Have you heard of Disney+?
It's a new streaming service that lets you watch, for a monthly fee, the movies you saw in theater, then bought on VHS, then bought on DVD, then bought on DVD again because the kid put the disk in the toaster, then bought on Blu-ray, then rented because the Blu-ray box was empty and the disk was probably under the sofa but you'll look later.
I signed up for a seven-day free trial, which is another way of saying I committed to the service for the rest of my life. Yes, the deal said that I can cancel at any time, but we — and by that I mean me and the Disney company — all know that I won't. Eventually I expect to find myself saying, "Maybe Disney will go out of business and the charges will stop."
There is plenty of new content I hadn't seen, though. But first, let's watch all the "Star Wars" movies again! Now let's watch "The Mandalorian," because it's supposed to be good. Hey, it's great! It's so good it makes you angry at the other "Star Wars" movies that now seem like silly kiddie romps. Can't wait to watch another one.
So ... turn on the TV. Go to the TV's menu. Go to the Input menu. Go to the AppleTV menu. Go to the Disney+ menu. Rub some liniment on your menu-button finger, which has started to cramp. Ah, there's the Disney+ options. Select "Star Wars." Select "The Mandalorian."
Really, that's what the screen said. "Oh no! Something went wrong."
That's a rather broad statement, isn't it? It covers "your password has expired" on one end and "an unexpected supernova has destroyed the electrical infrastructure of the West Coast with a gamma-ray burst" on the other. So you turn to Google in hopes of seeing what this means.
There are no news headlines about a supernova, so cross that one off the list — unless, of course, the supernova wiped out the news transmissions, too. But there's only so much a person can worry about at a time, and right now it's "Star Wars."
I went to a site that troubleshoots Disney+, and there it said that the simplest solution is try again. So I tried again.
"Oh no!" said the screen.
What else could I try? The website, which could be accessed only if the internet was working, said: "Make sure your internet is working." This is like calling the phone company to see if you can make a phone call.
The next step: Turn the internet off and then back on. This I did, and it worked.
Just kidding. "Oh no!" was the result.
I went to the next step: nuking the app, downloading it again and signing back in with my e-mail and password. What was that password? Oh, yeah, it was my address.
"Password not recognized," the app said. Granted, it was nice to get some other message than "Oh no!" But this wasn't getting us anywhere. Then I realized that I forgot to capitalize one of the letters. Same result. I tried capitalizing a different letter, to no avail. So I tried capitalizing all the letters. Nothing.
Finally it hit me: I had registered this account when we were at the old house. When I used that address, it worked.
Except by this point I was getting tired and wanted to go to bed. Plus, it was depressing.
It wasn't supposed to be like this, was it? The streaming era would liberate us from cable packages that had 128 channels we could not possibly want, including those shopping channels that had shows like "Toe Fungus Remedy Now!" And "Cubic Zirconium Festival Hootenanny" and 65 sports channels that had shows about the 1965 Jai-Alai Regional Championships and all those infomercials about products that sound really neat until you order one and discover that you've been conned for the 122nd time.
Now we can subscribe to Amazon Prime, AppleTV, HBO Now, HBO Then, HBO In The Foreseeable Future, Hulu, Crackle, Pluto, and everything else that replaced the act of watching TV with the interminable prowl to find something you might want to watch, perhaps later.
Before: "I'm paying $115 for all this stuff I never watch! Let me choose my channels individually, OK?"
Now: "I'm paying $116 for all this stuff I never watch, but the quality is incredible! I've never not watched so many good shows in my life."
But then, when we finally make an effort to sit down and watch something, "Oh no!" happens.
It was so much better in the old days. Let's imagine it's 1964. You turn on the TV. There is a picture. It's fuzzy, but you're used to a little static. Perhaps you adjust the antenna atop the TV set; perhaps you jiggle the wires that attach the TV to the roof antenna. You sit down to watch, and then a card appears on the TV.
"Technical difficulties," it says. "Please stand by."
Disappointing? Sure. But not nearly as frustrating as now. Because in those days, all you could do was stand by and wait for someone else to figure out what was wrong.
Simpler times. I miss them too.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks