[Review] HBO Now: 30 Days of Free Shit and Three Dragons

Happy Saturday! If you’ve happened across this site for the first time, welcome to my dumb blog. It’s been a busy year at the office, and that’s the excuse for my absence for let’s say, this entire year so far. Anyway let’s talk about dragons.

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Yes, dragons.

Ok, I’ve never had cable, let alone HBO. I remember back in high school, every now and then the cable company would offer the channel for free on a weekend to entice more viewers to subscribe. It was awesome. Last year at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Tim Cook spent almost ten minutes of his keynote explaining this groundbreaking partnership Apple made with HBO as one more key selling point in its fourth generation Apple TV. HBO Now boasts all of the premium cable channel’s content on the go for mobile devices, but also streaming devices. Then he announced how much it would cost per month, the audience cheered, and I sat staring at my computer where I was watching looking very confused. As a streaming only consumer, I’ve grown comfortable with the less than 10 dollar a month precedent set by the likes of the lowest tier offerings of Netflix and Hulu. Then I got a new Apple TV, and completely forgot about HBO Now.

Skip to two months ago, when the only artist we remember from Destiny’s Child released a new album/music video thing exclusively on HBO and its streaming/on-demand service, which was so hyped by Apple that it actually built the subscription platform into the OS for iPhone and Apple TV last year, and I completely forgot about. This also happened to be the same weekend its flagship program Game of Thrones, was to premier the first episode of a long awaited sixth season. The service decided in a last ditch effort to justify the 14.99 a month subscription fee by upping the two week free trial to one whole fucking month. Cool. By comparison, Netflix also offers a one month free trial, and Hulu, a measly two weeks. One month is enough time for someone like me to digest the service on all of my devices, watch all there is worth watching, forget my password, and by the end of the month, figure out what it was and cancel the whole thing because its terrible. I call this the Crackle Effect (jk, don’t pay for premium Crackle). Here’s another dragon:

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Look at this thing.

At this point I’m on board with (not) paying for HBO, and having a month to catch up on this dragon show that everyone is talking about; plus enjoying all the the other premium content that would surely come with that 14.99 a month price tag. Cool?

Cool. Now let’s watch some TV, er, it’s not TV. It’s HBO. Now.

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Me watching HBO. Now.

[Setup]

The new Apple TV, an entry level 4k Samsung LED TV, and a Sony STR-DN1000 A/V receiver, which has outlived pretty much every other bit of technology I’ve owned post 2012. I will point out that despite it being released last year, the fourth generation Apple TV is not 4k, but then you already knew that when you got it right? 1080p is fine with me (for the moment at least), but I’m big on surround sound, and there’s exactly 5.1 speakers ready for some fire breathing chaos and slightly inbred sword swinging action. Look, another dragon:

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Don’t fuck with a dragon or its mom.

[Pros]

As much as I would have loved to go back and binge watch some of HBO’s other notable shows like The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm, I only had a month, so I started with the more recent Game of Thrones, a show based on books that I’ve never read, and True Detective. Maybe the thing about HBO Now’s absurdly expensive subscription fee is that in some cases you have the ability to binge watch an entire season of something which you otherwise be unable to do if you simply had HBO in your cable package, but I wouldn’t know. Game of Thrones was admittedly fun to nerd out to. Think I watched the first five seasons in two weeks and started speaking a broken form of Dothraki to my cats. It really is a great show, and I almost felt guilty about watching for free in two weeks what so many have been drooling over for years now. Almost. Also dragons, y’all:

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*Anha zalak meme vallayafa yera, jin athvashar okrenegwini!

Next up, True Detective, which also kicked ass. The anthology crime drama’s first season starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson had me up one night to welcome a Sunday morning itching for more clues about the Yellow King, and how/when these two cool bayou detectives were going to take him out. No spoilers, but the build up and finale to this was so jaw droppingly watchable, well, never mind. Just watch it.

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Watch this show.

[Cons]

Mentioned before that sound is a very important part of my TV watching experience. I only had the opportunity to watch this on the new Apple TV, and honestly spent more time fucking around with the settings on my A/V receiver than I did enjoying the first season of GoT. My clearest example is that during the opening theme song of every episode,  the sound only came out of my front left/right surround speakers. No, not even the center. It drove me mad. Then the show began and character dialogue, soundtrack, etc. suddenly recognized the center channel speaker. Weird. By comparison the 5.1 surround quality on Netflix has never been an issue on either the receiver or the Apple TV itself so I was a bit confounded by this, and ultimately led to my decision to not renew the subscription at the end of the month. Well that, and the fact that as a costlier competitor to the streaming services I’m already paying for, it simply does not have the amount of content one would expect from a 14.99 a month price tag. Also Veep isn’t all that good.

That said, my free trial ran out half way though season six of the dragon show, so I’m going to pay for one month to finish it, cancel it again and go back to more affordable TV, er, whatever you want to call it these days.

Score for HBO Now [6/10]

*English: “Have fun storming the castle!”

 

 

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2 thoughts on “[Review] HBO Now: 30 Days of Free Shit and Three Dragons

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