Last weekend I finished the 12 seasons of NCIS that are available on Netflix. Not quite a binge watching, but a pretty addicting stretch of TV.

While this isn’t a surprise, I often watch old TV shows and series on Netflix, I usually get to a point where I give up. Either the story line becomes tired and stale, or I get bored, and move on. Rockford Files and Columbo are two examples where I fade away after 5 or 6 seasons.

However, NCIS was different. There are several reasons why I stuck with it (and will likely pick up the 13th season when it hits Netflix.)

The Writing

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Vietnam in HD – History Channel series

I love Netflix streaming. There is a constant stream of recommended shows that are hit and miss. One, “Aliens on the Moon, the Truth” was a miss. However, “Vietnam in HD” was outstanding.

It is a series, 6 episodes (40 minutes each, so originally broadcast, they were hour episodes) of commentary and footage from home movies, journalist cameras, and other sources. The commentary were from veterans, or people who were inextricably linked to the war. Fascinating watching, and once I started I couldn’t turn it off.

Having been born at the beginning of the escalation, it was before my consciousness, so I really had little opinion on the conflict from my direct experience. I of course couldn’t avoid reading about it growing up, but it seemed distant. A conflict to prevent the spread of communism, a domino theory in the cold war between east and west, it seemed remote.

This show dispelled that notion. It starts off with the lead in. The advisors had been in country for a decade (starting in the mid 1950’s) but boots on the ground didn’t commence until 1965.

The story in the first episode about taking hill 875, and the 12:1 ratio of dead Vietcong versus Americans, and how this created the new metric for conflict, the body count.

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Drugs Inc. – An at times brutal view of the drug trade

Life with Netflix Streaming is never dull. As they increase their library, and more importantly, improve their algorithms for matching what I would like, I get some great recommendations. One such recommendations is a show on the National Geographic Channel called Drugs Inc.

Netflix is missing the first season, but I practically binged on the two seasons that are available. In a nutshell, it is a behind the scenes view of the narcotics trade from production, transportation, trafficking, and a look on the users and communities that are the end users.

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Bad TV – Columbo

To be fair, this isn’t really bad TV.

Lieutenant ColumboI love Netflix streaming. It is a great way to while away the hours. I have enjoyed many classic TV series, from Rockford Files, Hawaii 50, and the early Twilight Zones. I get great enjoyment watching these.

I watched all the original Hawaii 50 episodes. I think it was the 8th season when they finally showed it raining in Hawaii (but, ironically, every time McGarrett (Jack Lord) when to the mainland, it was raining there.

Lately, I have been watching the old Columbo episodes. It ran from 1971 and had 7 seasons. The episodes are 1:15 long (so it was a 90 minute show).

What I love:

  • Peter Falk – man, he was a character. Always disheveled, waving that nasty green cigar around. Driving that wreck of a car. An amazing character. In the 3rd season when he picked up the dog (with no name), a bassett hound, I loved it.
  • Interesting plot twists. Of course, they telegraphed the twist up front, so you got to see Columbo work it out.
  • Well shot. For the time period, it was really good cinematography.
  • “There’s one more thing …” – gotta love that line…

What I hate:

  • The criminals are idiots. They all make really basic, stupid mistakes. Of course, you expect criminals to be less than brain surgeons, but they do so many things right, but then do completely bone headed things that trip them up.
  • It all unravels with one pull of the thread. Invariably, there is one piece of incongruent evidence. And bang, Columbo gets them.

Still, I enjoy watching these.  I just started the 4th season, so I will probably keep watching them.

If you haven’t seen it, the movie that makes Peter Falk’s career is “The Inlaws” with Alan Arkin. Totally worth the watch.

I am saddened that Peter Falk passed in 2011, apparently in an advanced stage of Alzheimers. A shame.

How the Twilight Zone Stories hold up

I have been watching the original series of the Twilight Zone from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It has dawned on me that the stories have held up remarkably well a half century on.

At the beginning of widespread broadcast TV, the Twilight Zone was a trend setter.
At the beginning of widespread broadcast TV, the Twilight Zone was a trend setter.

First, they were prolific. 35 episodes a season, where today a show struggles to deliver 12 or 14 episodes. Of course, this was possible as the sets were simple, the stories weren’t contiguous, and the actors were changed often. Rod Serling is a consistent thread though, and he was the driving force.

Second, the episodes were 26-ish minutes. Today, a 30 minute show yields about 22 minutes of footage.

Third, there was a revolving door of great actors. Burgess Meredith, Jack Klugman, Don Rickles, William Shatner, and others. They brought a lot of talent, and fun to the show.

Time travel, magic gift sacks, aliens, nuclear armageddon were staples of the show, but not the major props in the episodes. The stories were solid, and have been repeated over and over again in shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, and many more.

Good stuff, and the iconic image of Rod Serling, smoking his Pall Mall.

The good and the bad about Netflix streaming

I will come out and say it, I love Netflix streaming video. I like being able to watch what I want, without having to fiddle with the queue to get the right disk sent next.

I have really enjoyed watching some of the series I used to watch while growing up, and that is where the “bad” comes in. Of course, I remember Knight Rider being pretty awesome. But it is completely ‘meh’ now. Cheesy special effects, and David Hasselhof is an annoying a-hole.

I did enjoy watching all the “Rockford Files”.  I loved that show when I was a kid, and I still enjoyed watching the episodes. Lots of fun.

But it isn’t all roses. I was a huge fan of the X-Files when it was first run. I kind of drifted away after the 4th season, and sporadically caught an episode or two.  Lately, I re-watched them on Netflix, and being able to get through 2-3 episodes at a sitting, you can almost see in real time the Shark being jumped.  Of course this reminds me of why I drifted away (it had become all too predictable, and boring) in the first place.

I just wish that they would get the agreements in place to greatly increase the available movies. For one, I hate not being able to queue up all the James Bond flicks for a marathon. But even some old classics like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff” aren’t in their library, except by disk.