Monday, January 4, 2021

Streaming services and classic TV in 2020--Report Cards! Part 1

It's time to grade the big streamers on how they provided for us in 2020.  I draw inspiration from those great teachers from our season 7 classroom episode: Charlie Moore and...uh, the nice teacher guy from What a Country!

Netflix: This service isn't even trying. I look back now at when it got into business with Carol Burnett (remember that?) and I thought it would be cool if it got rights to her long-running variety show. Well, now that show is all over the place on streaming, yet Netflix isn't getting anything. Seinfeld is coming next year, but I don't see anything on the horizon for any other TV pre-2000, or maybe even pre-2010. Even when Netflix gets something, like MASH or Dad's Army, it's gone before you know it. Maybe it's unfair to even give it a grade, but as the #1 SVOD out there, I think we have to mention it. 

Most pleasant surprise: The fact that Star Trek hasn't left yet? Not a lot of candidates here.
Biggest disappointment: The lack of any effort to tie in with properties it has. He-Man used to be on Netflix, but it doesn't look like it will be back even with TWO new shows reportedly in the works for the service.

UPDATE 1/7/21: When making this post, I forgot about the late-2020 acquisition of a handful of popular "urban" sitcoms from the late 1990s/early 2000s, like Sister, Sister. I am not interested in them, but I give Netflix credit for making a move to bolster its content, no matter what the motivation was. So I am raising the letter grade from an F to...

Grade: F+

Prime Video: This service should be a runaway A+ with all the content it has, both well known (hey, He-Man is actually on here!) and obscure. It offers surprises all the time. The problem is it is still difficult to find or keep track of it. Worse is the service's aggravating habit of moving series from its paid commercial-free service to its On Roku, you have to access the latter through Prime, which means you have the insult of having to wade through all the stuff you DO get for your paid subscription to find stuff that has been moved over to its ad-supported free site (See The Naked City, The Dukes of Hazzard, etc.).  Prime doesn't bother promoting any of this, either, and you really have to be sharp to know it's there. It recently dropped several of the old NBC Mystery Movie series, including Banacek, on IMDB.TV, and you'd think it would tell someone who watched Columbo they were available, but, no.

Most pleasant surprise: The rare CBS sitcom On Our Own (1977) landed here at the request of...well, no one, but I watched it and enjoyed it!
Biggest disappointment: The movement of Murder, She Wrote to IMDB.TV--just one of the many examples of this. Why not keep it commercial-free for paid Prime subscribers?

Grade: B+

Disney Plus: I tried to be optimistic about this one, but it was quickly apparent that Disney had little interest in uploading vintage material aside from what it provided at launch. So you get the classic Disney movies (but not all), a token assortment of Mickey Mouse Club episodes, and way less content than it has in that fabled Disney Vault. 

Is it working at getting things HD ready? Maybe that's the reason.  It did fix The Simpsons months after a botched rollout, and the arrival of Dinosaurs doesn't excite me but at least shows that it's still working on some archival content.

Most pleasant surprise: The 1977 special The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World is a real treat--a vintage hour of network fluff complete with original commercials. Its appearance was a great surprise, and the show provided some of the best entertainment on the service in 2020.  So of course Disney does nothing or very little to promote it.
Biggest disappointment: I didn't really expect D+ to add The Star Wars Holiday Special in a restored version, so let's go with the continued inexplicable absence of Marvel cartoons like the 1982 The Incredible Hulk, which was chopped up for Disney XD's Marvel Mash-Ups years ago but is still MIA.

Grade: D...just D. Solid D. As cute as it would be to bump it up to the D+, this seems to be moving away from archival content, and right before a price increase, too.

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