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.