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Essay

The new TV

By Patrick St. Michel

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I've developed a weekend ritual this year I've come to enjoy. I wake up, eat breakfast, do some chores and then plant myself in front of my TV for about three or four hours. I'm not checking out regular Japanese stations, however. I spend large amounts of my days off watching shows on video streaming services Netflix and Hulu.

It wasn't always this way. One year ago, I'd actually leave my apartment come Saturday to go do something outside. But then my wife and I paid for Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. Suddenly, we had seemingly endless hours of television shows and movies to watch, ranging from old cartoons to relatively recent movies. It isn't all good — a large chunk of it is less than stellar entertainment. But there's so much stuff available, it becomes easy to just become absorbed by whatever. I've found myself watching documentaries about five-star restaurants, despite knowing I will probably never eat at any of them.

This has become commonplace in the United States. Once these platforms started allowing users to stream media from their computers or televisions, people started bingeing on TV shows and movies. New series popping up on these services even played to this type of viewership, with every episode of a single season being uploaded all at once. In the past, you had to tune in every week to see what would happen in your favorite show. Now, you can burn through it all in one 18-hour block, if you so choose.

Although it isn't the healthiest way to spend two days off, there are some clear benefits to bingeing on Netflix or Hulu. Being able to watch what you want when you want to is very convenient. Plus, a lot of these streaming services have started creating original entertainment that is extremely absorbing. Shows such as Netflix's Orange Is the New Black or House of Cards are better than anything you can find on terrestrial TV, complete with exquisitely shot footage and constant cliffhangers that keep you glued to the screen.

Recently, Japanese creators have gotten in on the streaming content boom. One of the most talked-about new shows of the season is Hibana (Spark), a drama that can only be seen on Netflix. It is based on the celebrated novel by Naoki Matayoshi, and has received attention both domestically and internationally. And it won't be the last — more programming is expected, including for Amazon's streaming service.

Whatever the shows end up being about, I'm sure I'll end up watching them on my weekend, whether I really like them or not.

新しいテレビ

映画やドラマをオンラインでストリーミング配信するNetflix(ネットフリックス)と Hulu(フールー)に会員登録した筆者。面白い番組ばかりではないが、週末は画面の前にくぎ付けになってしまう。

The Japan Times ST: July 8, 2016

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2018年6月1日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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