Thursday, May 12, 2011

More free legal videos, Netflix's new Instant Cartoons

I'm putting off my sequel to "Youtube Free Movies Part 1." I'll still give you some advice and info on streaming, tho. I reviewed 7 movies on Tuesday, so it's a lazy week...

If you're in the mood for more free videos, you can always check out the WB network's website. This page lists the surprising collection of TV videos available for free viewing. It offers Veronica Mars, The Gilmore Girls, and Everwood, yet the site also has old shows - The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Gilligan's Island, and Growing Pains.

Most confusingly, though, it has series from other networks like Chuck, V (the 80's show), The OC, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Peanuts, The Ben Stiller Show, Babylon and The George Carlin Show. I'm especially surprised by the two comedies here, and I may check them out, as the Stiller Show has a great rep and Carlin was a gift...

Perhaps best of all, the show has one series I'm actually interested in - Fringe. That show is Fox's spiritual descendant to The X-Files, and the WB site carries the first 10 eps of Season 1 (I'm not sure if the playlist gets updated). They rotate the episodes offered; in the 2 weeks since this article published, the selection has changed at least once. This series is seldom re-run, so you can only watch the last 5 episodes on Hulu, imdb, et al.- or you have to purchase them.

The video player itself is like a stripped-down version of the one on Hulu's. You can see where the ad breaks are, and can scan through the segments before triggering the next commercial. Like Hulu, it has the decency to "forgive" the commercial for an act you just watch. This allows you to skip ahead to a commercial so you can watch two acts uninterrupted. Unfortunately, the ability to scan the running time is more limited, though.

Even more unfortunately, the vid player can be buggy as all get-out. I muted the volume during an ad break, then couldn't raise it again; I actually had to reload the page. At other times, I've been dead sure the video was running just slightly fast - like 1.2x speed; all the audio seemed too quick, the voices just a little high.  I couldn't get the video (or audio, whatever) to re-set itself.

The WB's system is obviously a bit fragile, and not to be toyed with much. As so often happens with freebies, you take what you can get, right? At least you don't have to pay for what you're watching.

There's one more fairly-sweet bonus here: the WB site exists separately to the CW site's streaming episodes - which is the domain for the merged UPN and WB channels. This makes for a pretty nice selection, altogether. This means that if you're a fan of Smallville (heaven help you if you are), the WB and CW websites will let you freely stream 11 total episodes. 11 bad episodes.

The CW's video player isn't any less glitchy, to be honest. I think the biggest issue is that you actually can't skip over any of the ads. If you already saw 1/2 a show and want to skip to the middle, you'll end up skipping to the next act break, then sitting through 2 commercials. You can jump back freely, but until you've triggered the last promo, you can only advance the time so far...

Also, like the WB player, the CW system is set to auto-play (which doesn't seem to have an "off" switch). If you leave the video running, it'll go straight into the next ep. These issues dim the luster of free stuff, a bit. Maybe it won't bother some people...

I also have a bit of old TV-Streaming news, included just for the sake of completeness: two weeks ago, Netflix announced a deal with a comic-book company, acquiring videos of their TV properties for Instant Viewing. Sadly, this means all the new Netflix content is animated content.

The new entries are a bunch of Spider-Man Cartoons, a Joss Whedon-written motion comic of X-Men, among other Marvel-based cartoons; more are supposed to be added during Summer and Fall of this year. I can't say I'm thrilled about it, but someone reading this might be. Check the Netflix tag on the right to see how often I've covered their moves...

I'm half-sorry to add a post about shows and movies I don't follow or have barely seen. I was on a roll with my look at Youtube's free movies last week, so I wanted to strike while the iron's hot, so to speak. I like finding ways to watch things legally, and I like making it easier for other people to do the same.

This is "the short week" of this month, where I only have two posts - but there will be three for every remaining week in May. Read this, browse through my old entries, and I'll see you back here on Monday.

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