Tuesday, July 28, 2020

TV: Navigating the stream shouldn't be this hard

"We are crossing Jordan River, want my crown, I want my crown . . ."  Okay, well it's not Jordan River but we are crossing and, damn it, we are crossed.  We want our streams, we want our streams.

It shouldn't be difficult at all.  In most cases, you're paying for the streaming so it especially shouldn't be difficult.  But it is.


Take PEACOCK, the new streamer.  We hadn't noticed the problem until Ty read us the e-mails (25) from readers complaining that they were paying for PEACOCK and had trouble streaming it -- not on ROKU, mind you, where it's not available, but on their iPhones.  So we tried as well.

It takes forever to load.  When it does load, two out of three times, it tends to either freeze or crash.

This is how you run a streaming service?

Ourselves, we agreed with Hannah who e-mailed to note a different problem.  This has to do with HULU.  First an update for those not using, it's strictly a pay site now.  We weren't aware of that until we saw the articles about PEACOCK before it debuted.  PEACOCK, for all content, is a for-pay site.  You can sample about half the content by just streaming -- the way HULU used to allow you to do.

We're HULU payers and have been for awhile.  As soon as the pay service HULU-PLUS was offered, we signed up.  We loved what HULU had to offer -- except in the summers when, as we would note back in the day, they had USA programs and that was often about all they had.  Things have since changed and HULU has original programming -- some of it even worth watching, imagine that.  But it also has new levels.  We're HULU LIVE PLUS now, or whatever it's called when you can watch live TV.  We are not commercial free -- sometimes, we get ideas for pieces based on commercials, we're not joking.  We do get all our premium cable stations through HULU -- HBO, SHOWTIME and STARZ.

We pay and, like Hannah, we're peeved.

We know what we want to watch in most cases.  So when we go to HULU, we shouldn't have to flip through everything.  As Hannah notes," Where's 'My Channels'?  That's all I want when I pull up on my TV -- 'My Channels.'  I click all the way down to 'More Channels' at the bottom and then go through the live guide.  I don't want 'Live Now' which only lists some of the live programs, I want 'My Channels.'"

We hear you.

We pulled HULU up on the TV and here's what we get right now -- and in this order:

Keep Watching
Live Now
TV for You
Movies for You
Unwatched in My Stuff
Hulu Picks
Adult Animation
Comic Book Heroes
Full Series Comedies
Hulu Originals
FX on Hulu
Newly Added TV
Newly Added Movies
Crime & Courtroom TV
Action Comedies
Family TV
Comfort TV
Easy-to-Watch TV
Funny Families
Action-Adventure Movies
Sports for You
News for You
Premium Add-Ons

Like Hannah, we believe 'My Channels' is a necessity and that it should be the first option.  When it has shown up lately, it's been well after 'Hulu Picks.'

We're paying for this service -- stop burying us with the crap you want us to watch and give us 'My Channels' right up front.

Stuff you want us to watch?  'Sports for You.'  We don't watch sports, get that crap off our screen.  We're paying for this and we should be able to customize what we see but we can't.  And every month, HULU's adding more useless recommendations for us about things we are never going to watch.

Here is a work around when HULU doesn't provide 'My Channels' or buries it.  At the top of the TV screen when you're on HULU you have six buttons.  The first one is HOME, then LIVE TV, then MY STUFF, then BROWSE, then SEARCH and finally your name.  Go to "BROWSE." Then choose "Networks."  What pulls up is the same display you get with My Channels.

Like Hannah, we click through "Live" to first see if we're missing anything we want to catch.  Using "Live" is the only way you can view the content on, for example, all the HBO channels and not just the main HBO channel.  After we've clicked through that and found nothing, we'll usually go to "Entertainment" and click on whatever network to see if they've had any recent programming we want to watch.

All of this is under My Channels when My Channels shows up.

When it shows up.

The only thing more irritating than that?

We pay for AMAZON MUSIC which allows us to stream music.  Most of the time, that's not a problem.  Most of the time.  Lately, we've noticed they've begun reducing the number of albums offered -- for example, Diana Ross' discography was greatly reduced two weeks ago.  This week, albums like LAST TIME I SAW HIM, BABY IT'S ME, EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING, TO LOVE AGAIN, AN EVENING WITH DIANA ROSS, SURRENDER and 1978's ROSS (not to be confused with 1983's ROSS) are back up.  When albums disappear, there should be some sort of a notice about that.  Even a "this album will be removed starting July 30, 2020."

Another irritation is suggestions.

We know what we want to listen to.

Nothing is more irritating for us then pulling up AMAZON MUSIC on the TV and seeing in the first square under "Playlists Just for You" the ugly mug of James Tayler and "HANDPICKED with James Taylor."

We don't listen to James Taylor.  That's not an oversight, it's an active choice.

He's a woman hater supreme.  He broke up with Joni Mitchell in a rude manner and then ignored her and treated her as though she was dead.  Carly Simon overheard a phone conversation where James told Joni she was dead to him.  Which is why Carly shouldn't be all that surprised at the way James has repeatedly treated her since their divorce.  His refusal to speak about her in interviews, his refusal to credit her gifts and give her the artistic praise she deserves is appalling.  They weren't just married and they aren't just the parents of two children, they also worked together.  They wrote songs together.  They recorded songs together.

There are more reasons we don't listen to him.  James is the worst singer -- he has a horrible intonation issue..  (Listen to the chorus of "Shower The People.")  Is it cold in the studios he poses for photos in?  Is that why he wears the hats?  Or is because he's bald.  (It's because he's bald.)  He's a bald man who still writes likes he's a fresh-faced 18-year-old falling in love for the first time.  Of all the many things James Taylor's music misses, perspective is the most obvious absent quality.  He's not a very good songwriter to begin with.

There are those and many other reasons we don't -- and won't -- listen to James Taylor.

So why does try to pimp him to us?

And here's another issue -- we listen to Diana, we listen to Carly Simon, to Melanie, to Aretha, to Cher, to Tori Amos, to Fiona Apple, to Erykah Badu, to Joni Mitchell, to Laura Nyro, to Sade, to the Rolling Stones . . .

Did you notice something there?

We listen to more women than men.  So why are we getting these recommended "Playlists Just For You"?

HANDPICKED with James Taylor
Classic Standards
Best of Frank Sinatra
REDISCOVER Louis Armstrong
Best of Louis Armstrong
Side by Side with Michael Buble
Best of Dean Martin

That's all on the top row of the TV screen.  If we click the continue button we finally find one woman on the long list "Best of Amy Winehouse."  Over 30 suggestions -- over 30 ridiculous suggestions -- including "Chris Pratt's Workout Playlist" -- and only one woman's on it?

This isn't about what we listen to.  And shame on AMAZON for the sexism.

Who the hell do they think they are?  NPR.

We were bored Friday between online speaking events so we took a minute to stream NPR's new music segment.  It's a thirty minute listen, the site notes, but we only needed about one minute.  One minute was all we could stomach.

NPR decided the best way to discuss new music was to provide six correspondents: Robin Hilton, John Morrison, Tarik Moody, Stephen Thompson, Ann Powers and Nate Chinen.

Anybody see the problem we had?

Six people are invited by NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO -- which does get US tax dollars, despite their claims otherwise -- to discuss music.

Five men.

One woman.

That's diversity in 2020.

One woman?

And anyone who knows Ann's work over the last years knows she long ago became one of the boys.

The legendary PJ Harvey has a new album out, DRY DEMOS.  Maybe if women were represented on the panel, PJ's new album would have been discussed?

We were reminded of Kat's July 3rd post about NPR coming up with their dream concert by using tracks from various live albums.  For this dream concert, they picked forty-six tracks from various live albums released over the years.

You know how many were by women?  Three.  Two were by Aretha Franklin and one was by Joni Mitchell.

That's disgusting.  And when NPR's doing that and when they're serving up panels on music where there are six panelists and only one is a woman, maybe they don't need to be offering the public "Battle Tactics For Your Sexist Workplace," maybe they need to instead be offering that to their employees?

Patrons?  We always recommend libraries and Brad e-mailed to note a problem with that, "I never would have used KANOPY if you hadn't mentioned it.  But after you wrote about it, I went to my local library and got a card -- the first library card I'd probably had in a decade.  The kids used it to watch ten movies a month.  On Friday, they went to watch and couldn't.  They called me to the TV and I was expecting to see that they'd already watched the ten for the month that they're allowed.  No.  There's some problem with the card and I need to call my local library.  Which I do but it's already closed due to COVID hours.  I go online and look up the hours, the new hours.  They're open Saturday.  So I called today and, no, they aren't open.  Their COVID schedule has been changed again.  I try to get an e-card so the kids can watch but when I fill out things online, I'm told that no one with our last name lives at the address.  Now when I got the physical card, that happened as well.  I showed my driver's license and explained we lived there and had for 11 years.  I have no idea why the card was cut off but I don't know how, during a pandemic, the library can justify that."

We don't know how either.  That honestly seems outrageous to us, that a library is cancelling someone's library card -- and apparently because their f**ked up computer system tells them that the patron doesn't live there.  They really should be ashamed.

Brad's staying with NETFLIX ("the only streamer we pay for") and the free ones like CRACKLE, PLUTO, TUBI and ROKU.  We understand that.

We can even praise NETFLIX for having one of the better menus on your TV.  And we should probably note that DISNEY+ has finally improved their menu display.  Which really just leaves us with AMAZON PRIME.  We'd like to see "MY STUFF" at the top of the screen over in the left hand corner.  That used to be called "My Library." It's where the TV and movies you've purchased -- not rented -- are stored.  And we'd love it if AMAZON would give us some control over the order of that catalogue.  Alphabetical order, even, would be great.  Instead, the order is, as it has always been, purchase date -- from newest to oldest.  And that was okay when you only had 10 or so films in your library, but now that we've got over 100 in each of our libraries, that's a lot to flip through.

We will praise them on their "Because you watched" recommendations and their "Movies we think you'll like" recommendations.  They actually are helpful -- unlike AMAZON MUSIC.  And, if you use the buttons at the top of the screen, we can also praise them for having the best menu because you can quickly find what you want and screen out things that you don't.

It's a shame we can't say that about all the streaming services.  This is 2020, right?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }