Saturday, December 29, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #142--Get Ready for the New Year Edition

Is everyone planning a streamathon for New Year's Eve? Or New Year's Day? Or New Year's Eve AND New Year's Day?

Hey, how about we just stream video continuously the next few days as soon as we get through these rankings?

1) Netflix: The new Brian Regan show that premiered Christmas Day was a magical gift for all of us and is alone enough to earn Netflix a high spot. However, I also dipped into the archives to enjoy The Night of the Meek holiday-themed Twilight Zone episode as well as seasonal efforts from other classic series (yes, Netflix does have some left).  Oh, and I let it slip to my kids that new episodes of Fuller House were available, so now I have to put up with that.

On top of that, Netflix has what it says is a massive hit (and I believe it) in Bird Box, it unveiled more Black Mirror, and that Disney deal ain't dead yet (witness the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War on Tuesday). Plus my kids also are glad to see a new season of Alexa and Katie, which looks awfully good compared to Fuller House.

2) Boomerang: Now that the Christmas season is fading away, I am enjoying the Looney Tunes and other classic toons on here. Yogi Bear is a fun watch. This week, however, the high ranking is for all those holiday toons I saw.

3) CBS All Access: I finished the first season of Strange Angel, and my quick verdict: Interesting, but too serialized and a little slow-moving. I'd be interested in seeing more of it, but the show needs to improve to be a "gotta get CBS" kind of deal.

4) YouTube: I think I may have semi-overdosed on vintage Christmas ads, to be honest, but YouTube TV is still awesome (I think I am gonna keep it through January), and how can you not appreciate a platform that lets us see this whenever we want:


5) Amazon Prime Video: It's a very, very quiet week for Prime Video, though it looks like it aimed a metric ton of Indian videos. Corner Gas still rules, though, and I just discovered an Eddie Cantor special I am going to check out soon.

6) Hulu: It debuts another episode of its horror anthology Into the Dark, but are people excited about that? I did get back into King of the Hill, which I should be watching more often, really. Quiet week for Hulu, though.

7) Starz: I checked out two pretty good Jeffersons  Christmas episodes through the Starz/Encore app. You know, George Jefferson was softened pretty early on in the show's run, but he still kept his edge.

8) DC Universe: I read more comics than I did watch shows, but it was pretty cool to see a Christmas episode of Lois and Clark with Howie Mandel as Mr. Myx--Mr. Mxy--Mr. Mzy--that fifth-dimensional imp.

9) Curiosity Stream: Guys, it's not you, it's me. You have a fine service. You offer enlightening programming in good quality. You even have awesome initials. But I have barely taken advantage of your free trial this month. It's hard for me to make time for documentaries about quantum physics when there are so many Magilla Gorilla episodes to watch.

10) WWE Network: Here again on the strength of the stellar Hidden Gems it offered the last two weeks, but it needs to pick it up a bit with some consistent classic content.

Monday, December 24, 2018

'Mooners Monday: Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners Christmas (1978) is on Prime Video

Before I prepare for my annual Christmas Eve screening of the Classic 39's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I want to write a few words about the 1978 hourlong special I saw for the first time this month. MPI released it on DVD years ago, but I hesitated to buy it because the price was a little steep for one I'm cheap.

I also confess that I didn't know if I truly wanted to see the main cast (well, except poor Joyce Randolph, who is replaced as Trixie by Jane Kean) in 1978. The "Color Honeymooners" of the 1960s are enjoyable but a step down from the 1950s episodes, and even though it's my favorite show of all time...I don;t know, is seeing them as seniors something I want?

What a fool I was. The 1978 Xmas show is a delight, one of the better post-1950s episodes I've seen. There are a few "modern" references that seem a little self-conscious, but the script by longtome Gleason scribe Walter Stone with Robert Hilliards very funny. The story is worthy of being included in 'Mooners canon. And, yes, the actors are older and a little bigger (except Jackie Gleason, now practically smaller than Art Carney), but it's not painful to watch them. After all, they're seasoned pros who have the characters down. I can even get past Ralph's pencil mustache!

The best thing I can say about it is that it feels like The Honeymooners in a way that many of those color episodes with Sheila McRae as Alice did not. I think it goes beyond the casting, though; I like that it's a "fresh" story (how many times did they redo The Adoption).

This one premiered December 10, 1978. Ralph unveils yet another get-rich scheme, this time collecting as much money as he can get his mitts on and spending it on lottery tickets. It's hard to get a lot of info about this one. The Official Honeymooners Treasury covers only the Classic 39. Even The Honeymooners Lost Episodes by Donna McCrohan and Peter Crescenti has only a plot synopsis and airdate. It was written in 1986 before the 4 hourlong 1970s specials were in circulation, and so they are thrown into the "Still Lost" section.

This reminds me that one of the big things I have yet to see (and now really want to) is the previous year's Christmas special. In that one, Ralph stars in a Raccoon Lodge production of A Christmas Carol. It's in circulation--folks have seen it at the Paley Center and even on YouTube--but MPI never released it on DVD, nor is it on Prime Video, though it is out there in collector circles. So we have 3 of the 4, but not this one, which sounds like a regular riot. Hey, Santa, if you want to bring me a surprise tomorrow, how about a nice complete copy of the 1977 special?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #141: Merry Christmas to all!

Yes, merry Christmas to all, even the Scrooges responsible for taking Quincy off Netflix (that's for the longtime readers out there).

You know, so many weeks, these rankings are all about GETTING, as in what new shows and movies are we GETTING this week. Well, in the spirit of the season, I am going to try to focus on--no, not on giving; come on, now, let's not get crazy. No, let's focus on HAVING, as in, what I actually did watch this past week.

1) Boomerang: I signed up for a month for the Christmas shows, and that is what I am getting--Yogi, Casper, and oddball stuff like the 1973 A Christmas Story (the dog is Goober, not one of the Bumpus' wild animals) and Cabbage Patch Kids and Pac-Man specials.

2) CBS All Access: Strange Angel came and went without much buzz, but I am enjoying it. Superior Donuts was not as good its second season as in its first--it actually got fairly pedestrian--but finished with a strong episode as its series finale.

3) Netflix: It's time to enjoy the Christmas episodes of the likes of Frasier and Friends, though I am sure many others are excited about new additions like Sandra Bullock's Bird Box and Watership Down.

4) YouTube/YouTube TV: I give props to channels like Bionic Disco for uploading a lot of old holiday commercials this month!

5) Amazon Prime Video: It added a new adaptation of Vanity Fair plus the movie Life Itself, but I enjoyed more Corner Gas, more 1970s Honeymooners, and some weird compilation called Wild Wild Wrestling.

6) Roku Channel: It has more Good Times episodes, and that is always a good thing. The channel is quietly adding stuff each week, I'd say, but then again, maybe it's not so quiet--CordCutters News

7) WWE Network I don't actually have this right now, but I give kudos to the ongoing "12 Days of Hidden Gems" for featuring actual hidden gems like 1980s AWA Christmas house shows.

8) Hulu: Hulu could really distinguish itself by adding some of the holiday classics that we all have to head to Boomerang and YouTube (or DVD) to enjoy. The Wonder Years Christmas episode, in whicn Kevin and his siblings clamor for a color TV, is here and worth checking out.

By the way, I shouldn't let the fact the series is called Marvel's Runaways instead of Runaways, but it does. The second season premiered this week.

9) Golden Oldies: Let's just put it this way: If you want some old-school Christmas specials and have a Roku, add this channel, and you won't regret it.

10) DC Universe: I got a deal to sign up, and it's early yet, but DC doesn't seem to have a lot to hype about this thing right now other than Titans, so it better be realllly good. DC debuted a trailer for the upcoming Doom Patrol original series.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #140

This week's rankings are out a little later than usual because the streamosphere is SO full of yuletide cheer that it took longer to compile the list.
1) Netflix: Back on top after a weekend filled with originals and events, including acclaimed film Roma, Springsteen on Broadway, Voltron, and Fuller House. I "forgot" to tell my kids about that last one, though I did enjoy seeing a holiday episode of Nailed It with them. I'm also catching up on some movies before they leave, like the absorbing Spotlight.

2) Amazon Prime Video: It was a quieter week for ads, and I heard that they list the colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life as the default. What the deuce? Still, I had such a good time watching The Honeymooners Christmas Special that I have to give Prime a high spot.

3) YouTube: Again an invaluable resource for podcast prep for me, plus old Christmas-themed ads and promos. On the YouTube TV side, Local Now is a new and welcome addition to the base channel lineup.

4) Best Christmas Channel Ever: The free Roku streamer shoots up in the rankings on the strength of offering the 1981 George Burns Christmas special with Bob Hope.

5) Hulu: Not to sound like a Scrooge, but I just can't fully embrace A very Brady Christmas the way I want to because of the disrespect it shows for Sam the Butcher.

6) DAZN: Boxing-and-MMA-centric sports streamer signed superstar Canelo Alvarez to a big deal, and it showed his latest fight Saturday, garnering a ton of pub.

7) Roku Channel: I just noticed that it has added a season of The Patty Duke Show.

8) Boomerang: These new Tom and Jerry cartoons aren't totally embarrassing. In other news, how in the world did Magilla Gorilla never do a Christmas episode?

9) CBS All Access: I decided to tear myself away from Perry Mason to sample some of the originals on here. First up is Strange Angels, which I hope is as interesting as its premise.

10) Starz: Quietly added Knight Rider and Miami Vice to its Encore channels and app while dropping Magnum P.I. and The A-Team. Perhaps the latter two will join the former pair on the NBC app, though they will be stuffed with commercials on that platform.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #139: Special "Get that shopping done" edition

Get that holiday shopping done early so you can lounge around and enjoy streaming video more, I say. Or I suppose you can stream video WHILE shopping, but I don't want you to be one of those people I have to dodge while I am walking around with my typical laser-like focu--hey, I still can't get over the fact that Batman is on Roku Channel!

1) Amazon Prime Video: I know it's hip to hate Amazon, but the streaming service keeps adding cool stuff each week. This time, it's the first 5 seasons of one of the most rewatchable sitcoms around, Corner Gas. The welcome return of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is another highlight, but I didn't even get to it because I just started watching Corner Gas.

It still puzzles me how goofy Prime Video's user interface is. I don't know if people realize how much stuff is really available--like, just as an example, tons of old Shaw Brothers and Japanese monster movies. It's just so hard to browse and find things. There's a lot of great content here, though, even if the originals are a drop in the bucket compared to Netflix.

2) YouTube: Really, having Turner Classic Movies as part of the base package plus unlimited DVR storage makes YouTube TV a great value. Meanwhile, I didn't know until our Hill Street Blues episode that Orson Welles did a talk show pilot, and guess what? It's on YouTube!

3) Netflix: A real hodge-podge of originals this week, including a Jennifer Aniston movie, a crime drama series with Anthony LaPaglia (I never heard of it, and then I saw it was a Canadian import, which I guess explains why it comes out of nowhere), more of The Ranch, and the Nailed It holiday special I can't wait to see with my kids. There is a Mowgli movie that Warners successfully dumped on Netflix, but I think I have Jungle Book fatigue.

Yet again, though, the big story is what's leaving Netflix, as this week everyone experienced a collective panic at the thought of Friends leaving with 3 weeks' notice. Turned out, it was leaving but was renewed for a cool 100 mil for another year. It serves as a reminder to watch what you want now. I bet it's a lot easier to see on Netflix than it will be on whatever monstrosity AT&T cooks up in 2019.

The result of all this: I got back into watching Friends. I also finally watched Moana because--you guessed it--it's leaving Netflix in a few weeks.

4) STARZ: Premieres the second season of Counterpart this weekend, and it also is allowing me to enjoy more of the mystery show that will be the subject of a future podcast.

5) Boomerang: The holiday assortment is great, but it sure would be nice if Warner Brothers, which distributes the Rankin-Bass specials on DVD, could somehow get streaming rights. This week I enjoyed Flintstone Christmas (1977), not to be confused with A Flintstone Family Christmas, Flintstones Christmas Carol, or the original series episode titled Christmas Flintstone.

Christmas Flintstone. What a gloriously clunky episode title, and how great that they went with THAT one first instead of Flintstone Christmas.

6) Hulu: Feels like a slow week for Hulu to me, though if I paid for the commercial-free version, I'm sure I would watch a lot more of it. One of the main reasons it's not higher each week for me is because one of its main draws--next-day network TV shows--isn't such a big deal when there isn't anything on network TV worth watching.

7) CBS All Access: Yes, it's annoying that Happy Days is only up in one season, and only half of that season, but it least it has the heartwarming Christmas episode where Fonz spends Xmas Eve with the Cunninghams. I'm also continuing to enjoy Superior Donuts, which is maybe not the best thing for me but makes me feel good and goes down very easy--much like...much like...I don't know, some tasty but unhealthy comfort food. Can't think of one right now.

8) Shout! TV: It's been lost in the shuffle, but Shout! uploaded a ton of new content for December--the biggest drop I can remember.

9) Best Christmas Channel Ever 2018: Not the best channel title, but I enjoyed a relatively hassle-free viewing of an old Hollywood  Palace yuletide episode with Bing Crosby, Glen Campbell, and more.

10) Pub-D-Hub: It's become much less reliable with its update schedule, but it does have a lot of Christmas content up right now and could rise next week after I dig into some of it.

NOTE: Watch TCM premiered on Roku this week, and I have always said it would be one of my favorite channels if it ever happened, but right now it won't load on my version of the system. So for now, it remains outside the top 10.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #138: It's beginning to look a lot like...

Finally time to eliminate Filmstruck from the ratings (or IS it? See #10). Speaking of which, Warner Media announced its big monolith of an OTT service is coming the end of 2019, and it will feature 3 tiers. I'm sure the most interesting tier will be overpriced and understocked.

Or am I too cynical? Maybe I should get into the holiday spirit and be positive! Therefore the rankings this week will be filled with ho-ho-hoptimism.

1) The Roku Channel: The jaw-dropping catalog addition of the year puts Roku's in-house channel at the top. I don't know why the heck the 1960s Batman is here instead of the new DC Universe streaming service, but I will take all 3 seasons of the classic series, even if it is ad-supported.

I notice that the episodes have the FilmRise logo at the beginning. FilmRise is also responsible for bringing a lot of other Warner-controlled properties to Amazon Prime Video, so who knows, maybe we will see the Caped Crusader on Amazon soon.

For now, let's appreciate the fact that one of the last remaining never-streaming iconic classic TV series is available uncut and free.

2) Amazon Prime Video: The FilmRise/Warner deal with Amazon is one of the underreported streaming stories of 2018. Combine that with all the Sony product showing up, and you have a classic fi;m library that is really getting beefed up. I would advise anyone depressed over the loss of Filmstruck to dig into Prime, which this week alone added Born Yesterday, Bonnie and Clyde, and other notable films not starting with "B."

3) Hulu: After an all-too-brief run on Netflix, The Wonder Years arrives here. My kids enjoyed a mini-binge of The Amazing World of Gumball. I am not so cool with the idea of Disney taking full control of Hulu, as rumored, though. I'd much rather see the current co-ownership structure, which incentivizes Fox and Comcast/NBC to offer their product here. However, in the spirit of Christmas cheer, I am going to avoid worrying about it and enjoy the fact that Hulu is adding series like the acclaimed Killing Eve.

4) Netflix: There are some interesting new things this week, like a Dave Attell/Jeffrey Ross series, but once again all the stuff coming is overshadowed by stories about what's going--in this case, Daredevil, the latest high-profile cancellation. I don't know for sure if Netflix is ending it because of Disney+ or if Disney is the one pulling the strings, but it's funny that no one thinks it's an artistic decision. Netflix is going to really have to hustle to expand that Grace and Frankieverse if it wants to "replace" the Marvel shows.

5) YouTube/YouTube TV: I still love the YTTV service, but the news that Sling is adding the Discovery networks does remind you that those aren't available here. Fortunately for me, I don't watch those channels! Meanwhile, a ton of great old baseball footage and films were added to YouTube this week, giving me something to enjoy while I wait for the Pirates to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

6) Pluto TV: I finally watched an on-demand movie on Pluto, and I was impressed. The picture quality was good, and the commercial intrusion was much less obnoxious than on other platforms. There are some clunky aspects to the experience--for example, pausing the movie has a weird hiccup that makes the movie have to "catch up" from the previous pause point--but overall, it's pretty cool. Pluto can improve itself by making it easier to browse/search through its growing on-demand library.

BTW, the movie I watched was one I just missed on Turner Classic Movies a while ago, something I had been meaning to revisit since I started going back through the Toho-verse on Filmstruck:

7) Starz: I watched Starz a lot the last few weeks for podcast prep and have explored its catalog. One thing that really stands out is how new feature films just aren't a big deal on premium cable anymore. Yes, that overvation is about 5 years old, but I think Starz managed to stand out fairly recently. Now all the new movies are just so spread out that no one service can make a mark with any of them. That Disney/Netflix deal really hurt Starz by taking away a lot of its product, although I do notice that pre-Netflix deal movies like Frozen and Up are on Starz, and I don't think they ever made it to Netflix.

8) Best Christmas Channel 2018: Updated for the season, this free Roku channel has a nice selection of vintage toy ads, TV shows, movies, and best of all a nice grouping of old holiday-themed variety shows.

9) Boomerang: I signed up for another month to enjoy the nice array of holiday 'toons available. Maybe I'd be better off just buying Yogi's All-Star Christmas Comedy Caper, but this way I can also enjoy some Flintstones and Magilla Gorilla.

10) The Criterion Channel: I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that they come up with something good when they launch next year, but a reminder: before Filmstruck teamed up with TCM, the combo of it and the Criterion Channel was too arthouse-centric and too pricy for me. Hopefully the new CC goes a different direction.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #137: Special post-Thanksgiving edition

I hope everyone streamed themselves silly this Thanksgiving. Because things move so quickly in the worlds of streaming video and power rankings, we must start turning our attention to the Yuletide season.

1) Filmstruck: I keep telling myself I will stop ranking this, and it keeps adding material and rubbing our faces in it. This week, it was a collection of Nicholas Roeg (who just died this weekend) films, plus a batch of holiday movies. I perused the selection thinking, "I bet it has my favorite underrated Christmas movie." Sure enough, it does. Sigh.

2) Hulu: Coming December 1: The Wonder Years. Already here, a show almost on that level of cultural impact:

Plus I have been using Hulu a lot for prep for Battle of the Network Shows, and I give the service credit for a ridiculously good Black Friday deal--99 cents a month--even though I can't use it! I'm also interested in Sorry to Bother You, the 2018 feature that just arrived on Hulu.

3) Netflix: It's a slow week for new adds unless you are excited about Trevor Noah, the British comedy Sick Note with Rupert  Grint, that new Christmas movie with Kurt Russell as Santa, and the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000

Come to think of it, a lot of people are excited about those things. Me, I was happy to have access to Thanksgiving episodes of Friends and Cheers. Plus I have started watching The Keepers. Why I began a depressing, brutal true crime miniseries during then holiday season, I have no clue.

4) Amazon Prime Video: The Warner Brothers movie train seems to have slowed, but Prime keeps adding movies from the likes of Sony (The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, Talk of the Town (Cary Grant), and more). I'm looking forward to seeing Alexander Payne's Downsizing (also on Hulu), and this season I am thankful this season for those 1970s Honeymooners specials being here.

Also new for no apparent reason: Cagney and Lacey and Cold Feet, which I have been hoping would come somewhere without commercials.

5) YouTube: 'Tis the season for me to waste large chunks of time by watching blocks of vintage commercials and promos from New York area TV stations.

6) WWE Network: I'm gonna kiss this one good-bye for a while and wait for a deal due to the sparse catalog additions in recent weeks, but I did enjoy a nice holiday tradition by watching Starrcade 1986 this week.

7) Curiosity Stream: I took advantage of the Black Friday deal--free trial for the rest of the year. Now, will I have actually time to watch this acclaimed science/history/educational documentary programming? I dunno, but I hope it makes me look smart listing it here.

8) PIX11: The good news it added its large selection of archival holiday clips (see #5), but the bad news is I think it's the same assortment it offered last year.

9) DC Universe: More good news/bad news. Good news here is that news is trickling out about some of the original programming coming next year, plus I see increasing buzz about Titans. The bad news? A lot of that buzz is coming from DC itself.

10) Boomerang: It offered Garfield's Thanksgiving for free this week, and that is worth something, plus it had a nice playlist of Thanksgiving 'toons.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Brooks on Books: Twilight of the Gods by Steven Hyden

Twilight of the Gods is a funny exploration of classic rock and anyone who grew up listening to the music on the radio, as author Steven Hyden did, will enjoy it--whether or not you actually enjoy the music itself. Now, you might wonder, what exactly IS classic rock? Is it just "music that is played on stations that call themselves 'classic rock'?" Well, yeah, kind of. Hyden attempts to define the oft-nebulous world of this genre in a series of loosely connected essays, drawing heavily on his own personal experiences to create an enlightening and amusing book.

Now, I will admit that for a while Twilight wasn't exactly gripping me the way I hoped, but I believe that is on me, not on Hyden. I was anticipating something a bit more like Chuck Klosterman's work. Hyden doesn't exactly have a lot of the deep (or faux-deep) insights that pop up in Klosterman's work, and for a bit I was a little disappointed that Hyden wasn't really defining classic rock the way I was expecting. However, the more I got into the text, the more I enjoyed it. In the end, I think maybe it's more "just" a collection of interesting chapters about different aspects of classic rock rather than one "grand unified theory." But so what? It's a lot of fun.

Hyden puts all of himself into the book, building it around his own experiences attending shows, interviewing musicians (in addition to hosting the Celebration Rock) podcast, he writes for Uproxx and has been a writer and music critic for outlets like Grantland, The AV Club, and many more), and, yes, listening to the radio! As a devoted radio listener back in the day, including the local station that billed itself as "classic rock," I identify with many of Hyden's experiences. He shows how what we consider classic rock is in large part a function of what a group of programmers decided to play.

Younger music fans might not understand what the big deal is and why we would ponder why REP Speedwagon and Styx are lumped in the same category as Led Zeppelin, but I find the labels and sublabels (corporate rock, anyone?) fascinating. Along the way here, Hyden  explores the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  the enduring fervent niche appeal of Phish, and the difference between supergroups and "shrunkgroups" (the latter includes the likes of Axl/DC and the Dead and Company--"aging bands break down and then melt into one another").

Maybe my favorite chapter is So Bad, in which Hyden explains how the "worst" parts of a band's discography actually come all the way around to being good. I think this is the quintessential section in Twilight, with Hyden's creative analysis laying out an entertaining case for appreciating things others label as garbage. He talks about the stages in which this happens--completism; in which he has to seek out everything a band does; grudging appreciation, in which some of the more unconventional aspects of the work become appealing; and what he calls "brainwashing." As he once summarized the notion of a good bad record for The AV  Club: "a record that you talk yourself into loving after you've grown tired of all the acknowledged masterpieces and respected second-tier releases in a legendary artist's discography." Hyden's chapter-length elaboration of this is hilarious, drawing on examples from the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Neil Young among others.

Ultimately, I am not sure that Hyden really determines why rock is on the downslope or whether it will last forever, but he ties it all together at the end by bringing it back to his personal experience and reflections. More importantly, Twilight of the Gods is packed with enough provocative insights and humor to make it a great read for any serious rock music fan.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #136

1) YouTube/YouTube TV: I can't decide if I want YouTube TV on Roku to integrate more with my YouTube subscriptions or if that would be an even more terrifying intrusion on my life. Or maybe both are true.

I do know that the favorite uploaders I have been touting lately are almost delivering more than I can keep up with each week. One thing I really enjoyed watching this week was an old Merv Griffin Show from New York's Channel 5, complete with commercials. Special guests: Nancy Reagan, Joe Raposo, Carl Eller. Merv, of course, in his typical overbearing, merciless style, ripped each guest a new one.

2) Amazon Prime Video: I'm not gonna sit down and watch Gotti. I'm not gonna sit down and watch Gotti. I'm not--oh, why fool myself? I can't resist...

I did see Jim Gaffigan's new comedy special. Noble Ape, which is outstanding. It was a great surprise seeing that pop up this week.

3) Netflix: It's a big week for Netflix originals, what with The Kominsky Method, Narcos: Mexico, and the new Coen Brothers joint. But what's all this hinting around about Netflix raising prices? I realize speculative articles suggesting it will happen don't constitute a "jinx," but still, cut it out.

4) Hulu: I'm not impressed with the new original series this weekend. What I am impressed with is King of the Hill. That really is a great show, I tell you whut.

5) WWE Network: It's funny: They spend so much time trying to get people interested in the "pay per view" events, but all I care about is the old stuff. I mean, it's great to watch an old episode of Prime Time Wrestling and run into this guy heckling the Iron Sheik:

6) Filmstruck: I know I said it was time to start easing this one out of the rankings...but is it? It continues to add movies, and in this, its last month on the planet, it is more popular than ever. I am wary of the new Criterion Channel--same high price, lower (I assume) selection--and skeptical of Warner's plans to integrate Filmstruck into its upcoming cash grab. For now, though, I guess some news is better than no news.

7) Pub-D-Hub: Kudos to the Hub for adding a Thanksgiving section again. I do think it's all been there before, but I am happy to know I have a place to get my new annual holiday tradition: Calvin and the Colonel.

8) Shout! Factory TV:  Geoff Edwards' work on Starcade is low key one of the funniest game show emcee performances ever. Shout! is becoming less relevant as Prime Video adds more of its programs (and without ads), like Route 66, but there is still plenty of gold on this free channel.

9) CBS All Access: All right, CBS All Access, I burned through the paltry selection of Happy Days episodes. Time to add more. I mean a lot more.

10) Starz: Funny how watching one episodes of The Jeffersons makes Starz suggest Bingo Long, Sanford and Son, Car Wash...Not that I don't want to watch all of that.

Monday, November 12, 2018

'Mooners Monday: Why I Love "The Bensonhurst Bomber"

As we close out our look at this classic episode, let me just list some of the ways:

1) The title is one of the best episode titles in the history of the series.

2) Any episode with an extended billiard sequence is A-OK in my book. Is it just me, though, or do they not always come off like the high-level players they are supposed to be? The story is that the show trusted Gleason and Carney to do what they needed on camera because they could handle a cue. I don't dispute that, especially in The Great One's case, but he even scratches in this one.

3) That said, Norton's explanation of his elaborate shot is one of my favorite Norton lines. I lose it when he gets to the "chain reaction" part of his call.

4) In fact, it's a standout episode for Art Carney all around. I love how he talks Ralph into the fight, then afterwards, clueless as ever, scolds him for being foolish enough to get into the mess. Ed blurting out the Kramdens' address to Harvey is another highlight.

4) Ralph has several great "WILL YOU GO ON, ALREADY!"  bits AND throws Ed out of the billiard parlor. I love anytime Ralph throws his buddy out of a public place.

5) I mentioned George and Harvey in previous weeks, but they create two of the most memorable one-off characters in series history. Even the "Hey, get a load of fatso" guy, Mike O'Dowd, makes a strong impression, all crude and rough-looking in the best way.

6) One of my favorite moments is when Ralph tries to just slip out of the apartment without drawing attention.  What did he think Alice would say to this? I just adore this sequence for some reason. He packs a suitcase and thinks he will go under the radar, but the best is his timid explanation to Alice:  "Well. so long. I'm gonna be gone for a couple of weeks." Check out his sheepish expression in the last screencap as Alice tries to figure out what is up:


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #135

My sincere wishes for happiness and health to all our veterans on this holiday, and  to anyone who served, especially in combat, feel free to stream whatever the heck you want today and ignore these ratings.

Well, actually, I'd appreciate it if you read the ratings first, but you know what I mean.

1) YouTube/YouTube TV: The more I use YouTube TV, the more I am convinced it is the best cable alternative out there for live TV, though I have not yet tried Philo nor Hulu's service. Its basic channel lineup is great, it's streaming reliable for live shows, and so far I have had no problems with the DVR.

Plus some of my favorite uploaders have been killing it with the new vids lately. Sure, Google is developing a ton of personal info on me and likely using it for nefarious purposes, but I am numbing myself with that sweet, sweet idiot box.

2) Amazon Prime Video: "Hmm, should I finally dive into [insert title of high-profile original series]? Nah, I think I'll just put on one of these Leon Errol shorts Prime has."

My experience aside, one of the bigger untold stories in streaming video this fall is the quiet but substantial influx of movies from the Warner library. I mean, Deliverance, Network, Diner, Dog Day Afternoon, A Clockwork Orange, and more are all recent additions. Plus Prime is already well positioned for Christmas with It's a Wonderful Life and the 1951 Alistair Sim Scrooge. The latter appeared this week and, if I am not mistaken, is not usually available for streaming.

3) Netflix: A news story on Indiewire discussed Parrot Analytics' report of the top 10 most popular shows on streaming right now, and Stranger Things topped it despite being on hiatus. In fact, Netflix had 8 of the top 10 (Hulu's Handmaid's Tale and Castle Rock were the exceptions), proving its dominance. I don't know if Parrot knows what it's doing, but this list doesn't surprise me.

4) Hulu: It added yet another long-running popular series to its library this week: Married with Children. I am enjoying Hulu quite a bit lately. However, I am worried that Disney's Bob  Iger is already dropping hints about raising the prices and talking about increasing original programming. Personally, I'd rather Disney let Netflix spend all its $ on original content and Hulu continue buying all the old shows Netflix has abandoned. Normally the idea of a mega corporation like Disney committing to "improving" Hulu would be great, but I don't have any faith that it will continue the way I want it to...and, hey, these are my rankings (Thank you for your service, though).

5) Filmstruck: Time to start phasing it out of the rankings even though it is getting more attention now than it ever did, AND it is still adding movies and reminding us how much it sucks that is is being terminated. Will the petition circulating have any effect? I doubt it. Even if someone had the wherewithal to start something, even using those Criterion titles as a starting point, will Warners let them license those movies?

6) CBS All Access: I'm catching up on season 2 of Superior Donuts and becoming even fonder of its brand of light but well-meaning social relevance. Diane Guerrero doesn't hurt, either.

7) NBC:  I am gonna hate myself for even putting this out there, but...[deep breath] NBC's streaming outlet is getting to the point where, with a little more library content, I could see myself springing for a $5/month ad-free version of it.

8) WWE Network: It remains infuriating with its recent approach (or lack thereof) to adding classic content, and the less said about Crown Jewel the better, but, boy, oh, boy, did I like seeing this week's Hidden Gem: the "failed pilot" for the AWA's Team Challenge Series, complete with horrible green screen, empty studio matches, and foxy boxing for no apparent reason.

9) Starz: Time to start checking in with Starz again for Outlander--I mean, uh, for other old shows. Seriously, Outlander  is a really big deal, right?

10 The CW: I am personally watching my superhero "stories" on YouTube TV right now, but I have to give CW some love for making them available for free on its app.

Monday, November 5, 2018

'Mooners Monday: Amazon Prime news plus what is the "deal" with George and Harvey?

Great news for 'Mooners fans who don't already own the DVDs from MPI: Amazon Prime Video now has available two 1970s Honeymooners specials for streaming with membership: 1976's Second Honeymoon and 1978's The Valentine Special.  It's reasonable to hope the 1978 Christmas special appears by the end of the year (knowing how streaming often works, it'll probably be on December 29). The 1977 Christmas special has never been released on video and, as far as I know, remains lost.

For now, these two hourlong TV presentations join the Lost Episodes on Prime, and it makes me wonder, where are the Classic 39? As I pointed out before, CBS/Paramount already milked all it could from DVD sales and Blu-Ray sales. The complete series is available at a great price in each format. It may not be a big deal since so many surely have the discs, but I'd like to see the 39 available in nice, crisp HD somewhere in the streaming world, even if on CBS All Access.

Now back to The Bensonhurst Bomber. Let me ask this without being indelicate: What is "the deal" with George and Harvey? Does anyone else think there's a suggestion that the big guy and the little guy are more than just billiard buddies?


No? OK, well, in that case, let's talk about the actors.

Leslie Barrett (George) was a stage actor from New York known for Shakespeare work but became best known for this episode. He's in many other era TV episodes, including I Shot an Arrow into the Air, the season 1 Twilight Zone in which Edward Binns and a few other astronauts crash-land a rocket. He told The Official Honeymooners Treasury, "Of course, I didn't get a job after that for two years, because everybody thought I talked like that."

George Mathews (Harvey) was also in all kinds of era TV shows, including The Phil Silvers Show and The Rifleman. The Treasury reports that Mathews never saw this 'Mooners episode until a live screening at a RALPH (Royal Association for the Longevity and Preservation of the Honeymooners) convention, decades after its premiere.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #134

Hope everyone had a happy, safe, and stream-friendly Halloween. Is it time to get away from Scaretober and Boostreamflix and all that (I am just making all that up)? Perhaps, but I still give credit where it's due to the streamers who came through with seasonal content. Let's start gearing up for Streamsgiving in a few weeks.

1) Hulu: It gets the top spot purely because of the glorious news (verified by me and my own personal Roku) that it now offers all 250+ episodes of King of the Hill, which I consider one of the most underrated comedies of all time. All I have to say to that is..."Yep."

2) Filmstruck: Everyone loves this more than they did when it wasn't on death row, but bless the curators for adding more programming, like a ton of Kate Hepburn films.

3) Prime Video: New series Homecoming debuts this weekend, but, eh, Julia Roberts isn't the big deal she used to be, and I don't have time to watch the series I am already watching, and...

[Rick learns each episode is only 30 minutes]


Perhaps more importantly, Amazon continues adding content from MPI Home Video--in this case, two rare 1970s honeymooners specials. It's not peak 'Mooners, but it's still 'Mooners, and it saves me plunking down $ for the DVDs as I have thought about doing for years.

All this, and Amazon is quietly adding a whole lot of classic Warner Brothers movies like Deliverance and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

4) Netflix: Competitive week keeps Netflix at #4 as horror stories about "the terrible corporate culture" continue to dominate even as the service offers the final season of House of Cards (remember when that was a thing), a new Orson Welles movie (! but I am more interested in the accompanying documentary) and a doc about Johnny Cash and Richard Nixon.

5) YouTube/YouTube TV: YTTV is threatening to get me back into watching non-baseball sports. On YouTube proper, my kids are still fascinated by the ongoing Project Zorgo storyline involving many prominent "YouTubers." The main thing that stands out to me is that YT must have really changed how it distributes ad revenue, because I see a lot of shilling for "merch."

I realize many of you will have no idea what that last paragraph was all about. Let's just move on to number 6.

6) Pub-D-Hub: I believe celebrating Halloween by watching themed 1950s episodes of Red Skelton's and Lawrence Welk's TV shows, as I did, should be as traditional as trick-or-treating with totally dark costumes, handing out unsealed candy, and Necco wafers. Hmm, wait a minute.

7) Starz: Outlander is back, and though I am not in the target demo, its return is such a big deal that Hulu is intruding on my normal home screens to suggest I add Starz to get it.

Hey, wait a minute, that's actually really annoying. I am gonna move on before I dock Hulu and Starz for that.

8) Pluto TV: Adding Buzzr, the OTA classic game show network, to its motley assortment of free ad-supported channels. I just wish it could be more customizable. It's adding a lot of stuff, which is good, but it would be nice to be able to filter out things I am never going to watch.

9) Kanopy: This free library-supported service hosts tons of movies, many of which are classics, and many tout it as a great option for those who will miss Filmstruck. Well, sure it is, if you have it. My two local liberry systems do not participate, and I don't live in the sticks.

10) Boomerang: It's sad that with all this talk about the injustice of At&T killing Filmstruck, I see virtually no one worrying about the fate of Boomerang. That's a testament to how weakly the company has built it. Yet it's still around, I think it is still adding content, and I would be sorry to see it go...though unlike Filmstruck, it has a long way to go to justify its sub price.

Monday, October 29, 2018

'Mooners Monday: The Bensonhurst Bomber Part 1

It's been MANY a moon since the last 'Mooners Monday, but it's time to revisit it with one of my favorite episodes (I feel like I say that all the time): The Bensonhurst Bomber.

This is the one in which Ralph, after bullying a little guy named George, is himself bullied by a bigger guy named Harvey (HARRRR-veeee!) and has to fight him. I always considered it one of the single funniest installments, and we'll get into the episode soon, but let me get right to the one thing I do NOT like about it.

I like strong "heels." Growing up, it annoyed me when I watched pro wrestling and saw dominant bad guys suddenly turn to jelly just because the babyface hero pulled his strap down on his singlet or shook his finger. I liked seeing villains get beat, mind you, but I respected ones who managed to stay strong, like Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom, and it frustrated me to see the old cliché that bullies backed down right away when you just challenged them.

Is that really true in actual life? I don't think so. Sometimes, maybe, but just as often, doesn't standing up to a bully delight him (or her) because it's easier to get at his target?

This is why I hate the end of this episode. Ralph, thanks to a ruse concocted with Norton (not really, we discover, but Ralph doesn't find out till after the fact) punches out a guy in front of Harvey to scare off the big guy. It actually works!

Harvey was an interesting character, a blowhard, yes, but one who was really sticking up for his little friend. They did kind of have dibs on the pool table (I don't know the code of the pool hall, but surely there must be some kind of procedure in a place like that for reserving a table when you want to go get something cold to drink), and Ralph brushed off George's concerns.

I never bought Harvey chickening out like that even if Ralph did  slug an even bigger guy (Mike O'Dowd). Ralph's swagger IS funny, and the episode has a great payoff, but it comes at the expense of ol' Harv, who turns punk in record time with too little reason. he practically runs out of the gym.

I do think Ralph's silly laugh when he says this is why he doesn't like to fight--and sometimes he even hurts himself--is classic.

More next week!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #133: Still anticipating Halloween

The biggest fright of all came from the soul-sucking corporate overlords at AT&T.  Imagine being a megacorp so crummy that you make a megacorp as big as Warners look sympathetic.

1) Filmstruck: This week, it added an assortment of films by Jacques Tourneur as well as adaptations of works of Robert Louis Stevenson, but Filmstruck is #1 because AT&T killed it (despite the notices they sent to news sites claiming it was not an AT&T decision, who are they kidding?) because why make a little money when you can shutter something in the hopes of making more money a year down the road?

I can't say I'm surprised that AT&T wants to kill it off and focus on its forthcoming super-big streamer, but why do this now before anything is in place? Filmstruck had finally figured things out this year with the addition of the TCM movies and co-branding, and now it's gone. The TCM stuff may turn up somewhere...eventually. The Criterion stuff may turn up somewhere...eventually. The other licensed titles may turn up somewhere, too. But I really doubt we are going to get anything approaching having them all together in one place. Is anyone confident that the Warners library before 2000 will get any serious consideration in a future SVOD service?

2) YouTube/YouTubeTV:  I enjoyed dozens of ads uploaded by 5-star uploader SeanMc, who sure made up for lost time. Mainly I like having live TV if only for the World Series right now. The refreshing non-stingy approach they take to giving consumers a DVR capability comes in handy when you are occupied with sports all week.

3) CBS All Access: I watched it a lot thinking I would cancel it, and whaddya know, it lured me back in with a special offer to stick around for two months. So expect to see this remain a fixture over the coming weeks as I continue to explore the library shows and shun the new ones.

4) Hulu: To be honest. I didn't watch much Hulu the last few weeks, but I am starting to appreciate it more and more after seeing what else is going on in the streamosphere. Let's hope the current co-owners aren't too eager to start screwing it up.

5) Amazon Prime Video: This is one of those weeks I am thankful for Amazon Prime because it helped me do podcast prep, but there is a lot of other stuff going on, like the quiet addition of Kevin Brownlow's beloved 1980 Hollywood docuseries and a bunch of Classic Albums episodes.

My "What the hell is this?" of the week is this movie from 1988. Whoopi Goldberg, Herve Villechaize, John Heard, Elllott Gould...directed by Rip Torn!

See the source image

6) Netflix: I am glad there is a home for Halloween episodes like the Friends one with Sean Penn and Chandler in the bunny suit and, better yet, Cheers' Bar Wars classics. Still, there is a lot of negativity around Netflix these days. The new Sabrina series is getting good reviews (I don't know if I want to go anywhere near it after seeing what happened to Riverdale), and even the new Adam Sandler standup special is well received. But the big news seems to be the cancellations, the latest being critical fave American Vandals. Is the future of Netflix hundreds of series a year...which are then canceled the next?

7) Pub-D-Hub: What better way to celebrate  Halloween week than by screening a vintage late-October episode of The Red Skelton Show with special guest Virginia Grey?

8) IFC: This app is frustrating in its overall lameness, and the Night Flight short compilation are frustrating in their shortness, but they are fun to watch.

9) WWE Network: I am not boycotting the Network over its decision to go forward with a paid event next weekend sponsored by the Saudi government. I do think it's appropriate to criticize them for it as well as for the cowardly way it has tried to just let the controversy fade away.

However, I made my peace with giving the company money a while ago...and plus I forgot when my renewal date was and it auto-renewed. This weekend's all-female Evolution event is a big deal, and I enjoyed the Last Battle of Atlanta special.

10) Showtime: It lands a spot by virtue of the return of my favorite TV show I've never watched:


See the source image

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #132

Many people appreciate Halloween-themed content this time of year (the time of year being Halloween; I could have phrased that more artfully), but I recognize that some might actually prefer a respite from all the black cats, goblins, and limb-sawing (sorry, I don't like to get into current events on this blog) that runs rampant in October. to you non-horror hounds, I apologize for the extra credit I will give certain channels the next few weeks. I am not a huge Halloween guy, but I respect the channels that try to please those who are.

1) YouTube/YouTube TV: What I *really respect* is free, though. On one hand, I was furious that I essentially missed an entire game of the National League Championship Series due to the global YT outage. On the other hand, they gave me a free week for the inconvenience, which really helps me get over it. If the Pirates were in it, I'd still be ticked, but this certainly makes me feel better.

2) CBS All-Access: I have to admit I am picking the most interesting episodes, but the more I see of the original Hawaii Five-0, the more into it I get. For a series I always assumed was "just" a procedural (not that there's anything wrong with that), it has a good lineup of fairly off-kilter stories. That's goof for All-Access because this new crop of CBS shows is not nearly as interesting.

3) Netflix: Netflix is really cranking out the original series this month, adding new sesasons of Making a Murderer, Daredevil, and premiering a Toni Collette series called Wanderlust (about which I have heard very little)--and that's only on Friday, and that's not even all of it. Yet the cancellation of Luke Cage totally overshadows the generally well received Daredevil season. People are increasingly fascinated by these cancellations of Netflix series.

My kids remain on a totally YouTube jag (this Project Zorgo thing has captivated the youth of America), and that combined with my baseball watching made this one of the lesser-watched Netflix weeks in my household.

Hey, does anyone think Netflix is gaming its recommendations to make itself look better? For example, I don't recall seeing Monty Python as a suggestion until after I started watching it. I wonder if every now and then they see someone has only seen an episode of something and try to slip a recommendation in so we think, "Hey! I was just gonna start watching that! They really know me!"

4) WWE Network: It's under-delivering on classic content overall this month but is coming in strong again with its Hidden Gems, such as this week's upload of The Last Battle of Atlanta, a rare complete house show from the non-WWF territorial days.

5) Pub-D-Hub: I made my annual payment for Pub-D-Hub Gold, and though the team may have slowed down a tick in recent months, I still give it a high recommendation. You can get a lot of this stuff on other free Roku channels, yes, but without commercials? With options to set a playlist and build a queue? I think not. Plus the Hub has added its traditional Halloween section, loaded with movies, TV, cartoons, and commercials in one convenient spot.

6)  Hulu: Quiet week in terms of originals, but the new Fall TV is here (I think that's a plus) and the news that Married with Children arrives next month proves Hulu is serious about dominating 90s reruns. Other series available now include: Mom, The Bernie Mac Show, and Younger.

7) Pix11: This week's archival add is a complete newcast from the night of the 1987 stock market crash--not necessarily something we want to relive, but compelling viewing nonetheless.

8) Prime Video:  I think The Romanoffs is already considered a disappointment, but it's interesting that Amazon is releasing episodes each week rather than all at once. More to the point, Prime added a bunch of old British crime movies, some high-profile hits like the Burt Reynolds The Longest Yard, and the original Addams Family.

9) HBO: I have to give it credit for making a movie about Herve Villechaize, and not just because of my hope that a Herve renaissance leads to Crackle bringing back Fantasy Island (and earning a spot in these rankings)!

10) Filmstruck: This classic movie service put an interesting spin on Halloween with Japanese horror classics, super-old "scary" cartoon shorts, and a Terrence Fisher collection with a half-dozen Hammer films.

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.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #129

I feel like the Emmys should play a big part in these rankings, but I didn't watch the ceremony, and nearly a week later, I feel like everyone has already forgotten about the awards.

1) HBO: Hey, Netflix, you did quite well, but HBO is still around and still way too expensive. We could all expect Game of Thrones to win Emmys, but what a showing for Barry. In addition to its own Emmy dominance, HBO celebrates the premiere of The Shape of Water and the streaming debut of Arli$$.

OK, let's not hold that last one against it.

2) Netflix: I'm still amazed that Netflix got an Emmy for Seven Seconds. Broadcast networks must really be going nuts to see a series like that, one hardly anyone remembers existed, win a huge award (Regina Hall). So Netflix must be feeling pretty good about itself.

New series this weekend include Maniac, reuniting Emma Stone and Jonah hill. I mean, everyone loves Emma Stone, right? And Jonah Hill...Well, Emma Stone seems to like him, so he can't be all bad, I guess. I saw some ads for The Good Cop  with Tony Danza and Josh Groban, and, so help me, it looks entertaining. Plus there's a documentary about Quincy Jones, and I sure hope it's 90 minutes of him rambling and dissing other celebrities.

3) Amazon Prime Video: I was pleased to see the love for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,  but perhaps more importantly, something called A Few Conversdations with Dabney Coleman just showed up. Also, random old movies from Sony and MGM keep showing up here.

4) YouTube: Tommy Wiseau's The Room (not to be confused with Jean Renoir's The Room) is now streaming officially on YouTube. 'Nuff said.

On the off chance that isn't 'nuff, last week the awesome Super 70s Sports Twitter account posted a photo of Burt Reynolds doing commentary in the CBS booth for a bowl game. A few clicks later, and I discover it's the Sun Bowl, and the complete broadcast is on YouTube. good!

5) Hulu: An also-ran at the Emmys, and is anyone talking about The First? Fortunately, I go there for stuff like Seinfeld and more classic TV.

6) CBS All Access: I think season 2 of Happy Days  is new here, and the fact that this service is quietly increasing its library bodes well. Plus the show page says, "Watch from the beginning," which is annoying as anything if it's only this one season, but will be nice if it means the whole run is coming. I also note the series--well, the token 12 episodes or whatever--is no longer on Hulu. Hmm...

I have one more week of my month trial, and I am enjoying what I am seeing. I did regret watching the end of a boring Indy/Washington game just to hope the CBS feed would switch to the Steelers game. Oh, it DID switch, and that's why I regretted it: I had to watch the sad resolution to that one.

7) Filmstruck: I can't say I'm thrilled about Debbie Reynolds being Star of the Week, but I admire the scope of the collection and the variety it represents. Plus I finally saw Night Moves with Gene Hackman, some prehistoric film animation, and an old episode of Studio One.

8) CBS Sports HQ: I only got a quick look on Saturday night, but it was valuable: scores and highlights with no fuss. This is a nice destination for cord-cutting sports fans,

9) NBC: I had way more fun than I should have watching an old Charles in Charge guest-starring the great 80s icon Jerry Levine, who was in Teen Wolf and...hey, wait. How was this guy not in like hundreds of movies in the eighties? I mean, he has a fine career and is a prolific broadcast TV director now, but, wow, I would have thought he was in everything.

10) Britbox: I have never subscribed, but I took a look at the offerings the other day. It's quietly assembled a decent lineup of new and vintage programming, I like the emphasis on "panel shows," (like a new one featuring Alan Davies), and a new sitcom with John Cleese should count for something.