Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Streaming Video Power Rankings #146

I could give you a long explanation for the lateness of the rankings this week, but...I won't. Let's keep it simple. In fact, the rankings this week reflect the current "tidying" craze. It's all about simplicity.

1) Hulu: Two words: Price decrease. I don't care what the rationale is, and, yes, the live TV package is going up, but for me, the $2 cut to the base package is a most welcome surprise.

2) YouTube/YouTubeTV: I was going to cut YTTV after the playoffs, but I miscalculated/forgot the billing date, and, hey, I got it for another month! That isn't a ringing endorsement, but it does guarantee I will be watching a whole lot of it this month and trying to clear the DVR in anticipation of my next "forgot to cancel in time" milestone.

On regular, old YouTube, an uploader gave us tons of old baseball games from 1984, including playoffs; and 1981, including a random Pirates/Astros game. Just the thing for sports fans who would rather hear about Tom Brookens than Tom Brady this week.

3) Netflix: The aforementioned Marie Kondo tidying up craze is really out of hand and it shows how Netflix really dominates the culture these days. Oh, yes, plus there is the fact that Roma is the frontrunner for the Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Yet we haven't forgotten about the price increase, Netflix, nor the fact that you somehow felt it necessary to present a series that gives us Ted Bundy's "side of the story."

4) Amazon Prime Video: Big run for Mrs.Maisel at the SAG Awards livens up a relatively slow week, and I am sure a lot more people are watching Baywatch than will cop to it.

5) Pluto TV: Viacom bought Pluto for $340 million, which sounds bad for viewers (many of whom assume that it's good-bye, free Pluto) but sounds pretty darned good for Pluto.

6) Shout! TV: I celebrated Dr. King's birthday with two episodes of seminal 1970s PBS showcase Soul!  And also with multiple episodes of What's Happening!!, which I think he would have loved.

7) WWE Network: It just had one of its biggest events, the annual Royal Rumble, and reportedly is getting a lot of eyeballs for its recent drop of Superstars from 1992.

8) DC Universe: Recent metrics indicate Titans and Young Justice are two of the most popular shows on streaming video right now. I don't believe that, of course, unless DC has somehow rigged the system, but I feel like I should give at least some credit.

9) Pub-D-Hub: It gave us an unspectacular update this weekend, but it was an update, and it's good these folks seem to back on schedule.

10) CBS All Access: Hey, cord cutters, here's a way to get the "big game" this weekend if you don't have a good antenna set-up.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

What I want to see from the streamers in 2019 (Part 1)

In this series of posts, I will name one specific thing--usually a classic show of some kind--that I personally would like to see (and that is halfway reasonable to expect!) on each service in 2019.

Hulu: This is easy: The rest of The Bob Newhart Show. This was promised years ago, yet there are still only the first 3 seasons. We finally got St. Elsewhere in 2018; it's long past time for the other half of Newhart's best series.

CBS All-Access: I said it before, and now I say it again: A perfect add for this channel is Mannix--tons of episodes, already on DVD, ready to go. BUT I am going to say Love Boat or the rest of Happy Days. SOME of season 2 for a show that was on forever--and, boy, was Happy Days on forever--just doesn't cut it.

WWE Network: It's astonishing how underrepresented the expansion era is on the Network. Even before Hulk Hogan's self-inflicted exile from the organization's good graces, there was a notable lack of 1980s archival WWF.

The Network just added 30-some episodes of WWF Superstars from 1992 because the earlier incarnation known as Superstars of Wrestling has legal issues with the title, but there's no reason its predecessor, Championship Wrestling, can't be uploaded in full. If the Network can't find a way to get its original flagship up, then add the rest of All-Star Wrestling up through the Wrestling Challenge years. As sleazy as the bringing back of Hulk Hogan has been, at least maybe they might have the impetus to add more of the eighties to the Network.

DC Universe: I'm already disappointed at the fact that this fledgling streamer is rotating content (a nicer way of saying it regularly removes stuff). Even if we accept that as a thing, why doesn't DC put the 1960s Aquaman cartoons up to accompany the similar Filmation Superman episodes it offers? Now is the time, right? I don't see much reason to save them for the DVD release of the movie. Also, there is a small batch of Super Friends that is inexplicably missing from the current available lineup.

Amazon Prime Video: The apparent ongoing deal with Warner Brothers for older stuff that brought Kung Fu and The Dukes of Hazzard to Prime last year means this one could--nay, SHOULD be a reality in 2019: Night Court.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Streaming Video Power Rankings #145 (Special MLK Day Weekend Edition)

We all know that there is no better way to honor the late Dr. King than to sit on your duff and watch TV, so here we go:

1) Hulu: Hulu finally got a big victory of sorts over Netflix by surprising everyone and unveiling a competing Fyre Festival documentary days before the premiere of Netflix's original. I like the idea of there being a little one-upsmanship between the two companies. I especially like the idea of Hulu not raising its prices (see #10).

2) YouTube/YouTube TV: Big Cultureshark ups to the person who started uploading Misfits of Science last week.

3) Amazon Prime Video: I am going to fold IMDB Freeview into here until/unless it does more to establish itself independently (like create a stand-alone Roku channel).  I see it as significant added value for now. Speaking of that, we get another streaming surprise--there are always items that never show up on the "Here's what's coming to __" lists that circulate--the 9 non-Hawaii seasons (the "classic years"?) of Baywatch. It's supposedly remastered for high-def, which means stripped of all the original music...as if that matters. Public service announcement: Yasmine Bleeth joins as a regular in season 5.

In other news, Car 54, Where Are You? is now on Prime. Joe E. Ross is no Yasmine Bleeth, but this show is a welcome addition.

4) The CW: Hey, remember the CW app? I'm sure glad I did because my recording of the third part of the Arrowverse Elseworlds crossover inexplicably disappeared from my DVR library, forcing me to head here to see it.

5) HBO: I just can't get excited about the likes of Crashing and High Maintenance, but this upcoming documentary about Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill sounds good, and all the Sopranos nostalgia flying around lately reminds us that

6) Showtime: HBO's perpetual neglected sibling returns with new episodes of SMILF and Shameless plus the debut of Don Cheadle's Wall Street period comedy Black Monday and a big (bigger 5 years ago, I guess) fight between Manny Pacquiao and Adrian Broner. I hear Emmy Rossum's Shameless character "continues her downward spiral." Hasn't she been on a downward spiral ever since the series began?

7) CBS All Access: Star Trek: Discovery returns, and I bet a significant percentage of this channel's subscriber base does, too.

8) ESPN Plus: The UFC/ESPN relationship officially began with a big card that unfortunately featured known scumbag Greg Hardy.

9) FilmRise: A lot of the content here is available on other platforms, but it's here in one place (with ads, of course). I haven't tested it yet, but I think it's good to remind everyone that, as an example, Batman (1966) is here and free (with ads, natch).

10) Netflix: Dropping the company out of the ratings altogether would damage the credibility of this prestigious list, so I am not doing that. Netflix deserves punishment, though, for planning its biggest price hike ever, and not all that long after its last one. It's terrible news and, as the industry leader, it may give other outlets "cover" to institute price hikes.

I hate seeing all the apologists say, "Oh, it's still a great deal." So what? It's still a big price hike as a percentage, and it's legitimate to complain about it. "Big deal. There's so much content on there." Yeah, and how much of it do you want to watch? Did they really need to spend so, so much on deals with the Obamas and the Murphys and Shonda Rimes? Maybe they did, long term, but I might not watch any of that stuff. "They have to do this because other companies won't give them their content anymore." Yeah, partly because Netflix is throwing cash at all the original productions. Netflix decided to go this route.

OK, you got me: This mini-rant is really just another excuse to complain about Netflix losing Quincy.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Streaming Video Power Rankings #144 "Baby It's Cold Outside" edition

I am not one to judge a decades-old song by 2019 standards unless it is a lot more blatantly offensive. I just don't see much use in it. What I DO like to gripe about is the weather. Now, THAT is somewhere I can make a difference. So consider this my official demand that spring arrive early and winter get out of here.

The cold weather does provide an excuse to catch some more streaming video, though...

1) Netflix: Roma and The Kaminsky Method were big winners at the Golden Globes and helped create the perception of a big night for the company. Originals include the returning Friends at College (Apparently someone likes that show) and a Chevy Chase/Richard Dreyfuss film (come on, you're curious), and Solo keeps the Disney movie pipeline flowing. Speaking of that, I finally watched Rogue One, and I am still a couple movies behind, but that has to be the best Star Wars flick since the original trilogy, right?

2) Hulu: I have to give Hulu big-time props for doubling its subscriber count in 2018. Now, a big chunk of the gains might come from all the free subs it is giving through carriers like Spring, but, hey, it's not my money. Future Man season 2 premieres this weekend.

3) IMDB Freedive: It's always exciting when something new and FREE arrives with a variety of content, and, boy, does IMDB Freedive have it--all sorts of movies, like Foxcatcher, Donnie Brasco, Panic Room, and Adaptation; and TV shows like Dallas, Fringe, and Gilligan's Island (could some of those Warner Brothers shows I've been earmarking for Prime come here?).

It's all ad-supported, but not obnoxiously so from my limited exploration, and fortunately, Roku users like me can catch this through Amazon Prime. This is essentially the ad-supported free streaming service Amazon denied it was unveiling. I guess they branded it IMDB to avoid confusion with Prime, which is already confusing enough. And that reminds me...

4) Amazon Prime Video: The good news is it offers a nesting place for Freedive. The bad news is it exiles it to a row on the Roku version of Prime and, at least as far as I can tell, makes it impossible to browse. Still, it's there, and, yes, you see the ads when you watch Freedive on Prime. Prime itself unveils British series Informer and the critically acclaimed movie Eighth Grade. I'm interested by the addition of a bunch of 10-20-year-old HBO documentaries, original movies, and comedy specials. Sometimes it seems that the HBO stuff is never refreshed, but here is some "new" material.

5) YouTube/YouTube TV: The only thing that knocks it down a peg or two this week is that it doesn't authenticate Watch TCM yet. I finally got the latter to work on Roku, only to find out I couldn't actually see anything on it.

6) Roku Channel: Roku is having a big month and getting a lot of good ink for its stock performance, and the resulting pub is certainly drawing attention to the channel, which is slowly adding content on a regular basis.

7) HBO: Ocean's 8 premieres, and True Detective returns, but I think the biggest buzz comes from HBO announcing that it will announce the return date of Game of Thrones this weekend.

8) DC Universe: It's a good thing I am ranking only the streaming video because the comic book aspect of this thing is a huge letdown. Some Super Friends makes me feel better.

9) Disney Now: It sneaks into the rankings on the basis of Kickin' It, one of my family's all-time favorite series that my kids suddenly decided to revisit.

10) Gomer Pyle: I'm not a big fan of the series, but part of me really admires an entire Roku channel built around reruns of it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Wonderful World of TCM: Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

There is a reason I am not writing this until a week after Christmas, and it's not that I was too lazy the holiday week. And the one after that. Well, not only that.

I didn't want to sully the Xmas season with a dose of "Bah, humbug!" You see, somehow, Carol for Christmas, despite an all-star cast and pedigree, is not a great watch. Oh, it's worth seeing, of course, and all praise to our true Santa, Turner Classic Movies, for showing it, but once is enough for me.

This TV special aired December 28, 1964 on ABC and was part of a series of specials sponsored by Xerox promoting the United Nations. Wait, December 28? Hey, what a great time to air a reworking of A Christmas Carol, right--3 days after the holiday. Almost like writing a post about it two weeks--uh, never mind.

Produced and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and written by Rod Serling, the special comes off like pure propaganda. I mean, I won't complain about, say, dramatizing the horrors of Hiroshima, but the screenplay shows off the didactic side of Serling. It goes out of its way to promote ingternational cooperation at the expense of storytelling, and I think the agenda-pushing would work much better in a 30-minute format than in this feature-length scenario.

Still, it's Serling, it's atmospheric, and it features an outstanding cast led by Sterling Hayden as the Scrooge (Daniel Grudge here). I could go on about the plot and other production details, but I found an interesting article on TCM that says it all, so just head there, and I will share some screencaps.

Among the standouts: Ben Gazarra, Steve Lawrence, Eva Marie Saint, Pat Hingle, Angry Mob, and Peter Sellers (himself fresh off a massive heart attack):


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Streaming Video Power Rankings #143

As we settle into the new year, it's a good time to take stock of ourselves and what we can do better. And by "we," I mean YOU, streaming video on demand providers. This week I plan to unveil some wishes for 2019--things these outlets can add to improve themselves. That's what resolutions are about, after all--other people improving themselves.

It was a quiet week for new material, especially compared to last week, but let's count 'em down--or up, depending on how you look at it.

1) Netflix: I made it through my kids' run through of Fuller House in one piece, Alexa and Katie (their next watch) is tolerable, and I love the Brian Regan show. Also, Netflix added the Indiana Jones movies. This week's #1 ranking is driven largely by the young Culturesharks, though.

2) YouTube/YouTube TV: Yep, I'm keeping YTTV one more month for the playoffs, but, wow, each week brings news about its competitors that makes it look even better. As for regular ol' YouTube, I love the fact that, just ahead of this weekend's Bears/Eagles game, someone posted a Bears/Eagles game from nearly 40 years ago.

3) Boomerang: I will say good-bye to Boomerang again this week, but I give them credit for adding some things--the original Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley, plus--oddly--the original Monchichis and a reboot. Nothing against them, but I'd rather they put up some Snagglepuss.

Nonetheless, I have been watching a bunch of The Flintstones lately and reminding myself that it was one of the great shows of its era. Boomerang has the whole series, I think, too, but unfortunately, it's kid-centric interface makes it tougher than it should be to find specific episodes.

4) Amazon Prime Video: It was a pretty good week for high-profile movie adds, with Beautiful Boy and Leave No Trace joining the service. I'm trying to figure out why Prime has some but nowhere near all episodes of Tony Palmer's 1970s All You Need Is Love popular music history series. I'd love to get into these, but my completist mentality makes me want to wait until they are all there...or at least the first one!

5) Roku Channel: I was never a big fan of The Patty Duke Show, but it makes decent background viewing. I give Roku demerits for dropping the first two seasons of Good Times. Just license the whole series and leave it up there, please!

6) Hulu: A quiet week on the TV side, but it did add 2018's acclaimed Annhiliation. I feel I may have to just commit to a show and really tear it up because I don't feel I am getting much out of Hulu lately. I think the no-ads CBS All Access plan spoiled me a bit.

7) Pluto TV: Finally Buzzr is on the Roku version of Pluto (it was on other platforms for some time). The addition of the classic game show network could make Pluto one of the best time-waster options around.

8) Shout! Factory TV: It offered another substantial assortment of new material for the first of the month. If you have Prime, much of it is there without ads, but I like that Shout! is keeping at it. It quietly assembled an impressive collection of genre flicks and is adding to it each month, but I'd still like to see them do a little more with classic TV.

9) Starz: Miami Vice is a welcome addition, but I am still stung by the loss of the 1980s Rambo cartoon, which (admittedly) I did not watch. in my defense, I figured, why would they ever have to get rid of that?

10) Curiosity Stream: I confess I didn't actually watch anything on here; I just want to rank it again because I still feel guilty for having it free for a month and only seeing a few things.