other content i won’t be watching going forward, and why

Since I’m on something of a rant about what I won’t watch, let me continue on with what else I won’t be watching going forward, and why. And then switch to what I am watching in its place, and again why.

Apple TV+

I got a year’s free subscription to Apple TV+ when I purchased my iPhone 11 Pro Max in September 2019. It was January 2020 before I even bothered to set up the application, let alone start to watch anything on it. The only show I remember watching was “For All Mankind,” and I stopped watching it because I’m no fan of alternate history, especially when it involves the space race of the 1960s between the US and the Soviet Union. The whole series is based on what if the Russians moon rocket booster, the N1, had actually worked? I’ve studied the N1 and it was a manufacturing disaster. The N1, on paper, was the most powerful heavy lift first stage every built. That first stage used 30 NK-15 engines, which were considered the most powerful rocket engines in that class of their day. The problem is that the N1 first stage was not static fire tested, the entire N1 program being under-funded and rushed to completion. As a consequence, all four N1 test launches self-destructed when launched. An awful lot of what went wrong in our time line would have had to have been done correctly in an alternate history. An awful log stretching back decades. You can’t just blithely wish it so. Rocketry is stupidly hard, such that the only rocket that even comes close to the N1 is today’s Falcon Heavy, with three Falcon 9 cores, each core with nine engines, for a total of 27 when the Heavy is under full thrust.

I got tired of all the glib passing over of the technical issues so that “For All Mankind’s” writers could write a convoluted soap opera. I skipped around a few episodes in the first season, and gave up.

After several months of light watching I stopped watching Apple TV+ completely. I only remembered I had it when I received an email from Apple that my free subscription was expiring in November 2020. That’s when I unsubscribed.

CBS All Access

That service was offered through Apple TV+ with a free 30 day all-you-could-watch trial, so I signed up. I managed to watch “Star Trek: Picard” as well as “Star Trek: Discovery.” Both shows were fan-service shows. If you’re a die-hard Trekkie then those shows are certainly for you. I’m not in that category. I’m the 8th grader who turned off the original Star Trek, season three, first episode, “Spock’s Brain,” because it was so bad. That episode has absolutely no redeeming qualities; by the time I’d gotten to the mid-point of the episode I’d had enough. I never watched another episode of season 3, and when NBC finally killed it I barely noticed.

Both of those new shows reminded me a bit of that crap. I quickly went through all the episodes, skipping parts that were of no interest to me. On “Picard,” the last episode where Data dies was particularly bilious. “Discovery” on the other hand was just off the scale when it came to overall acceptance of any of the stories or plot lines. “Discovery” is just bad fantasy wrapped in Star Trek technobabble and flashing lights. Once I finished with “Discovery” I killed my subscription.

Netflix

I was an old subscriber to Netflix. I opened a subscription with Netflix back when you ordered DVDs to be shipped to your home, back in the early 2000s. It was cheap, a lot cheaper than going to the movies, and it helped entertain the family, including the girls who were in high school at the time. I stuck with Netflix when they switched over to streaming; I first streamed Netflix with an app I installed on the family Nintendo Wii. When I upgraded the family DVD to Blueray, it came with Netflix streaming pre-installed. Same with my first digital TV, a Samsung 55 incher. Netflix was ubiquitous, and full of video content from the sublime to the ridiculous. It was cheap and plentiful.

Then it got not so cheap and not so plentiful. Other streaming services came along (Disney, for example) and starting pulling movies to show on their services. And then Netflix started to “rotate” movies out, so that if you didn’t watch it, and it was rotated out, too bad, so sad. And then Netflix started to make their own movies, none of which appealed to me. I know my taste in movies can get pretty trashy, but not Netflix trashy. So early 2020 I killed that subscription.

So what are we watching these days?

Amazon Prime with Brit Box

It’s Amazon, and it seems to come with everything. I added Brit Box so we could see all the British TV that never was complete on any other streaming service. So all the seasons and all the episodes are complete on Brit Box. I watched Amazon pretty much because of “The Expanse,” but if you read my last post, you pretty much know I’ve walked away from that. I use Amazon Prime for a lot of other services besides movies, so I’m not to concerned with whether I keep it or not; Video is just one of those added perks.

Disney+

I signed up to Disney+ because it’s cheap and because of “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision,” as well as the complete catalog of Star Wars, MCU, and Pixar. There’s a lot there to keep me occupied. But not necessarily happy.

I’ve already passed judgement on “The Mandalorian” and found it lacking. Once again, a fan service episode. If there’s any redeeming feature to the show, it was season 1, episode 1, in which Werner Herzog stared as “The Client.” It slowly went down hill from there.

“WandaVision” is a bit more enigmatic. They’re trying to be clever, and they’re almost making it happen. These first few episodes remind me a bit of the first few seasons of “Agents of Shield.” The fact that new episodes are only released weekly every Friday is a bit of a letdown, but then, it takes time to film and produce anything, so I can wait for the finished product to be delivered.

Going back through the MCU catalog has allowed me to build a better understanding of how all the pieces fit together. The problem with movies is the long delay between releases, when you memory of the last movies grow a bit hazy. So when I see something that doesn’t quite make sense in one film, I can go back to a prior film and see how that led to an event in the later film(s). I’ve grown to have a better appreciation of what the MCU accomplished up to this point.

In conclusion

That’s about it. My TV watching is declining over time. I have a recent LG 55 inch TV that is programmed to stream just about everything. Funny thing is I spend as much time watching streamed content on my iPhone and iPads as I do on the LG. My wife is going down the same path. If we want to watch something together I’ll pull up my 12 inch iPad Pro and share it with her. It seems sufficient, and it harkens back to the early days of broadcast TV when my primary TV was a 13″ Sony that my wife and I shared right when we married. Talk about coming around in circles…

As for the other kind of visual entertainment, video games, I hardly play anything anymore. I have exactly one game I play on both iPhone and iPad. My oldest daughter and her husband gave me a Nintendo Switch Lite, on which I play “Animal Crossing” and share it with them and my youngest daughter. I’ve tried to get interested in other Switch games, especially when the local Walmart puts them on sale, but I play them a bit then put the cartridges in my Switch case and don’t think much about them after that.

I have no patience anymore with fantasy and make believe worlds. They take too much time, have too many logic and story holes, and demand too much money over time for too little in return.

tos binging

Decal_29With my knee in its healing phase there’s not a lot for me to do outside of personal rest and home PT. For whatever reason I started to binge watch the original series Star Trek on Netflix, the series I came close to memorizing back in the mid-sixties when I was in the equivalent of middle school in Atlanta, Ga.

As a kid I’d gotten a small reel-to-reel GE tape recorder one Christmas, and I quickly pressed it into use recording the audio from each episode. I eventually had two stacks of tapes, one for season one, and one for season two. I never recorded season three; after spending one evening watching “Spock’s Brain,” I never turned Star Trek back on again because that episode was so bad. I spent the rest of the third season replaying my audio tapes, imagining the visual portion of Star Trek while the audio and music played from my tape player. After the original series was canceled I concentrated on Apollo up through 1972, when I graduated from high school and headed off to college. Those tapes got recycled into other recordings, and eventually into the trash when they were worn out.

Over the years that’ve followed I’ve watched some of the movies (“The Wrath of Kahn”), some episodes from the spin-offs like Next Generation, and even gone back to watch the occasional rerun of the original series. To this day I still can’t watch “Spock’s Brain” or any of the third season episodes.

These past few days were an opportunity to kill some time by binge watching TOS. I’ve had a Netflix account now for years, starting back when you got physical DVDs in the mail. The physical media’s long gone, but I still stream. So I fired up my iPhone 6s+, pulled up the Netflix app, and went slumming through all those old episodes.

The version of TOS that Netflix has are the updated episodes where CBS went back and redid nearly all the old special effects. Planets really look like planets, especially when that planet is Earth (“Tomorrow is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth”), the spaceships were cleaned up, as were the movements of ships in space. With all the science fiction that has been produced since TOS first aired, it only made sense to update the effects. And I certainly appreciated those updates.

The only problem is that those cleanups made all the episodes look that much worse for their age. What was entertaining and exciting for a middle-schooler in the 1960s now seems worn, frayed around the edges. The plot holes are too obvious and too numerous to mention, cause and effect too silly. I grew up during the period of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, watching real astronauts fly into space. It was watching real rocketry that made me believe we might have something like Star Trek in the future. When it all got shut down and replaced with the Shuttle, Star Trek became part of the “kid stuff” I left behind. Along with a lot of other silly Hollywood science fiction.

I’m glad I got a chance to skip through all those old episodes. I think I finally got the very last vestiges completely out of my system.