Channel hopping in the age of streaming: Netflix edition
It’s something you used to do mostly by yourself. It’s about laying back and letting your finger take you to places you had no idea existed, never mind visited.
Okay, this is getting weird.
I’m referring to the lovely pastime known as channel hopping. Remember that? When you had no idea what to watch and kept clicking “P+” until something unexpected caught your eye.
Thanks to streaming you can now watch whatever you want without swearing under your breath that you wouldn’t have missed the first 15 minutes if it wasn’t for the nosey neighbuor who wanted you to try her homemade “vetkoek” with bits of tomato and cheese hidden inside the oily little cholesterol bombs. (I used to live in a very strange part of Joburg, okay?)
Now we have everything to choose from and the ability to watch it whenever we want. So why do I miss the days of clicking away? Am I really longing for meaningless content? Do I have a deep-rooted desire to waste time on stuff I don’t like? Nope. It’s the thrill of discovery. The excitement of stumbling upon something I didn’t know about. Or had completely forgotten about.
Why do I miss the days of clicking away? Am I really longing for meaningless content? Do I have a deep-rooted desire to waste time on stuff I don’t like? Nope. It’s the thrill of discovery.
Does the dawn of streaming mean that it’s no longer possible to make accidental finds? Not at all. On the contrary, it’s easier! Thanks to sites like The Plum List, you know what’s hot out there. But using streaming services’ built-in suggestion features, it’s still possible to be pleasantly surprised by shows you would never have found yourself.
Welcome to a three-part series in which I venture down the rabbit hole of automated algorithmic content suggestions, by streaming service.
How good are Netflix’s content suggestions?
I started with Mythbusters. Classic stumbled-upon entertainment from my couch-bound bachelor days. Although only Seasons 4 and 5 are currently available on the South African platform, it’s always a jol to see the walrus-looking guy and his crazy friend try their hand at tall tales and urban myths.
Random Fact: The company owned by the Mythbusters is called M5 Industries. When Adam Savage suggested the name, he was thinking of superspy James Bond’s secret service branch and got it wrong. Mr Bond works for MI6.
Selecting the “More Like This” option gives some predictable choices.
The White Rabbit Project is a Mythbusters spin-off starring former interns Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci, and Kari Byron. They “investigate events from pop culture, science and history”. Only one season was ever made, so I veered away, also skipping West Coast Customs and Super-Fan Builds – I prefer cars crashing rather than being built, and to be honest, I don’t even own a car.
So I went for the fourth suggestion on the list: Death By Magic.
Death By Magic sees Drummond Money-Coutts take on some major magic tricks that didn’t go according to plan. The first episode is set in South Africa and the familiarity made it very watchable. Some sleight of hand tricks with locals fill up the show in the build-up to the big, possibly fatal finale. Although, knowing that there’s a whole series ahead kind of spoils the “Is he going to make it?” effect that the show is trying to go for.
It’s almost the opposite of Titanic: you already know how it’s not going to end. The tricks are great and the production is slick. And you get to smirk a bit when he travels to a town “a couple of hours outside Cape Town” and ends up in the middle of the Free State.
- Verdict: Maybe it’s because he looks like the main character from the Hitman games, maybe it’s because he takes himself too seriously. For whatever reason, I didn’t find myself enthralled or sucked in.
Random Fact: Drummond Money-Coutts is from some seriously posh English stock. He’s the heir apparent to the Latymer Barony. This means his dad is a proper baron and the first thing young Drummond made disappear was probably a smile from his father’s face when he laid out his career plans…
The next suggestion that caught my eye was Magic for Humans.
For some reason Super-Fan Builds was first again. Maybe the universe is telling me I need a car. And I have to build it myself. Now this is more like it! Street magic. Very impressive street magic. Justin Willman is likeable, relatable, funny. And very good at what he does.
- Verdict: On a night with only my sad thoughts and remote for company, this is the show that would make me sit back, put down the remote and enjoy my party-size pack of crisps all by myself.
Random Fact: Justin Willman’s mother suggested the stage name Justin Kredible. This was the name he used when trying his luck on the third episode of 30 Seconds To Fame in 2002.
In a couple of clicks I found something I might otherwise have ignored. With some hits and some misses, sometimes it’s good to just let go and see where the adventure takes you.
Tune in next time to see where the Showmax and Amazon Prime algorithms lead our intrepid couch potato on his streaming “channel hopping” adventures.