Netflix has done its research, which means I must now do mine

I have so many questions when I watch a Netflix show.

Nothing can replace thorough research when it comes to producing quality entertainment, and this is what I enjoy most about the company’s programming.

At no other time in my 50 years have I relied on external resources to complement my TV viewing. This 20-year-old American entertainment company has made television watching an active experience. It is an education. I now watch almost all Netflix shows with my mobile phone at the ready. I am constantly pausing Narcos, for instance, to learn what became of Pablo Escobar’s son (he is an architect and lives in Argentina); what happened to Escobar’s trusted sicarios (at least one is in prison in the US); and, at its financial peak, how much was the Medellin Cartel earning each week in profit ($420 million). I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I had when watching Marco Polo.

I just finished Ozark with Jason Bateman and that led to a whole new round of watching and pausing and looking up, which steered me to other questions and more learning. And that is what makes Netflix the must-see TV of its day: it offers a teaching moment.

Traditional TV viewing (and its formulaic storytelling) might have been a social gathering for families pre-Netflix. Sitting together, watching and then talking during commercials. Today, with streaming and on-demand companies, hardcore television watching is an individual sport. It is – at its finest – a solitary, educational experience worthy of quality time. It is no longer a communal endeavour. I do not want to be yelled at by my wife or children for pausing a show so I can find out if Marco Polo’s father really was a drug smuggler who abandoned his son to the Chinese in the 13th century. I want to be able to watch at my own pace, pausing and researching as I choose.

I like my time to be productive. I want to look back on my day and be able to tell myself that I experienced something new or exciting or worthwhile. That I read and I wrote and I learnt. Netflix has helped me add television watching to my list of worthwhile experiences.

I am a huge fan of Seinfeld. I can quote dozens of lines from the show, yet after watching a couple of episodes, I cannot convince myself that my time was productive. Yes, I enjoyed myself, but I did not learn anything.

When I want to find out why two series (Ray Donovan, Season 4, Episode 4; and Ozark, Season 1, Episode 2) are playing two Bob Seger songs (“We’ve got tonight” and “Still the same”, respectively) I pick up my phone and I go to Google. Turns out that although two of his live albums had been available on iTune since 2011, the 72-year-old Detroit native released 10 additional albums on iTunes in June 2017. This little bit of research led to the news that Seger had been considered one of the last great holdouts to allow his music to be streamed; which led me to Dan Rather’s February 2017 Big Interview with Kid Rock (also a Michigan native), who discussed the importance Seger played in his musical education.

An unconventional path from the Missouri River in the Ozarks to the influence Seger had on Kid Rock to discovering that Kid Rock lives part of the year on one of the highest mountains in Nashville in a high-end customised trailer. Thanks to Netflix, I now know it all.

Michael Jabri-Pickett Speechwriter • Editor • Journalist