Saturday, May 24, 2014

This Week (and maybe last week, too) in Instant Watching (Part 1)

The patterns continue with the big streaming sites: Netflix gives us a few nice adds, mostly interesting documentaries and recent theatricals from its Epix deal, while emphasizing its originals; Hulu adds random assortments of older series while emphasizing current broadcast properties and its originals; Warner Archive Instant adds cool TV items while being stingier with the movies.

Of these, the one I think is the shortest-term pattern is the latter. This month WAI has dumped scores of movies and added very few. I keep thinking each week is going to be the big one for a ton of new classic films. Instead, the service has added some really cool high-profile selections to its TV section. NEXT week will be the big movie add, though--I can feel it!

One thing I must point out is that when I inquired about several issues a few months ago, I received an oddly vague reply that seemed like a brush-off. Recently, though, a rep contacted me and told me a fix was imminent and, shall we say, gave me a more than reasonable incentive to remain a loyal customer. It took a while, and I still haven't seen the fix, but I am very, very happy and still enjoying the heck out of Warner Archive Instant.

This week the addition was Dr. Kildare Season 1, a show I have enjoyed immensely on DVD. Hey, now I can quit renting them! This Richard Chamberlain version isn't as flat-out entertaining as the Lew Ayres/Lionel Barrymore movie series, but what is? The TV incarnation is engrossing and addictive and a fine add for WAI.

Last week brought the 1960s Filmation New Adventures of Superman cartoons, here formatted as two 6-7-minute shorts per "episode." They originally aired with 'toons featuring other DC Comics heroes, including Superboy. I've seen some of these on Boomerang, and they're not on the par of, say, the classic Fleischer Superman shorts, but they are fun. I plan to write more about this "show" next week, hopefully doing so with less "quotation marks."

Another WAI newcomer is the 1977 New Adventures of Batman, also from Filmation. This is in some ways a cartoon version of the 1966 live action series, only with Bat-Mite. Adam West and Burt Ward reprise their roles as the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder, though this edition doesn't bother drafting big names to do the villains. I hadn't seen this in a long time until screening the first episode last week. It's weird because in some ways it is a less campy "Batman" than the 1960s classic. Yet...Bat-Mite. His presence alone makes this goofier than the live action show ever was, and he is ALL OVER the first episode. It's still an entertaining watch, but you have West and Ward, plus the Joker. Bat-Girl appears in other episodes. You do NOT need Bat-Mite! No, the fact that Filmation co-head-honcho Lou Scheimer voices the imp does not make the character essential.

Still, it's great seeing this kind of stuff on WAI. I read that the 1960s Aquaman shorts debut in June. I don't think these were ever Warner Archive releases, but rather from Warner Home Video. Perhaps this is a sign that WAI will be open to more non-Archive content in months ahead.

A few movies--and I mean literally a few--have trickled into the channel in the last few weeks. One in particular does interest me, and that's Son of Kong.  I believe this one was already on last year, and I think this is the first one to come back after being yanked. In general a returning film doesn't thrill me as much as a brand-new one, but it's good to see that titles are indeed rotating IN as well as OUT as was promised.

Come back tomorrow for some chatter about Netflix, Hulu, and the single biggest story in streaming video this past week.

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