When people say Netflix, they are often referring in general to the range of online platforms streaming films and TV series, and such services came into their own during the lockdown. In our house, the Playstation, the device we use to access such services, worked harder than a health professional in a busy hospital. I take my hat off to Sony because the PS4 never let us down. On some days, my daughter would binge on five straight episodes of Gilmore Girls before my son would take over and proceed to play Fortnite with his friends for three hours.
I was the only one in the family who didn’t hammer the PS4 or online platforms, although it wasn’t, as you might think, because I was too busy reading Ovid in the original Latin. The truth is that I tried really hard to start clearing the long backlog of films and series that had built up on my list in recent months, but it proved far easier said than done, and in the end I didn’t get to see anything.
A big fan of George RR Martin’s fantasy book series, I stopped watching Game of Thrones at season five in the (I now realise overly optimistic) expectation that the next book would be out soon, allowing me to read it before getting back to the TV adaptation. Sadly, we’re still waiting for the book, and so I thought, what the hell, I’ll take advantage of the lockdown and watch the remaining seasons. Then I discovered that it’s on HBO, which we don’t have.
Undeterred, I smoothly transitioned to plan B: another TV adaptation of a book series I love: Hilary Mantel’s novels about the life of Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. The last installment in the trilogy was out in March and after devouring the book in a week, I instantly went cold turkey. With hands trembling as the withdrawal symptoms set in, I couldn’t open Netflix quick enough, only to find that the BBC series Wolf Hall isn’t on Netflix, it’s on Filmin, which we don’t have (by the way, we have an interview with the founder of Filmin on pages 32 and 33).
Changing tack, I thought I might have more success with a film, and for some reason I’ve had a hankering to rewatch The Road, with Viggo Mortensen, a movie I loved when I first saw it and as it’s a (quite exquisite) portrayal of a dying world in which humanity has been all but wiped out, it seemed just the thing to cheer me up at a time like this. Back to Netflix I went and, you guessed it, they didn’t have it. But it was on Amazon Prime, and I do have that. Victory! I settled down to watch it with my son, but a minute in I realised it was in Spanish. Not to worry, my son assured me, he’d change the language to the original in a jiffy and we’d be back in business. Except the only two language options available were Spanish and Catalan. You’re joking? It was filmed in English and they literally don’t have to do anything to it to offer it in its original language!
How about The Mandalorian, my son suggested? We’re both big Star Wars fans so it seemed a good call. Except that it’s only on Disney+, which we don’t have.
I gave it one more try. A blockbuster, an action film. I picked one at random: John Wyck, with Keanu Reeves. I plugged in the title in the Netflix search bar and before I’d finished typing, it came up in the list of suggestions. Fabulous! Until I saw that Netflix has the third film in the series but not the first two. How does that make any sense at all?
Defeated, I saw that my options were either to take out a subscription for each platform, which would be unjustifiably expensive, or turn to Ovid, which I do have, in the original.