February 18, 2017 — Winter’s silver lining is that being trapped indoors much of the time gives you the leisure to experience what we think is the golden age of TV. There has never been the quality and the range of programs that is available right now. Cable and streaming television has become such an exciting place to work that many of the best creative people – actors, directors, producers – are moving to television where they have more opportunities and control than in the movies or network TV. In fact there are so many quality programs to watch that even if you did nothing else you couldn’t keep up. You can try though, as one of the the great things about being retired is that you can stay up as late or get up as early as you want!
One of the hardest parts of deciding what programs to enjoy is deciding where and how to watch them. There are so many options, and they are changing so fast, it is hard to stay current.
Let’s look at the where to watch first, and the choices are endless. Besides the major networks, you have hundreds of cable TV stations, some of which like AMC and FX offer outstanding programs. Most are free with basic cable, others like Showtime, Starz, Epix, HBO, Sling, Itunes, Youtube, etc. are an extra on your cable bill. Then there are the streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, etc. Although the video rental business has pretty much evaporated, there are some left, in addition to hundreds of movies and TV shows available for free at your local library.
How to watch keeps changing. You can get local channels for free with a digital equivalent of rabbit ears, if you live in an urban area. Subscribe to cable and the choices become staggering, depending on how much you want to pay. You can subscribe to the DVD service at Netflix and get almost any TV show you want, although generally not the current season. The streaming services like Netflix, Hulu have gotten pretty easy – you pay a small amount per month and get a lifetime’s worth of programs. With Amazon Prime you pay an annual fee and get to watch an unbelievable amount of content, plus get free shipping on all your Amazon orders.
Smart TVs will let you access these services almost as easily as if you were choosing a TV channel. Or if you don’t have a smart TV, a Blue Ray DVD player does the same thing. Another option is to play the program on your computer, smart phone, or Ipad. You can subscribe to services like HBO Direct TV now and get access to all those cable programs, without paying a cable TV bill. If those screens are too small you can beam the program to your big TV by an HDMI cord or wireless device like Apple TV. For example, if you connect this little device from Apple to an HDMI cable it lets you see what’s on your Iphone on your TV (the Belkin device you see is the HDMI cable).
What to watch
This is the fun part – everybody’s taste is different. One thing we have learned is that with so many choices, you have to be discriminate. Even if your best friend tells you that the show is wonderful, if you are not blown away after 2-3 episodes, move on to the next. There is so much good quality available that you don’t can’t waste it on mediocrity!
The streaming services will recommend shows to you based on what you have watched and how you rated those shows. Generally their recos are pretty good. Your friends are a great source of program ideas. Ask them what they like and within a short time you will get an idea if your tastes are similar. Read the newspaper and online reviews, and watch award shows. With so many shows coming out so fast, even reviewers can’t keep up.
Several online platforms rate television shows. Some that we know of are:
TV Worth Watching with David Biancoulli. This blog has lots of ideas and quality opinion to give you ideas.
Alexander Samuel – TV for Every Occasion. She has an interesting approach to watching TV, by breaking it down into 4 categories:
Dedicated, Multi-tasking, Workout TV, and Family Viewing.
Topretirements has a Pinterest board with some of our favorite Shows for Baby Boomers. Also see our other Pinterest boards while you’re there!
Our top 10 shows (but ask us tomorrow and it might be a different list). Remember, what TV shows you like is highly personal! Experiment and you might find a fabulous show that none of your friends even know about. (put the names of these shows into a search engine to find out how to watch).
The Wire (HBO). Drug trafficking in the slums of Baltimore. The actors from this show did such a great job you see them everywhere in other shows. Tremendous.
The Sopranos (” “). A Mafia man faces “family” issues at home.
Breaking Bad (AMC). High school chemistry teacher makes the best meth on the planet.
Narcos (Netflix). The life of Columbia’s most famous drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, pitted against American agents and set in beautiful Columbia.
Happy Valley (Netflix). Likeable and very human British detective tracks down a ruthless kidnapper.
The Fall (Netflix). Gillian Anderson (X Files) is slowly burning detective in pursuit of a seriously bad serial killer. The sex roles are reversed here in this fine dramatic portrayal.
The Crown (Netflix), Wow, this is great. Queen Elizabeth as a young woman coming to power.
The Americans (FX). An unbelievable good show. You think you have problems juggling multiple priorities – these KGB agents are inserted into America in the 60s, and then they have an almost normal American family.
Downton Abbey (PBS). “Upstairs Downstairs” updated with better costumes, scenery, and plots.
Mad Men (AMC). Jon Hamm (as Don Draper) and the rest of this series re-incarnate the crazy world of 1960s and early 70’s. Your editor was part of that world – but he never had as much fun as Don Draper (thank heavens!)
Homeland (Showtime). President Obama likes this show and so do we do. Great plots and lots of excitement, plus some excellent acting.
What do you like?
This is the best part of the article. Please tell us your favorite shows and where you found them in the Comments section below.
More ideas on how and what to watch:
Best TV Streaming Services