by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, February 9, 2019
Watching TV shows has gone through a number of paradigm shifts.
- Broadcast – watch a limited set of shows by a schedule – free
- Cable – watch expanded lists of shows by a schedule – costly
- VCR – watch shows by your schedule – the clutter of tapes
- DVR – watch shows by your schedule – no clutter
- Streaming – watch shows on demand without a schedule
- DVD – collect and own shows
- Library – watch shows without owning media. This is where CBS All Access fails.
Recently I decided to watch every episode of Perry Mason from start to finish. Here’s how it would have worked under each paradigm.
Broadcast: Back in the 1950s if I wanted to watch every episode of Perry Mason I needed to be at my TV set each week and it would have taken nine years to finish. Eventually, it was syndicated and I could have caught all the shows if I was diligent.
Cable: Starting in the 1970s, cable brought back many old shows, sometimes airing them multiple times a day. It became easier to eventually catch every episode of a TV series, but it still took months.
VCR: With a videotape machine it was possible to let the machine do the watching on the schedule, and then binge watch when in the mood. A big step forward, but the video quality of videotape was never very good, and managing all those tapes was a pain in the ass.
DVR: Recording to a hard drive was much nicer than messing with tapes. However, DVRs limited the number of shows you could keep on hand. I was watching Perry Mason on my TiVo last year recording the shows off of MeTV. But I could only keep so many without filling up my drive. This was a hybrid of broadcast/DVR that wasn’t really satisfactory because I don’t get good reception, and I couldn’t keep the shows.
Streaming: I don’t remember Perry Mason ever being on Hulu or Netflix, but it could have been. Watching old TV shows via streaming depends on which service has the rights to stream at the moment. Shows don’t stay permanently on any single streaming service but jump around.
DVD: I could have bought the entire Perry Mason series on DVDs. But I’ve gotten so I hate owning crap, so I figured I’d give CBS All Access a try.
Library: When I first heard about CBS All Access it seemed to promise access to every TV show CBS ever broadcast. I assumed if there were enough CBS shows I wanted to watch like Perry Mason it might be worth paying them $10 a month for life so I wouldn’t have to buy DVD sets of everything. They are starting to pile up, and I really don’t want to be a DVD librarian. CBS All Access appealed to me as a permanent streaming library of shows I could depend on.
But CBS All Access has failed me. It doesn’t offer anything like all the shows it broadcast, and its Perry Mason collection is only partial. I thought it had the first 5 seasons. I subscribed thinking maybe by the time I watched those five seasons it will have added seasons 6-9. Then I discovered in season 2 they were skipping episodes. I know this is terribly anal of me, but that bummed me out. My goal was to watch every episode in order and yesterday I came to a roadblock at Season 2 Episode 18. Damn!
CBS apparently wants to compete with the Netflix model. But there’s only so many streaming services that I can afford. CBS All Access doesn’t have the massive catalog that Netflix has, nor does it have anywhere near the number of original programming shows. It can’t be Netflix. But I thought it might be a new paradigm. A large library of complete TV shows that never changed. Instead of buying several DVD sets of complete series, I was hoping that CBS Access would have enough shows to keep me busy for years and let me feel I had a permanent library of shows to access at will.
I often read about an episode of a TV show and want to watch it. I thought CBS All Access would be a new paradigm of TV, a permanent library of TV shows I could reference at ease.
CBS All Access fails at this potential new paradigm. Here are some of the CBS shows I expected to see in its permanent library – the ones I remember from growing up:
- Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971)
- Studio One (1948-1958)
- The Frank Sinatra Show (1950-1952)
- I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
- Our Miss Brooks (1952-1956)
- The Jackie Gleason Show (1952-1970)
- The Jack Benny Show (1950-1964 on CBS)
- George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950-1958)
- Topper (1953-1955)
- Father Knows Best (1954-1960)
- Lassie (1954-1971)
- The Millionaire (1955-1960)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1960, 1962-1964)
- The Honeymooners (1955-1956)
- Gunsmoke (1955-1975)
- Playhouse 90 (1956-1960)
- My Friend Flicka (1956-1957)
- Zane Grey Theater (1956-1961)
- Perry Mason (1957-1966)
- Have Gun – Will Travel (1957-1963)
- Rawhide (1959-1965)
- Wanted Dead or Alive (1958-1961)
- Men Into Space (1959-1960)
- The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963)
- The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
- The Danny Thomas Show (1957-1964)
- The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
- Route 66 (1960-1964)
- The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
- The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1957)
- The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)
- My Favorite Martian (1963-1966)
- The Judy Garland Show (1963-1964)
- Petticoat Junction (1963-1970)
- The Munsters (1964-1966)
- Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967)
- Lost in Space (1965-1968)
- Green Acres (1965-1971)
- The Wild Wild West (1965-1969)
- Hogan’s Heros (1965-1971)
- The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967-1969)
- Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)
- The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)
- Mannix (1967-1975)
- Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)
As I get older I feel a nostalgic need to watch old shows now and then. My TV watching fell off after 1970. There were many later CBS shows I’d love to see again, like Northern Exposure, but I don’t feel like going through 1971-2019 TV seasons on Wikipedia to find them. But this gives an adequate sample list of what I expected from CBS All Access.
It should have been called CBS Partial Access. Here’s what I wished CBS had offered:
CBS Television and Library – $9.99/month
- Live Broadcast mode – with commercials
- Binge Watching mode – complete series without commercials
- Time Travel mode – Pick and date and time and watch shows from that date with original commercials, including news programs.