These Streaming Services Are Making Me Thirsty

That title is a hacked appropriation of a well-known line from Seinfield which–unsurprisingly–you can stream in its entirety on Netflix (among other movies and shows). The stuff you want to watch or didn’t know existed? It’s everywhere. If you don’t mind paying. But if you actually have time to enjoy this stuff, it’s a wonderful time to stare at a screen.

Let’s say that consuming shows and movies is my full-time job. I could put in 80 hours each week and not even make a dent in the pile of content available. Studios could stop producing things for a year and there wouldn’t be a shortage of stuff for me to watch. And I’m notoriously picky, so this isn’t a complaint. But it might be indicative of an industry-wide problem which is: keeping a customer.

So here I am with access to Apple TV, Disney +, HBO, Peacock, and Netflix (our household easily ditched both Amazon Prime and Hulu). There’s also the fact that renting movies is easy now, too. Which is good because I haven’t been to a movie theater in two and a half years (yes, this predates the pandemic, thanks kids!). I discovered the channel (app?) Pluto on our smart TV and watched a movie for “Free” (add supported) which felt more like television than anything in recent memory. My point in this paragraph is: it’s easy to watch something.

But choosing what to watch is another story. My wife and I put kids to bed and if we want to start something it goes like this: series or a movie. For years I’ve preferred movies simply because they are self contained. The one-night stand for media. If it sucks, hey, you lost 90 minutes or maybe 2.5 hours. I dread (dramatic but true) investing time into a multi-season show only to have it suck after four or five episodes…yet there is the possibility that if you continue it could redeem itself (it rarely does). But sometimes we roll the dice and start it together–looking at you, Designated Survivor–only to have me bail and have her continue on solo. And if we do watch a series–even if we like it–we limit ourselves to one episode a night. Because when has “binge” ever been a good thing?

About five years ago we started watching the show Friday Night Lights and loved the first season so much that we said it was perfect and didn’t want to ruin it by watching any more. Alternatively, we watched the first season of Bloodline and decided after the fact to never do that again (we clearly love Kyle Chandler). Walking Dead? Three seasons and quit, and that was two seasons too many. Handmaid’s Tale? We stopped somewhere in the most recent season and I can’t remember where but neither of us are looking to finish that. So, Hulu? Gone. Or, the opposite happens, and you become absolutely hooked to a gem like GLOW…only to have it abruptly end forever.

But what’s this about? Time is precious, and staring at a box and experiencing a story for the sake of entertainment, or a distraction, has its ups and downs. I watched Tenet the other day with our HBO Max subscription. I was laying down on the couch, the movie played on our low-end 32” screen ( using the TV’s built-in speakers). It was amazing. So to say big budget spectacles need to be seen on the big screen is ridiculous. If the content is good, it’ll be good anywhere. I distinctly remember watching half of Breaking Bad (which, in hindsight isn’t that great) on my phone.

I’m old. Ish. I’ve had a Netflix account since their early days of DVD-by-mail. I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for the content I want to watch (and who knows how many people my teenager has shared our Netflix login with). My only suggestion for these services is…slow down. No one needs as much content as you’re making. And spread it out. Show some discipline and get back to releases episodes one week (or longer!) at a time. The fact that a 90s sitcom can stream in higher quality now than it did when it aired proves that we have plenty of great things to enjoy while the next classic is incubating.

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