REAL AUSTRALIA

Who needs Tiger King on Netflix when you can pop a VHS tape into the VCR?

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM Executive Editor James Joyce.

VHS ... just like streaming, but in a little plastic box.

VHS ... just like streaming, but in a little plastic box.

No, I have not watched the Tiger King thing on Netflix. Not yet.

When I'm trying to escape reality do I really want to watch the "you can't make this stuff up" words and deeds of a narcissistic American circus freak with a bizarre haircut?

That's what Donald Trump's White House press briefings on the nightly news are for.

But Tiger King is a roaring success with the hibernating masses so, on the strength of a colleague's recommendation that it's "perfect for prescription pain relief and insomnia", I have added the documentary series to "My List".

Netflix series Tiger King tells the real-life story of a big cat collector who goes by the name "Joe Exotic".

Netflix series Tiger King tells the real-life story of a big cat collector who goes by the name "Joe Exotic".

Unlike comedian Andy Lee, who told Mick Molloy and Sam Pang on Network Seven's footy-free The Front Bar this week that he'd "finished Netflix" ("Yep, clocked it!"), the list of shows and movies I have earmarked on the streaming service but still not watched never seems to shrink.

At our place we've only just completed the first five seasons of the utterly delightful Eugene Levy-Catherine O'Hara comedy Schitt's Creek and now there's Tiger King already queued up.

Honestly, there's just too much to watch and not enough time. OK, so maybe there's other stuff I need to be waaaaay more anxious about right now. But I want to do my binge-watching bit to save the world too, you know.

As Larry David, sarcasm maestro of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm genius, explained this week to "the idiots out there" (those who are not staying put and keeping their social distance), we have been presented with a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay in the house, sit on the couch, and watch TV".

"I don't know how you're passing that up," the irascible David moaned in a #StayHomeSaveLives video clip tweeted by the office of the Californian Governor.

"I guess you're not that bright. Go home and watch TV, that's my advice to you. If you've seen my show, nothing good ever happens going out of the house, you know that. It's just trouble out there."

I will certainly be following Larry David's advice this weekend. But Netflix and Tiger King will have to wait. I will be staying home and watching the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS instead.

Yes, the original Star Wars - not the so-called "special editions".

And, yes, you read that right, on VHS.

Children, VHS stands for Video Home System and it was very big in the 1980s and 1990s because it gave a grateful generation the unimagineable ability to avoid watching plain old television. Remember television?

Back in the pre-Kardashian period, before Netflix and Fortnite and Tik Tok, VHS was the first home entertainment technology to put the power of the network television programmer and the cinema projectionist into the hands of the viewer. And all you had to do was go out to a store - like, an actual shop - and rent the VHS tapes and then remember to take them back the next day. True story.

And, honestly, you haven't lived if you've never pushed a VHS tape into a VCR.

You haven't lived if you've never pushed a VHS tape into a VCR.

You haven't lived if you've never pushed a VHS tape into a VCR.

Like my film buff colleague Ron Cerabona at The Canberra Times, the original Star Wars from 1977 is the favourite movie of my childhood.

Four decades later the final chapter of the saga, The Rise of Skywalker (out this week on iTunes and DVD), overexcited and underwhelmed with force-fed nostalgia. Strangely, the TV spin-off The Mandalorian on Disney+ felt more authentic, more Star Wars, than any of Disney's movie sequels.

Perhaps that's why, a month ago, I drove across town to pay $15 for a stranger's VHS set of the original Star Wars trilogy. These are the films as they were when they first blasted onto movie screens - before director George Lucas's digital "enhancements" for his 1997 "special editions"; back when no-one cared that Han Solo shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina.

Han Solo shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina. True story.

Han Solo shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina. True story.

This weekend - if my banged-up Millenium Falcon of a VCR behaves - I'm hoping those creaky old video tapes will transport me back to that gloriously grainy, analog galaxy far, far away. Back to when Boba Fett doesn't appear until The Empire Strikes Back, and when Jabba the Hutt doesn't appear until Return of the Jedi. They were the days, eh?

"Be kind, rewind" - video shop etiquette in the VHS age - feels like exactly the kind of mantra the world needs in this time of #StayHomeSaveLives.

See below for some current streaming recommendations from our trusted screen reviewers.

James Joyce

ACM Executive Editor

More stuff to read ...