The Thrifty Streamer / Internet Services Shopper

Given the recent news about Apple’s service fees going up by as much as 40% in some cases, I’ve found a great way to keep prices stable. I’ve chosen a telecommunications provider, like EE in my case, that offers a bundle with Apple One. With this arrangement, I get uninterrupted access to Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+ for two years without any extra costs. Just keep in mind that I do have to pay for Apple News+ separately since it’s not included in the bundle. But the value I get from the magazine subscription and access to the Times makes it worth it. When it’s time to renew my contract with EE in a year, I expect they’ll still have the Apple One bundle in their SIM only packages, so I plan to stick with them. It’s worth mentioning that other telecom companies also offer similar streaming packages as part of their contracts, even if they only last for six months. This option, even though temporary, is better than not having it at all.

Regarding the video streaming services, many of them are now increasing their prices, including Netflix and Sky. I don’t watch Netflix as much these days. They only release programs that interest me about every six months, and then there’s a drought again for another six months. So, I’ve decided to subscribe for one month every six months, watch what I want, and then cancel the subscription. I currently have Netflix bundled with my Sky package, so I’m not paying the full price. But ultimately, I’m going to cancel my Sky subscription because there are very few things on it that I actually watch. One of the shows I enjoy is Breeders, a great comedy-drama starring Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard. And maybe I’ll also watch The Gilded Age (similar to Downton Abbey but set in the United States) and House of the Dragon. Most of these shows can be purchased through iTunes, which is cheaper per season than a long-term Sky subscription. For everything else, I’ll just subscribe to Now TV for a month and then cancel again.

Paramount+ and Disney+ are lacking in shows and decent back content to justify the increasing subscription prices. £6.99 or £9.99 might be reasonable, but anything higher would not be worth it. Once I finish watching Loki season 2 and What We Do In the Shadows season 5 on Disney+, I will cancel it until Solar Opposites or another Star Wars TV series is released. Paramount+ currently has the new Fraiser series, but I don’t think that alone can justify a long-term subscription. It’s especially frustrating that Paramount don’t seem to have a clear plan for the Star Trek franchise, as they have exclusively licensed one section of it to Netflix.

Prime Video isn’t too bad, but I feel like there aren’t enough new shows to justify keeping a monthly subscription. Plus, I’ve been spending less on Amazon lately, so the free delivery isn’t as valuable to me anymore. I’ve gotten to the point where I hardly watch proper TV at all these days. I usually watch everything on my MacBook Pro. It reminds me of a time when my ex-wife and I gave our TV to my brother-in-law because we hardly used it and preferred watching a few shows on our laptops. The Sunday Times even picked up on this story, which you can read (partially) below.

It’s important to clarify that the Sunday Times made it seem like we were intentionally avoiding the TV license, but that’s not true at all (and it’s the reason why I will NEVER talk to a journalist again). We weren’t tired of paying the fee – we just weren’t using the TV as much as before, and if we didn’t have to pay the fee, we didn’t. The few things we did watch were through catch-up services. It also didn’t mention that I also bought many DVDs and Blu-Rays, as well as BBC shows on iTunes VoD, which I enjoy.

This prompted a response from the TVLA (for Loki fans, no, not the TVA):

Regarding the BBC, it seems that their financial situation is quite dire these days, and this is reflected in the quality of their content. If they were to cancel Top Gear, they would lose a significant source of revenue. As for Doctor Who, they are now partnering with Disney+ and the production company behind it is currently owned by Sony. Thus, in my opinion, the BBC license fee is becoming increasingly worthless with each passing year. It no longer brings the same level of high-quality shows that it used to. Even BBC radio seems to be on a downward spiral.

Certainly, nowadays I do indeed pay for a TV license and I am happy that the BBC took the opportunity to connect it with BBC iPlayer. However, we should seriously consider whether a TV license is still worth it in a world full of streaming services. Channel 4 produces some remarkable programs that are funded by advertisements – and for just £3.99/month, you have the option to reduce those ads. I appreciate that. Why can’t the BBC follow suit? In fact, many streaming services are already doing just that. They offer a more affordable subscription with ads, or you can opt for an ad-free experience with higher quality streaming. Not everyone wants or utilizes 4K/8K TVs with Dolby Atmos. So why should we pay more?

Good Omens 2: Avenging Angels

The band Space once sung this catchy tune:

This song, I think, describes Good Omens 2 quite nicely. Though it’s more complicated than that (as things often tend to be). Having averted the Apocalypse, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley find they have a bit of time on their hands: Crowley having been kicked out of his job and all but banished from Hell and Aziraphale – well, he’s not exactly in Heaven’s good books either. But he’s kept the bookshop and often enjoys buying new (well, extremely old) ’78 records from Maggie across the road, who has kept her grandmother’s record shop going even in the digital age (in part due to “Mr. Fell” being her landlord and she’s the only one that can source his favourite records).

Things start to take a turn when the Arkangel Gabriel turns up in Soho, completely naked apart from carrying a cardboard box, and makes his way to the bookshop having completely lost his memory…

Now, I initially thought the first episode was a bit slow and had some trouble “feeling” it. But with the second episode, everything clicked together, and it was an absolutely whirlwind of a ride which ended far sooner than I had hoped. I must say that Terry Pratchett’s presence is felt throughout the show – I loved how Gabriel fans somebody with a Discworld book, and that C.M.O.T. (cut-my-own-throat) Dibbler is responsible for providing dangerous substances to an Edinburgh doctor specialising in cadavers for medical research. Among many other things. I think Terry would have really enjoyed this season.

There is so much going on and so much to enjoy that it’s impossible to list everything here. But needless to say that there is a fine line between being an angel and a demon – both are two sides of the same coin. Throughout the series we go back through time to see how the pair’s relationship develops – from the beginning of the universe (when Crowley had yet to be cast down to Hell), to Biblical times, and jumping forwards to the time where grave diggers were providing medical establishments with cadavers for use in medical research for handsome sums of money. This proves to be a REMARKABLY interesting part of the story because of the grey line, morality wise, of digging up the dead and using them in medical research. It also provides a significant moment in which Crowley demonstrates that he be good (which absolutely delights Aziraphale). We also revisit the Second World War (where we get to see Mrs. Henderson of the Windmill Theatre fame – a theatre that I used to walk past many times back in the 2000’s) and a magic act to outdo all magic acts.

The whole point to this is to solve the mystery of why Gabriel turned up at Aziraphale’s bookshop (and subsequently became a David Jason-like Granville in the process – you’ll have to watch to see what I mean) as well as putting the world to rights (literally) – with a bit of matchmaking along the way.

But really, the main point – to me at least – is that thin line between good and evil. Sometimes there is no distinction at all. This is best demonstrated in the Job sequence in which Job (God’s favourite human) is tested by having all his animals slaughtered and his kids killed. This job(!) is left to Aziraphale who, along with Crowley, get up to shenanigans which are best to those that watch the show. We see (or at least hear) God, played once again by triple Oscar-winner Frances McDormand talking to Job (played by David Tenant’s father-in-law, Peter Davidson) with Job just completely flummoxed. In the end, however, Aziraphale is convinced that because he defied the will of God, he’s going to be cast down to Hell like Crowley. But Crowley simply tells his friend that he won’t say a word. The whole Job sequence is a pivotal moment in the show and is really beautifully handled.

The final episode wraps up things as it should do, but also opens the possibility for a third season of this wonderful story. Saving the day is one thing but saving it repeatedly is another. Being the sentimental old git that I am, I am not ashamed to say that I cried. Happiness and sadness. Crowley finally shows some emotion towards his angelic friend. Lovely appearance by Derek Jacobi, by the way.

I’m not sure whether Good Omens 2 is coming to the BBC like the first series did, but nevertheless I’ll be buying copies on Blu-Ray when it’s released. This is a truly remarkable sequel to one of my all time favourite books, and Neil Gaiman and the team have worked miracles to bring it to the screen. And speaking of Neil, hopefully we should be getting The Anansi Boys soon – I am hotly anticipating this one because I’ve a huge fan of the novel. Seeing Mr. Nancy and his sons Fat Charlie and Spider – along with Mrs. Higgler – is going to be my my jam for next year (assuming it’s released next year, and that all the current Hollywood strikes are settled).