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.

“The New Exhibit”

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.

“A Thing About Machines”

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.

“What’s in the Box”

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.

“A Thing About Machines”

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.

“The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”

***

Looking to buy a good, inexpensive disc player? Click here.

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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 07/04/2020, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I’m amazed whenever people are amazed at “still” having a DVD player. I know so much media is available online but like you mentioned, it may not always be online. I will always have a DVD backup of my favorite movies and TV shows just in case.

    • Exactly! And it’s not just old stuff, but new hit movies as well. Unless someone is paying an on-demand rental or sale price for each movie and show as it comes along — and that sounds expensive to me — you need a disc player.

  2. You’re exactly right, Paul. The convenience of watching shows on streaming services is wonderful, but the programming on those services is driven by metrics and other input. They don’t actually care about the shows. Watching them when they are broadcast is important, even if we have “better” options. I know this is true, but I didn’t consider the discovery factor – that’s a very good point.

    • Thanks, Dan. What I hear a lot is fans saying how they remember watching TZ with parents or grandparents, often during a marathon. Or they’ll say they got hooked when they saw it streaming somewhere. (These services often suggest other things you may like.) So when I hear about marathons and streaming options going away, I hear something destroying one of the roots of TZ fandom.

  3. Wow, I’m sorry to see them go off those platforms. I enjoyed the occasional Outer Limits on Hulu. I’m not a huge fan of alien themes, though some are real classics, like the human-faced alien ants on OL. I prefer how TZ Mixed it up with all sorts of uncanny stories. I recently purchased the TZ Blu Ray on a whim when I realized Netflix was cutting bits. But now I need to buy my own Blu Ray player. lol. Thanks for the DVD link too.

    • The Zantis, yes. They’re creepy! And yes, TZ was definitely the superior show, with a greater range of stories, but yeah — OL is still fun, so it’s a shame to see it go. Hope you can find a good player!

  4. Two words: Physical media

    • Hmm, did you read the whole post? I talk about physical media quite a bit.

      • Yes I did. But if someone wants to enjoy a program and not be at the mercy of studios/networks, then the only sane answer is for ownership.And for the life of me I do not understand how people can afford all these streaming services. These streaming services are the new cable,

      • Good. Since all you wrote was “Two words: Physical media”, it sounded as if you read the beginning of the post and assumed it was all about the need to save streaming — and therefore you were telling me to think about physical media. (“Hello! McFly!”)

        Anyway, as I think I made clear here, I’m entirely in favor of what you’re saying. Physical media is, as I wrote above, “truly the first-class way to enjoy TZ.” I own tons of discs. I’m constantly telling people that discs are best, providing links and prices, etc. But I’m not going to singlehandedly convert the world to discs, so I’m just trying to deal here with the fact that we live in a world largely governed by streaming. Like a smart investor, I’m attempting to diversify.

        As for cost, I’m with you. Most people can’t or won’t pay for more than one or two streaming services. As for what’s more economical, I guess that depends on what each individual is trying to get out of it. An annual Netflix subscription is roughly the cost of a dozen or so movies or TV seasons. But it gives you access to thousands of movies and TV shows, so it can seem cheap by comparison — provided you have a service that gives you what you want. Now, I’m enough of a vintage-media fanatic that I’ll track down what I can’t readily get on a streaming service, but lots of people won’t bother. They’ll settle for what’s easy. Hence my concern.

        In the end, I just want TZ (and Serling’s other works, for that matter) available to as many people as possible. That said, I couldn’t be more sympathetic to your reasoning. Owning these shows is the ONLY way to ensure you won’t have them taken away — or even, as we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, have certain episodes withdrawn because they run afoul of evolving cultural sensitivities. So yes, viva la discs! And streaming. ;)

      • Exactly. 100%. Agreed! Correct!

  5. I’m proud to say that I have passed my TZ fandom along to my 21 year old daughter.

    Also, “Outer Limits” is currently on Amazon Prime.

  6. I’m so glad the DVD and Blueray players are still physical items, Paul. Here in the UK, we don’t get shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Night Gallery and Tales of the Unexpected on Netflix or Prime. Not yet, anyway, although you can purchase seasons 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the Twilight Zone on Apple TV. Not sure why they don’t offer season 4. Maybe a competitor got to it first?

    • Yes, I’m aware that many fans outside the U.S. are in a “physical media or nothing” situation. I really wish it were more widely available to the casual viewer.

      As for Season 4 not being on Apple TV, that sounds like the situation here with Netflix, which also doesn’t stream it. Hulu does, but Netflix is 1-3 and 5. It’s pretty apparent that they don’t want to pay the licensing fee for what is arguably TZ’s least-popular season (the hour-long ones).

  7. Nicely composed piece, Paul! And I enjoyed all the comments.

    Personally I’m fed up with all the streaming services. Everyone is trying to “Empire Build,” as I call it, and I can’t stand it. I understand it…just can’t stand it. As mentioned, who can afford all these services? They’re essentially all the same as I see it. CEOs and the like just trying to pull more consumers over to their platforms. It’s getting insane—like the “supersizing” of drinks has gone beyond overboard of what is really needed by “a large.” We all seem to think more is better. No, QUALITY is better. We don’t need more choices. We need better application of whatever is being presented for use.

    And I don’t claim to know the answer to any of this!

    I don’t know the ins-and-outs to media production, but I know just throwing more “choices” out there cannot BE the answer. It’s simply excess.

    Do we NEED individually dispensed coffee K-cups filling the oceans? DO we NEED more channels to FLIP through? Are these things really making life better? I have to imagine that some of these platforms are really not doing that well, and coming-and-going more often than not? Perhaps I’m wrong, but having something to stream at any moment, any time, wherever you are, defeats the ability for each of us to be ALONE with our OWN THOUGHTS now and then. As my dad once told me, sometimes you do just have to watch the paint dry.

    And collateral damage to all these services is the growing invasion of our privacies that we are all freely giving away: your TOS and Privacy accesses. Do we all read those things? I do! I have enough access into my life that I need to have and despise then adding TO that. I’m tired of giving every greedy company out there my viewing and surfacing habits, lower-advertising-versus-production-costs be damned. I feel we are enabling this behavior by subscribing to these services—invasion of privacies.I tend to also feel that these services are not being created for our benefit: to keep watching our favorite shows…no, I feel the more nefarious reasons are to gain knowledge as much as possible about all our habits so companies can make more money and profit from us in the easier possible way, with the least possible output from the companies involved. I know, a Capitalist System. All the companies have to do is say: Hey–watch this! Just allow us to see EVERYTHING you do no matter where you go and what you look at. That is turning into a world I am not thrilled about, called progress or not. And these services are not ones I am willing to participate in IF I have a choice in the matter (though I understand others love them, this is just my POV rant), and why I was infuriated with the new Twilight Zone when it went to yet another subscription service, where I had to create yet another account with to give yet another set of sniffers access into my life.

    But other than all this, no, I have no real opinion on the matter. :-)

    Great post, Paul!

    • Ha, yes! You clearly have no real opinion on the matter, Frank. Imagine if you did. You might have left a long comment! xD

      You’re certainly not alone in your frustration with the current empire-building trend. #LongSigh I get what these networks are trying to do, but I feel that they’re being so short-sighted, particularly in the short term. They need to consider how fed up people are, and how tired they are of shelling out more and more for yet ANOTHER subscription, yet ANOTHER streaming service, etc. They risk alienating the very audiences that they are trying to woo — perhaps permanently.

      And while this tug of war continues, the viewers of the shows and TV shows being held hostage are the ones to suffer. My overriding concern, as I stated, is seeing TZ be as widely available in today’s media environment. For now, it is — but the trendlines are working against it. Things may work out down the road, but I’m wary. Very wary.

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Always appreciated.

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