The PopCulteer
April 2, 2021

It’s hard to believe that we’re in the fourth month of 2021 already. Maybe it’s the pandemic-induced time-fog, but for a year that’s already seen an attempted coup, a successful stimulus program and here in West Virginia an experiment in kakistocracy as performance art, the year seems to be flying by at an insane pace.

Since this is a pop culture blog, and these days you can’t get much more pop culture-y than streaming services, I’m going to play a little catch-up this week and offer some of my brief observations of new and old streaming services in which I have been indulging.

Last week I gave you my first impression of how well the WWE Network’s move to Peacock is going. I appear to be in a tiny minority, but I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth for the first time in years. I never used the pause or rewind functions, and didn’t search by wrestler before, so losing that didn’t really affect me. I have been struggling with getting a decent stream from WWE Network for years, so being able to watch the Fastlane PPV uninterrupted was a delight.

Likewise, Peacock going back and editing all the blackface and bad attempts at race-based comedy doesn’t really bother me either.

The rest of Peacock is a nice bonus. Having access to every episode of every season of Law & Order: SVU is sort of like having free24/7 delivery of crack to the house, and it’s cool to go back through all the seasons of Saturday Night Live to see how many times it was obvious that their old shows were better. There’s more stuff there than I’ll get around to watching, and at five bucks a month (with ads) AND the WWE Network included, it’s one of the best streaming values around.

The WWE Network goes away in the US on April 4, and since I really only watch the PPVs, special events and documentaries, I won’t miss it. It’s a little bittersweet, since I only got a Roku streaming device in the first place so I could watch WWE Network, but time marches on, and I will have a much more pleasant viewing experience now.

By the same token, I mainly wanted HBO Max to replace DC Universe, which Warnermedia gutted last year. I have access to most of the DC Universe video content that I want, plus I have HBO and the excellent new Looney Tunes cartoon shorts. I’ve had HBO on and off since 1977, but I dropped it from my DirecTV account about five years ago. It’s cool to have it back again.

Theatrical movies on the day they open in theaters are a bonus (for the rest of this year), and it’s cool to get to see Last Week Tonight live now. It’s odd that they bought the rights to show South Park, but seeing it uncensored is a revelation.

However, the navigation of the app on Roku is garbage. It takes three minutes for the main screen to load, and each section after that loads slowly. I would love it if streaming services would give me the option of skipping the “Who’s Watching” profile screen, and also let me flip a switch that would keep the credits going at full-screen without the next show starting with a countdown.

I’m a credit-reading nerd. Don’t make me have to work hard to enjoy that part of the show. I can’t be the only person who hates having the credits lopped off or shrunk down to an unreadable size. HBO Max is hardly the only offender, but since they really need to rebuild their entire technical interface to bring their app up to acceptable standards, they might as well fix that, too.

The whole idea of having separate profiles is useless when you’ve only got two people in the house. It’s just a longer wait and another hoop through which to jump to get to the main screen… which as I pointed out, takes forever to load.

The content is great, but we knew that already.  How about making it easy to get to it?  HBO is a quality brand, but they really need to iron out the bugs, reprogram their index pages and stop rotating out movies and shows so frequently. Also, it would be nice if some of the movies didn’t freeze or just stop with no warning. At fifteen bucks a month, the technical interface shouldn’t be the worst among the streaming services.

Mrs. PopCulteer has signed us up for Paramount + so she can indulge her SpongeBob habit, and, perhaps because they had practice under their previous name, CBS All Access, they have their navigation act together. The stream is solid and everything is easy to find. They have almost every episode of every cartoon in the Nickelodeon library, plus they have tons of Paramount movies, and every episode of every Star Trek show,

They also have current episodes of every CBS show from daytime, late night and prime time, and all their news programs, which would be great if I watched anything on CBS. They also have all the classic TV shows produced by Paramount, from The Twilight Zone to Happy Days to Cheers, Twin Peaks and more. They also have plenty of sports programming, but I won’t hold that against them.

Again, it’s more than I’ll ever have time to watch, but for seven bucks a month, it’s a good deal.

These are just my quick observations. In the coming weeks and months I’ll take deeper dives into some of the individual programs on these new streaming services.

That is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.