For Christmas this year, I gave a couple I know a gift of two months free to Netflix. They appreciated the gift, but they weren't sure what to make of it.
While they have two laptops and a home computer and are avid users of Facebook, they prefer a more basic approach to tech in their lives.
They are cable cord cutters in their own right, having never had cable TV and instead preferring to borrow DVDs from the public library - an excellent option. So when faced with the torrent of choices that is Netflix, their response to the service has been cautious confusion.
Their reaction is understandable: Netflix does a poor job of providing a straightforward way to discover what's in its library.
Its grouping of titles into genres, while helpful, never seems to catch everything that should be included in those individual genres.
Beginners to Netflix can experience a feeling of being lost at sea.
To help out my friends, I've made a list of selected titles I think they'll enjoy. I'll share that in a moment, but before I do, here are three bits of advice to novice Netflixers.
First, the instant queue is your friend. If you find a show or movie you think you might want to watch down the road, save it to your queue because you might not come across it again anytime soon.
Second, bookmark the website What's New on Netflix Canada.
Unaffiliated with Netflix, it provides daily updates on the newest titles, what titles are expiring soon and a more useful search engine than offered by Netflix.
Finally, Netflix is available on more devices, from smartphones to tablets to computers, than almost any other online media service out there. It's not just for your TV, so don't feel tethered to your living room to use it.
So, here's my suggested starter list. First, some TV shows that are hard to find on regular TV in Canada and show the value of Netflix in making them widely available: z Wallander: Kenneth Branagh stars as the fictional Swedish detective for whom the series is named.
Beautifully shot and acted in English, it's a quieter take on Sweden's hidden disturbing side than the Dragon Tattoo film trilogy. z MI-5: North America had 24, but the UK had this BBC spy series which shares much of the same thriller-based DNA. Vaguely lefty, sometimes ridiculous, it's breathless in its portrait of the spy service of a faded empire trying to protect its little country from being ground up by in struggle between global superpowers and international and domestic terrorists. Don't get attached to any of the cast - this is British TV. z The Hour: Another BBC show, this time about the dawn of investigative TV news in the UK in the 1950s. Fine acting and Mad Men-like focus on period detail make up for unnecessarily overdramatic plotlines.
z Justified: Created by a Canadian with a Canadian in the lead role, this smart, funny and moody series based on an Elmore Leonard character who returns to his native Kentucky as a U.S. marshal is probably the best American cop show on TV right now. Netflix has the first two seasons available, with the second even better than the first. Side note: I've been told, repeatedly, by my co-watcher of this series that Timothy Olyphant looks great without his shirt on.
z How I Met Your Mother: An American sitcom that I completely missed when it first debuted. Like The Big Bang Theory, it's slick and not very original but is very funny. It's also an example of Netflix's ability to help you catch up with shows you missed the first time around.
Have your own Netflix picks? Feel free to drop me a line and I'll include them in a future column.
Barry Link is the editor of the Vancouver Courier.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at Twitter.com/trueblinkit.
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