How to Watch Netflix (No, Really)
This past fall, the internet rejoiced when all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls were added to Netflix. Then, on January 1, all 10 seasons of Friends came to the site, and the internet once again lost its collective mind. On January 1 I was one of many who began binge watching Friends from the beginning (although I'm sure if you're the type to watch Friends the day it hits the web, you're the type that's already seen every episode 20 times), but that same day I saw an article on Jezebel that filled me with sadness: Some people were unable to find Friends on Neflix on New Year's Day. My two thoughts in response to this were 1) People can be pretty dumb. 2) If you are only using Netflix.com to watch Netflix, you are doing it wrong. I can't do anything about people not being able to use Netflix's search bar (which is so foolproof, it will actually correct your spelling, so writing "Fiends" is no excuse. Plus, at Christmas I typed in "Home" and before I could finish I got the message "Home Alone is not available for instant watch, but here are some other holiday favorites!") What I can do is tell you three ways you will always know what's new on Netflix, and some great titles that you could be watching.
The best tool for using Netflix Instant Watch is an Instant Watch Tracker. There are quite a few good ones, but my favorite is Instant Watcher. This site tracks the 50 most popular titles on Netflix streaming in the last 24 hours, as well as what's been searched for, queued, and recently added. This is how I know not everyone has been binge watching Friends (it hasn't yet cracked the top 20), and that straight-to-DVD horror movies are much more popular than I would have imagined. Instant Watcher is also a great tool for browsing Netflix's immense library. It can be difficult to navigate that huge catalog, and not all of Netflix's sub-genres are available to browse (Which is a very strange move, and one I have never understood). I will frequently use Instant Watcher to find something to watch on Netflix, then follow the links to take me to Netflix so I can watch my selection. It's actually a huge time saver, even though it involves going to two sites instead of one.
Netflix adds new titles every month, but they don't usually add them to their list of new additions right away. That means that even if you're checking out what's new on the homepage, you're still not going to realize your favorite John Hughes movie or whatever is now available until it's been available for a week or two. Lucky for us, Vulture makes a list at the beginning of every month detailing some of the top titles that are going to be added to Netflix that month. To make it even easier, I've bookmarked the index of all the monthly columns, so once a new one is added I'll see it right at the top. They also post a link on Vulture's Twitter page, but as we've established, sometimes people need things to be ridiculously easy.
My last suggestion for next-level Netflix viewing is definitely the most stylish of the bunch. The site What The Hell Should I Watch on Netflix? is a site that is easy to use, well written, and just plain nice to look at. From the homepage, you choose whether you're looking for a movie or a TV show, then what genre you'd like to watch. That's it! You're given a potential show, with a well written but concise synopsis, a trailer, and links to other reviews/review aggregators (like Rotten Tomatoes). At the bottom of the page you'll also see links to other films or shows in the same genres. The major plus to this site is also a slight downside: It's very selective. By that I mean, you know that these recommendations are all vetted and this site isn't just a dumping ground for "Things That Are Kinda Sorta Cool on Netflix," but there's also a chance that you've seen quite a few of these things and you'll quickly find yourself cycling though all options of a certain genre. But, I mean, that's the only critique I can come up with. At all. This is seriously one of my favorite online tools, right after Is It Christmas?