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NY Times compares/contrasts #Netflix and #Hulu

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I’m experimenting with putting hash-tags in my title because these posts are getting bounced to Twitter.

I love the Amazon app. I’ve probably spent more money on entertainment because of it, but it’s still super handy. Breaking Bad, Portlandia, Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Adventure Time, and so many other shows I can watch the day after they air on my TV via the PS3. I also own a Kindle Fire. I mentioned that this week I am going to Dragon*Con so I am in the process of selecting a couple movies to put on the device so I can watch on the plane.

But, Netflix does still seem to trump Amazon. I definitely wouldn’t consider dumping Netflix for Amazon Prime (which I don’t subscribe to).

I guess it all comes down to your preference and what you prefer to spend money on. But, do take a look at this article for a nice breakdown of what devices play which service, how much each catalog holds, and which app just works better.

Summer watching

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This past weekend I watched two great shows that I definitely want to recommend. The first is a SciFi alien drama that airs on TNT called Falling Skies. Noah Wyle (of ER fame) stars as a father of 3 sons surviving with a rag-tag group of civilians and makeshift fighters/army months after an alien invasion.

To me the show is like a great mix of Jericho, V (the original, not the remake), and The Walking Dead. It actually reminds me a lot of The Walking Dead TV show except with more action and plot development. There’s also no Lori so that’s a plus…although beware the “Carl Jr” who isn’t quite as stupid as Carl from TWD, but exists probably because Steven Spielberg (who produces this show) has some sort of requirement to have a kid and sappy family moments with him.

Seriously though, the aliens are creepy, there’s action in every episode, and there’s some good character development. The acting is pretty good too with the aforementioned Wyle and Will Patton (Remember the Titans) plus Moon Bloodgood (Terminator: Salvation). It has its drawbacks – mainly a lack of female characters (but, again, on the plus side I’d rather have less strong women than another Lori).

It’s not a watch instantly show, so I had to get it in DVD form. It is, however, available in Instant Video on Amazon. I might end up doing that for Season 2 – depending on how Season 1 ends (1 disk left to watch).

The other show that I checked out this weekend was Happy Endings. Yes, ok, the premise sounds like it’s trying to be a Friends clone. Six friends (including Elisha Cuthbert, Damon Wayans Jr. and Zachary Knighton) who spend just about every minute of every day together experience life in the city, relationships, friendships, and being co-dependent on one another. Seriously, there’s siblings, a married couple, and a failed relationship (aka. Ross and Monica, Monica and Chandler, and Ross and Rachel). Todd VanDerWerff at the AVClub didn’t think much of the show. But then again, he also liked Traffic Light and Perfect Couples. So…if lame comedies are your thing then you’re not going to like this show. Todd also thought this show would be better as a multi-camera show with a live studio audience. Yeah…2012 called 1995. They discussed it and agreed that if this format gave the world shows like Whiteny and that Chelsea show then it sucks and good shows are single cam now.  It’s true that the two central characters that the show focuses on are kind of lame, but that’s OK. It’s not about these two and the will they/won’t they plot; it’s about everyone else and how they basically riff off of each other.

I’m never quite sure how to describe a comedy. In describing a show like Community, Modern Family, or Happy Endings there’s a big failing. What the show is about doesn’t really get across how funny it is. And, of course, humor is subjective. If you’re not into pop culture references – or even references that the show doesn’t explain (because, really, nothing ruins a joke more than having to explain it) then Happy Endings isn’t for you. But I have the feeling that if you’re in the 20-40 year old demographic then this show may become required watching for you.

Anyway, It’s on Amazon or do what I did and check it out from your local Library!

Amazon Instant Video comes to PS3 – and it is AWESOME!

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My home TV and movie watching experience came even closer to being perfect yesterday (now if only HBO Go would allow people to pay to subscribe without having to have cable).

Amazon.com very quietly added their widget to the PS3 to keep Netflix and Hulu Plus company. It’s awesome because now I can supplement the shows I can’t get through Hulu and don’t want to wait until it’s available on Netflix by purchasing season passes for shows I can’t live without. I’ve actually been doing this ever since my husband and I bought an internet ready TV, but there were a couple drawback. The major one was that the Amazon Instant Videos were only watchable through a weird Yahoo! widget on a weird and random Yahoo! menu – separate from the rest of the Internet ready content Samsung provides. The second is an issue that was totally central to my house; our TV isn’t hooked up to the surround sound – the PS3, however, is. 

From the little that I played around with the new app it looks like the picture quality is improved, and for me the sound will definitely improve. 

I don’t always like what Amazon does (as a Librarian I have issues with the way they let Libraries lend their Kindle books), but this is really awesome. 

Again…now if only HBO would realize where a lot of their viewing base is….

The ratings game

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NBC’s Entertainment Chair gave a speech to TV Critics the other day. In it he said the following:

“Did you see the ratings?,” he asked about the show, which was often pulling a mere 1.0 rating in the adult demo on Friday night. “That rapid fanbase going crazy on the net didn’t come to the show. Chuck‘s time had come. Chuck is over, let’s alert the masses.”

Note: I copied this from Entertainment Weekly. I believe that “rapid” might actually be “rabid,” but I don’t know.

While Robert Greenblatt did give the awesome news that “Community” will finish out the season in the spring (yayyy!), but isn’t promising a renewal for a 4th season, I’m still annoyed that Executives aren’t looking at the other places their fans are viewing their shows.

So “Chuck” fans didn’t show up to watch the end of the show. Number one: you aired it over the holidays. If you expect viewers to watch it during it’s first airing then they may not be around to do it. Holidays = shopping, parties, and generally doing other stuff than watching TV. And number two: maybe those fans all watched on your website. Or maybe they purchased it through iTunes, Amazon, or somewhere else. Maybe they DVR’d it (although sometimes those numbers get included into the ratings).

Look, I get that “Chuck” was probably costing more money to produce than it was bringing it. It clearly hasn’t been a runaway hit that I’m sure the network wanted. But, how much longer do we have to wait for Executives like Greenblatt to take notice of the other places their viewers are.

I refuse to feel guilty for not contributing to watching “Community” as it airs if it’s lack of viewership that cancels the show. NBC was still getting my money (first through Amazon and now through HuluPlus).

Best Episodes from the shows I’ve watched this year

Salon is putting up their best episodes of 2011 so that got me to thinking about what the best TV I’ve watched this year has been. I’ll do my own top 15 list! I’m only counting shows that were new to me (sorry, Buffy). I am going to exclude reality shows because as I looked at each I would think “yeah, I like that show, but nothing really stands out to me as a fantastic episode that made great TV” (sorry “Jersey Shore”). Oh, and for the sake of simplicity, I’m only going to count shows where I watched at least a full season.

Here’s what I’ll be choosing from (and not everything will make the list):

Skins: Season 3
Damages: Season 1
Survivors: Season 2
Life after People: Season 1
Pulling: Season 2
Downton Abbey
Life on Mars (the US version)
10 Things I Hate About You
Sherlock
The Pillars of the Earth
Star Trek: the next generation:  Seasons 1-3 (and part of 4)
Ghost Whisperer: Seasons 1
Home Movies Seasons: 2-4
Portlandia Season: 1
Fringe: Season 1
Being Human (UK): Season 3
Leverage: Season 2-current
Community: Season 2-current
Parenthood: Season 1-current
Modern Family: Season 1-current
30 Rock: Season 4
Bones: Season 6-current
Family Guy: Season 9-current
Glee: Season 2-3
Grey’s Anatomy: Season 7-current
Parks and Recreation: Season 3-current
Terra Nova: Season 1
Revenge: Season 1(current)
Grimm: Season 1(current)
How I Met Your Mother: Season 6-current
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Doctor Who: Season 6
The Office:

Combine that with reality tv programming and shows started but not finished…yeah, I’d say I watch a lot of TV. What was the best?

15. Fringe: “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”
I seriously need to see more of this show because it is just smart SciFi. Not every story is gripping, but it’s always based on some sort of reality. I chose this episode as a favorite because we meet a reoccurring villain. It’s also a tense and exciting episode that highlights what this show does best. Not a watch instantly, but you can catch up via disk through Netflix and watch more recent stuff on Hulu.

14. Leverage: “The Rashomon Job”
This is one of those before they all met episodes crossed with a they’ve crossed paths before story. But in pure “Leverage” fashion it’s funny, interesting, and fun to watch. This episode really won’t hold with anyone that doesn’t know the characters because, really, this show is about them as people and how they interact with each other. It reinforces why each person plays the role they do in the group (or, you know, you could watch the intro credits to see who does what…but this is a more interesting way). I was recently very thrilled to discover that Amazon has recent eps online, so I pay per episode for this show.

13. Home Movies: “Renaissance”
Go watch this show right now. It will make your day. Especially if you’re a nerd and you get to the episode “Renaissance.” SciFi nerds and Fantasy nerds face off. It’s hilarious. It may be my most favorite animated show of all time.  Watch on Netflix!

12. Downton Abbey: “Episode 6”
I can’t wait to watch Season 2 of this show, and it’s hard to pick just one favorite episode. But what is it about penultimate episodes in British series? “Episode 6” was probably my favorite of the series. Political events of the times come to a head as well as two characters finally admitting their love. There’s all sorts of good drama in this episode of a fantastic show. Watch it on Netflix!

11. Sherlock: “The Great Game”
Ok, I don’t mean to litter this list with all British shows, but this is another great one. And again, I can’t wait for season 2. The first season is only 3 episodes long, but my favorite was the third, “The Great Game.” We learn more about both Sherlock and Watson and about their arch rival. It ends in a cliffhanger too! Available to watch instantly on netflix.

10. Community “Paradigms of Human Memory”
If ever there was a hard show to pick a favorite from it would be “Community.” I couldn’t fill this entire list with their episodes so I narrowed it down to two. The first is this one. Or maybe I should have picked “Critical Film Studies”? ARGH too hard! Human Memory is so great because it’s made up of a ton of flashbacks that never actually happened. That’s the genius of this show. And in the end the group comes together-which is what I like best. Hulu it now (yes, I just turned Hulu into a verb).

9. Grey’s Anatomy “Song Beneath the Song”
Aka the musical episode. Not every song is a hit, but Sara Ramirez’s rendition of “The Song” by Brandi Carlile moved me so much I asked my husband if we could include it as a reading at our wedding. We did. Any episode that can touch me personally is a good one in my book. This episode in particular is haunting and moving like the best Grey’s episodes are. I believe this is on Netflix, but it’s also a Hulu show.

8. Modern Family “Dude Ranch”
This is one of those shows where I say that I like it, but it’s hard to point to any one episode that really does it for me. Yet, there is “Dude Ranch” which opens up the 4th season. It’s kind of like the epitome of a “Modern Family” ep. Cameron is a drama queen, Mitchell is awkward, Phil just wants recognition from Jay, and Clare is a control freak. Yet they all come together as a family at the end…after an episode full of pithy one liners and tons of wit! Older seasons are available through disk via Netflix, but new stuff is on Hulu.

7. Parks and Recreation “Citizen Knope”
I’m not sure if I picked this episode because it is the freshest in my memory or not, but it’s still a great one. It’s the latest episode to have aired and in perfect Christmas spirit it’s incredibly sweet and shows all the Parks and Rec crew coming together to honor Leslie. It, of course, displays the same brand of humour the show always brings. I watch it on Hulu.

6. How I Met Your Mother: “Disaster Averted”
I think that this episode does what HIMYM does best. It utilizes the flashbacks in a smart way and also recalls past actions by the characters (2 slaps in this ep!). Kevin seems like a natural addition to the show which helps, and we get to see how Baby Eriksen came to be. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have to pay per episode on Amazon for this show.

5. Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife”
Penned by Niel Gaiman, it’s a sun in a season full of stars. I can’t think of an ep that I hated this season, but this one is definitely one of the best. The TARDIS takes human shape! How cool is that? It was a weird and wacky episode with the Doctor being very Doctor like. Amy and Rory are there which is cool too. In fact their scenes are really kind of creepy. Such a good example of what this show does best! I get my in-laws to DVR this for me, but now I own the 6th season on DVD and will definitely give it a re-watch!!

4. The Office: “Goodbye Michael”
Ok, I cried during this episode; the one where Steve Carell leaves the show. How touching was it to see everyone sing for him? And his farewell with Pam when he says (although we can’t hear  it because his mic has been given back) “that’s what she said.” The previous couple of seasons leading up to this weren’t exactly stellar, but it’s like I had a history with these people and the emotional impact of Michael Scott leaving was pretty great. You can catch up on Netflix or watch via Hulu. Your choice!

3. Doctor Who: “The Wedding of River Song”
I love getting the answers to questions that a show has set up all season long, and this episode answers a lot of them (not all, because that wouldn’t be fun). I also love how they bring back a lot of familiar faces. I can’t go into too much detail of the plot because that would take a ton of space, but I do like how everyone comes together in the end and things seem to work out.

2. Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Best of Both Worlds Parts I and II”
Oh man, what can I say about the season 3 cliffhanger and season 4 opener? I’m sure this episode tops a lot of lists for best TNG eps. I knew Picard’s transformation was coming, I just didn’t know how it would go down. There have been other episodes that feature the fine acting by Patrick Stewart, but this one really does a great job at highlighting his skills. Aside from the acting (which, really, was great all around) the story was pretty intense, smart, and compelling. It’s everything I look for not only in good SciFi, but in good television. All of Star Trek (classic to current) is on Netflix watch instantly.

1. Community “Regional Holiday Musical”
From Troy and Abed rapping to Annie subtly (?) mocking sexy Santa songs the last episode to air (for a long time) not so subtly pokes fun at “Glee.” It’s really a great example of their usual storytelling. It combines aspects from Human Memory by planting fake flashbacks and really shows how these characters all have an effect on each other. Also, completely hilarious! I think this episode really got me to laugh the most during this season. Go watch it right now on Hulu!

This was wicked hard to do! I had more than 15 but couldn’t quite make it to 20 so I had to pare it down. But I want to give an honorable mention to “Portlandia” for that song in the first episode. I also cut “Survivors” but that deserves a mention too.

I would consider and Amazon Prime account but….

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So the Amazon widget is finally working on my TV again. It magically fixed itself Wednesday morning. Or maybe Amazon fixed it? I called them Tuesday evening after finally having enough of not being able to watch the content I was paying for. I had tried calling them previously, but my call was disconnected. No one had any answers for me, but I was promised they would look into it and would email me when they figured it out (sometime in the next two days). I’ve still to hear back from them. But, I can watch the shows I’ve paid for so that’s ok.

Now today a Librarian in the  Library system I work in sent out an email alerting us to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library that Amazon is rolling out. I think this is pretty neat. The whole Amazon Prime deal is sounding like a great investment. I buy a lot from Amazon over the Holidays and 2 day shipping is always appreciated (it’s great any time of the year). If the Kindle Fire proves to be so totally awesome I may want to buy one, and with a Prime account it would be so worth it. If the NY Times bestsellers that they add for free are actually quality reads then, yeah, this is a really sweet deal.

But the real reason why I’m not jumping on this yet is because of what just happened with the Instant Video on my TV. Until Amazon has an app like Hulu and Netflix available on the Samsung TV (it’s not likely it will be on the PS3 in my opinion because they sell their own TV shows and movies) it will be unstable. I blame Yahoo! for the widget’s failure. Hulu and Netflix do go glitchy every now and then, but never for two weeks at a time. And they’ll always have an answer for you. Amazon had no idea what was going on. It’s because they’re going through another party to host their Instant Video.

So until I’m going through Amazon directly for their own content will I even consider a Prime account worth it.

Technology Fail

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After the cliffhanger of last week’s “Walking Dead” I was really excited to see this current week’s episode. How would it all resolve? (Ok, probably not resolve so much as move forward. I mean, nothing is really going to resolve in the second episode of the season).

Since we watch this show via Amazon Instant Video and pay for it per episode we watch via a widget on the Samsung TV. For some strange reason Yahoo! partnered up with Amazon for this widget which was then put on our 3D television. Apparently some Samsung TVs don’t come with the widget and they have definitely stopped putting it on. Our BluRay player can’t get the Yahoo! widget on it at all which sucks because that means we can’t watch any Amazon content on our other TV – only Hulu and Netflix conent.

Why am I bringing this up? Because the widget (it’s not a proper app) stopped working last night. I called the 1-866 number that it suggested I call in the error message (an Amazon number), but I got cut off mid call because of poor cell phone reception. Another technology fail. Basically what the help desk guy was going to have me do anyway was power cycle through everything anyway. So that’s what we did. It didn’t help.

We Googled the heck out of the problem and the only thing we came up with was….it happens. It apparently started happening to a lot of people back in February/March of this year. We just have to wait it out because the widget seems to have miraculously come back on for some people. I really hope it does for us because not only did I miss “Walking Dead” but now I have missed “How I Met Your Mother” AND “Community” this week! I am totally bereft!

The bright spot seems to be that someone reported hearing that Amazon is developing their own app. It’s really the only smart thing to do. Why even partner with Yahoo! in the first place? I guess they couldn’t forsee how popular internet ready TVs would be.