Have you ever had a time when you’re on Netflix and you can’t decide what to watch? It’s terrible, isn’t it?! You’re faced with a rather large library with plenty of perfectly acceptable TV and movie options to entertain you for a while, but first you have to pick one, and that requires making a decision and you’re feeling so “meh” that nothing is jumping out at you. Well, fear not – Max is here to save the day (maybe)!
Netflix’s Max service is an interactive game that uses several methods to help the viewer decide what to watch. With a style and attitude very much like the “You Don’t Know Jack” series complete with a snappy, idiosyncratic announcer and musical interludes, Max asks you to pick a genre and then rate movies in that genre that you may or may not have seen. After rating several movies, Max makes a recommendation. If you decline that option, Max will try something else to help you pick. Since its release, several new ways to play have been added to mix things up and add to the experience, such as picking a specific actor to find movies/TV for. Max also makes use of Netflix’s algorithms to find recommendations based on the ratings the user has given shows in the past. Max has been around for a few months now, available on the Playstation 3 platform (no word on if it’s coming out for other devices yet).
Tonight, I fired up Netflix Max and played “One Simple Question”: Max had me choose impulsively between suburban dysfunction or detectives. I chose detectives and it recommended, much to my chagrin, “Murder, She Wrote.” After Max’s 30-second pitch (not available for all titles) describing the merits of the show, I decided to give it a try. Forty-five minutes later, Angela Lansbury had won me over and I was seriously considering watching the next episode in spite of my previous reservations. Max won me over in this case, and this wasn’t the first time. Max and my own curiosity have led me to watch quite a few things I loved (if you haven’t watched “Black Books” yet, get on it), but probably would never have found out about otherwise. In that regard, Max is very good for separating the wheat from the chaff. Max doesn’t always get it right, though. There have been occasions when none of the recommendations have sounded appealing – at that point, Max says, “Thank you for playing!” and that’s the end of it.
Overall, even if it’s not always effective at recommending something to watch, Netflix Max is quite entertaining in itself. With further development and a presence on other platforms, Max has the potential to be a lot of fun and hopefully relieve us all of our streaming media indecision.