Friday, June 06, 2014

My life before Netflix

There was an earlier time in my life when I lived with a couple friends. One had an account to something called "Netflix". I had heard of it in passing but never really understood the value of it. It was a cute little business model -- set up an account, click some movie titles on their website and you would begin receiving DVDs of movies and a few television shows which Netflix offered. Watch at your leisure, toss the disc in the enclosed envelope and mail the sum'bitch back. A few days later your next disc arrived, lather, rinse and repeat.

I then went over ten years without any first-hand exposure to this company. Until my sister-in-law got a Netflix account and set me up with her password. It was as easy as rolling out of a tilted bed. The Netflix app was already on my Roku box and within minutes we were entranced with the treasure trove that is the legal online streaming world. Oh, sure, in the past we had dealt with torrents of television shows from networks we legally subscribed to because our cable package didn't come with a DVR (it's something like a $10/month add-on) but that was getting to be a hassle to deal with what with the downloading, having to leave the computer on and the mildly clunky interface with whatever app I was using on my Roku.

In short, Netflix was flat out easier. The Roku interface is easy as hell to use -- even our then four year-old could navigate through Netflix and find a plethora of cartoons to watch. The price was right, too and it has never once failed to function even when pushed through the lowest speed internet tier I could find because I am cheap.

Last summer, though, truly proved the value of Netflix when, in August, a little show entitled 'Orange is the New Black' appeared exclusively on Netflix. We devoured that series, watching two or three episodes each night and, sadly, within a week or so we had finished what was a truly well-written series featuring a topic (life in prison) which hadn't really been touched since HBO's 'Oz'. The difference being that OITNB had plenty of moments of humor in it and the writing team managed to blend drama and comedy with a setting that is anything but funny. It is a series that feels like it could easily exist on the best cable channels (think along the lines of FX or A&E or AMC) whom dabble in original programming.

Instead, 'Orange is the New Black' landed on a platform which is designed for binge watching. Much like the fourth season of 'Arrested Development', you could sit down for a few hours and devour episode after episode and feel extremely sad after a couple sessions when you realize that you have to wait about an entire year for fresh episodes. Then, if you're like me, you dive into the first episodes of 'The X-Files' and start watching those early episodes that aired in one's teen years before your rural home received a FOX television station signal.

I have taken a more leisurely approach to watching the first handful of seasons of 'The X-Files' due to time constraints, summer being here and the simple fact that a shitload (120 or more) of episodes exist and I don't have 90-some hours available to block out to watch one of the greatest procedural / sci-fi case-of-the-week series to ever air on television.

But even with my lessened viewing, I continue to subscribe. I wholly plan on finishing season eight of 'Dexter' even if it completely ruins some of the brilliant earlier seasons (it should have ended after the season with John Lithgow as The Trinity Killer) but I like to finish what I start.

I'm sure there will be a day when I  no longer see the value of netflix but, for the time being I still subscribe, I still watch and it manages to keep myself and my daughter entertained. It is there for me on cold winter nights and rainy summer afternoons. It isn't appointment television because that hasn't existed in a decade. It exists because it's easy and it's a quality entertainment option. Who needs movie theaters when you have Netflix and RedBox? Who really needs cable or satellite when you have the earlier options combined with Hulu and Amazon Prime? I have sampled the Hulu and Prime options but I stick with Netflix as my lone streaming option because I have yet to cut the cord but that day is coming... fast. Streaming is the future and Netflix is doing it right. Now if we can just get over the whole net neutrality issue, then Netflix has a solid future. Without net neutrality, Netflix will be unaffordable and unreliable. Fix that and streaming is clearly the future.

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