Streaming television getting bigger and bigger

Date Published: 
July 25, 2014

Hi, I’m Darin, and I’m addicted to Netflix.

Actually, it isn’t only the popular streaming service I’ve developed a crush on, as television in general has become quite good over the years. Noted television critic Alan Sepinwall wrote a book called “The Revolution Was Televised,” in which he argued that television has overtaken movies as the premier source of visual entertainment in this country.

In that book, Sepinwall opined that serial shows like “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Sopranos,” “Lost,” “Mad Men” and others provide better quality than what we have seen from movies over recent years.

And I honestly have to agree.

Watching HBO adapt the popular George R.R. Martin books into “Game of Thrones” has been astounding, as one example. The ability to spread a book out over 10 one-hour episodes gives the viewer much more insight into character development and plot nuances than a 150-minute movie ever could.

And, yes, it can be a figurative form of torture in the middle of a season to have to wait until the next Sunday to see what develops next, but that brings me back to my original thought today — streaming television absolutely rocks.

Services like Hulu, HBO GO and Amazon Prime offer new programming on a week-to-week basis for many shows, making it much easier for the forgetful person like me to stay up to date with my favorite shows when I forget to actually, you know, watch them. Do you ever find yourself anticipating a new show the networks have been previewing for six months, only to forget to set up a recording or watch when it comes on the air? Fear not. You can go to one of these services, catch up on what you miss and get right into the thick of things before the next new episode airs.

For the networks that air these shows, it’s gold. Sure, you hear them complain that people watching these programs on streaming services don’t put eyes on the advertisements they sell, and that’s true. But there have been a few shows I started watching on Netflix or Hulu, and once I caught up, I started watching as they aired. I can’t believe I’m the only one who does that, so they are increasing their ratings by reaching people who would have probably never watched those shows at all if it wasn’t for streaming.

And while Netflix doesn’t offer as many current shows as the other services do, it does have a broader library of old shows, allowing people to catch programs they might have missed altogether when they first aired. I never saw “Lost” or “Alias” or any number of other shows when they were actually on television, but I’ve watched them from beginning to end in embarrassing displays of binge-watching that left me staring into space with glassy eyes and a fine coat of potato chip dust along my lap.

In the instance of “Lost,” I have found myself watching new programs on the networks that feature some of the actors I liked on that show, and that would have never happened if I didn’t force myself to watch it on Netflix just to see what was making Shaun Lambert weep so hard when the show went off the air. For the record, those shows have generally stunk on ice.

In an example of what good competition amongst businesses can do for consumers, some of these services have taken to offering their own original content. Hulu satisfies my need sometimes for silly comedies with their shows, “The Awesomes” and “Quick Draw,” while Netflix made me one happy bald man when they brought back “Arrested Development” last year with a brand new season.

Netflix also offers such acclaimed series as “House of Cards,” featuring Kevin Spacey, and “Orange is the New Black,” a comedic drama about a middle-class woman who finds herself in federal prison after an old crime from her past catches up to her. Both of these shows have become wildly popular, with “House of Cards” making viewers look at their elected officials with maybe a little more distrust than even before, and “Orange” basically offering an entertaining look at the difference in personalities one can find in a women’s prison, along with a wary eye at how they are operated.

And it appears that “Orange is the New Black” is hitting a little too close to home for some.

The Saginaw County (Mich.) Jail has decided to move away from the traditional orange jumpsuits their inmates wear and toward black-and-white apparel. Their reasoning stems largely from the popularity of the show.

“For me, it was an easy decision,” explained Sheriff William Federspiel, via Reuters. “It was a cost savings and it breaks away from that cultural coolness. It’s not cool to be an inmate of the Saginaw County Jail.”

Well, so much for that collection of Saginaw County Jail inmate trading cards I’ve been carefully putting together.

After a series of complaints from the noted fashionista inmates at Saginaw County Jail, Federspiel had a few words of advice: “I tell them that if they don’t like the clothes I give them, then don’t show up at my door,” he said.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty good line. Maybe I’ll see it show up on Netflix.