Two milestones reached this week. We finished watching Stranger Things, the excellent series on Netflix. Simultaneously, we finally made the decision to cut the cord. No more cable TV.
Stranger Things, if you’ve missed it, is a wonderful nod to Stephen King and the 1980s culture that made up much of my childhood. (I’ve never played D&D, though.) Winona Ryder. Matthew Modine. (And an underrated David Harbour.) And a cadre of kids whose acting belie their ages.
In another life we would have called this a “miniseries.” What we have here is eight (not-quite) hourlong episodes, all available at any time. Less than 7 hours running time, all told. Perfect content for binging.
M.G. Siegler asked if maybe Stranger Things should have been presented as one long-ass movie.
Obviously, “binge watching” is nothing new. And it has basically become synonymous with Netflix. And there have long been debates about the positives and negatives of this type of viewing. On the plus side, it effectively turns something like Stranger Things into an eight-hour movie. Which, as long as the content is good — again, as it is here — is awesome. On the downside, you barely have time to actually digest any given episode. Because it’s always on to the next one.
But it’s not always on to the next one. Nor should it be.
If this show is really that good — the acting, the sets, the music, and the story itself — then the goal should be to enjoy the experience. The destination in this case was pretty satisfying (though I’d argue that the finale wasn’t one of the stronger episodes) but this was another one of those shows in which the journey was as important as where we ended up. Especially given what we get in the final scene.
(See also: Sons of Anarchy. We knew how this was going to end. But, Jesus, I wanted to see how it was going to happen.)
This week my family also joined the growing number of folks who have shunned cable TV. This wasn’t a decision we made lightly. It took some work to figure out what was really important, what our options were — and how much we wanted to spend.
The ridiculous number of taxes and hardware rental fees (I had a less-kind word for that) meant that we were paying $150 of our monthly $250 cable bill for something we weren’t really using all that much. Certainly not to its full potential. Hell, I’d gotten to the point where I bought the first season of Preacher because I didn’t want to bother with the DVR and commercials and just wanted to watch it wherever and whenever I wanted. (And I’m a fan of supporting these shows directly now, too.)
The must-haves: Local channels, of course. NFL games on the networks, ESPN and NFL Network. The Walking Dead. Game of Thrones. Science-y stuff for the kids, in addition to the kids shows they also watch.
Thanks to my job, hardware has been the least of our problem. Chromecast and Apple TV and Android TV are easy to come by in our house. (Each has its merits.) I’ll be trying a Roku soon.
Picking the services required a little homework. In the end, we went with Hulu and Netflix, both of which we already were paying for. PlayStation Vue is the big add, and it’s all working well enough.
Total monthly cost is now about $80. That’s about $800 a year or so that we’re not spending on services, and not throwing away on renting hardware from Cox, while mostly watching the same things. (The upsell from the dude with whom I returned our cable boxes was strong, but futile. I almost felt bad for him, especially when he tried to explain network speeds to me.)
No, it’s not as easy. More remotes, for now. Multiple services to keep track of. But the hardest part of all this was taking the leap. The FOMO is real.
But so is the possibility that I won’t be wasting as much time on the couch looking for something to watch I don’t care about anyway.