It’s time for the third instalment of ‘the unplanned’, courtesy of the “You Might Also Like” function. This time, I’ll be letting Showmax’s algorithm decide what I watch next. (Read the Netflix edition here, and explore Prime Video here.)
I’ll be the first to admit than when Showmax landed I wasn’t overly convinced. With the exception of one or two shows, it felt like the local streaming platform was offering everything left over from Netflix, along with some local shows. Along with the time I was convinced that my flight from Upington would crash somewhere in the Kalahari, this is one of the cases in which I’m very happy to have been wrong. And it’s a pleasure to admit it!
Showmax has risen in stature and content, competing with the gusto of an under-15 rugby team from Fouriesburg, slugging it out with the 1st Team of Generic Joburg Private School. And they are giving them quite the run for their money.
Look, the one thing Showmax needs to pay some attention to is the user interface. In terms of ease of use it does lag behind Netflix quite a bit. But in terms of content, that is like complaining about the Fouriesburg fullback running into the uprights after scoring a try. It sucks, but it doesn’t matter.
In terms of content, they arrived at the party and they seem to be pulling all the stunning girls and the handsome blokes.
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Now, some similarities thrown out by the Showmax algorithm are not necessarily obvious. Survivor, Barry and Game of Thrones are not the kind of shows that would normally share a table at a wedding. Especially a Red one. You’ve got “Try to live with and outwit your teammates” vs “Try to outwit a broody assassin stuck in a mid-life crisis” vs “Just try to survive”. But these all fall under the category New On Showmax, so don’t fear that true randomness will disappear from your viewing pleasure when you start with one of these.
However, my couch trip started on the landing page. Sticking to the see-it-and-click-on-it methodology I started with Logan Lucky.
It’s a caper comedy, it’s a heist movie, it’s wacky and very well done. And it stars Daniel Craig. The man might have been born to play Bond, but his deep Southern jailbird is also a good character to pull out of the hat.
If Mr Craig’s slightly over-the-top performance gets too much, rather indulge in the bromantic energy between Channing Tatum and Adam Driver that drives this romp. Under the direction of Steven Soderbergh this is a great one to sit back and relax with.
Fun Fact: Adam Driver and Daniel Craig previously appeared together in Star Wars Episode VII – A New Hope. Did you miss it? Probably. Because while Driver was pretty obvious as Kylo Ren, Craig donned a stormtrooper outfit for his uncredited part.
Moving on, I glanced at the suggestions and realised that starting with a movie has sent me on a path of more movies, whereas my previous journeys of random viewing were very much documentary and reality shows. My choices were GI Joe: Retaliation, The Italian Job, Seven Psychopaths, Bandidas, Inside Man, Jerusalema and (whoohoo) G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Obviously stuck in movie-limbo, I returned to the home screen and randomly clicked on the first series I saw: Barry.
This is a great show to indulge in for a bit. Bill Hader takes the comic zaniness he delivered in Saturday Night Live and steers it across the road into the oncoming traffic of the dark side. A show about a career killer who decides to change his ways could be a gut-wrenching journey into the shadows of the soul. But if you make him go to LA and decide to become an actor, it’s suddenly more dark satire than psychological thriller. Throw in beloved actor Henry Winkler and you’ve got pretty much all the ingredients for a great watch. Binge-worthy for sure!
Fun Fact: The show’s creators were insistent that the violence not be glorified or romanticised for the sake of comedy. In fact, the cast was shown real footage of people being shot in order to play the death scenes more accurately.
After enjoying this great series for a bit, I clicked back to the home screen on a quest for more randomness.
How to start with a truly clean slate? Well, I remember coming home once and catching the end of “Midnight Hot” on Fashion TV. Remember that? If not, good for you. If you do, sies man! So I searched “fashion” – the only result was “Sex and the City”. Again, a series. Not really a fit.
Going for “Reality” as a search term brought up pretty much the opposite of Sex and the City.
Gigolos. I’m not going to pretend that I watched this, but here’s the description if this might be your cup of tea: Adults only! “This addictive reality show follows the uncensored lives of five male escorts in Sin City. They all work for the same agency, Cowboys4Angels, and their day-to-day jobs put them in some compromising positions. This content contains scenes and themes of an adult nature. Viewer discretion is advised.”
And in the suggestions below? Movie, movie, series… There goes my algorithm-busting theory. But wait, there’s actually one unscripted show. Well, as unscripted as reality television gets. It’s Coach Trip! Oh yes, this is the good stuff. A team-based reality show with couples, friends and family hitting the road on a holiday across Europe – destination: Ibiza. Brits at their best by behaving at their worst. Whatever antics the contestants get up to, the real entertainment lies in Brendan Sheerin who acts as tour guide. It’s safari-suit oom meets friendliest Venga-Uber driver ever meets Nataniel. Knowledgeable, zealous and enigmatically strange all rolled into one.
So, if there’s one thing this journey taught me it’s not only that Showmax channel hops with the best of them, but that in terms of content it’s competing 100% with any other platform. Especially when you’re in the mood for some local content. From Mzanzi’s The Ranakas to kykNet’s Boer Soek ‘n Vrou.
If you’re not ready to commit to 100% unadulterated randomness, Showmax has a unique bundle feature. Shows and movies are presented in Showmax Collections alongside similar shows. There are collections from networks (i.e. The HBO Collection), a Man Cave Collection and even a collection of SAFTA-winning shows. It doesn’t get local-der or lekker-der than that!
There’s definitely something on Showmax to keep you clicking away on your couch.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to Coach Trip to see whether the pitch and frequency of some contestants’ accents correlate with the rate at which they are voted off …