Netflix Watch Instantly, the company’s streaming service, is great for retro cartoons, comedy specials, independent films and documentaries, but if you want the newest rentals at the touch of a button, then you are shit out of luck.

Lately I have been using Netflix’s streaming service to watch something else: old television series.

Outside of NFL Football, NCAA basketball, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, South Park, Family Guy and That 70’s Show, I haven’t watched much television in the years after high school.  I missed a lot of stuff – good and bad.   I certainly didn’t need to see any more seasons of the Real World, or whatever reality show bullshit was popular during those years.  Oh, they gave the Real World a fake tan, sent it to the gym and called it Jersey Shore?  I’m still not interested.

Despite Netflix’s dearth of new movies, the service has a lot of good television shows available 24/7.  Up until recently, I stayed with the familiar.  I run through Saved by the Bell and my favorite childhood cartoons as if they were those delicious mixed fruit Mentos that are, without doubt, too delicious to be legal; however, I’ve been branching out.  Now I’m discovering current shows and old shows, some of which haven’t been on television for more than five years, that, to my chagrin, I should have been watching all along.

For these shows, Netflix is a new life.

I don’t wave the Netflix flag very often – at least not in recent months.  The Watch Instantly service hasn’t, in my mind, delivered on its potential.

When I first subscribed, Netflix was too good to be true.  If you were like me, then you saw it as the perfect reason to ditch that high monthly cable television bill.  I was paying $10 a month, cheaper than the cost of a nighttime movie ticket, for DVDs and streaming, and I preached Netflix as if it were gospel and recommended it to every warm body within shouting distance.  If someone didn’t have Netflix, I told them, very politely, that he or she was missing out on something better than the fajita.

Even now, Netflix is still much cheaper than cable television plans.  I could get DVDs and streaming from Netflix for approximately $16 a month, while cable television per billing cycle would cost me no less than $45.

My real disappointment with Netflix Watch Instantly: unrealized potential.  Instead of being my one stop for everything entertainment, as my ideal Watch Instantly experience would be, Netflix streaming is only part of the picture, as I have to supplement with Redbox, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video.

For a long time, I had Watch Instantly for three things: cartoons, stand-up comedy specials and horror movies that didn’t even classify as B-horror.  If you can stomach the entirety of Mega Piranha, starring 1980s pop star Tiffany, then you deserve free gas for a year.  Has anyone ever told Tiffany that she isn’t Cher?

As far as new movie content goes, Netflix is under-supported, and I don’t think that is going to change soon.  The DVD service has the new movies, and Watch Instantly pushes television shows.  I think that Watch Instantly abounds with unrealized potential; however, gradually, I’m finding more to watch.   And Netflix has a cheap all-you-can-watch model that, as a subscriber, one can’t help but love.

A few months ago, I told the world that I was going to ditch Netflix.  That didn’t happen.  To be honest, I kept Netflix because of The Floor is Lava, which, at the time, was a seed.  Now that I have Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, Burn Notice, Firefly, How I Met Your Mother, Lie to Me, Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy in my queue, I will be spending more time with Netflix than ever before.  I am always looking for recommendations, too.

Yes, Arrested Development has been off-air since 2006, but it’s new to me.   Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Burn Notice and How I Met Your Mother have been on television for years, but thanks to Netflix, they have gained at least one new fan.

Last year when Netflix raised the prices for its services, I expected an avalanche of movie support for Watch Instantly as the company, many speculated, was supposed to step away from its DVD offerings.  Instead it seems that Netflix wants to focus on television content – probably because of the  amount of money needed to secure movie rights.  Of course, even though Watch Instantly is a good way to discover or catch up on shows you might have missed, the catalog can’t keep pace with cable or Hulu Plus—a joint venture owned by the companies that own the networks that provide the content—so if you watch the shows regularly, then Hulu Plus beats Netflix streaming.  For me, someone who ignored television for years, Watch Instantly has a lot of content to offer, and I can’t get the breadth of old cartoons and movies on Hulu Plus.

Netflix, once my go-to source for movies, has become the place I go to watch television.  Watch Instantly can’t claim to be the best place for movies or the best source for television, but the library of television content helps me cope with the lack of new movie content.


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