Anytime HBO launches a new show, I know two things about it right away without having watched a single episode: It will be 1) a high quality production, and 2) filthy. The latter is why I do not subscribe to HBO, and the former is why I wish they would invest in some diversity in their programming.
My wife and I not only cut our HBO subscription roughly seven years ago, but this past year we cut cable out altogether. With technological advances, it seemed silly to keep re-financing the house in order to pay our monstrous cable bill. And I’ve always been peeved about the bundling of cable channels which forced me to subsidize the filth I do not want to watch and encouraged content producers to feel I wanted more of it.
So now we subscribe to Netflix. Doesn’t everyone? There is a lot of good programming available on demand, and you cannot beat the price. It is no wonder Netflix has become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry. It has become so powerful that a few years ago it decided to start producing original content. And it has done incredibly well. It received 34 Emmy nominations this year.
Our family has enjoyed some shows. The quality of "Chef’s Table" was exquisite, and the kids are hooked on "VeggieTales in the House." But a lot of the new programming it is producing seemed to be aimed at competing with HBO — on the quality with some shows, but increasingly and unfortunately, on the second part of my HBO assumptions: the filth part.
They recently released a new comedy show with Aziz Ansari called "Master of None." We liked Aziz’ performance on "Parks and Recreation," so my wife and I said, “Let’s watch it.” Here is the first scene we were hit with:
First scene, episode 1, season 1 of Netflix's "Master of None." (Screenshot - Mario Diaz)
[Heavy breathing and sex noises]
ANSARI: Oh, f—k, f—k, f—k, f—k
WOMAN: What, what, what … what happened?
ANSARI: Um, the condom broke …
Click — or not “click,” but that little arrow to go back, you get the idea. The episode’s title, “Plan B,” should have been an indication of the creative approach they were taking. That’s just the latest, but many of their most acclaimed shows have gone that route. "House of Cards," which won them so many accolades, seemed to get filthier and filthier as they struggled to keep the audience engaged.
I remember the day I said to my wife, “Everyone is talking about this new Netflix show "Orange is the New Black." Let’s watch it.” First scene:
[Baby getting a bath]
WOMAN’S VOICE:I’ve always loved getting cleaned …
[Young girl getting a bath] I love baths …
[Lesbian scene in shower] I love showers ...
[Man and woman kissing in bathtub] It’s my happy place …
[Woman in dirty shower] Was my happy place …
[Nude women in prison shower]
Is Netflix turning into “Netfilth”? And if so, am I better off assuming that, as in the case of HBO, I should stay away from their original programming? If so, the same feeling emerges doesn’t it? Should I now continue to subsidize the production of this kind of material by subscribing to Netflix to watch other shows?
Maybe it’s time to cut Netflix, too.
The choices continue to expand. Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV continues to grow by producing high quality content that is personally and socially enriching. PureFlix just came out with their new membership, on-demand service.
Perhaps I shouldn’t pick just on Netflix; Amazon’s new content is just as bad, and probably worse. Their new pilot season is out and a lot of it is unwatchable. In their case, it’s both because of content and poor quality. By minute three in their new "Good Girls Revolt" a reporter is shown nude having sex with a co-worker at the office.
I have to give credit to Amazon for at least having a content warning page at the beginning of the show. Here are some from their new pilots:
"Good Girls Revolt":
Amazon's "Good Girls Revolt" content warning. (Screenshot - Mario Diaz)
Amazon's "Z" content warning. (Screenshot - Mario Diaz)
Amazon's "Patriot" content warning. (Screenshot - Mario Diaz)
Netflix currently just gives a general rating to their original content. Out of nine dramas they have produced, eight of them are only labeled TV-MA. The other one is TV-14. Out of the six comedies they have produced, five are TV-MA. The other, you guessed it, TV-14.
Ratings like that are worthless really. Some TV-14 rating is just as objectionable.
The least Netflix can do is provide as much guidance at the start of its shows as Amazon does. But better yet, why not invest some serious money in high quality productions that rely on creativity and good writing to engage the viewers and bring the best in them, instead of the usual low hanging fruits of sex and violence to appeal to our baser instincts, producing little of value for our society.
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