Live-stream­ing has old com­plaint: Noth­ing on TV

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - [email protected]­ HELAINE WIL­LIAMS Live email:

Once again, star­ing at my elec­tronic de­vice, I pon­dered one of the mon­u­men­tal choices fac­ing to­day’s 21st-cen­tury woman.

Did I re­ally want to catch up on those episodes of The Hand­maid’s Tale?

I’ve been tempted to take a peek at this much-bal­ly­hooed de­pic­tion of a train-wreck sit- ua­tion for the fe­male sex … a dystopian, fer­til­ity-de­prived, theo­nomic so­ci­ety in which women have been stripped of all rights and the few young women ca­pa­ble of hav­ing ba­bies are forced to be sex slaves and pro­duce chil­dren for the men in charge and their in­fer­tile wives.

Dre and I now have ac­cess to the se­ries, hav­ing signed on to the stream­ing ser­vice that of­fers it.

We’d spent the fall and the be­gin­ning of win­ter nav­i­gat­ing the wilds of free-TV … flick­ing back and forth be­tween chan­nels whose nomen­cla­ture in­clude Point 1, Point 2, Point 3 and such; dis­cov­er­ing net­works we’d never heard of be­fore and con­stantly shift­ing around our rab­bit-eared and square, flat TV an­ten­nas for best re­cep­tion of these chan­nels. Along the way, we got caught up in care­worn episodes of the re­al­ity TV show Most Shock­ing, corny Chuck Nor­ris ac­tion flicks and seem­ingly ev­ery-other-day show­ings of Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger and Vanessa Wil­liams in the movie Eraser. Many times we’ve mourned the fact that there’s noth­ing on free TV, only to stop and re­al­ize that we made the same com­plaint when we had ac­cess to 200 ca­ble chan­nels with a cou­ple of pre­mium chan­nels thrown in.

Stream­ing ser­vices al­low view­ers, via app, to check out “thou­sands” of TV shows, movies, and ex­clu­sive pro­gram­ming for a few bucks a month. Un­like the ca­ble com­pa­nies, no two-year con­tract is re­quired: Just give your card in­for­ma­tion, be billed for a new month at the be­gin­ning of said month and, if you’re not sat­is­fied, call up and can­cel any­time.

The ser­vice we de­cided, at the end of a week­long free trial, to ex­plore a bit fur­ther is one of those that of­fers a live-stream­ing com­po­nent. For a big­ger price — which promptly went up $5 af­ter we de­cided to check it out, but still beats ca­ble-sub­scrip­tion prices by a coun­try mile — we get a fair amount of the chan­nels of­fered on ca­ble … ESPN, TruTV, the Car­toon Net­work, An­i­mal Planet, FX and, yea! HGTV, which I had sorely missed. (Alas, no TV One, much to Dre’s cha­grin, and no MeTV, much to mine.)

But there’s a big down­side to the live-stream­ing com­po­nent of the ser­vice we’re try­ing out. Well, two.

One, it can take awhile to fig­ure out how the heck to even op­er­ate the dang ser­vice … the usual prob­lem fac­ing us over-50-ers in a 21st-cen­tury world in which in­struc­tion man­u­als are in­creas­ingly elu­sive or down­right nonex­is­tent.

Two, we can get the live-stream­ing com­po­nent of the ser­vice on ev­ery­thing but, well, the TV. “Plus Live” can be seen on phones, com­put­ers/lap­tops, tablets, game con­soles and cer­tain TVs … that … don’t … in­clude … our brand of Smart TV, which is stuck get­ting only the ser­vice’s non­live-streamed of­fer­ings.

(This sit­u­a­tion made me think back to our for­mer mi­crowave oven, whose door­latch assem­bly went out last year and was of the very brand whose door-latch assem­bly couldn’t be fixed. And our for­mer printer, whose print head went out a year or so ago and whose re­place­ment print head would cost sig­nif­i­cantly more than a fair num­ber of print­ers. We grav­i­tate to just the wrong brands!)

Doubt­ful that we’ll con­tinue the ser­vice, we have not yet scraped up the where­withal to try to con­nect the lap­top to the TV and watch live-stream­ing that way. For now, we find our­selves watch­ing it on a cell­phone, which we prop up on the arm of the loveseat, on the cof­fee ta­ble, on the small book­case flank­ing my side of the bed, or pre­car­i­ously on the bed­cov­ers. Ev­ery once in a while, I’ll re­mem­ber to at least use the Smart TV to peruse the non­live-streamed movies and past TV-show episodes.

One thing we now know for sure: A fre­quent lack of any­thing to watch is a prob­lem that rears its head no mat­ter what kind of TV one sub­scribes to.

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