Too many choices in entertainment?

AUGUST 11 — I am very glad I was born in a very opportune year in terms of perspective. 

I am not too old to be too resistant to new technological developments but not too young that I take this age of unlimited entertainment for granted either. 

Last week, serendipity hit me with two “wonderful” offers. Amazon Prime signed me up for one month free service. This includes same day delivery of Amazon products and of course, Amazon video. 

Then out of nowhere, Netflix signs me up for one month free trial of its services! In one go, my choices of TV and movies which I can watch anytime, anywhere increased a thousand fold!

When I was a child up till my early adulthood, all we had were three, at best four terrestrial channels (MetroTV came in 1995 and left soon after) but even those were more than enough. 

I remember Friday night Cerekaramas on TV3 which had some fairly decent episodes. I am thinking of one where the late Zami Ismail played a hantu raya (evil spirit who takes on the form of his bomoh master). There were also wonderful Malaysian sitcoms like Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu (also with Zami Ismail), 2+1 and a few others. 

Astro came in the later 90s (that’s right, it is nearly 20 years old!) but I had already left for my further studies by then. I missed what were to be iconic series like Spanar Jaya (with the great Rambo Chin) and Senario

Sadly when I try to recapture the magic now, the zeitgeist is unfortunately long gone. This is probably why old fogeys bemoan the fact that “today’s” (in fact, any present day) entertainment can never match entertainment of “their” times. The zeitgeist is simply gone. 

In the UK, cable and satellite TV had been established for a few years by the time I arrived in the mid 90s. 

I was only able to drool over the programmes for a few years though, since my housemates did not share my compulsive need for The Simpsons, two episodes a day and an endless stream of British sitcoms; I had to wait till I moved out on my own in 2000 to finally get my first experience of Sky, the British equivalent of Astro. 

But even Sky was too much of a good thing and so when I moved, I decided to terminate the service.

At the time, the Internet was in its final years of dial up for most people. I remember getting my CD to hook up to the ADSL service, the precursor to modern cable Internet. 

Back then, BYT (before YouTube), downloading any video file may take hours or even days! It was untenable to watch TV or movies over the Internet. 

Technology has improved by leaps and bounds since then. With the emergence of the smartphone and equally sophisticated phone networks, we can even stream videos over the Internet now. 

I am still too cheap for something so ostentatious though, preferring to contend myself with enjoying YouTube on my phone when I am within range of my own Wi-Fi whose speed is excellent. 

So that brings me back to my free month with Amazon Prime and Netflix. I am the type of person who is easily overwhelmed by having too many choices. 

This happened to me before when I subscribed to a cinema pass (unlimited movies for the equivalent of RM100 a month) which I almost never used! 

I am also not a couch potato who can afford copious amounts of time to devote myself to even a few series. The choices in both streaming services are just too many to consider. 

I literally had to write down a shortlist of programmes I wanted to watch. Finally, after a long deliberation, I decided to get into Breaking Bad which has been called “the best series of all time” even though I think The Sopranos simply cannot be dethroned in that category. But we’ll see.

It was a good choice and I learnt a valuable lesson — having many choices does not guarantee your picking the right ones! 

* This is the opinion of the columnist.

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