If you’re not a Netflix user, you probably think of them only for DVD rental. However, they also offer their customers streaming video of a considerable base of titles (about 1/4 of my list, I reckon, is things that I can stream.) And with their recent addition of Mac support for the streams, in addition to my wife’s upgrading to a PC laptop of modern power, we’ve quickly gone from zero practical streaming devices to two. And as we’re on a trip, we’ve got both of them with us.
Now, Netflix has always been good for the traveler. You could take a DVD with you on a trip, and presuming you stayed in the US, just drop it in the mailbox when you were done and there would be a new one waiting for you when you got home, which was fine for trips of three or fewer DVD-watchings in length. The streaming option offers even better opportunities. In theory, you can watch any streamable movie from the comfort of your Internet-equipped hotel room, and watch for as long as you’re traveling. In our case, the theory is running aground on the rocks of hotel WiFi speed. While some things watch through smoothly, others are start-and-stop, long pauses for buffering, and generally a bit of a pain in the neck to watch. For all I know, hotels are now limiting Internet bandwidth on purpose so that things like this and Hulu don’t kill their lucrative pay-per-view franchise. (But then, I suspect that much of the actual dollar volume in hotel PPV is in material that is too racy for either Netflix or Hulu.)
As I type this, I’m waiting for the first episode of Kate & Allie to rebuffer a few minutes so I can resume watching. I think I’ve seen one episode of this show in the past decade, but my memories of it are of a solid and human show, which ran several good seasons before being handed to new show runners for a final and lackluster season. The show featured Jane Curtain, proving that she had sitcom chops to match her sketch comedy chops, and Susan St. James having chemistry with her. It comes to mind from time to time when I remember it as the first place I saw the talented Wendie Malick, or whenever I spot the then-child-star Frederick Koehler, who happily seems to be popping up frequently in odd little places (you can see his hang-dog current look in those ads for the fibery yogurt, for example.) One delight in streaming the pilot episode again is discovering that this one features Kelsey Grammer; let’s see – this was a spring 1984 debut, so it would’ve been shortly before he started playing Frasier in the fall 1984 episodes of Cheers.
One nice feature of the Netflix streaming is that if you start streaming a show and then return to it a while later, Netflix remembers where you left off. That’s proven handy several times (including a moment ago, when I accidentally clicked the advance-to-next-chapter link and got taken to the second episode of K&A. Clicking the prior-chapter button did not take me back to the start of episode 1 as I feared, but to where I’d been.)
Also recently Netflixed the first disk of Lotsa Luck, a 1973 Carl Reiner co-creation starring Dom Deluise, with Carl Reiner being the point to get my attention. This had the feel of someone trying to understand what the new rules were in the wake of the success of All In The Family, which launched two years earlier. It has the same sort of working class New York setting, with a set that mimics the old-wallpaper look of that show. And it has the family theme – Deluise’s central character lives with his mom, his sister, and his deadbeat brother-in-law. And it has the willingness to discuss sex, mainly through the central character’s striving for it and the sister desiring it from her deadbeat-in-bed-as-well husband. But the humor is largely the insult-laden sitcom ridden… not the insults-touched-with-our-relationship that All In The Family usually achieved, but just funny insult lines which don’t add up to much and thus aren’t that funny. I can understand why this didn’t stick around. I watched all the episodes on the disk, but then deleted the rest of the run from my queue. I’ve seen, I know, I can move on.