Amazon vs Netflix: iPad App Viewing Experience

I only subscribe to Netflix when there’s a show I want to watch, which lately means a new season of Longmire or House of Cards. Being a month out from the later – read my thoughts on season four here – I logged in tonight to cancel until Longmire comes out in September.

For the last year and a half, Amazon Prime has been my streaming provider of choice. You could debate which one has the better television library. Prime has the HBO library, I think Netflix has more Showtime archives (it’s an add-on to Prime). Netflix probably has more heralded original content with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black compared to Transparent as Prime’s most notable show. Unless you consider The Man in the High Castle notable for being awful. Prime definitely tops Netflix for streaming movies. The point is, which has the better streaming library depends on what you want to watch.

But after using both, it’s definitively the case that the Prime viewing experience in the iPad is far superior to Netflix. Here is a screenshot comparison.

Prime has several overlay options for navigation and information. You can hop forward or backward by 10 seconds while Netflix only lets you go backward. Both let you turn on closed captioning, and Netflix has an option to jump straight to a different episode (upper right, to the left of closed captioning).

From there, Prime leaves Netflix in the dust. Prime has an awesome overlay feature it calls X-Ray. Powered by the IMDB, X-Ray delivers everything IMDB knows about what you’re watching: actors, music, trivia and characters. It’s a fantastic feature, especially if you’re the, “Hey, wasn’t she in…” type. Which I am. I enjoyed it most when I was watching X-Files, which I eventually gave up because it was boring. But before that I swear every episode had an actor who went on to appear in some other show I watch. It’s like the Bill Walsh coaching tree of television.


Netflix House of Cards Season 4 Screenshot


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You’ll notice the second Prime screenshot is when using Airplay to send it from the iPad to Apple TV. Lack of an Apple TV app is Prime’s biggest shortcoming if you’re in the Apple universe, but Airplay works just fine and an app is surely coming.

This isn’t intended to be a total Prime vs Netflix comparison because that would surely entail a much deeper look at their catalogues and pricing. But if you are keeping track at home, Prime has one feature Netflix can’t match: Offline viewing. Prime lets you download TV episodes and movies to your device to watch offline, such as in the car, on the bus or at the gym. Netflix isn’t doing this, for the most preposterous reasons you can imagine.  Basically it thinks you’re too stupid and lazy to do it.

I won’t be re-upping with Netflix until the Longmire season five (season four ended with someone breaking into Walt’s house while he and his GF were getting friskay). Until then I’ll enjoy the superior viewing experience Prime offers and wondering why Netflix is so far behind.

Walt Shot WHO?! Longmire Returns For Season 4

What a joy it is to get to write about a fourth season of Longmire! I was among the legions of fans scorching A&E on social media after the once-proud network announced it would not renew one of its most highly rated programs. It did not help itself by suggesting the reason for giving it the ax was that the demographic was too old. Netflix, that stalwart brand among the world’s aged, came to our rescue and released Longmire’s 10-episode fourth season on September 10.

I probably was not alone in fearing it would come back unrecognizable, but as I watched it last weekend I realized my assumption was not giving Netflix enough credit. You might expect a drastic change had Longmire gone from A&E to, say, Velocity. But Netflix has such a broad appeal that it does not need to typecast its own programming. So please accept my apologies, Netflix, for assuming the worst of you.

The evolutions apparent in season four were those of a show maturing beyond its original storylines. We dealt with three season’s of Walt pursuing vengeance for Martha’s death, and in season four Walt dealt with it himself. It seemed a tad rushed to have the arrows point to Barlow Connally so quickly in Walt’s house but the drama and Walt’s final decisive act delivered a worthy end to his founding storyline.

Many shows fail to make the pivot toward a new arch and meet a slow demise. Some argue this happened with Lost after season two. I would submit (and will in a later post) that Person of Interest faces this imminent danger. Based on other changes we saw in season four I feel comfortable that the brains behind Longmire have a plan. It is going to be a challenging one for fans to accept, but it beats not having Longmire at all.

The biggest and most jarring part of the plan, delivered in the outstanding opening scenes, is life in Absaroka County with out Branch. I give big props to the storytellers for coming up with a better way to reveal his death than simply picking up where season three ended. (There is probably no way A&E gets to visualize Branch’s final reaping pose the way Netflix could.) I also liked the decision to give uncertainty to his replacement, I think some instability in the previously stable sheriff’s office will leave the show plenty of avenues to explore (although hopefully better than will Vic hookup with anyone).

The other major changes that set the show for future seasons are the ones I think will challenge Longmire’s most devoted fans: The evolution of two of our favourite characters. Everyone loves the occasionally stumbling Ferg and pulls for him to become a great deputy. A lot of the Ferg love comes from his loyalty to Walt, but this season challenged that loyalty. A sheriff like Walt needs loyalty if he is going to be sheriff the way he wants to be sheriff. If Deputy Ferguson wavers he could replace Branch as the source of Walt’s foil. That would be a benefit to the Ferg character but leave fans torn between two favourites. Drama!

“It is another beautiful day at the Red Pony bar and continual soirée.” I do not know if his perfectly timed dry wise cracks or the absence of contractions in his speak pleasures me more, but I just love Henry Standingbear. He was Walt’s conscience in the most crucial moments of his quest to appease Martha, including in a fun scene from the season premier. But there has always been the sense that he could break bad if he had to, and at times this season it looked like he would. He is in the hands of Mathias now. The character feels like it could go either way – back to good or breaking bad.

Speaking of Mathias, I was very happy to see things thaw between him and Walt and between Nighthorse and Walt. The way things went early in the season I was full of dread that the show would turn into Walt versus the Indians. I think it is a better show when Walt and Mathias get along and he and Nighthorse at least do not completely hate each other.

There was a small moment in the thawing of their relationship that I think really filled in Walt’s character. Facing off in the casino, Nighthorse pledged to work with Walt on a case only if Walt apologized for blaming him for Martha’s murder. Walt did not flinch and gave a true apology, Nighthorse accepted. I think it revealed both characters as inherently good now that I think about it.

We love Longmire of course because we love Walt, so it was charming to see him try to put the moves on Dr. Monahan, played by the incomparably beautiful Ally Walker. Walt’s relationship with the famous author felt like kind of a fling that was too good for a Wyoming lawman to last. This one seems like they can make it into a real relationship. With the two of them entwined as someone broke into Walt’s house to end the season it seems like it will be.

Which brings us to the only thing I was frustrated with in season four: Vic. The season began with her heading to Walt’s house with a sixer of Ranier and I was like “Well I guess that is where it is going.” Then it disappeared until the season finale. Wut? In that way it felt like Vic herself completely disappeared. She had been the focus of previous seasons so maybe they decided to give her a year off, or maybe they wanted to keep her constant with so many other characters in transition.

I binged all 10 episodes of season four over the weekend, and there is no word on if or when we’ll see a season five. So now we wait.

Spring 2012 TV review

Using one word to sum up the shows I watched this television season.

Terra Nova: Failed.

Terra Nova could have been outstanding, instead it’s off the air. That is disappointing but not surprising. Even thought it was ridiculously expensive, FOX said it made money off the show internationally and hinted it would try to sell the show to a different network or possibly Netflix. Netflix however announced it would not buy the show. Still, FOX is reportedly keeping everyone under contract in case the show does find a second life. Should that happen, the show needs a ton of work to become anything remotely worth anyone’s time.

Alcatraz: Lame.

Jorge Garcia is, like, adorable on television, dude. But Alcatraz sucked. Bad. The main character, a female cop lured into investigating the sudden reappearance of Alcatraz prisoners, was horribly miscast. Do real cops show that much cleavage or just TV cops? She was not believable for even one second. Sam Neil’s character was kinda interesting, but not nearly interesting enough to keep the show afloat. There was some interesting stuff here, though. Sam Neil’s character being a guard at the prison when whatever happened to it happened served as a nice tie-in to the story’s two time periods. His Richard Alpert-esque kinda-sorta love interest who was brutally shot and laid in a coma also set the groundwork for something that could have been very compelling. But on an episode-by-episode basis the show seemed to forget all of that.

BUT…I like to Google shows while I’m writing about them. In so doing I read about what happened in the season finale and I have to say I’m stunned. Stunned to the point where I might have to go back and pick up where I left off to see how it all turned out.

Revenge: Unexpected.

Just as Revenge was heating up, ABC inexplicably put it on one of its moronic hiatuses, although at only six weeks this one is shorter than the break that did in Flash Forward. The storyline had finally come back to the engagement party it started with in the pilot. I felt it was a little cheap, but still pretty good. It will have to transition from the summer-in-the-Hamptons setting that it used to augment the soap opera feeling, but I’m looking forward to what it has in store for when ABC eventually lets it back on the air.

Once Upon a Time: Disappointing.

The first two episodes of Once Upon a Time were really neat. Then it kinda wandered. The premise of an evil fantasy witch trapping real-life versions of fairytale characters in an idyllic seaside town is creative and fun. But then it seemed the show wasn’t even about that anymore. The first few episodes had clear connections between what happened in fantasy land and what happened in Storybrooke. After that it flattened out. It is so uninteresting now that I wonder why I even continue to watch it. Adam Horowitz and Mankato native Edward Kitsis earned a lot of loyalty from their work on Lost, but even that is slowly running out. This show needs to pick it up, fast, or else it’s off the list.

Awake: Intriguing.

I hadn’t even heard about this NBC show (maybe because it is on NBC) until Damon Lindelof tweeted about how much he liked the pilot. So I checked it out and damn if it ain’t really well done and really intriguing. The premise is this: An LA cop is in a car crash with his wife and teenage son. He wakes up to find his wife survived but his son died. But then he goes to sleep and wakes up in a completely different timeline where his wife died but his son survived. This is intriguing enough, but the way they weave together the cases he works on in both realities adds a second layer of interest that is really cool. On top of that they add two psychiatrists – one in each reality – who each try to convince him that what he experiences is the other reality is not, in fact, reality at all.

Awake has “it.” It is the rare show that takes a good story and makes it even better through perfect storytelling. Which reality is real? Both? Neither? What’s the deal with his wife-reality boss hinting that the accident wasn’t an accident at all? If there’s a mention of that in his son-reality timeline, I missed it. Does that mean it is the fake one? This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.

American Horror Story: Compelling.

Person of Interest: Exceeding.

The River: Stupid.