Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Tag Archives: Netflix

Dear Netflix

Dear Netflix:

I thought you were different.

I’ve been an ardent supporter of the Netflix brand almost from the start. Well before on-line viewing became more the norm than the exception. Well before your original content made you a serious threat to cable TV. You created binge watching, everyone’s new favorite way to watch TV. And you gave us shows we couldn’t find anywhere else.

Sense8 was one of those shows.

Look, I’m a businesswoman. I get it. I knew Sense8 was unlikely to get the full 5-season arc the creators seemed to want. It’s an expensive show to make — hugely expensive. And it’s super edgy, although well loved for all that.

But while you can’t fully make business decisions based on emotions, you can’t ignore them either. Businesses who can only see numbers and fail to take into account the human element lose big in the long run. I know you know this, Netflix. All I have to do to understand how well you know this is look at your forward-thinking policies on parental leave. It’s a visionary way to support your employees and help them become happier and more productive.

Customers, too, need to feel supported.

Networks have poisoned their viewership through decades of releasing and retracting shows, often with no warning or closure. It has made the consumer wary of investing in new shows, and it has fueled their decision to head to services like Netflix where they can binge watch a guaranteed number of episodes at a time and where, up until now, even the shows with less popularity regularly got renewed.

Look, I’m not saying that you should renew a show costing $9 million per episode for 3 more years. All I’m saying is this: Give us closure.

Closure could be achieved in a two-hour movie. Or one last season. Or something in between.

Closure will give you something more, too. More than fan satisfaction. It will build trust with your audience.

Trust. Something NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and all the other networks lost long ago. It’s the reason I won’t start watching a show on those networks before it’s been out for at least 2, preferably 3 seasons.

Trust isn’t something you can put a price tag on. If you can become the network that will finish things, if at all possible, even if it’s not in the best, most idealistic way, then your audience will expand by leaps and bounds as more and more viewers decide, “What the heck? I’ll give it a try” to every new show that comes along.

I hope you will seriously consider lending closure to the most fantastic TV show ever produced and in so doing, send a message to your viewers that you know TV watching is more than a business to them. It’s an emotional investment.

Sincerely,

A concerned viewer

Travelers Season 1

Canada is once more proving that they’ve got game when it comes to science fiction television shows. This joint Canadian/Netflix venture was an easy binge watch with an instantly hooky premise and a great cast.

So sometime in the future, things are bad. “Travelers” jump back to modern time by rewriting the brain of some poor schmuck who’s about to die anyway … in an accident or some other preventable way. The future depends upon the age of computers to accurately record the places, times, and mechanisms of these deaths. (The answer to the question: “Why don’t you kill Hitler?” which did come up.) Not all travelers land safely. The journey comes with risks, and there is a real chance of dying.

Of course, our five heroes have no problems … at least, no problems arriving. One ends up dealing with his host’s heroine addiction while another learns that her host had a serious mental disability which essentially means she’s going to die (host brain can’t handle it).

They’re on a mission to save the future, and they’re not the only ones here. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about this story: You get a sense of a much bigger pictures and of a carefully orchestrated scheme. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

I have 1 complaint about this show. It’s something I didn’t fully know how to put into words until the very end of the season, although I sensed something a little off nearly from the start.

We know almost nothing about these characters’ lives before they jumped to the present (their past).

There’s a great deal of story and character development in the here and now, but the fact that we don’t have a solid backstory, or any backstory at all, makes it hard to understand the true stakes of the situation. I know they’re intentionally trying to keep the future murky, but this strategy backfires on someone like me who thrives on character motivation. Why did they risk everything to come back? What did they leave behind? Was any of it good? Who they are is more than who they have become; it began in their past (in the future).

I hope season 2 will address this gaping hole. I definitely plan to watch and find out!

I’d give this a solid 4/5 starts and recommend it to scifi fans.

Lemony Snicket Season 1

Image result for lemony snicket netflix

Finally, a Netflix original show that is not only great entertainment for me, but great to watch with the whole family! The Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the bestselling books, which I have not read. But I don’t feel like I missed anything by going straight to the cinematic adaptation. These shows were riveting.

First, I have to recognize the fantastic cast. Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is simply meant to be, but he does not carry the show on his own. The child actors, Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes, were brilliant, and not even just for their ages. I hope to see these two in a lot more in the future. Patrick Warburton as the title character and narrator, Lemony Snicket himself, delivers a wonderful deadpan with hints of real emotion beneath. And on and on. Most of the acting here is overacting, but done to perfection.

Now on to the story: I’ve never sat down to watch a show and been told right off the bat not to watch. Brilliant reverse psychology! The story is intentionally far-fetched and the general tone is, in fact, one of despair. Yet there are moments of levity and somehow the absurdity strikes just the right chord.

This series was just a bit intense for my 8-year-old, thought I suspect she’ll watch it again and enjoy it. My 11-year-old was a bit iffy for the first 2 episodes, but then demanded that we binge-watch the rest in a single weekend. My 8-year-old is prone to being a bit oversensitive and she tends to like shows better the second time she watches them, so my guess is that most 8-year-olds would be okay with this. Just know your kid. I wouldn’t recommend this for children much younger than 8.

My New Favorite Scifi Series: Sense8

I have a new all-time favorite science fiction series.

Snese8, which I binge watched over the last week-and-a-half on Netflix, has ousted Babylon 5 from the coveted #1 spot that it held in my heart for over 15 years. J. Michael Straczynski had a hand in both, and there are some similarities in what I love about each, though they are entirely different concepts.

What is Sense8?

First and foremost, Sense8 is a character story. And you all know by now that I am a character girl. In fact, for much of the series the speculative element (the scifi or otherworldly component for those who are not familiar with the lingo) took a backseat to the development of characters and connections.

The premise is not simple, but let me do my best: Eight unique individuals from around the world are suddenly reborn into a cluster. They can share one another’s thoughts, feelings, and memories. They can “visit” with one another (mentally). They can even share one another’s bodies and in so doing share skills.

So there are 8 main characters?

Yes, and dozens of important secondary characters! When I first read about the concept for this show I didn’t know how they could pull it off. How would I keep the characters straight? And how would television portray a largely mental connection?

With these doubts in my mind, I watched the first episode. And do you know what? By the end of the first episode, I didn’t know all their names, but I knew all 8 characters and a little something about them. There aren’t any two who are remotely alike. The creators used a bit of a cheat at first — something I’m familiar with from writing fiction. When you want to introduce a large number of characters at first, you find one important, distinctive characteristic to start from and build upon that. You can even start with something stereotypical, although to avoid cliches you need to build on that. And they did!

Netflix

It is now important to give some credit to Netflix, the one place a show like this could have possibly happened. The show is accused (somewhat accurately) of having a slow pace. Well, there are 8 different primary viewpoints!

But let’s face it, if this show had needed to string viewers along from week to week, it never would have worked. This show is the epitome of what binge watching is for. In fact, if you don’t have time to finish it within the next 2-3 weeks, don’t start watching! Ideally, you could watch it in a weekend, but some of us have jobs and kids and things. 🙂

This isn’t a show you can judge on any single episode. This season was chapter 1 — forming connections. By the end of the first season I know all 8 characters extremely well and I care deeply about their problems. And finally, by the end of season 1, the sense8 are working together, giving us a sense for what it means to be a sense8 cluster.

I told you — it’s not a simple concept. It wasn’t simple for these characters to suddenly belong to a cluster either. It took them time to be fully reborn and understand what they are (although there are still some questions there).

Twelve episodes. One long chapter. But they’re all right there, waiting for you.

Content Warning

Much like HBO, there are no rules regarding content on Netflix. So be prepared to see things you never imagined you’d see on TV. Aside from cursing and violence (which are sadly mainstream), there is sex, nudity (as in full frontal female AND male — kudos for being fair!), and other intimate details you might not have expected.

To be fair to the show, they are presenting the concept that a group of 8 people have somehow just become like one, sharing even the most intimate and private moments. Believe me, this came across!

Watch this show!

What are you waiting for? If you have kids, make sure they’re asleep, if you don’t, just go watch it!

TV Review: Orange is the New Black Season 1

"Orange Is the New Black" Season 2 debuts in June, and if the first photos are any indication, the Litchfield women are in for another bumpy ride.

A unique, dramatic, and entertaining show!

I’ve been hearing about “Orange is the New Black” for a while now but I’m often slow to pick up on new shows, especially when they’re “out of genre” for me (science fiction and fantasy). But the world is full of entertaining stories and this is certainly one of them.

Piper Chapman is sent to prison ten years after committing the crime of transporting heroin. At the time, she was involved in a relationship with a woman who was part of an international drug cartel. Now she’s about to get married and is trying to start a business. But someone said something to someone about her ten-year-old transgression and she has to do the time — 15 months.

The first episode was a little hard to follow, to be honest, A series of poorly constructed flashbacks made it confusing, although the back story did turn out to be important as at the end of episode one, we discover that Piper’s ex-girlfriend is also in prison with her.

After the first episode, the flashbacks get far less frequent and more manageable. Many of them help explain what the various other main characters are doing in prison, and they add depth to the ongoing situation.

There is no shortage of drama! Piper starts out by sticking her foot in her mouth and insulting the food, which leads to her being deprived of food for several days. A crazy woman decides that Piper is her “wife” and gets a bit scary. Over time, Piper’s relationship with her fiance on the outside gets seriously strained while her relationships on the inside have her calling into question who she is.

This show is classified as a comedy/drama, but I believe that is a misclassification. It’s a drama. There are some humorous moments, as in life, but the primary goal of the show is not comedy. It is far more thought-provoking than funny. And as a drama, it is definitely a winner!

I highly recommend this show. Adult viewers only.