CBS All Access
As a website devoted to the Star Trek universe, we’re naturally interested in promoting CBS All Access , the online streaming platform which currently hosts both past series of Star Trek and live broadcasts of episodes in the various new Star Trek releases.
However, we would like the reader to note that the below text is completely original and is based solely in the experience and opinions of STG’s reviewer; no advertorial content is included. In short, we’re not giving you the hard sell here, but we do wish to provide some space for an advertiser.
For more information or to subscribe to the CBS All Access service, click on any of the banners or images within the below text.
Streaming: The Final Frontier
The success of the CBS All-Access streaming service and Star Trek are inextricably linked, a mutually beneficial relationship that promises to make CBS’s entertainment portal to rival the biggest names in the online medium and expand the ST universe with multiple series.
Yes, CBS All Access is the place in 2019 and beyond to catch Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Section 31; and the CBS:AA platform includes the back catalogue of the series.
Though one could hardly tell today, CBS launched the All Access platform in October 2014, when rebooting the Star Trek TV universe was barely a glimmer in some producer’s eye. The earliest versions of CBS:AA leaned mostly on the live content, particularly sports. This last area garnered CBS the most subscriptions over the first two years of All Access, but NFL games were particularly problematic due to local blackout restrictions, cable TV deals and the like.
CBS’s reworked agreement with the NFL in December 2016 granted more availability of local games on All Access and was a harbinger of things to come for the service.
2017 was All Access’s breakout year. In February, the steaming of the Grammy Awards set a record for subscriptions in a 24-hour period; later that month saw the debut of the Good Fight, a spinoff series which marked the first original program for CBS:AA.
And then came Star Trek: Discovery
As with the Good Fight, CBS released episode 1 of Discovery on the network on the same night episode 2 was released on All Access. The result was an increase of over 30% in subscriptions within 48 hours. Even better for CBS:AA was the release of season 2 in January 2019: Between the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City chiefs and Discovery’s season 2 premiere, the 48-hour All Access record for subscriptions was shattered by an incredible 72%.
By February, the CBS All Access subscriber rolls totaled 4 million, doubling the number from one year previous, and network execs had greenlit at least three new Star Trek shows for straight-to-streaming. But hey, enough about Star Trek: Discovery; CBS:AA has lots more on offer even as the catalog steadily builds. For example, you can start with an all-time classic like…
The Twilight Zone, classic and reboot versions: The other flagship of CBS: All Access
Go ahead, start talking Twilight Zone with anyone who’s seen it – in fact, those of a younger generation can probably play along, having seen the storylines interpreted by The Simpsons, South Park or any satirical or speculative sci-fi series – and crazy stuff happens. Soon, you’re talking about that kid with crazy mental powers; the misanthropic dude who’s finally alone to read when he breaks his glasses; the “horribly disfigured” woman whose surgery fails.
The dimension of thought and mind that Rod Serling told us was called “The Twilight Zone” opened into the collective consciousness long ago, and TZ has become one of American TV’s greatest accomplishments. Perhaps only Seinfeld and Star Trek have left such an indelible mark on American culture as The Twilight Zone. Experience the trippy madness, as they say, again – all the classic episodes of the original from 1959 to ’64 may be watched on CBS All-Access.
CBS All Access also offers the newly-produced Twilight Zone reboot (it’s actually reboot #3 after comebacks in the 1980s and 2000s) with Jordan Peele as the narrator. Since his masterful Get Out, Peele has risen to the rank of psychological horror guru, so his posting to the new TZ was a no-brainer. And damn is he good, developing his lines with a hint of Serling but otherwise all 21st-century Peele.
Speaking of modern times, Peele’s Twilight Zone is as slick as they come; the look is naturally far evolved from the 60s, but the aspects of TZ-style storytelling remain. Essentially every TZ episode is about people forced to live in a psychologically repressive environment; the twist endings for which the original TZ became notorious are actually not requisite, but the surreality is necessary.
In combination with takes on the current social environment, the All Access version of Twilight Zone is a nice update to an all-time classic.
The Top 5 classic series, 4 movies and 1 documentary on CBS All-Access
CBS All Access has plenty of first-run and straight-to-streaming offerings of course, but true tubeophiles will definitely be clicking on the tab marked CLASSIC TV. Plus, who doesn’t love movies? STG has 10 things worth watching on CBS:AA right now.
The Odd Couple. On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence; that request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his friend, Oscar Madison. Several years earlier, Madison's wife had thrown *him* out, requesting that *he* never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?
So goes the voiceover introduction that ran over the opening credits of The Odd Couple, probably the finest American sitcom of the 1970s. The high concept leaned heavily on its stars Tony Randall and Jack Klugman to deliver and whoa, did they. In watching these episodes again, one is naturally awash immediately in 1970s mentality, from the general randiness of folks in the post-free love period to the digitally remastered look-at-me colors – yet the chemistry between the leads gives the sitcom a universal timeless appeal.
And the laugh track has never seemed so useless; Randall and Klugman are too good for the typical sitcome dialogue, and each episode feels like a stage play. This isn’t laugh-a-minute stuff by any means, but when the zingers come, they fairly well crackle with humor. A must-see for classic comedy fans.
Taxi. Another one from the 1970s, Taxi has all the typical hallmarks of the TV sitcom, but includes a couple of key factors that no other show had: Andy Kaufman and Christopher Lloyd. Check out Taxi to see Kaufman trying to restrain his anarchic humor for the mainstream and Lloyd in a breakout role that would parlay into a role as the badass Klingon of Star Trek III and ultimately Doc Brown of Back to the Future himself.
Perry Mason. “Isn’t it true, Mr. Smith…” The querulous opening to many a cross-examination created the genre of superstar attorney flicks and made Raymond Burr into a cottage industry. The original Perry Mason ran on CBS for an incredible eight seasons for 271 total episodes from 1957 to ’66, and CBS All Access has them all. If you’re into courtroom drama, you need no further encouragement.
All Access does not yet host any of the *26* TV movies starring Burr as Perry Mason, but perhaps they’ll have ’em by the time you get done with the ultimate binge-watch.
I Love Lucy. No list like this is complete without the inclusion of Lucille Ball, *the* TV comedienne for decades. The All Access collection of Lucy is great to watch purely for the slapstick hijinks, but it’s also quite a historical document of an incredibly progressive couple in Lucy and her real-life/sitcom husband Desi Arnez. It’s nice to see something from the 1950s that doesn’t have to be excused at every turn.
MacGyver “Classic”. Calling this show “classic” really makes a Generation Xer feel old…
MacGyver was a legend in its time with Richard Dean Anderson playing a one-man A-Team. Invariably captured or simply overlooked by the bad guys of a given episode, the literally unbelievably resourceful MacGyver would build a nuclear device from a cereal box and a pogo stick to save the day.
Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. Another bit of the legend that made this show so popular in the 1980s was that said devices could literally be made in the way that MacGyver shaped them, having been designed by a team of graduate students. Armed with he instant knowledge of a dozen Ivy Leaguers, how could MacGyver fail? This show is a freakin’ hoot.
Postcards from the Edge. Carrie Fisher’s passing in 2016 produced all the typical reminiscing you’d expect for an actress who co-starred in the biggest movie franchise of all-time. But geez, she was one hell of a writer, too. Postcards from the Edge was first a semi-autobiographical novel before Fisher wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. The movie shows all the wit and flair for dialogue of Fisher’s prose and Meryl Streep in the starring role is naturally as great as ever.
Legally Blonde. You know who else is a fantastic actress? Reese Witherspoon. Years before she was knocking it out of the park in Wild, Witherspoon twice played the irrepressibly optimistic idealist Elle Woods. (Part 3 is scheduled for a February 2020 release, incidentally…) With charisma to spare and a nice little doggie to assist, Witherspoon enlivens some pretty standard stuff. Incidentally, can we have a mashup of Elle Woods, Esq. vs. Perry Mason? That’d be awesome, thanks.
Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson has a brush with romance in this bit of cinematic magical realism. Enough time has passed since the release of Midnight in Paris that you may be unaware of the Act I twist which sends this film into a gentler Twilight Zone. STG will spoil nothing and strongly advise you to skip the trailer, don’t research and just load it up through CBS All Access.
The Brady Bunch Movie. Full disclosure: Only a certain cross-section of North Americans will dig on the awesomeness that is The Brady Bunch Movie, but to that swathe STG can guarantee that this is one of the funniest flicks ever. If any of your pre-teen years coincided with any part of the 1970s at all, the Brady Bunch Movie (and to some extent the Brady Bunch reruns) is reason enough to get CBS All Access.
The insane weirdness driving the Brady Bunch Movie is its central conceit, i.e. that the Brady Family of 1970s family sitcom lore is essentially stuck in the era of 8-tracks and bigass meatloaf for dinner, as the Los Angeles suburbia around them trundles on with all the irony and sarcasm of the 1990s. In fact, this only unintentionally adds another level of brilliance to the Brady Movie, as not only do we get the retro 70s TV kick, we may now enjoy this tour de force as 90s nostalgia, too.
Exporting Raymond. Nothing about the peculiar brand of insanity prevalent in Russia ever gets old, does it? Exporting Raymond tells of the trials and tribulations of Philip Rosenthal, producer of Everyone Loves Raymond, in working on an adaptation of the show for Russian audiences. And yeah, it’s everything you’d figure and more.
What else is in the TV catalogue at All Access?
Star Trek Guide doesn’t know how CBS did it, but amongst the All Access “classics” sections are the other mass networks’ hallmark shows. Just to name a few, CBS All Access has the aforementioned Brady Bunch and Happy Days series from ABC, plus Family Ties, Cheers, Fraser, Wings and Caroline in the City from NBC.
On top of this, CBS:AA has 110+ TV series, most with every episode included, in all the usual categories: drama, comedy, reality TV, morning TV, news, sports and specials. At the very bottom of this piece are displayed some of the more popular choices on the service.
Finally, the one series on All Access every Star Trek fan must watch
Star Trek: The Animated Series has always been considered the black sheep of the ST family; a miniscule number of current-day fans have come to the franchise through the 22 episodes of TAS and most fans only learn of the series well after assimilating (so to speak) much of the rest of the other series.
And now CBS All Access gives Star Trek fans the chance to, um, appreciate The Animated Series in high quality. Star Trek Guide wouldn’t exactly call most of TAS “good” per se – though the Slavers’ Weapon is an all-time classic – but wow, this is just fascinating, in Spock’s vernacular. Unhindered by the necessity of real-life set building, special effects or physics, the writers and animated clearly went bananas, routinely bringing pocket universes, walking plants and “colony aliens.” (Don’t ask; just watch “Bem”, quite possibly the most deranged ST episode ever.)
Star Trek: The Animated Series is all about the trips of the starship Enterprise and oddly going where no one had gone before. You’ve got to see it to believe it.