A Peek Inside Peacock

Peacock!

We named it after the old NBC mascot, but instead of a bird we thought a cooler image would be…this glow stick?

Our family prides itself on not being early adopters of new technology or services. We prefer to let upstart projects and products get up and running, figure out their processes, work out their bugs, set a price point that’s worth the venture, and build up a reputation, preferably a favorable one. Then we might give them the time of day. Maybe. Sometimes.

Streaming services are subject to the same vetting procedure. We ignored Netflix until the advent of the Google Chromecast (later renamed “Googlecast”) dramatically improved our streaming capabilities. Also motivating us: we reached the point in our newfound Doctor Who fandom at which the only episodes we hadn’t yet watched up to that point were in their clutches. For years we likewise lived well without Hulu despite a few temptations, until an outrageous Black Friday sale in December 2018 (99¢/month for 12 months!) lured me into their den.

The internet’s Baby Yoda obsession notwithstanding, we have yet to pull the trigger on Disney+. Star Trek in and of itself is not enough to justify CBS All Access. I refuse to pay a monthly price for shopping privileges and am therefore one of six people nationwide who doesn’t have Amazon Prime. Every single detail I’ve heard about Quibi implies it’s my exact anti-matter opposite. And as for YouTube Red…is that still a thing? Not for us, it isn’t.

The next contestant up in these highly competitive lockdown-era streaming wars is Peacock, a product of the NBC-Universal-Viacom multinational conglomerate. In a world where “cord-cutting” has been the trend because everyone thought that would be cheaper, Peacock is my favorite kind of service: bundled.

Peacock doesn’t officially launch for all customers worldwide until July, but Comcast/Xfinity subscribers — we cord-loving geezers who have made peace with paying for 1000 channels of which we watch maybe eight — have now been granted sneak-preview access to Peacock’s initial content and Mark One interface, free with our Xfinity subscription since they’re within the same corporate structure. (For five bucks extra per month users can waive commercials, exactly like Hulu’s tiers. We passed on that perk.) I liked the idea of being invited early to a party like some kind of elite VIP, and loved not paying for the privilege. So I spent some time poking around.

So far the beta version is…well, clearly a work in progress. Eventually we’re told there’ll be new programming for discerning adults. Planned products include revivals of Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster; a Brave New World adaptation starring Solo’s Alden Ehrenreich; a third season of the canceled sitcom AP Bio, which my son likes; some series that I think is just footage of David Schwimmer begging people to stop calling him “Ross”; and a BBC miniseries called The Capture that brings in Ron Perlman and The Crown‘s Ben Miles. That last one has my attention, but none of these are available yet.

What can we click on right now this second? New episodes of one animated series — Cleopatra in Space, in which the eponymous kiddie queen is rocketed to the future and presumably hilarity ensues. Two established cartoons, Where’s Waldo? and Curious George, have episodes that were previously available in other outlets, heralding their forthcoming relocation to Peacock and their new seasons scheduled to premiere there exclusively in July. Until then, kids have three whole Peacock ‘toons to watch.

As you’d expect, tons of NBC shows are available, many of which I believe are also on Hulu. They’re definitely already available via Xfinity on Demand, so now we can ignore them twice as hard. But some oldies have been thrown into the mix as well, if you’re up for a revue of the past four decades of NBC programming, such as all ten seasons of Frasier, all the Parks and Rec episodes we’ve already watched multiple times, or far too much of TV’s Hunter. They boast 60 episodes of Columbo, which isn’t all of them, but it’s closer than either MeTV or COZI TV have managed. I scrolled past several reality series and Latinx shows, none of which are in my bailiwick.

For the time being their largest resource is movies — 478 so far, if I recall the counter correctly. The highest-level menus are certain you’d love to get your kids hooked on watching E.T. or Shrek three times a day for the next six months. I descended well below those, into the deepest nether regions and skimmed all 478 titles. As you’d expect for a startup streaming service, the bottom of the list comprised a couple hundred direct-to-video Redbox rejects. I earmarked exactly seven (7) of those 478 for viewing ASAP — Do the Right Thing, Clockers, Broken Flowers, The Front Page, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Hard Candy, and for personal reasons that I can totally explain, Leatherface. End of list.

To their credit, Peacock has twice as many genuinely “classic” films as Netflix and Hulu combined. Offhand I can’t fairly evaluate how their overall quality matches up to, say, the Criterion Channel or Turner Classic Movies, bu at least they have some. More than some, really — quite a few Hitchcock keepers, some old romantic comedies (Pillow Talk!) and stuff like that. Considering Xfinity cruelly yanked TCM out of our subscription tier in 2019, we’ve been woefully lacking in classic-film access beyond one-off YouTube rentals, which we haven’t felt like doing. I didn’t compile a watch-list from the classic films just yet, figuring those might be more fun for Anne and me to sift through together sometime.

For now, that’s it. That’s the Peacock library. Not exactly Must-See Stream-Vee yet.

The dedicated Peacock app isn’t available in the Google Play store yet, but the Xfinity interface transitions to its double-secret velvet-roped version without issue. Picture and sound quality seemed fine. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to turn on closed-captioning. If you load the app but then pause for thought without clicking anything, it begins auto-playing Jimmy Fallon clips, so, um, fair warning there. Biggest drawback: after watching an entire movie, it cut away mere seconds into the end credits, which longtime MCC readers know are a thing I absolutely do watch. I won that fight with Netflix long ago and still consider it one of Hulu’s major shortcomings. I. WANT. MY. END CREDITS. COMPLETE. UNABRIDGED. UNEDITED, UN-SHRUNK. UN-SPED-UP. UN-SMOOSHED. YES, REALLY.

NBC-Universal-Viacom have given themselves two months to work out the kinks, finalize the programming schedule, and adjust any previously laid plans for the quarantine era. Once July arrives, they’ll be tossed into the fray with all the other companies with seniority in the streaming field. If they think it’s that easy to carve out a piece of the market in this home entertainment glut, they’ll need to step up their game or else Baby Yoda will shear Peacock’s feathers.

7 responses

  1. Hi, there, how are you? I appreciated reading your take on streaming video. You seem to have thought about your choices quite a bit.

    I didn’t completely relate to all of your observations, but I see where you are coming from. It gave me a different perspective.

    Like

  2. You state that it took you 10 minutes to figure out how to switch on Closed Captioning on Peacock TV accessed via XFinity. However, you provide no elaboration specific to how you switched on Closed Captioning. Please elaborate accordingly. Thank you – your insight and support is very much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for the delayed response, but we only recently began using Peacock again. We don’t have the app per se, but access it through our Xfinity/Comcast subscription.

      Once we begin watching a show on Peacock, on our Xfinity remote we have to press the Arrow Down button, which reveals a super-secret menu at the bottom of the screen. Use the Arrow Left a couple times to get to the subtitles/CC section, The cursor will move slowly because the interface is ridiculously clunky by 21st-century computing standards. Then Arrow Up and click on English. Eventually, presto: Peacock closed-captioning.

      Like

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