Saturday, October 13, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #131

1) Hulu: Numero Uno for one reason, and it's not because I think I'm going to start watching one of the telenovelas it just added: After months of me complaining and asking about the rest of the old Fox shows, Hulu finally added the rest of Mary Tyler Moore and St. Elsewhere. So kudos to you, Hulu. Next on the clock: the remainder of The Bob Newhart Show and Lou Grant. But for this week, Hulu gets a pat in the back even if the jury is out on that "ruining TV for you" ad campaign.

2) YouTube/YouTube TV: Folks, I am doing something potentially controversial and combining You Tube proper and the live TV service for the purposes of the least while I have the latter.

I must say, while I don't really "need" a cable-lite package, it is great having the ability to just put on sports at night, and I am enjoying the MLB playoffs. So far, YTTv impresses me and is by far the best value out there as far as features, usability and most importantly channel assortment for the price.

3) Netflix: Netflix continues to throw more content at the wall than I can scrape off with a stick--did I say that right--but I ain't complaining. I finally tried out the new Norm MacDonald show, and, man, after 1 1/2 episodes I think it may be the funniest thing on Netflix all year. You can't tell me Hannah Gadsby and One Day at a Time are any more amusing than Norm and his awesome trainwreck of a talk show.

4) CBS All Access: I really don't care for the new CBS shows I am watching on here, but I sure like the oldies. I hate to say this again, but put Cheers, Andy Griffith, Star Trek, etc. on here and take them off Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc., and you would have something totally worth the $$$.  CBS should be (and apparently is, but slowly) bolstering the exclusive classics on here.

5) Prime Video: I suppose I should start talking about new series now, right? The Romanoffs seems too pretentious for its own good, and I doubt I--wait, Christina Hendricks is in it? Well, might be worth at least a look...

Actually, I am more excited about this flood of movies from Shout! Factory, many of them not on Shout's own streaming service, as far as I know. Anyone up for a screening of The Dirt Bike Kid?

6) WWE Network: Another stellar Hidden Gems update complements the old territory show episodes I have been enjoying.

7) Tubi TV:  First Pluto had it--credit where it's due--and now Tubi has...Mac and Me! I need to watch this, folks. Would it make a good double feature with Peter Billingsley's The Dirt Bike Kid?

8) CW: Now that this network has reopened for business (Oh, I know they had shows this summer, but my "stories" are back), it's time to remember that CW gives viewers episodes free on its app. As soon as I catch up on the hundreds of other things on my list, I will be using CW's Roku channel on the regular.

Who am I kidding? I will never get caught up but will watch stuff like The Dirt Bike Kid (Hey, Stuart Pankin is in it, too) instead.

9) NewsOn: Another natural disaster, another reason to appreciate this free aggregator of local newscasts. It really is a valuable channel even when there isn't a hurricane, though.

10) DC Universe: Titans looks horrible, but its premiere has people talking about this new streamer. I'd love to sign up for a month to check out the archive content, but with all the other stuff available, I am in no hurry considering the only real new content is one poorly reviewed episode of this series. DC may have made a mistake launching without more than this.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #130

1) Netflix: Now that my kids finished their Mako Mermaids rewatch--yes, I said rewatch--what else can they run into the ground?

That's a rhetorical question...because I know by the time most of you read this, they will have found something.

2) YouTube: Speaking of...Seriously, anyone else following this "Game Master" thing? A bunch of prominent YouTubers have some kind of ongoing storyline involving hacking, crossovers, to be all makes me feel old. Watching 35-year-old network promos and nodding my head with nostalgic affirmation doesn't make me feel old.

3) Amazon Prime Video: It deserves a high spot for the return of The Man in the High Castle, one of the few streaming shows I am (or WAS) "caught up with," but knowing me, I'm more likely to dive into Shakes the Clown or Nobody's Perfekt with Gabe Kaplan, both new to Prime this week.

4) MLB TV: One more spot in the top 10, not just as a farewell for 2018, but because it made the two tiebreaker "Game 163" events available on Monday.

5) Filmstruck: I have said bye-bye for now but jammed in some Studio One epsidoes and some old cartoons first. When I canceled the sub, I went to fill out their exit survey about why, but there wasn't enough space to explain in detail. So I just typed: ME WISH WERE FREE and then hit Enter.

Props to Filmstruck for making all previous versions of A Star Is Born available, even though I certainly am not at all "into" this phenomenon. More interesting to me: new collections saluting Steve McQueen and Mike Newell.

6) CBS All Access: I am trying to get my money's worth now that I am "stuck" with it for another month, but I still can't bring myself to watch any of that new Star Trek. Much rather watch old Happy Days for the umpteenth time. Hey, at least it's the first time in umpteen years I've actually seen these episodes.

7) Roku Channel: It added the original Lost in Space and the first couple seasons of Green Acres for October in addition to a batch of movies like the original Ghostbusters and Rocky

8) Hulu: I'm not sure how good Into the Dark is, but the idea of a new anthology series based around the seasons and months of the year is pretty cool. Plus new Fall TV is showing up here...even though most of it looks terrible. Yeah, I guess you can see why Hulu is so low this week

9) Shout! Factory TV: I would expect this one to come through with Halloween-related stuff for October, and it added anthology series Thriller, Chiller, and Phyllis Diller   (just kidding on that last one, though if it existed I hope Shout would have it).

10) WWE Network: The Network kicked it up a notch with its Hidden Gems this week, almost making up for a totally lame classic content drop this month. Mainly I am enjoying Mid-South Wrestling on here right now. The Australian show that aired Saturday morning seems like a bore, but it's another "event" for subscribers to watch.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Show us the game--and by that I mean one game

I decided to watch some MLB pennant chase action last week, and I first turned to MLB Network so I could see ongoing coverage of all the games. Then I saw that one game was in the eighth inning, much closer to the end than the other big one, so I decided to go to ESPN--a reasonable move, I think you will agree, since it was its game to show.

As soon as I got there, I saw that both games were side by side on a split screen. Strike one. I would have tolerated that as a temporary thing, but it was like that the whole time--well, until I got driven away by...

Well, before I get to that, ESPN had a huge HUNT FOR OCTOBER banner at the top and similar "screen dress" at the bottom of the screen. This significantly reduced the amount of space available for the actual baseball, which was already less than it should have been because of the split-screen deal.

I might have tolerated even that for more than a few minutes. However, ESPN couldn't resist treating audiences to a little "jocularity." The crew calling the Brewers game started chatting with the crew covering the Rockies game, which wasn't yet on the main ESPN because the FIRST game was still in progress.

Not just in progress, mind you, but in the eighth inning and still very much in play.

So the "gang" in game 1 starts chatting up with David Ross, who I guess was at Game 2, and they all start chumming it up. "Hey, guys, this is great. Baseball should be like this all the time!" or something to that effect was Ross' comment. No, it isn't! Competitive games and pennant races are great, but shrinking the games so that you can't follow any of them is not.

"Rossy, was it like this when you were on Dancing with the Stars?" It was only a matter of time before someone brought up Dancing with the Stars, but I didn't expect it to be so soon. Then they showed a pic of the game 2 announcers waving. All this is going on while the Brewers and Cardinals are in a tense showdown, a showdown hard to follow because of the horrible visual presentation and the inane chatter.

So I turned it back to MLB Network, where rights issues forced them to show 4 or 5 guys standing around in front of a TV and watching a local feed which we could see in the background. That was superior to what was going on over on the other channel because at least those guys were focused on the one game and commenting on it.

This is the kind of thing that has killed Sunday Night Baseball--misguided efforts to lure fabled "casual viewers" with gimmicks, bells and whistles, and an abundance of goofy chitchat in the booth. There was a degree of jocularity on MLB network from the jocks, but it didn't feel forced, and it was in service of explaining the game to the viewers.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #129

1) MLB TV: Many streamers could see the exciting final weekend of baseball free--legally, that is--because Major League Baseball made it so. Free is always king in these parts. Now, if only the expensive baseball streaming package included the playoffs so that I didn't have to buy a month of...(See #10).

2) CBS All Access: Speaking of free, I quite enjoyed my free month of this service and was watching the heck out of it before the 30 days ended. Well, I miscalculated by a day or so, and thanks to the miracle of auto-renewal, I am getting another month of this. Instead of being angry at myself for paying 10 bucks for a month I wasn't planning on getting, I choose to look at it as getting two months of ad-free service for 5 bucks per.

3) Netflix: I think my experience this week sums up the Netflix Experience: I was watching Argentinean minseries Historia de un Clan when a friend told me about the feature film based on the same true story.

I check, and much to my delight, the movie, El Clan, is also on Netflix! Yay!

A second later, I realize it expires at the end of the month, meaning I have to hustle to get through the rest of the miniseries so I can then follow it up with the movie. Cool that everything was there, not cool that my schedule was beholden to the tyranny of expiration dates.

4) Hulu: Hulu has been rather humdrum lately, and it actually lost a recent series as Designated Survivor moved to Netflix, which is still the big brother. Yet I can't deny that I did a lot of prep for our Battle of the Network Shows podcast this week, checking out episodes of [REDACTED] for the season opener.

5) Prime Video: Debuts a new version of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps more importantly, also debuts a 1962 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Arsenic and Old Lace starring Tony Randall.

6) YouTube: Anyone else know what the heck is going on with this "gamesmaster" business and all these YouTubers? I sure don't, but my kids are into it. I am tempted to exile YT from the rankings this week for deleting one of my favorite music-related channels, but I have to factor in all the time I spent watching old commercials.

7) Pluto TV: It keeps adding to its free hodgepodge of channels, adding some more movie options this week. Hey, also, I just realized Mac and Me is available here on demand!

8) Flmstruck: I really slacked off this week but still found time to check out a few things, and it added a huge Greer Garson collection, a batch of Roberto Rossellini films, and an "Outbreaks" theme that features the likes of The Devils, Things to Come, and The Omega Man.

9) PIX 11: It can go weeks without adding any archival content, but then it goes and uploads a Billy Martin tribute and totally redeems itself.

10) YouTube TV: I just signed up for this to get the MLB playoffs (and maybe a little football while I'm at it), and I am fairly impressed apart from the fact that I found out the free trial is now 5 days instead of 7 days. Buffering was an issue a few times, but the overall price and channel selection is the best value right now if this thing works at all.

Friday, September 28, 2018

5 people I forgot were in "Singles" (1992, Cameron Crowe)

Filmstruck streamed Cameron Crowe's  1992 comedy Singles until the beginning of September, and, whoa, it had been a long time since I had seen it. Revisiting it reveals a movie that is of its time, which is good, but also kind of "dated" in its way. It's an entertaining movie, to be sure, and a valuable time capsule, but there are a lot of sitcom moments like answering machine catastrophes and mistaken identities. I highly recommend checking it out again or for the first time (it is now streaming for free on ad-supported Vudu)

1) Paul Giamatti:  In one scene early in the courtship (oh, how genteel I sound!) of the Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick characters, they are seated nearby a very young Giamatti having a major makeout session (I sound a lot less genteel now) with a young woman. His indignant response to being called out for it is like a mini-classic Giamatti moment.

2) Eric Stoltz: Stoltz plays a mime who gets a ride to a show. Fear not, though, folks: Do you think Cameron Crowe would be foolhardy enough to cast Eric Freakin' Stoltz and waste him in a non-speaking role? Of course he wouldn't.  Of course he wouldn't.

3) Tom Skerritt: In one scene as the mayor who quickly shuts down Campbell Scott's dream project, Skerritt shows how great he was at being an icy prick.

4) Tim Burton: Pretentious filmmaker type who is willing and available to shoot your video (for 20 bucks) at the dating service Sheila Kelley uses. It's an amusing and clever cameo.

5) Victor Garber: A young Garber--wait, that was Godspell; this is a not-as-old, pre-Alias Garber--has an achingly sincere moment as the father of the young seatmate a chagrined Kelley gets on an airplane after asking for a spot next to a single guy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fall Books Preview (by "preview" I mean "list of stuff I want to read")

Do you like to read? I like to read! Sometimes I think what I really like is getting books and not having time to read them. So I shouldn't be going through lists of upcoming releases and adding items to my ever-expanding wish lists...but I do because I enjoy it. Here is a rundown of some of the Fall books (some already out) that interest me:

Big Game by Mark Liebovich (out now):  A political reporter spent time researching a book on what complete jerks the NFL owners are. Sounds pretty good to me!

Boom Town by Sam Anderson (out now): The story of Oklahoma City, somehow combining history, Big Oil, and the NBA.

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre (out now): This guy writes a lot of acclaimed espionage-themed books, none of which I have read yet, and this one sounds very cool.

Hooked on Hollywood by Leonard Maltin (out now): A collection of archival interviews and features covering mostly old-school Hollywood cinema. No-brainer, and it happens to be available at a very nice Kindle price right now.

Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by Max Allan Collins (out now): The title says it all. Noted mystery/detective novelist Collins delivers an acclaimed nonfiction account of one of the epic crime sagas of the 20th century.

One-Dollar Football by Jeff Pearlman (out now): Pearlman has written some fantastic sports books, and this is his passion project, a history of the dearly departed USFL.

In Pieces by Sally Field (out now): I'm sure she has a lot to say!

Death of the Territories by Tim Hornbaker (September 18): Pro wrestling historian talking about the old territory system and its collapse as Vince McMahon went national with the WWF. I think I would read this in a night or two if I got it.

Grant by Ron Chernow (September 25): U.S. Grant, that is. I still haven't read Chernow's huge Hamilton bio, though (I did read Richard Brookhiser's)!

The Big Fella by Jane Leavy: (October 16): Do we really need another "definitive" Babe Ruth biography? Maybe not, but when Leavy (author of Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle bios) does it, it's worth a read.

My Love Story by Tina Turner (October 16): Remember when I said Sally Field had a lot to say? Well, that X2.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (October 16): A story of a library fire and "a love letter to libraries"--sounds good to me.

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us by Joseph Ellis (October 16): I wish I had time/made time to read all of Ellis' books.

Thanks a Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey (October 23): I'm sure HE has a lot to say!

I'll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller (October 23): I'm not ashamed to say I am interested in reading an authoritative look at the show Friends. It seems like enough time has passed to get some good candor from the people involved but not so much time that the show is no longer relevant.

Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes' Hollywood by Karina Longworth (Novermber 13): Longworth touched on this material in her excellent You Must Remember This podcast, and I'm delighted that she has expanded it into a book.

Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants by H.W. Brands (November 13): I wish I had time/made time to read all of Brands' books.

Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) by Jeff Tweedy (November 13): Tweedy is an interesting dude, and I expect this to be a compelling read.