Many years ago, when we first got cable TV, I remember being overjoyed. No more being restricted to CBS, NBC , ABC and the local channels ! Even though we didn’t splurge on the premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime or Cinemax, there were going to be dozens of channels to choose from ! I felt like a kid in a candy store. Alas for those high expectations! Many of the cable channels proved to be niche channels that were of no interest to us while others quickly grew stale. In time we found ourselves tuning in regularly to just a handful of channels ESPN ( of course), TBS, TNT, CNN, Bravo, the Travel Channel and the Food Network. Meanwhile, the regular channels went from bad to worse with the advent of Reality TV. To make things worse, I kept hearing from friends abroad about the wide range of TV programming they were able to enjoy. A friend in Malaysia boasted that he was able to get not only ESPN but the Outdoor Life Network ( which was showing the Tour de France) but also half a dozen other channels that showed cricket , badminton, English Premier League soccer etc. Briefly I considered switching to Direct TV or DishTV but the experience of friends deterred me from doing so.
Then last year, I became a Netflix subscriber and my TV blahs disappeared.
Befre I joined Netflix, I thought that it would give me an opportunity to see all those movies that I never saw on the big screen at the movie theater. In our family, moviegoing was a rarity. Both my wife and I worked ; seeing a movie on weekdays was out of the question since we were just too tired when we got home . Weekends disappeared in a flash as we attended to chores or caught up on our socializing. We went to the movies only for blockbusters like Titanic or Star Wars or Indiana Jones which demanded to be seen on the big screen. The rest of the time we saw a few videos at home but it was not the same on the small screen.
Just prior to joining Netflix , we had acquired a big screen HD TV and what a joy it quickly became to watch movies at home. The crispness of the picture and the size of the screen made watching movies at home almost as good as watching them in the theaters .Spectacular movies like Avatar still demanded a trip to the theater but for everything else, our ‘home theater’ was just fine , thank you very much ! We began to catch up on all those movies we had previously not had time for . I thrilled to Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum; Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino , Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in Mystic River and Frank Langella in Frost/ Nixon. Some movies such as Memoirs of a Geisha , Last Chance Harvey and Goal: the Dream Begins were unexpectedly good while others such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith were appallingly bad.
I also got to see a number of foreign films : Thai ( Ong Bak the Warrior, The Tiger Blade), Argentinian ( Nine Queens), Polish ( Kiler)and French ( Crimson Rivers, Empire of the Wolves, Pure Luck, La Chevre, Chocolat ) For awhile I was on a Japanese kick but two stinkers ( Red Lion, Wasabi ) cured me of my obsession with Nippon. The thing about foreign films is their difference from the standard Hollywood fare, the difference in customs and the exotic scenery. Even when the films were not so good, the scenery and the unusual twists in the plot sustained my interest.
Two other genres also proved tobe of great interest to me : stand -up comedy and documentaries. I used to watch Friday night stand-up regularly on the Comedy Channel but the quality of the performances was very uneven, the gigs were very short and the frequent ads detracted from the performances. On Netflix I was able to watch two really great comedians ( Russell Peters , John Pinette; both highly recommended) and some others who were pretty good ( Bill Maher , Robin Williams). Unfortunately, Rita Rudner, whom I used to like at one time, proved a flop .
As for the documentaries , I never used to catch them on regular TV or the History Channel. Here , with the ability to pick and choose, I was able to indulge my interest in the history of Ancient Greece and Rome as also selected periods in American history.
Another great thing about Netflix is that, in addition to the movies that one gets through the mail, one can download and watch a smaller but still sizeable number of movies / shows on one’s computer. Thus while waiting for the next movie to arrive I can , if I want, watch something on my computer. Not that I do it often. The nearest Netflix receiving center is in nearby New Brunswick and the turnaround is amazingly fast.
I haven’t yet got to what I enjoy most about Netflix….
Tomorrow: What I like most and what I don’t like about Netflix.