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Pro-Choice Entertainment


If you follow my picks column, you may have noted that my TV and film picks aren’t tied to premiere dates. Many reasons why, including my own viewing habits and how modern technology abets consuming visual entertainment on your own schedule.

I’ve been spending time house/pet sitting for a friend who has Roku, the online streaming service via the Internet that offers movies and TV series from its 1,800-plus channels, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, PBS and Amazon Prime. Some stream free content, others by monthly subscription, others on a pay-per-view basis. Unless you go wild with subscriptions and paid streams, it gives cable a run for your money.

The device itself, depending on which one you choose and its features, costs from $49.99 to $99.99. Its remote control and features are almost dummy proof. They call it smart TV, which to me means that we smart people from the analog age with our occasional dumb spots here and there can work it easily. It’s accessible on your smartphone and tablet as well as TV (though how anyone can watch a film or show on a small phone screen is beyond me, but some do).

One does get commercials with the TV shows on some channels. And the same ones over and over again, with no option to fast forward through them. Eh. You can learn to ignore them, hop up and get a snack as they play, take a quick trip to the bathroom.

I’m pretty much sold on Roku now as it fits how I consume. In the same way that I may be concurrently reading anywhere from two to five books, as I never know what I am in the mood for when I read before going to sleep, the service lets me choose what I am in the mood for.

I can also enjoy binging on a TV series, and Roku makes that easy. By the same token, if you wish or have to ignore a series, all the episodes will be on Hulu or HBO Go (adding Showtime Anytime to Roku’s offerings would make it all but ideal for me). Most episodes of network and cable channel series show up soon after they originally air and in 24 hours with HBO offerings. And you never have to worry about any storage limits as with cable DVRs.

In short, it’s flexible and efficient to meet the needs of modern life.

I also have to marvel at how technology has advanced so far in my lifetime. Okay, maybe we don’t have flying cars, home robot helpers and jet-packs like “The Jetsons” foretold the future. (And as an aside, I also marvel that in our modern times there are fundamentalist so-called Christians who actually believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted anywhere other than in The Flintstones, and even creationist theme parks that confuse the spiritual truths of beautiful mythology with cold, hard scientific fact that to me is also the genuine miracle of evolution. But I digress ...)

When I was a kid, we had two broadcast network channels in my upstate New York hometown, CBS and NBC (the later launch of an ABC affiliate was a big deal – wow, not just two but now three channels). Color TVs were a rare luxury item. There was no PBS much less HBO, cable TV had yet to launch, and pretty much the only places to see movies in the scale was in the theater during their first run and occasionally later on TV (and in black & white for much of my youth even if the film was in blazing Technicolor). But it was still enough to enchant me for life with the best of visual entertainment.

And even though there’s things about the now-not-so-new digital realm that irk me, give me pause, and wonder about its effects on generations to come alongside the advantages it can provide, and in today’s TV and movies there’s many herds of swine even if the rare pearls are as great as if not better than any past glories, sometimes guys like me who may not push the envelope but remain comfortably in its middle are prompted to embrace the new. And Roku is a game changer that I am certain will soon become a welcome and central part of my visual entertainment consumption.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@prismnet.com.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2015


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