Why Crackle Is The Best Streamer For Fans Of Obscure Television

Post by: Rick Ellis 16 September, 2021

Crackle is the streaming service that always feels as if it's three months away from figuring out its place in the streaming entertainment universe. Originally owned by Sony, it began life as a home for random Sony-owned movies and television shows that didn't have enough value to make them worth licensing to another streaming service. "The Best Of What We Have Leftover" is not a great motto for a streaming service and despite a few attempts at original programming, Sony never quite figured out a content mix that made sense. Even though Crackle 1.0 was ad-supported and free, a random mix of titles combined with a truly awkward UX made the service almost invisible to most TV viewers.

But one thing Crackle always had was a small collection of Sony-owned TV shows that you couldn't find anywhere else. Sometimes they were shows that had only lasted a season. Sometimes they were shows that just didn't have any name recognition in the marketplace. Granted, there were problems that annoyed TV fans. Seasons were incomplete or in some random order. A show would only have five episodes available on Crackle for a month. It would then disappear for a couple of months and five other episodes would randomly appear. It wasn't ideal, but in a streaming world where obscure television is generally ignored by all of the major streamers, it was something.

In 2019, Sony Pictures Television sold off a majority stake in Crackle to Chicken Soup For The Soul Entertainment (CSFTSE) and Crackle was eventually rolled into Crackle Plus, which controlled Crackle as well as a portfolio of other streamers. As part of the deal, CSFTSE retained access to select Sony-owned movies and television shows. So Crackle continued its love of strange and little-known TV.

If you are a fan of obscure television, Crackle has a mini-treasure trove of dramas available this month. The entire 11-episode run of the 1984 series Blue Thunder (based on the motion picture and weirdly co-starring Dana Carvey); season one of the 1994 syndicated action series High Tide (starring Rick Springfield and Yannick Bisson);  the 1966 Burt Reynolds/Gene Hackman series Hawk; the 2009 Adam Goldberg/Amber Tamblyn/Jeremy Renner police detective series The Unusuals; the 2002 Peter Weller series Odyssey 5; the 2008 Lucy Liu series Cashmere Mafia; the 1998 drama The Net (based on the Sandra Bullock movie), the 2008 Julianna Margulies law drama Canterbury's Law; seasons two and three of the mid-1970s acclaimed cop series Police Story, the 1977 sci-fi series Fantastic Journey; seasons one and two of the Aaron Spelling series S.W.A.T and season three of the cheesy syndicated Pamela Anderson series V.I.P.

Looking for rarely-seen comedies? How about the 1972 David Birney/Meredith Baxter comedy Bridget Loves Bernie? Plus both seasons of the 1994 Jon Lovitz animated series The Critic; 2014's Bad Teacher; both seasons of the 1974 Clifton Davis/Susan Dey/Ted Lange comedy That's My Mama; 2003's Nia Vardalos/Andrea Martin series My Big Fat Greek Life; the 1973 comedy The Girl With Something Extra; both seasons of the 1999 Matt Frewer series Doctor, Doctor; 2011's Matthew Perry/Jorge Garcia/Andrea Anders sports comedy Mr. Sunshine; 1986's Melbas Moore sitcom Melba; the 1977 Bewitched spin-off Tabitha; 1999's Jaleel White/Soleil Moon Frye comedy The Grown Ups; 1983's All In The Family spin-off Gloria; all three seasons of the Eddie Murphy stop-action comedy The PJ's; the 1966 business comedy Occasional Wife; season one of the 1995 Tea Leoni/Taylor Holland series The Naked Truth; 1976's Sanford & Son spin-off Grady;  and season one of the Thomas Haden Church/Debra Messing/Greg Germann sitcom Ned & Stacey.

There are also obscure animated kids shows, such as seasons three and four of The Jackie Chan Adventures, 1990's The Karate Kid, 1986's The Real Ghostbusters; 1973's Jeannie and 1974's Partridge Family 2200 A.D.

This is a lineup that probably includes as many obscure TV shows as you'll find scattered across all of the other major streaming services combined. Still, there are some weird issues with missing episodes. There are only four random episodes of the 1984 Jason Bateman/Garrett Morris comedy It's Your Move (out of the 18 episode season).

But this is an amazing lineup, even if it's wrapped inside the generally clunky Crackle interface. It's also frustrating, because it makes me wonder why HBO Max or Peacock or Paramount+ have not taken advantage of their large catalogs of content and made an effort to launch a classic/obscure TV vertical. I understand that a lot of shows have music rights issues or other problems that make some shows difficult to stream But the Crackle library - imperfect as it might be - shows there are plenty of shows that can be streamed. And for whatever reason, no one has stepped up to make it happen.

Crackle isn't the ideal home for hard-core obscure TV fans. It's not even a decent experience some of the time. But it does show that there are plenty of TV shows that COULD be available for streaming. If only someone would just step up and take the risk.

If I were consulting with Crackle, I would encourage them to lean into the rare TV genre of streaming. Improve the user experience and become the go-to destination for viewers looking for the TV equivalent of Turner Classic Movies.

Last modified on Friday, 17 September 2021 08:23