17 December 2014

Kindleholic or not, cancel cable and grab yourself Fire TV

I'm a reader, truly I am. That's why when I moved out here to the sticks several years ago and my former satellite company couldn't find a clear signal, I ditched traditional viewing and set up streaming options. (Yes, this was seven plus years ago, before streaming to television became common and easy.)

I bought a cheapish hard drive and set it up with my "big" and I mean old-fashioned big tv (the ones they don't sell anymore). Then I was seduced a year or two later by a super sale on a 24 inch HDTV at Sam's Club (I know, in the grand scheme of things that's small - but to me, it's still big). Between my Roku box (yes, the original Roku) and my tiny hard drive, I was able to watch all that I wanted.

But then I stopped watching. Between the demands of my job (I practically lived there) and other things, television and movies were a luxury I lost track of. This was highly ironic as part of my job was working on behalf of a theatre company that featured - yes, you guessed it - television actors and writers.

I was clueless about who they were and what their shows were, so I became an expert listening real well to water cooler conversations about what was hot. I was always glad that there were meet & greets at the beginning of the rehearsal process as I never recognize anyone. Really. I. Don't. It's highly embarrassing. Although, in some ways it worked in my favor as everyone was "just folks" to me. I'd see their bios, but it took "meeting them" to really get me to IMDB and YouTube them, and I'd find the person I had been casually joking with had just received an Emmy, or had had a Tony nod. It probably was better I hadn't put those pieces together first or I would have been super intimidated - 'cause I truly am a simple country girl.

Now that I no longer am in that world - and have more time on my hands - I decided (after turning on the television for the first time in years and finding the Roku box had expired) to add to my Amazon Kindle family of devices and purchase an Amazon Fire TV.


It was just after Thanksgiving and there wasn't a sale, so I decided to go with a refurbished box (more expensive than the Fire TV stick, but it came with the remote that offered voice commands). When it arrived the following Monday, it was a super easy set-up process, but low and behold I found that the same "new" Fire TV box was offered for $10 less than the refurbished on on a Cyber Monday deal. I called Amazon and the extra nice customer service rep offered to send me a return slip if I went ahead and purchased the sale box. I did.

When I received the new new Fire TV box I was in heaven. Soon I'd have all those Amazon Prime shows available, plus the other apps (BBC, PBS, Documentary, and Indie films) at my fingertips. But there was something wrong. Nothing streamed correctly and the box keep disconnecting from my internet connection. After a few days of this, I called Amazon and a few calls later, finally reached the tech services department where it seemed it was either my broadband router connection (which I doubted) or it was a glitch in the actual Fire TV box.

Now, this is why I buy from Amazon and did not even consider another Roku device. The Amazon tech rep immediately processed a replacement box for me and expedited it for one day delivery.

Now was third time the charm? Oh my goodness, YES!

There were no problems streaming or loading apps. Everything worked seamlessly. I particularly love the fact that with Miracast I could view any videos that were on my Fire HDX tab on the screen - and they looked great. I no longer would need to used the hard drive to stream most online video as I could now do so with the little old HDX. Sweet!

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The professional in me realized this would also be a fabulous tool for presentations. With the tiny Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Fire HDX tab, and any HDTV easy presentations would be a thing of beauty.

So would I recommend the Fire TV?

Absolutely, particularly if you are an Amazon Prime member. One of the reasons I deliberately hadn't bought it when it was first offered was in the early reviews, there apparently wasn't any easy way to see what was a free Prime offering and what was paid; now there is.

Oh my, did I indulge myself! I watched some Masterpiece theater (Miracast as the shows weren't available on the PBS app, but on my local station). If you have a chance, do check out PD James' take on Elizabeth and Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberly.


That led me to several free British imports available via Prime, including Benedict Cumberbatch in The Last Enemy and Rupert Penry-Jones in Whitechapel (seasons 1, 2, 3).

One of the things I love and hate about Amazon are its suggestions. Sometimes they're right on target, but most of the time I wonder why in the world the algorithms would encourage me to read or watch something so out of my taste range. When I saw one television series pop up again and again after my British fest, I was laughing as it seemed so out of that mold. Ummm, a throwback lawman in a series set in the south? What? Why?

As I explained I cut traditional television off in 2007, and I tended to, surprise, immerse myself in British television, when I did stream series. While I knew about the FX network through someone who worked on American Horror Story, I didn't pay too much attention. So this show, well, I decided to watch it on a whim. I thought it might be funny and hey, it was free and the streaming was great.

For anyone who hasn't guessed, I then went on a Justified (seasons 1, 2, 3, 4) marathon. I couldn't stop watching this show finding myself pulling an all-nighter to finish out season two. This series ROCKS.

I had to know more (now for all you Justified fans out there, you're laughing at me, I know), but this was just the most witty, irreverent, and fabulously well cast and well acted television drama I had seen - ever.

Of course it didn't hurt that the story was inspired by Elmore Leonard, but it was clear that while Leonard is a draw it was the ensemble team that made this show work. I had to know more and soon my rusty skills in tracking down details about the cast and crew were dusted off for an orgy of web searching. Along the way, I discovered that the Brits love this show as much as I do (check out The Guardian).

So, I'm just tuning in on Justified as it's about to tune out with season six (beginning 20 Jan 2015). In some ways, I guess I'm happy about discovering it late in the game. Like reading series books, I have a terrible time waiting for the next installment. Tuning in late? Well, there's really no waiting to be done. And I'd really like to tip the proverbial hat for a creative decision to wrap it up before it went stale. Probably one of the reasons I tuned in to British series that are seemingly more finite than American ones. . . It's really not all about money, but if you're really invested in a work about looking yourself in the mirror. I'll probably shed a tear or two at the conclusion, but at the same time will be searching out the next projects that these folks will lead. Win win for all.

Plus, Justified has made me a huge fan of the FX network. Granted, I'm someone who's pretty squeamish about onscreen violence (I either fast forward or close my eyes), so some of the shows may be a bit much for me. But I've already begun watching The Americans Season 1 . I love the 80s flashback and once again I think I'm hooked.


Oh, I had mentioned that I thought the ensemble acting rocked on Justified. Having now seen four seasons (and probably going to spring for season 5 too), I have to say that season two (featuring Margo Martindale as a clan matriarch) is my favorite to date. I now will watch anything that show runner Graham Yost is a part of. Yes, The Americans, Band of Brothers, and The Pacific are all in my Amazon queue.

On IMDB, I began going through the cast bios one by one and was really curious about what awards the show received. Color me stupefied that the only "show" award seemed to be a Peabody (nothing to sneeze at), but where was the Emmy nod for best drama? It was great to see that both Martindale and Jeremy Davies received an Emmy for their work in season two, but I was amazed that neither Timothy Olyphant or Walton Goggins took home a statuette that night as well. Plus, where was Joelle Carter's nod?

Man, I just adore the back and forth bromance between Olyphant and Goggins. IMHO, their onscreen dynamic actually tends to eclipse their romantic liaisons (my apologies ladies). Plus when Goggins spins out the dialogue, sometimes I feel like Shakespeare arrived in the Kentucky hills.

So, I'm just going to pass along my deepest appreciation to Amazon for turning me on to this and other amazing television and films. If you are considering a streaming device, you should check out the Fire TV stick or box too. (The box is reduced today, so it might be a good time to get that holiday gift.)

Now, I'm going to go back to reading before treating myself to another episode of The Americans. Plus, I'd love your suggestions about some other shows to check into.