Saturday, February 12, 2022

Streaming Video Report Cards for 2021: Part 3

Our first two installments in this series were full of regret, disappointment, and anger. Yet we stream classic television to get away from those things. So today let's make this a little more upbeat and praise some of the good ones.

Free with ads is where it's at now. Netflix and even Hulu have abandoned classic TV, and the free streamers are picking up the slack, digging deeper and deeper into the back catalogs that the major services--even the ones controlled by the rights holders of those shows--don't care about.

Crackle A (Last year: C+):  Yes, Crackle is still a pain as a usable service. When I go there to watch something, or even just to look and see what's new, I shouldn't have to be assaulted by an auto-playing Spider-Man movie with Dopey Maguire. But, oh, what an amazing B.J. and the Bear-size haul of old material is on here now!

It continues to get older shows like Dobie Gillis but is really impressing by digging deep, deep, deep into the Sony vaults and streaming the likes of Mr. Merlin and Melba. It is doing more with the Sony library than Sony did when it owned Crackle.

There are downsides. Crackle long was in the habit of rotating seasons in and out for shows like Starsky and Hutch, and I don't understand that strategy. Is it really that much more lucrative to share T.J. Hooker with other places like Roku Channel if you give each one a couple of seasons? I doubt it.

Now, though, Crackle often doesn't even bother adding more than one season (Still waiting for more Crazy Like a Fox) and it often throws up incomplete seasons. Hey, whatever, they seem to say. We'll just put up what we got for now. And sometimes they do add episodes later after they dig them up from whatever underground mine that stores treasures like It's Your Move. I like this approach. It's frustrating to get incomplete seasons, but the fact is it's either this or YouTube, and quite possibly it would get pulled from YouTube at some point. Crackle did a whole lot of adding and not a lot of subtracting in 2021.

Tubi TV: A- (Last year: A): The biggest negative? Tubi has some short licensing agreements. The two DC cartoons it added last year that delighted me disappeared months ago (and went nowhere else, which is why HBO Max is so disappointing). Like Crackle, it rotates some seasons out and sometimes only gets a couple seasons at a time of a long-running show.

But it also has Battlestar Galactica and Family and (just added, not from 2021) Bret Maverick--3 shows not streaming elsewhere and controlled by 3 different media giants not affiliated with Tubi's parent Fox. So we should appreciate Tubi's zeal to snap up things and (usually) present them relatively unaltered.  

I give it an A- instead of an A because I fear it's become harder to find and to keep track of this stuff and because it often doesn't stick around very long and leaves without much warning. There is room for improvement there in 2022, but then again in the case of all the Warner Brothers material, it's quite possible it's either enjoy it a little while here or never see it at all.


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