Except for some reports of the form of future Apple products — the iPhone 12 and the first Macs with Apple Silicon — that hasn’t been a whole lot of important news to cover about our favorite fruit company. Whether you have time on your hands — or are working at home — no doubt you are running the family TV for more hours than usual.
Now there’s so much content available for streaming from the various services, you should be able to find some material that’s worth watching.
As most of you know, Barbara and I are very pop culture oriented, and we found enough good shows on the family TV from traditional broadcast networks to keep us occupied most evenings, at least until seasons ended prematurely because of production shutdowns. So we were left looking for alternatives.
Now one thing the companies who want to sign you up for streaming rarely mention is the impact on your ISP’s bandwidth limits, if any. Here Cox used to offer 1TB on its better plans, but quietly increased in to 1.25TB in recent days. While such limits may be suspended due to the pandemic, they are still present and will return. At least Cox is honest about it, and they offer ways to check usage and estimate how much you need. If you have a 4K TV, and you are receiving shows from streamers that support such content, just be careful.
So far, it doesn’t look like I’ll be using more than 25-30% of the bandwidth I have, so I’m not worried.
Along the way, I found some unexpected gems among all the content out there. None of it, however, comes from Netflix, which I canceled after the last Marvel super hero series ended; some may return to Disney+, but I’m not planning on signing up just yet.
One of the best out there is probably the best deal of all. It’s Amazon Prime Video, with the emphasis on Prime.
It costs $119 a year or $12.99 per month. Students pay roughly half as much. For that price, you also get free one-day and two-day shipping on literally millions of products (Amazon boasts a total inventory of 12 million). So even if you only buy stuff occasionally, you may find yourself covering the price of membership with these benefits before you stream a single show.
With Prime Video, you can choose from literally thousands of movies and TV shows. Amazon also has direct links to other services, so for a few dollars a month extra you may find a number of additional programs all of which are available from the Prime Video interface. You can watch them via your browser, the Prime Video app for iOS and Android, and via the built-in app interfaces of many smart TVs, such as our 2017 VIZIO M-series.
So here’s what the Steinbergs have been watching:
Premiering in 2014, Bosch was one of the first Amazon series. It’s based on a series of best-selling detective novels from Michael Connelly, who also created and executive produces the series. So unlike many TV series and moves based on novels, it stays close to the original character with appropriate changes for broadcast.
Veteran character actor Titus Welliver shines as Harry Bosch, a sometimes rogue LAPD homicide detective who solves both current murders and cold cases, including that of his mom. The plotting is fairly typical for the breed, and little new ground is paved here, but excellent acting, pacing, and the appropriate level of suspense keep the interest high.
Over six seasons — a seventh and final season is set for 2021 — Bosch continues to grow as a character. A highlight is his growing relationship with daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz) whom he largely ignored through her formative years. But as their relationship becomes better defined over the years, we realize she is definitely her father’s daughter.
THE NIGHT MANAGER
Available on Amazon Prime, The Night Manager is a BBC mini-series from 2016 based on a John le Carré novel. It stars Tom Hiddleston (yes the fellow best know as Loki in the Thor movies) as a night porter with a background as a British soldier. After a woman with whom he has a brief relationship is murdered, he stumbles into an assignment to infiltrate an organization run an international arms dealer, portrayed by Huge Laurie (best known to American viewers for House).
Laurie is appropriately slimy and ruthless and Hiddleston reveals unexpected skills as the reluctant spy who both romances the villain’s girlfriend and isn’t above a little murder along the way to succeed in his mission. After watching this six-episode series, it’s clear to me that we have found the ideal replacement for Daniel Craig as the next James Bond. Only thing: The producers might be reluctant to cast him due to his connection with the Marvel universe, but he is just too good not to be seriously considered for the role.
LINE OF DUTY
Another great UK series, this one depicts the adventures of Anti-Corruption Unit 12, that country’s equivalent of an Internal Affairs division in the police department that ferrets out corruption. Police don’t fare so well in this series, and I understand the authorities were reluctant to offer them official production cooperation.
No matter. Through five seasons, you’ll see the AC-12 crew bend and sometimes totally disobey the rules of the road in their quest to fight evildoing officers. You probably won’t recognize the stars unless you watch a lot of UK-based shows, but the main cast, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar, all turn in stellar performances. Through five seasons, you’l even see an occasional performer who has turned up on American TV, such as Thandie Newton as an unethical officer.
In passing, you’ll see just how closely UK police adhere to the way American officers handle suspect rights and interrogations. A major difference is that they do not normally carry weapons, and when they do, they have to be checked out individually for a defined purpose, so their use can be carefully tracked. This arrangement, in fact, forms the basis for an important plot element during one of the seasons.
Season six — said to be the final season — is due next year from BBC. The American sources for the show include AMC, which is showing the early seasons, and Acorn TV, a streaming service.
MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES
Here’s another series I discovered on Acorn TV: From Australia, this is definitely a period piece with costumes to match. It features Essie Davis in a career-defining role as Phryne Fisher, a rare woman detective who does her thing in 1920s Melbourne, which is very much like the UK of that era.
In a sense, the producers have taken the typical detective mysteries starring men and put them, plots and all, in the capable hands of a woman. She we see that Miss Fisher is no shrinking violet, and she is not averse to getting herself in the thick of the action, even if it involves firing guns, climbing roofs and getting involved in fist fights. But no, she is no martial arts expert, and she often finds herself at the wrong end of a physical confrontation.
As with her male counterparts, Miss Fisher is not averse to one-night stands.
Some of the plot elements are familiar, such as not being taken seriously by the police Detective Inspector who reluctantly teams with her. Over the first nine episodes of season one, we see her cleverly ingratiate herself with DI Robinson, and there’s even the suggestion of a budding romance.
It’s a tribute to Ms. Davis’ acting chops for making it all so believable. So far the show has lasted for three seasons, plus one movie. A forthcoming spin-off series, Ms. Fishers Modern Murder Mysteries, features the exploits of her niece in the 1960s.
The summer season is young, and the fall season will likely be late due to the pandemic. So I’ll definitely have more binge-worthy shows to report in the coming weeks. And don’t forget a very offbeat series about would-be super heroes, Doom Patrol, from HBO Max, that’s very addictive. And there’s the Perry Mason prequel on HBO, starring the always amazing Matthew Rhys in the titular role.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible.
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