For the past couple of years, I’ve put in my recommended thirty minutes of rigorous near-death exertion per day by watching Netflix while pedaling a recumbent stationary bicycle, the piece of exercise equipment that most closely resembles a recliner.
On a recent evening, determined to pay for the crime against my arteries I’d just committed at the local Chinese buffet, I began my evening workout regimen with some high-impact stretching. This warm-up involved lying on the floor in front of the television, breathing heavily amid occasional bodily noises, and strenuously clicking through Netflix in search of some high-quality streaming entertainment.
Would it be one of about a hundred Netflix-produced Adam Sandler films that I’ve never heard of, or something from the critically acclaimed “Sharknado” franchise? Maybe I’d indulge my inner romantic with “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Then again, I might fancy an educational documentary, like Danny Trejo’s “Survivor’s Guide to Prison.” The number of choices was maddening, and before I knew it, I was suffering from acute Netflixation. Having spent over an hour in an indecisive stupor, I could barely peel myself off the carpet and go to bed. (I counted that as a push-up.)
Neflixation is a national epidemic that has killed an untold amount of time that could’ve been spent on more useful pursuits, like finding a cure for Sonic Route 44 brain freeze. In fact, I’m convinced that if it wasn’t for Netflix, Robert Mueller could have wrapped up the Russia investigation in about the time it takes to binge-watch a season of “The Crown.” (I’m still struggling to get over Princess Margaret’s heartbreak.)
Speaking of binge-watching, I resent Netflix’s collusion with our innate human tendency to fritter away our time with its “Binge-Worthy” recommendations. I’m proud to say, though, that it only took me a single weekend to get through every episode of “Stranger Things” – twice – with minimal potty breaks.
The main problem with Netflix is that finding something decent to watch is like trying to find your daughter’s fake eyelash that she “has to have” for her dance recital, and that she lost somewhere in her bedroom, which she hasn’t cleaned since 2010. (After conducting a frantic and exhaustive search, we eventually found it – stuck to the side of her head.)
I actually miss the old days of selecting a movie at the local video store. At least there, your feet eventually got so tired from browsing that you were willing to settle for Howard the Duck – again. With Netflix, on the other hand, you risk becoming paralyzed for hours by the variety of crummy video choices without leaving the comfort of your own throw rug. And if you finally do make a selection out of sheer desperation, you could find yourself watching John Travolta go full-on-alien-Scientology-dreadlocks in “Battlefield Earth.”
I also take issue with how Netflix “rates” its offerings. Unlike typical customer rating systems, which clearly display actual customer reviews, Netflix buries viewer comments deep within the “details” section of each thumbnail. I think they hope you’ll be too zombified by the selection process to bother reading an honest review that might say, “Watching this movie was like reading Tolstoy backwards after soaking your contacts in Windex.”
Instead of emphasizing ratings, Netflix makes dubious predictions about what you’ll want to watch in the future based on your own “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” film rankings. Why, then, do my “Top Picks” recommendations feature a Netflix-produced teen romcom called “The Kissing Booth” and reruns of “Friends?” Apparently, Netflix has mistaken me for a seventeen-year-old girl, which hardly ever happens to me anymore.
An alternative to Netflix’s endless library of substandard streaming options is their mail-in DVD service, which offers a vast selection of films not starring Adam Sandler. The shipping is as slow as a rickshaw pulled by a team of elderly members of Congress, but it might remind you of a simpler time – before streaming movies.
In fact, I think I’ll see if Netflix has “Howard the Duck,” just for old times’ sake.
Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at email@example.com.