Twilight Zone Streaming: Going with the Flow or Headed for the Rocks?
If you’re a fan of vintage TV shows and you subscribe to a streaming service, life is a bit like being in a “Friday the 13th” movie: You know just about everyone is going to get it — the only question is when.
Still, it hurts when your favorites leave. In the last week alone, I’ve seen The Outer Limits (the original and the ‘90s reboot) depart Hulu, while The Andy Griffith Show has disappeared from Netflix.
Both are included in Amazon Prime, fortunately, so I have a fallback. But even Prime has disappointed me lately. It was carrying the first season of Night Gallery (all three seasons of which used to be on Hulu until early 2019), but now even that’s gone.
A couple of other favorites, meanwhile, have gone from being free for Prime members to being something you have to pay extra for.
There are still some great old shows streaming on all three services, particularly on Hulu and Prime. And of course The Twilight Zone is on all three.
The question is, how long will it remain? I don’t know the answer to that, so I’m writing today to say that if you enjoy TZ on any streaming service, don’t take it for granted.
Tell your family and friends about it. Organize watch parties. Tag the service on social media and thank them. Give them a call, shoot them an email, or even send them old-fashioned snail mail (you are, after all, a fan of vintage shows!). Anything to spread the word and let Netflix, Hulu and Prime know you appreciate them making TZ available.
Mind you, I’m not saying that customer demand alone determines what comes and goes. Streaming services have to pay licensing fees to host a TV show, and those can be expensive. All three services, particularly Netflix, would much rather pour money into making buzz-worthy, awarding-winning originals — and cutting licensing fees is one way to free up some funds.
Other times, though, it’s not their decision. The owners of these vintage shows often want to build their own streaming empires. So someone like CBS, which owns The Twilight Zone, could decide they want to make it available exclusively on CBS All-Access.
I’m not saying that will happen for sure. But it could.
There are some out there who will say, “So what? I’ve got it on DVD or Blu-ray. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m set.” Yes, technically, you are. But there are two other factors to consider.
One is convenience. I have TZ on DVD and Blu-ray, and believe me, I love it. The picture and sound is sharp as a tack, and I enjoy the extras, from commentary tracks to next-week promos and other odds and ends. Disc is truly the first-class way to enjoy TZ.
But I must admit, I like having TZ available “on the go.” I can be on my daily train commute, for example, or killing time in a doctor’s office, or off somewhere with down-time away from my disc player. It’s really nice to be able to take out my phone or tablet and take a little break in the fifth dimension.
And that leads me to another crucial point: Convenience is king.
Let me repeat that: CONVENIENCE IS KING.
Sure, maybe you’re like me, a fan willing to go that extra mile and buy physical media, then take out the right disc at the right time, pop it in your player, and push “play”. Doesn’t seem that hard, does it?
Well, it does to some people. A lot of people, in fact. Guess what’s EASY? Just clicking over to Netflix or Hulu or Prime and picking any of the bazillion things they have streaming and pushing “play”.
And it’s not just a generational thing. We can’t just blame Millennials or Gen Z or even Zoomers. I’m a Gen X-er who once gave my late father, a Baby Boomer, two great old shows on DVD: “Mission: Impossible” and “The Rockford Files”. (Both are on Prime, btw.) And he did watch them … back when they were streaming on Netflix.
I can’t blame him, I guess. It was easier than fiddling with discs. I don’t consider getting and handling discs a big deal, but a lot of people do, judging by the decline in sales and by the ever-widening availability of streaming services.
And new ones keep coming along. Look at Disney+. It has tons of cool stuff to watch.
I still have a mail-in disc option with Netflix for those things I want to watch that aren’t streaming (and there’s a LOT of great old stuff that isn’t), and I remember a colleague in her 30s expressing amazement when she saw me put a disc in the outgoing mail one day. “Do people still HAVE DVD players?” she said, laughing.
I hope so, especially considering how many cool old shows and movies aren’t streaming anywhere. A lot of our cultural memory is fading bit by bit — memory-holed not by censorship, but an accidental victim of convenience.
That leads me to the second factor those who nonchalantly point to their DVDs should consider. If old shows like the original Twilight Zone are to survive, they need to be not only convenient, but DISCOVERABLE BY NEW FANS.
That’s one of the five reasons I champion the marathons on Syfy and Decades. You think I like the cut scenes, the endless commercials, the relatively poor picture quality? Of course not. I’m thinking of the many people who have become Twilight Zone fans because they happened to be flipping around the dial one time and caught the show by accident.
Believe me, if TZ or any great vintage show is available only on disc, there will be precious few discoveries happening. It will be enjoyed by current fans, sure, but when they’re gone? The show will fade into obscurity.
Sure, TZ is more than a classic TV series. It’s part of our cultural lexicon, and it’s enjoying a current revival (its third, no less), so it’s got more staying power than most. But we shouldn’t take anything for granted.
That’s why I’m out there all the time, promoting marathons and streaming services. I want TZ to live even longer than Walter Jameson — and remember, he lived more than 2,000 years!
“Someone or some THING took them somewhere,” Rod Serling says at the end of TZ’s “And When The Sky Was Opened”. “At least they are no longer a part of the memory of man.”
He was referring to the three astronauts, of course. Whether the same will someday be said about episodes of The Twilight Zone is up to us.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!