STREAMING SATURDAY: Yes Netflix is slipping

I’ve taken the reins of our “Streaming Saturday” series because while Jake Buckler, that rebel without a cause, does ok, I think last week’s article was pretty weak sauce. Last week he asked, “Is Netflix slipping?” and I think the answer’s pretty obvious: Yes.

You’ve already read that I think Netflix is past the tipping point. You’ve already heard me complain that I’m thinking of dumping my streaming channels and going back to pay-per-view because frankly the value isn’t there anymore. And now, I’m not alone.

Ben Popper writes for The Verge which, honestly, has a lot more readers than I do. He’s gone so far as to say that Netflix today feels a lot more like Blockbuster. That’s pretty harsh, but he’s right. One of the things that killed Blockbuster is that you’d walk in and the New Releases aisle would have stuff from two years ago. It didn’t feel fresh, it didn’t feel like you had to go there every week just to see what was new.

Netflix has the same problem. The top half of the screen is promoted content and the first four rows below that are all things Netflix wants you to see (usually their original content.) They don’t care about me anymore, they just want to push their original stuff out to everyone.

A while back I spent probably about 10 hours going through my Netflix list and “one-starring” everything I was sure I’d never ever want to see. Things got better for a little while but frankly Netflix is back to its old tricks. I had read that if you “one-star” something you’ll never see it again, but most of that stuff is back now.

Look, I know that I’m hard to please and I know for sure I’m out of that vaunted “18-34” demographic. I don’t care to see movies and shows about pretty 20-somethings with $400 haircuts obsessing about their lives and how awful they are. I’m going to be a hard sell. But honestly, folks, Netflix isn’t even trying.

And then… The Crown. Netflix’ latest should appeal to me somewhat as an Anglophile, as a fan of the film The Queen by the same writer, and as someone who appreciates quality writing and entertainment. Except… it wasn’t that good. And that’s a BIG problem.

Netflix spent a reported $250 million for the program, which is the most anyone’s ever spent for a 10-episode program for British TV. (I tend to think some American TV shows have surpassed that number.) And for all that, it’s not that good. There are plenty of top notch actors, gorgeous sets, and the overall look is nicer than many feature films. It’s just… not… that… good. I’m not the only one to think so, either. Here’s a review from The Independent, a British newspaper which probably knows the source material better than I do. They say,

In short, break this series down into its components and you’ve essentially got a series of men in rooms talking about what a woman should or shouldn’t do, before politely sitting said woman down and delivering upon their decision. Which she always seems more than happy to quietly oblige. And that is not the making of engaging television.

It’s not just dry, it’s boring. Maybe the ascension of Elizabeth II just wasn’t interesting. Maybe Prince Philip was nothing more than a whiny playboy at that age. I don’t know. But the truth is that it’s not very good TV, especially not at the price. This is a problem considering that Netflix spent $250 million on it. This is a company that makes its money $8 at a time, and $250 million represents a lot of subscriber dollars.

I’m glad that Netflix tried; after all most of their other original programming is instantly forgettable (except season 3 of Black Mirror, good on them for that.) At least it’s not another whiny millennial or flawed superhero… or is it.

Maybe what Netflix is trying to tell us with The Crown is that when they were younger, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were the prototypes for today’s overindulged and whiny crybaby millennials. Maybe the crown gave them a sort of superpower, the ability to set the tone for a nation in crisis.

Yeah, no. Even if that’s what they were shooting for it still wasn’t that good.

Next week Jake Buckler will be back to tell you all about some other vapid nonsense you should be streaming. Me, I’m going back to watching DIRECTV. The programming’s better.