Should You Switch to Australian Netflix?
There are some Netflix shows we're slapping down our $8.99 for immediately. And then there are some glaring omissions.
March 25, 2015
Folks, it's the happiest time of the year — and it's not Christmas. Netflix has come to town, the streaming video on demand service everyone is always talking about. If you like film and television, prepare to spend more time than you should picking from more movies and shows than you could possibly watch in your lifetime.
But the fact is, having jumped through a number of well-publicised hoops, you might already be using Netflix US. Should you make the switch to the fully legit Australian service?
There's a few factors to consider. Netflix never reveal the extent of their libraries, but more than 1000 titles are available locally. While that's only a fraction of the 8000-plus options on offer in the US, it's still plenty. Between Presto, Stan, Quickflix and Netflix (plus the range of services available with a little IP address masking), we're spoiled for choice. Here are some of the Australian Netflix inclusions and omissions that are swaying our decision.
WHAT YOU SHOULD WATCH
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
Unless you've been trapped in an underground bunker, the name Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt probably rings a bell. The facts: it stars Ellie Kemper from The Office and Bridesmaids, it's the latest sitcom written by 30 Rock's dream team of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, and it might just be your new favourite show. It's not just the earworm of a theme song that gets stuck in your head, but the irreverent sense of humour and can-do attitude, too. The show follows a wide-eyed 30-year-old freshly saved from 15 years in a doomsday cult and now trying to make it in New York City, after all. What more convincing do you need?
It may have made its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February, but Bloodline is actually Netflix's newest release. The latest original drama in the service's growing TV stable only dropped in the US last weekend — that's how fresh it is. Since then, the buzz has been building, particularly about Australia's own Ben Mendelsohn. He's joined by Kyle Chandler proving he's no longer Friday Night Lights' Coach Taylor, plus a cast that rounds up the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Linda Cardellini and Sam Shepard into a tale of family troubles. Just don't expect the standard sibling squabbles, given that the psychological thriller comes from the creators of Damages.
His sitcom-starring days are long gone, and his tell-all biography is his last-ditch attempt at fame, so what's a washed-up talking horse that sounds just like Will Arnett to do? Yes, that's the premise of animated series Bojack Horseman — and it's only the beginning of its offbeat appeal. A whole host of other animals with human traits are in the mix, plus a swag of familiar voices, including Community's Alison Brie and Ken Jeong, as well as Kristen Schaal and Stanley Tucci. Patton Oswalt pops up as a penguin and recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons becomes a turtle, while Aaron Paul plays — what else — a slacker.
VIRUNGA AND OTHER NETFLIX ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARIES
Netflix doesn't just produce television shows — it is also in the movie-making game. Funding new features takes some time, but there's already a stack of slices of real life available to choose from, covering topics as varied as human rights abuses, failed US presidential candidates, and the meaning of manhood. One of them, Virunga, crafts a compelling account of conservation efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a species of mountain gorillas face extinction courtesy of oil exploration, armed conflict and poachers. The heartbreaking film was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature just last month, following in the footsteps of fellow Netflix offering, Egyptian revolution chronicle The Square, the year before.
AZIZ ANSARI: LIVE AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN AND OTHER NETFLIX STAND-UP COMEDY SPECIALS
You like to laugh, we like to laugh, and Netflix likes us all to laugh, clearly. Why else would they stack their library with stand-up comedy specials, featuring all the funny people we know and love, that you can't find anywhere else? Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden is the latest and greatest of the lot, not to mention the perfect antidote to those suffering from Parks and Recreation withdrawals. The Australian catalogue doesn't feature the full suite of comedy sets, but it does include exclusive shows by Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Chelsea Peretti and Sleepwalk with Me's Mike Birbiglia, so we're not complaining.
WHAT YOU CAN'T WATCH
FRIENDS, AND YOUR OTHER FAVOURITE TV COMEDIES
When all 236 episodes and 86 hours of Friends came to US Netflix at the beginning of 2015, fans of the program rejoiced in the thought of revisiting it from start to finish. Binge-watching older TV comedies and catching up on past seasons of newer shows you might have missed has always been one of the drawcards of the service, whether Archer, Portlandia, Peep Show or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is your thing, or something else. All of the above are absent from the Australian lineup, meaning you'd best hang on to your DVDs for now. With more titles added all the time, perhaps you'll soon be marathoning Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Bob's Burgers. Given Netflix was the driving force behind Arrested Development's revival, at least you know they'll always have that — though, curiously Trailer Park Boys isn't available locally, even with the service funding its latest seasons.
KILLER MERMAID, AND OTHER MOVIES YOU WON'T BE SEEING IN MULTIPLEXES
Yup, a movie about a man-eating mermaid actually exists, starring Franco Nero — aka the original Django. No, despite the appeal of the idea, the film isn't very good. But it is this kind of fare that makes Netflix US great for cinephiles with adventurous tastes, or just those looking to stumble across something outside the norm. Cult classics and foreign films that will never make it to a big screen are also typically well served by the service, as well as US indies, such as quite a bit of the work of Joe Swanberg. For now, this level of depth is absent, though the Australian lineup does boast some movies not available elsewhere, particularly local content.
We’re always going to tell you to watch Twin Peaks, but if you want to do so, you best seek it elsewhere. David Lynch’s surreal, small-town series is nowhere to be seen here — well, not in its small screen version. In one of those strange situations that can only be chalked up to rights issues, you can't watch season one or two of the program, which is available in America, but you can watch Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which isn't. Given the kooky twists in the series in question, it actually feels quite fitting. Of course, we'll take some over none any day, especially when the movie sequel-slash-prequel is one of the scariest horror films there is.
FIREPLACE FOR YOUR HOME
Sure, we'll admit that much of Australia doesn't really have the climate for fireplaces for most of the year, but that doesn't mean that we don't want to pretend. Whatever the weather outside, we want to snuggle up on our couches, turn on Netflix, and look at a streamed video of crackling flames — just like it was the real thing. Alas, we can't, with Fireplace for Your Home glaringly absent from the local catalogue. It looks like we'll never know the joy of "a classic tale of logs and fire like you've never seen it before", or its holiday-themed winter wonderland spin-off.
THE MAJORITY OF NEW TV SHOWS
Netflix launching in Australia is certainly a step forward for our film and TV viewing choices; however, it is worth remembering that it isn't the be all and end all of SVOD services. Even in the US, it doesn't carry the newest seasons of the majority of television programs, other than the select few — such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black — Netflix makes themselves. As a catch-up service, there are still plenty of gaps too, including all the HBO shows you've obsessed about for years (sorry Game of Thrones fans). Instead, think of it as a great online library that you can always access — but like its offline counterparts, there's always bound to be something missing.
Image: The stars of Netflix come out for the Netflix Australia launch.
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