The first movie I ever got from Netflix was Intolerable Cruelty, the romantic comedy from the Coen brothers, the geniuses who also brought us Raising Arizona and Fargo. It was mailed to me on February 10, 2004, and received back February 23, 2004. I know this because I recently had Netflix email me a record of my entire rental history.
As I've already discussed in Going to the Movies, I love movies and used to see two or three on the big screen each week. But as Norma Desmond noted in Sunset Boulevard, at some point the pictures got small, and while part of me feels I should grieve that development, another part of me absolutely LOVES having dvd's delivered to my house on a regular basis.
It's not merely the convenience of having movies (currently up to three at a time, though for a while I was getting five) delivered to my house. It's also the convenience of being able to watch them whenever I want, while I eat dinner or knit (if it's a movie I like) or open my mail (if it's something I don't like so well). It's never running the risk of late fees. (Not that I ever have to pay late fees, because I'm really organized and alert and always return things on time. Seriously. In my whole life I've had, like, a grand total of half a dozen late fees and library fines, and in the past 15 years, I've had a total of none. Still, I like knowing that I couldn't incur a late fee, even if I tried.) It's also the fact that those other elements make me feel there's room to order things I might not enjoy, but am merely curious about: if I don't really like something after all, well, I just put it back in its sleeve, enclose the sleeve in an envelope, drop the whole thing in the mailbox, and something else will be sent to me in a matter of days.
I love the way you can read or hear about a movie, add it to your queue before it's even released (I do that with all the movies nominated for academy awards) and just wait for it to show up at your house. I also love the way Netflix lets you do serial viewing. Want to see every movie starring Paul Newman available on dvd? Just do a search on him, see what comes up, then add it all to your queue. Want to watch every last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well, in the case of Buffy, you should actually BUY all seven seasons, but if you aren't quite ready to make that commitment, Netflix will send you every last disk, in order.
I myself did the serial thing with Horatio Hornblower. I've always had a thing for 19th century naval history (and old wooden boats in general--I also have this fascination with Vikings), plus Ioan Gruffudd is just so freakin' hot! After I finished HH, I had Netflix send me his other movies (including the horrid King Arthur, which spelled the end of my crush on Mr. Gruffudd).
If I watch anything at all on my television, it's through Netflix. I got rid of cable over a year ago, and my antenna reception is so awful (I get NBC very badly, and that's it) that I can't even watch regular network television. This is OK with me--in general, I find television very easy to live without.
And yet, I watch at least as many television shows as movies through Netflix, because as I discussed, I discovered at some point that no matter how much bad television exists, there's still all kinds of good stuff out there. I never saw an episode of The West Wing during its regular broadcast, but I watched the first four seasons this summer on disk, which was perhaps not the wisest way to approach the series, because I could get sucked into watching two or three episodes at a time. But at some point I just told myself that I had enough discipline to turn the television off after one episode, and then everything was OK.
I have a particular fondness for British television with some historical element: Foyle's War (a crime show set in Hastings, which is right across the channel from France, during World War II); or historical dramas like The Last King (about Charles II, the guy who finally let women act on the British stage, with Rufus Sewell--who was so fabulous as the hunk in Cold Comfort Farm--in the title role) or Henry VIII (you can figure that one out, played by Ray Winstone) or Longitude, starring Michael Gambon (the guy who got killed in Gosford Park), which tells the true story John Harrison's discovery in the early 18th century of a way to calculate longitude and thus usher in the great era of sea exploration--oh, how I loved that!; or BBC/A&E co-productions of adaptations of old novels like Tom Jones and Ivanhoe (actually I own those), or the BBC/PBS co-productions that show up on Masterpiece Theatre, like The Forsyte Saga (featuring Ioan Gruffudd naked!); or the reality shows where they make someone live in the conditions of an earlier time, the first ever being The 1900 House and my favorite being The 1940s House, which attempted to recreate the conditions of the blitz; or plain old documentaries, like Simon Schama's 15-hour History of Britain--I watched some of the episodes twice.
I've rated over 1200 movies/television programs, and I have almost 500 movies in my queue. Currently the three disks I have out are Ulysses S Grant: Warrior/President, A Very Long Engagement, and the first disk of season one of Desperate Housewives.
I think I've said enough here--but I still need to discuss what's involved in making someone your Netflix friend, so check back for an entry on that.