Cinema Detroit has shown movies from classics such as Yellow Submarine (1968) to cult films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) to big budget, Hollywood blockbusters such as Black Panther (2018). Cinema Detroit is a very important part of its community. It has many loyal patrons who regularly attend the theatre. There are people in the neighbourhoods around Cinema Detroit who  often walk or ride their bicycles in the theatre. Cinema Detroit often has discussions about the films it shows. It provides the people of Greater Detroit with access to independent films they might not be able to see in a theatre otherwise.

Unfortunately, like many brick-and-mortar businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things difficult for Cinema Detroit. While Cinema Detroit has offered movies online through Virtual Cinema Detroit and they are looking into options for drive-in screenings, all of this costs money. All the while, they still have to pay for rent and utilities. If Cinema Detroit is to survive, it needs help from the movie buff community.

To this end, there is the Cinema Detroit Relief Fund at Patronicity. All contributions are tax-deductible. If you are unable to contribute at this time, then please spread the word about the Relief Fund. If you wish to donate to the Cinema Detroit Relief Fund, you can do so here.