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OK, so about that Roku streaming stick. Or, should I say, Talkmistress in Rokuland.

First, I realize this is all old hat to those who answered the streaming stick call a long time ago. I'm targeting those who heard the term, didn't know what the heck it was, were too busy adjusting their TV antennas to care and now are facing the fact that it really, really might just be a while before everybody can head back to the next festival, ball, gun show or cheesy water park.

A streaming stick may be for you if you have "cut the cord" but are tired of getting your favorite over-the-air channels only via the aforementioned antenna ... or by standing in front of the TV in "Karate-Kid crane position" style.

There are several brands of streaming sticks to choose from ... Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast Ultra, Apple, etc. We became intrigued by Roku when visiting friends from church, getting an introduction to their Roku stick, and being told that for a $39 one-time purchase we would wonder, "Who needs cable?"

Hubster Dre and I bought two Roku sticks for each of our TVs, upped our internet bandwidth and have been a couple of Alices in Wonderland, going down various rabbit holes. Who knew there were all these streaming channels, all with snappy little names like Tubi, Pluto, Stirr and the Captain-Obvious-named WatchFreeFlix? Some channels serve as the overlords of a host of subchannels, each with its own broadcast lineup. And of course, the premium channels are available to sign up for, piecemeal, at their various monthly prices.

After a couple of weeks, we're still exploring all we have. Among the best discoveries:

◼️ It's like shopping the grocery store, what with all these no-name-brand, generic channels and subchannels to switch to if one tires of the big boys, especially when it comes to news channels.

◼️ We now have reliable access to our local PBS channel, what with having one TV that doesn't pick it up via antenna and another that gets it only if it feels like it.

◼️ Even without paying for premium channels, you can catch a few live broadcasts of things that you thought you couldn't get without being a cable customer or otherwise paying extra. Among these is the relatively new Black News Channel, whose interlude music is so infectious we often find ourselves dancing to it. (You really do have to make your own fun in these unprecedented times.)

◼️ As I said last week, even your "dumb" (well, nonsmart) TV will be turned into a smart TV if said TV happens to have so much as a high definition media interface cable outlet. Thanks to Roku access, both TVs are smarter. We've resubscribed (for now) to Hulu with Live TV, which we'd briefly tapped into a couple years ago but ditched because we didn't have either of the exactly two smart-TV brands on which Hulu Live was directly accessible.

◼️ Lots of good vintage TV on those subchannels.

The downsides:

◼️ Ads, ads and ads. But then you probably knew that already. A lot of these free movies can be hard to watch in that literally every 5-10 minutes, you get YouTubed ... in other words, you must endure a commercial break of what always seems to be no fewer than five ads.

◼️ Those little unannounced, seconds-long internet outages that want to occur just when the action revs up in the show you're watching. Same with cable or satellite service, though.

◼️ The transitioning from program to ad back to program can be awkward, especially if there are programs the channel (apparently) doesn't care to show. If streaming services were a deejay in this instance, that deejay would be kicked off the 1's and 2's.

◼️ "Sneak" premium channels that you have to access "through your cable or satellite service provider." Um ... Wasn't the point of the streaming stick to rid one's self of those providers?

◼️ It's like shopping the non-name-brand stuff at the grocery store: More movies to plow through to see what you might want to watch ... and more time potentially wasted, because there was a lot more bad cinema out there than you dreamed. Who the heck knew all these throwaway horror movies and "homemade" science fiction flicks existed?

◼️ More programs for Dre to yell back at or remark that the filmmakers ought to be dragged out and beaten with wet noodles for making.

◼️ The ever-present possibility that Roku could, like Skynet, become self-aware and take over us all.

We'll keep exploring Roku. That is, if we manage to stay off Hulu Live.



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