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Jennifer Van Grove: How to find must-watch streaming TV series

Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Science & Technology News

Whether you're a cord-cutter or someone who supplements a pay TV subscription with Netflix, finding what to watch from the wealth of streaming TV services available can be a daunting chore.

Enter Lon Harris.

The Los Angeles resident, 38, has dutifully committed to staying apprised of everything happening in the digital entertainment space. The author of the Inside Streaming newsletter, published every Friday, watches as many Internet TV shows and movies (from both mainstream and niche video providers) as is physically possible.

Beyond writing the streaming newsletter, Harris is in charge of editorial for the startup Inside, which runs an extensive network of mostly free e-mail newsletters and some premium ones as well.

For Inside Streaming, Harris writes digestible reviews, recommends obscure digital series, tracks the comings and goings of series on Netflix and other services, and sums up industry news.

The e-newsletter amounts to the modern-day viewer's TV guide. And, as a dedicated reader, I highly recommend it. (You can sign up at inside.com/streaming).

I interviewed Harris, by phone, to get a better understanding of how he manages what seems like a massive undertaking. Harris' responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. What's your background?

Ten years ago, in 2007, I started working for Jason Calacanis, who is the founder of Inside. We worked on a different company called Mahalo and I eventually became the editorial director. I left working for him and started doing other things in digital media and digital video. Then, he was working on this new project with Inside, which was news curation-oriented, and he needed help with editorial, so he brought me back in.

I've always been a big fan of movies and TV, and wanted to write about them. It was a natural (progression) to start the Inside Streaming newsletter. I was making these other newsletters and it would occur to me, oh I should do one I'm already interested in.

The newsletter has since taken on a life of its own; it's become a bigger thing than I initially imagined. I didn't think I'd be trying to watch new shows every week to try to review them. It's a pretty big schedule. But when you hear the feedback that you turned somebody on to something new, it feels good.

Q. How well is the newsletter performing?

It has a dedicated readership. The people who read it, read every issue. It has the highest come-back readership (of the newsletters we publish), where people open every issue.

Q. How much time do you spend watching streaming TV shows?

A lot. I do have a rule where I give shows three episodes. If by three episodes, I'm not hooked, then I've got to move on. If I don't think a show has any real value. I just don't write about it. That's tough.

Sometimes I'll invest three episodes into something and then I'll have that moment of, ugh I don't like this enough to write about it.

Q. How do you keep up with all that's new in the streaming TV realm?

 

It's not possible to keep up with everything.

There is one site I use that not a lot of people know about called Instantwatcher.com. It only works for Netflix and Amazon. It's really great because all they do is publish a feed. So it's like, here's what's popular in the last 24 hours and here's new stuff. It will surface things that you may not naturally find on Netflix.

Otherwise, I'm using blogs and social media, and trying to keep up with what people are talking about.

Q. What are some of the topics or stories that have resonated most with readers?

The No. 1 thing across the entire Inside network is "Game of Thrones." Anytime we write anything about "Game of Thrones" anywhere, that'll be the No. 1 link of that week. People are fixated; the obsession level is off the charts.

Q. What are some hidden-gem streaming series that people should be watching?

There's a show on Amazon that I love that nobody is watching. It's called "Patriot." It's great. It really flew under the radar. It's weird. It's like a Coen brothers spy show.

There's also "Fleabag;" it's a BBC show available on Amazon. It's another great show that flew under everyone's radar.

There's a show on Hulu that's coming back for season two. It's called "Shut Eye." It's about the organized crime behind the Los Angeles psychic industry. It's a really fun, goofy crime show.

There's a new animated show on Netflix called "Big Mouth." It's sort of a reunion of all the Nick Kroll shows from Comedy Central. It's an animated show for adults about puberty and teens, and coming of age. There's a sweetness to it. It's bathroom humor, but not mean-spirited or ugly. A lot of great comedians show up for an episode or two. Jason Mantzoukas, John Mulaney, Maya Rudolph.

About The Writer

Jennifer Van Grove covers e-commerce and digital lifestyle for The San Diego Union Tribune. Readers may send her email at jennifer.vangrove@utsandiego.com.

(c)2017 San Diego Union-Tribune

Visit San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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