And Another Thing: The Joys of Physical Media
And Another Thing: The Joys of Physical Media

Ashley Spurgeon is a lifelong TV fan — nay, expert — and with her recurring television and pop-culture column "And Another Thing," she'll tell you what to watch, what to skip, and what's worth thinking more about. 


You know, I find myself less and less interested in streaming TV these days. Why? So many reasons! The last two Netflix originals really I liked — The Crown and Mindhunter — didn’t tempt me beyond the first episodes of their second seasons. I got extremely bored with McMillions, and rescind my recommendation. I have no idea what’s on Prime, other than extensively long period romances from Russia. (Jeff Bezos could surely toss a few grains of rice toward a better search function, right?) There are too many choices to be useful; the human brain was not meant to process this many options for something that is not an escape route away from an exploding volcano: I’ve got Hulu, I’ve got Disney+, I’ve got Sling, HBO, Showtime, CBS All Access.

(P.S.: This adds up to quite a bit of money pretty much just to make sure I can watch Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns at any time, day or night. Double P.S.: Then there’s the carbon footprint necessary to keep all those servers up and running for millions and millions of people; it makes me not want to watch much of anything that comes from “online,” YouTube included. Extreme Jeannie Darcy voice: Don’t get me started.)

Anyway! Lately, I’ve been going back to my roots — physical media. ‘Memba that? Specifically, I’ve been rewatching DVDs that made it through multiple moves, spring cleanings and Marie Kondo-ings, I guess with the expectation that maybe, someday, I’d watch them again. And here we are! I quit buying DVDs right around the start of the Blu-Ray era (Was that an “era"? If so, it’s over now), so as you can imagine, the picture quality is not great. But I’ve never been a viewer who’s in it to have my socks knocked off by how tiny the pixels can be.

I’m happy I kept my old DVD player too, a region-free beaut I got from Japan like 15 years ago — it has physical buttons on the machine itself (which is great, because I lost the remote). Call me old-fashioned, but this bitch loves a button. Is the worst remote in your home the Apple TV remote? I bet it is. Know why? Not enough buttons. 

Revisiting the old DVD collection has put me in awe of my own of course excellent (or we can go with “idiosyncratic”) taste in films and television. I’ve somehow acquired not one but two copies of Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, everything but the final seasons of Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio (in this house we honor and respect Dave Foley), and three episodes of Cadfael, wherein Derek Jacobi portrays a medieval monk and former Crusader who solves murders using, obviously, his knowledge of botanical medicines. 

I learned about Cadfael during an earlier period in my life of heavy DVD watching — circa 2005 or so, when I was renting a lot of stuff from the library. The library — have you heard of it? It is a wonderful resource full of books, films, puppet shows, literal seeds for planting (in addition to the metaphorical seeds of knowledge, etc.), and more than enough Masterpiece Theater-style series to get you through a lit class or two. I’ve never actually done it, but rumor is, if you ask for something, they’ll get it for you. Make Jeff Bezos hate you with this one weird trick!* (Libraries.) *The libraries are probably ordering the DVDs from Amazon but one step at a time, eh?

You know what else is good? McKay’s! What a great place to get rid of things like superfluous copies of Top Hat and pick up things like, oh, the entire box set of Columbo. Did you know there’s one where Colombo meets a robot? Did you know the last Columbo aired in 2003? There is a post-9/11 Colombo? Is Colombo even available on any streaming services? It looks like, currently, Season 1 is free with your IMDB TV subscription on Amazon Prime, which is one I don’t have, or you could buy individual episodes or seasons to stream. Until they (“they”) take it off, which might happen. 

I’ve really never bought the idea that the cloud or whatever is going to be a permanent and digital artifact of media, and haven’t people had their books deleted from Kindles? Hasn’t so much music on MySpace disappeared? It’s not easy to find photos of certain online epochs, because I’m not sure whatever the thing was before flickr still exists, let alone my password. As a very enlightened person, I am aware it’s best not to get too bogged down in the world of “things,” but hey, I also have 1994’s Little Women on DVD.

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