Last week Netflix CEO Reed Hastings again disappointed his customers by repeating that his company will continue to concentrate on original programming. He even suggested Netflix will follow the template set by HBO and try to get its own TV channel (by the way, is there a better evil-CEO name than Reed Hastings? He sounds like a character from The Simpsons). So far, the only positive result about that business plan is the news that Arrested Development will continue and that hasn’t been enough to keep over 800,000 customers from leaving, even as revenue has grown.
As terrible as Netflix has made itself look since the Qwikster debacle, there’s still a spoil of riches on the streaming service. Spartacus was lost when the Starz contract expired (along with Toy Story 3, Scarface, and 1000 others) but Netflix’s quality hasn’t gone all the way down the drain yet.
There’s a solid amount of variety on the streaming service and there’s enough in each genre to satisfy anyone. If you’re into low budget sci-fi movies you’re pretty much set for life.
Comedy shows abound. Hastings and company have been criticized for losing Party Down with the Starz network but Portlandia and the David Cross vehicle The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret will fill the void for the too-cool fans of smart comedy shows. Even though those two, along with Archer and 30 Rock, lead the charge in terms of current shows there are also some that have laid the groundwork for those shows to exist. The Larry Sanders Show ran on HBO from 1992 through the spring of ’98 and every episode is preserved on Netflix. Garry Shandling plays an egotistical talk show host who has to deal with his assitant’s idiocy (Jeffrey Tambor) and the outrageous demands of his guests (everyone from Roseanne to Jon Stewart have recurring roles as themselves). Sanders is the Bill Parcells of ‘90s comedy shows, there’s an umbrella of underlings that went on to have huge success. Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, and others got their break with Larry.
Clearly, television is the strength of Netflix’s streaming. The $8 a month it costs is nothing when you consider both Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Chapelle’s Show are available. The movies are more of a hit or miss discussion. Netflix has caught flack in the past for making customers wait up to 30 days to watch new releases. Where that’s certainly a concern, there’s a plethora of new-ish movies. Cult hit Wet Hot American Summer is on there, along with The Fighter, Reservoir Dogs, and The Thin Red Line. Unfortunately those are by far the biggest hits.
Documentaries stand up well under inspection, though. Many of the best documentaries from the past few years can be streamed. I don’t even want to watch half of them, but for some reason just the fact that I could watch them this very second is incredibly satisfying.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a funny and revealing behind the scenes look at the talk show host’s fall from the Tonight Show and on the road with his live tour. When We Were Kings is the legendary doc about Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s trip to Africa and the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Page One: Inside the New York Times details to fall of newspapers and the WikiLeaks controversy while The Blue Planet shows you life in the ocean. Even typing the last sentence bored the bejesus out of me but I swear it’s more exciting than it sounds.
The best part might be not being forced to endure commercials. Whenever I’m watching commercials I feel like an idiot. It’s 2012, I think to myself, why am I sitting here watching a Clorox commercial that sounds like my volume has been cranked to eleven? I could easily watch this show on the Internet or just (gulp) read a book. How dare they make me watch this. Usually that vicious cycle of anger is suppressed because the show comes back but the fact that Netflix is totally ad-free pays dividends for my own mental health. Even if Reed Hastings took away Party Down, he hasn’t lost me yet.