Tomorrow marks the beginning of April, which means another round of stunts, pranks and fake news from all your favourite corporations. While some might be joking around, though, Netflix is taking the chance to make a serious gamble, with the premiere of its brand new service: Netflix Live.
Live-streaming is all the rage these days. Q&As on Facebook. Concerts on YouTube. Video games on switch. While everyone from Instagram and Twitter are racing to join the fray, what can Netflix, an on-demand hub of pre-recorded entertainment, do to compete? The answer: live-stream everything.
It’s a bold play by the streaming giant and, judging by the 50-minute preview that Netflix released today, it’s one that pays off time and time again. In under an hour, we’ve given a whole array of live-streaming options, from a toaster and a microwave to even a photocopier. While most sites would look to major events or things of importance, Netflix Live dares to scrutinise the everyday minutiae of our existence; if Shakespeare held the mirror up to nature, Netflix Live holds the photocopier up to our faces and scans the results with far more profound clarity.
It’s not just indoors. Netflix Live takes us out of our enclosed lives and shows us grass growing outside the company’s headquarters – a riposte to the Slow TV movement that dares to go even slower than a canal boat or a reindeer sled. Does the grass grow at all in the minutes we spend staring at it? Is it like one of those angels on Doctor Who that only move when you look away? Is this the only piece of grass on Netflix’s campus, as the technological giant continues to expand its commercial grip across the globe, paving its virtual concrete over the lovingly-grown DVDs and VHS lawns of old? And, as we increasingly retreat into our digital bubbles, surrounded by webcams and phones, are we partly to blame? Forget YouTube or Periscope: this is the most thought-provoking exercise in real-time cinema since Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. That only had a couple of minutes of grass in it.
It’s all delivered with suitable gravitas by one of the world’s most serious actors, Will Arnett. Not content with being cinema’s greatest Batman, Arnett takes the conventions of live-streaming commentary and makes them all his own, waxing lyrical about the need for analogue timers on hipster microwaves, before musing on the physical difference between bread and toast. An in-depth study of the etiquette surrounding thumb wars, and how they differ from thumb flirting, is equally enlightening. (Think Terrence Malick. But with more toasters.)
Alongside such philosophical musings, Netflix Live is also full of handy live tips. Microwaving a burrito? You’ll need more than three minutes to make sure you permeate all the layers of fillings. Parking a car in the street? You’ll need to make sure you can fit in that space. Getting your toast out of the toaster? Watch out for finger burns – one slow-motion replay is as painful as it is darkly funny to watch.
Thanks to Arnett’s running narration, the result is a surprisingly amusing watch. If it’s mostly met with laughter on 1st April, there’s a chance it will all disappear and Netflix will dismiss this as an elaborate hoax, but this is no joke: Netflix Live could just be the best thing to happen to online TV since the streaming service’s Oscillating Fan for Your Home. You’ve never seen live TV like it.
Update 01.04.17: Netflix Live has been canceled.
“We miscalculated the number of people who like to binge-watch microwaves. Dave from analytics is in trouble,” says Netflix.
Netflix Live is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.