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My New Friend Roku

            For my birthday this year, my mom offered to figure out how to add streaming to our regular TV, so that we could finally get Netflix and find out what everyone’s been talking about. Up to now we’ve only been able to watch streaming channels (like Hoopla and Kanopy, which we get free from our library) on our computers or phones, so it didn’t seem worth the extra expense to pay for Netflix. But Mom was determined to try, and she ordered a Roku device, and spent two very frustrating days setting it up (I would have given up in two seconds) until it was all connected and working. Then my brother got me a few streaming channels for my birthday, so now we have Netflix and Britbox and Roku’s free movies on top of the two streaming services from our library. And then there are the channels I’m supposed to be able to move over from cable into streaming, so that the shows will be available whenever I want instead of just when they are scheduled, but I’m not sure my brain has the bandwidth to figure out how to make that happen, and I’m already overwhelmed with so many options I can barely see straight.

“We’re exhausted too.”

            It took us forever to look into a device to add streaming to our TV, mostly because I was sure it would be expensive, and require a smart TV, and add ten times more stress to my life; just like I waited forever to switch from my flip phone to a smart phone, because I was overwhelmed with all of the new skills I’d have to learn, and all of the decisions I’d have to make. But my smart phone has turned into a wonderful companion, and I think the Roku will probably be the same, eventually.

            My first priority when the Roku was connected, and Netflix was added, was to start watching Shtissel – an Israeli TV show about an ultra-orthodox family in Jerusalem. I’d seen two episodes a few years ago, on YouTube, with only Hebrew subtitles, so now I could watch the whole series, with English subtitles to fill in the gaps where my Hebrew and Yiddish skills failed me. But as soon as I went looking for Shtissel, I found a ton of shows people have been recommending for years, and I had to fill up my watchlist before I could focus on watching any actual shows.

            Then I went through Britbox and ended up putting most of those shows on my watchlist too – because I’m a sucker for a British mystery, but also because even on the large screen I can barely read the show descriptions, so I added a lot of shows without really knowing what they’d be about, just assuming it’s a British mystery, so it has to be good. We’ll see how that goes.

“You can never assume!”

            Of course, now I’m eyeing those channels I don’t have yet (apple+, Prime Video, Hulu, etc.) because I keep seeing ads for shows I can’t access, and it is insanely frustrating, and then I  get overwhelmed with all of the options, and wish I could go back to only having two hundred or so channels to choose from.

“Is there a squirrel channel?”

            But I am, gradually, getting used to all of this. I’ve even learned how to juggle the three TV remotes we need now, one for cable, one for Roku, and one to switch back and forth from Roku to cable.

            My mom, who got all of this set up, says she is flummoxed by the three remotes, and all of the options, and leaves it to me to make the decisions about what to watch and when. She tells me that the Roku was a present for me, not for her, so she will happily watch whatever I choose. But I know that, eventually, she will find a streaming channel devoted entirely to quilting or photography, and I will be unable to convince her to hand back the remote controls, so I am doing my best to get on board and watch all of the shows I like now, before it’s too late.

“Don’t let her do it! She already sews too much!”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

82 responses »

  1. Brava to your mom for figuring out all that technical stuff!

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  2. Welcome to the streaming-verse. Roku has a large number of free offerings. Just exploring it all can be adventuresome. The one thing I advise people, and I’ll offer to you, is to subscribe to a channel. Then, if you tire of it, you can always cancel it or put the subscription on hold and subscribe to another channel for a bit. For example, if you like Britbox but decide that you want other Brit fare, you can cancel Britbox (rejoining it later) and subscribe to AcornTV, which is also Brit oriented. Have fun. Cheers

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  3. Years ago we got an Amazon Fire TV box, which worked well with our less-than-smart TV. Then we got a Roku TV and had competing options. Then the Roku TV died, and we reverted to the older TV (which we’d abandoned because we thought the HDMI port had stopped working, making it impossible to use the Fire, but it turned out only one port had died; there were several others). We haven’t been able to get Hulu working on the old TV (though it used to work before), so I’ve finally canceled it. So we have just Prime Video (because I have a Prime subscription) and Netflix (which my husband keeps threatening to cancel, and then we find more fun stuff) and free channels such as Roku and Freevee and PBS Passport. There’s usually more than we have time for, but hard to find; if we try one episode of a series and are unimpressed, however, there’s always something else waiting in the wings! Like you, we like British mysteries but so far haven’t succumbed to Brit box or Acorn; we watch too much already as it is!

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  4. Remember how simple life was when we only had a few channels to choose from?! Have fun catching up. I like the British shows too. Happy New Year!

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  5. Soooo great!! … and yes, overwhelming to set up, but for myself it’s because I don’t want to “break it.” As a British mystery fan as well, especially Agatha Christie (Poirot) on Britbox is wonderful. How fun for you both! Happy New year ☮️

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  6. I love my Roku. So much easier than the regular smart TV

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  7. Wishing you a wonderful New Year, Rachel.

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  8. Uh oh. I LOVE British mysteries. Like me, sometimes you may wonder if you will ever leave the house again. 😱😂 Enjoy, and Happy New Year.

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  9. Don’t fight over the remote. Just get a TV for your mom. You can both sign into the same streaming services. 😊. (Also, Happy Birthday and Happy New Year!!)

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  10. I’ve effectively converted fully to streaming. I rarely watch free-to-air TV. I don’t watch the news at all. Happy birthday and Happy New Year 😃

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  11. We’re way behind the times. Only Netflix and 27 channels. I still don’t use any of it enough.

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  12. We stream Youtube, Hulu and Disney+ but we don’t pay extra for live streaming. I still get Dvd’s in the mail through Netflix and will continue till either we go through their entire catalouge or they officially pull the plug. I discovered a Brit Panel Comedy show on Youtube on its own official channel called Taskmaster. I highly reccomend it.

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  13. Just one word Rachel, Disney +! You would love it! I had resisted it for years for actually the same reason you dodged streaming for so long and just got it a few month ago. It’s magic!

    Happy New Year to you, your mom and the doggies. Stay safe, healthy and warm. ❤

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  14. I remember the days of being overwhelmed by three major networks and PBS yet not finding satisfying programs. The world has changed to optimization and customization. Enjoy your new “friend”.

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  15. Discovery plus is good too if you like true crime, reality shows, etc!
    Also disney plus is good for some shows!

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  16. First off, major kudos to your mom for fighting through the angst and lack of patience to get the technology set up for you. I am quite interested in getting a streaming channel (other than Prime Video, which I have through my Amazon account) but I know that it will terrorize me to try and figure out how to hook things up and then, if I’m lucky enough to do so, how to use it.

    I understand your conundrum about all of the shows available. I recently got fed several websites where I could get free Kindle books outside of Amazon, and in less than 2 months, I’d added over 150 books to my reading list! I unsubscribed from them once I reached over 500 books already on my Kindle! I can always rejoin if I can ever get through all of these 500 books (and I read about 125 books a year so I’m good for at least 3 years!).

    Enjoy all of your new shows! Tell your mom I think she’s incredible!

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  17. Enjoy the new channels. I remember how excited we were when we got a digi box for our TV which opened up another 50 channels………. except most weren’t available in our area, and those that were showed repeats on a loop that were almost as old as we were . We ditched the TV in 2007 and have never looked back. Besides, we’d have to pay almost £160 a year to watch programmes we have seen too many times to mention, soaps which have no appeal, and as for reality shows, they can keep them, so no point us having one. Hubby watches the old B&Ws of his choice on youtube.
    Happy New Year to you and your Mom Rachel, not to mentions treats by proxy for Cricket and Ellie.

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  18. It was a joyous day when I got Roku and Brit Box. Acorn has a very good selection of fine UK shows also.

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  19. Have great fun with your new channels. TV is a great way to spend cold winter evenings.

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  20. Wonderful stuff, I love my Roku… don’t miss the “free” stuff (yes, may have ads, but free still) like on Roku Channel, etc. Enjoy the new year access!!

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  21. Happy New Year! It’s so tempting to want what we can’t have but I find there’s so much available that I can stream, that I haven’t run out yet.

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  22. A whole new world is opening up!

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  23. Happy Birthday & Happy New Year!!

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  24. We have a Roku TV and basically only watch Amazon (we have Prime), You tube (just a little) and Paramount+. We had Netflix, but made the choice to cancel it and use the money to go to Paramount+ to watch everything we liked there, then switch back LOL! We just found out if we subscribe to Walmart’s free food delivery service for a little over $100 a year, we can watch Paramount+ for free, so we’re going to do that. Anyhow, tell Ellie that there is also a channel just for dogs somewhere out there in TV land, so she will need a paw sized control! Just kidding (about the control) and I know you’ll have lots of fun with your new “toy.”

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  25. My grown daughter lived with me for 6 months before moving. During that time, she had Roku set up on my T.V. I loved it! Now, I just have NetFlix because it came with the T. V. But, it sure was fun when she was here! Movies galore !

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  26. Congratulations! And your Mom helping with it all? Wow! My kids, a couple years ago, decided I needed an upgrade and bought me a Roku smart TV. I love it! Eventually, I quit cable. I have only one remote and things actually got simpler. But yeah, too many choices / recommendations. Here’s one: Try OUTLANDER, it’s on Netflix and Starz. Good luck, cheers.

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  27. I used to work for Roku and personally think it’s the best (yes, biased opinion.) If you like BritBox, you might also consider Acorn which also has a lot of British mysteries and programming. And the Roku Channel – lots of good free stuff there.
    and yes, it’s an overwhelming number of choices.

    Enjoy!

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  28. As you like a police drama/mystery look out for The Brokenwood Mysteries on Roku -it may not work as I’m in UK however it might be flighted across both countries. It’s set in New Zealand so lots of gorgeous scenery and quite fun. I can’t resist a Poirot and am always rewatching them on catchup – the costumery and styling is perfect. Enjoy your new programmes 🙂

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  29. Enjoy your new toy Rachel and HNY! 🥳

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  30. I am quite overwhelmed as well about the unscheduled way that streaming works with so many options to choose from wheneverI ant to. But it seems whatever I choose it does not help extend my chronically short attention span. That’s why I’d rather spend more time just slowing down to read, practice yoga, or do some blogging.

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  31. We used to have a Roku and now we have a Firestick. I have to NOT watch ANY commercial or look at any ads for shows. I have found that when I see something I like then go to find it to watch . . . yup, not on the channels we have and it gets so frustrating, so I don’t pay attention any more. I am tired of being disappointed and frustrated. I need to know which service it is on BEFORE I even hear a word about it. Good luck figuring things out and congratulations on having new things to watch!

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  32. Loved Shtisel and when/if you get prime you will love Srugim! just more stress lol- happy watching

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  33. I’m a sucker for any British detective shows. Latest favs are The Devil’s Hour and The Dublin Murders.

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  34. I really enjoyed your take on Roku! So, the format is new to you? Actually, I only learned about it a few years back. I guess it’s been gradually growing and is steadily becoming more common. They keep trying to branch out with original content but they have a long way to go on that end.

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