Saturday, July 23, 2011

Somebody Make This Happen

So I've got this idea, but I lack the technological knowledge/connections to implement it.

My wife and I recently decided to drop our cable television service.  We realized that we rarely use it, as most of the shows we go out of our way to see are available streaming somewhere online, or we just wait for them to come out on DVD and Netflix them.  I used to have TV on as background noise almost constantly, but for the year and a half I lived by myself I couldn't really afford it and never really got back in the habit once I could.

I've never really gotten into streaming TV as much as many other people, though.  I mean, if there's something specific I've heard good things about, or that I'm already into, I'll watch it, but I rarely think "Hey, I'd really like to watch a specific episode of this particular show," which you have to do with either streaming or DVD.  Part of what I really liked about regular TV was the surprise factor, especially regarding reruns.  You could flip through the channels, find, say, a twenty-year-old episode of Wings ( I feel old) and enjoy watching it.  Now, I'm not likely to ever search Wings out specifically (though now that I bring it up, I kind of want to), but it was a good show that I'd enjoy seeing a random episode of now and then.

I apparently remember more about Wings than I realized
That's what I miss: the randomness.  Coming across a show or an episode that you wouldn't think to search for.  And not just coming across it in your taste preferences, that doesn't cut it.  I gloss over seeing Wings there, because if I feel like something random I don't want to have to sort through seven years of episodes.  Do I want to watch the episode where Roy tricks the others into thinking he buried a fortune in his backyard so they'll dig him space for a hot tub?  Or the one where Joe finally snaps and runs off to be a beach bum (a two-parter)?  Because, really, sometimes I'm just in the mood where I want to go "I don't care.  Surprise me."

What I want is this.  I'd like some sort of programmable stations for streaming television, sort of like Pandora is for music.  Plug in some specific series that you like (as few or as many as you want, as long as they're available), tell the station to play episodes from only those series or to add in episodes from series like them, and then whenever you go to that "station" online, it'll pull up a random episode from one of those series to play.  Once it's over, they'll pull up another one.  Naturally, if you don't like the episode that's up, you can just skip to the next or ban it outright, because really, "Beer Bad" was a terrible episode of Buffy.  Similarly, you could ban an entire series because you may love Lucy, but you probably don't love Life With Lucy.  

You could set up stations with different themes: Rob's Sitcom Station (Wings, Dick Van Dyke, Roseanne, Arrested Development), Crime and Punishment (Law & Order: SVU, Bones, Dexter, Hill Street Blues), Saturday Morning Cartoons (Looney Tunes cartoons, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Animaniacs, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), or make it just a little of everything you like.   You could even check a preference so that it'll only show episodes of a given show in the correct order, or leave it totally random.  There could be some pre-programmed stations, of course, but the real draw would be the ones that you program yourself.

The services wouldn't need any more rights permissions than they already have, I wouldn't think.  Obviously, the selection would be limited to the shows that are already available to stream, which increases all the time.  It would only be available to those who get the streaming shows anyway (Netflix subscribers, Hulu with commercials, whatever), all it would require would be a new infrastructure to support it.  Would it be that difficult to set up?  Couldn't they use Pandora or Slacker's music algorithms, and just replace the music library and player with video?

I know, I'm not a programmer.  Maybe there are some sort of technological issues that make it too difficult, or maybe there are rights issues I'm not aware of.  But couldn't this be done?  Is it being done, and I'm just not aware of it?  Am I the only one that would really use streaming services a lot more if something like this were available?  Do I waste enough time looking at a computer screen as it is?

Surely someone out there can make this happen.

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