Adventures in Netflixing

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.

Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Subprime time

Well, Easy Money is gone, and if reports are to be believed, so is Dirty Sexy Money. Sounds like the financial crunch has hit the network schedule…

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shrew 2

So ABC Family has announced a series based on the film 10 Things I Hate About You.

And that film, it should be recalled, was an updating of The Taming of the Shrew.

Is it just me, or is there something weird about doing a basic cable series based on Shakespeare?

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

there ain't no easy money no more…

This Sunday is the final one for the CW-rents-out-Sunday system. Despite being given a minimum 13 weeks, both the renters and the rentees agreed that it wasn’t working. And that means no more Valentine (no loss), and no more Easy Money – the best damn new show of the fall season (although that makes for faint, faint praise.) They’re replacing the Sunday lineup with reruns. Not current reruns. Jericho, and The Drew Carey Show, plus movies. Oh, network television!

And I just checked, and as with the past few weeks, this Sunday’s Easy Money is a rerun. I’d have to double-check, but I think they did four first-run episodes and then reran all four. It leaves me wondering if they have actually made any more… and, if so, if we’ll get a chance to see them.

Really, what does that leave me watching of the new season? Privilege, a slight and guilty pleasure. Life on Mars, which has enough texture to override its central pointlessness. Crusoe, which I find I pay no attention to when I run through it, and thus will likely stop recording it. Worst Week, which has achieved a certain evenness, predictable but not without charm. And those new additions are roughly equaled by returning shows that are unlikely to make the end of the season; the ever-more-serious-and-this-less-interesting Dirty Sexy Money, the I’m-watching-just-to-finish-it-off officially ending Boston Legal, and the still-wonderful Pushing Daisies.

But at least Cupid is still coming up. Here’s the trailer (hat tip to Croc Caucus).


Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 7:50 pm  Comments (2)  

Cro's swords

When a TV show covers something you know, you usually get to detect how careless they are with details. Either the writers are ignorant, or they figure the public will be, I reckon. And you certainly see me doing some picking apart of such things here – such as when I pulled apart the crossword puzzle on Lost. So I owe it to the TV powers that be to point out when they took the effort to get it right.

Last night’s The Simpsons was on a crossword puzzle theme. Throughout it, there were crossword puzzles. And… they were real crossword puzzles! There were real words, interlocking. They weren’t misdesigned blobs of letters, with two-letter words. Now, it doesn’t actually take a lot of work to do that, particularly when there are only a couple of specific words that you need in the grid. Reasonably affordable software can do the heavy lifting for you. (Writing good clues, that’s more effort.) But most shows wouldn’t bother, wouldn’t even ask a crossword person who could tell them that.

And then, to top it off… they presented something tricky. There’s a novelty crossword puzzle, something trickier to build, and easier to want to cheat on. Yet there it was. With a full set of clues. And though I’ve not reviewed it frame by frame, just checking a little of it convinces me it was all real. A quality Sunday novelty puzzle.

So it wasn’t really a surprise when the episode closed with a credit for Merl Reagle, the most respected U.S. crossword designer going, for crossword design. Kudos to The Simpsons for taking that step.

Then today, I discover the Merl matched the airing of that with a Simpsons-themed Sunday crossword… which, for the rest of the week, you can find here. (There’s one small problem with the generally strong online crossword software they’re using — if you think there should be a punctuation mark, use the letter A.)

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 11:38 pm  Comments (1)  

Well, maybe Tom Cruise…

Just saw a Windows Vista ad with testimonials. A bit of text at the bottom of the screen said “Real people. Not actors.”

What does Microsoft think actors are, robosynthozoids?

Published in: on November 16, 2008 at 2:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sometimes I'm slow

When my friends Pete and Rob got married (during those few months when people named “Peter” and “Rob” could marry in California), we had a post-wedding meal at a Dave & Busters restaurant. In fact, a Dave & Busters that was right next to a Steve & Barrys.

And for some reason, it only just struck me today, months later, that this seemed like a symbolically perfect neighborhood for celebrating the linking of Peter & Rob.

Published in: on November 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Netflix miracles

I put two DVDs into the mail on Monday.
Today, two days later, I have my replacements.
No big deal. Netflix’s usual two-day turnaround…
except yesterday was Veteran’s Day. Federal holiday. No mail service.
I’ve got no idea how they pulled that one off.

Published in: on November 12, 2008 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sure, it doesn't go anywhere interesting…

…but it doesn’t have to!

Published in: on November 9, 2008 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

No, he's not

Everyone, including his transition team, is referring to Barrack Obama as the “president-elect“.

No, he’s not.

The American people do not elect the president. That right is given to the electoral college. For now, he is the presumptive president-elect.

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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