Earlier this summer, I pulled the plug on my TV — literally and figuratively. I canceled my cable service, but because I have a crummy old TV without even rabbit ears, I can’t get any channels at all. So I yanked the lifeline because everything I’ve read says a lot of energy gets wasted when an appliance is plugged in, even if it’s turned off.
Other than Cubs games, which I enjoy listening to on the radio, I don’t really miss it. Of course, the few shows I watch regularly are still in summer reruns, at least for another week or so. But even when the fall TV season brings first-run episodes back to the small screen I won’t be fretting because I’ve found a way to keep up — on an even smaller screen.
Maybe you already know that many TV networks make episodes of their original series available for online streaming after their initial air date. That’s great, but it can be a hassle to try to remember when new episodes will be available for each show (some networks make shows available the day after they air, while others like Fox don’t put episodes online until a full week later). And even if you remember when, you still have to navigate to all those different network Web sites to watch your favorite shows.
I won’t be doing that, though. You see, thanks to a tip from my friend Michael, I just do the Hulu. Hulu is a free media streaming site that offers full episodes of many current and classic TV shows as well as a surprising number of full-length theatrical movies. Not every series is available here (infuriatingly, AMC refuses to make their Emmy-winning show Mad Men available for online viewing either on Hulu or their own site), but a lot of the most popular current series are there — The Simpsons, House, The Office, Family Guy. There are minimal commercials inserted into the videos, but not nearly as many as in a standard broadcast. You don’t have to sign up for a free account at Hulu to watch, but if you do there are some goodies waiting for you. Two of my favorites are the queue and subscriptions.
As you’re browsing Hulu’s offerings of TV and movies, you can click the + next to the program’s title to add it to your queue. The queue lets you line up a bunch of videos without having to remember what you wanted to watch or where you found it. You can add as many items as you like as you merrily click your way around the site. When you’re ready to start watching, just go to your queue and there are all the clips you selected, waiting for you. You can re-order the items (through an unfortunately clunky interface that only lets you move an item one slot up or down at a time), delete individual items, or start watching a clip with a single click.
Here’s what’s in my queue at the moment: Several movies (Ghostbusters, Moonstruck, Legends of the Fall), and the entire first season of the classic TV series Lou Grant. Once I’ve watched an episode all the way through, it’s automatically deleted from my queue.
All of those items I added to my queue individually. But other clips show up in my queue without my having to lift a finger, thanks to Hulu’s subscription feature. When you fnd a series you know you want to follow, just click the Subscribe button on the show’s home page. Whenever a new episode of that show is uploaded to Hulu, it’s automatically added to your queue. Right now, I’m subscribed to The Daily Show, the USA series Psych, and the Fox series House and Bones.
So that’s my obsession confession. There are other aspects to Hulu that I haven’t spent much time with, such as a social-networking component that lets you view other users profiles and queues (though I’m not sure why you’d want to) and leave comments and ratings for videos. But what I really want to know is: Do you Hulu, too? What’s in your queue and on your subscription list?