Commentary

Optimum Busts A Move

It’s the cliché to end all clichés, I know, but I’ve learned so much from my children. They’ve taught me compassion. They’ve taught me patience, about rejecting the urge to lash out over spilled milk or crayoned walls. They’ve taught me that unconditional love exists outside the world of fairy tales.

They’ve also taught me that the most effective way to get what I want is to lose my shit as loudly and lengthily as possible. Kid number two pitched enough of a fit at the car wash the other day that he ended up with more trinkets than he has hands to hold them (and with which he might coat them with snot). As it turns out, nobody likes a screaming, drooling lunatic. Who knew? In most instances, the impulse is to do whatever it takes - acquiesce unconditionally, fake a seizure, empty the collection plate into the jerkhead’s fanny pack, etc. - to calm the loon down and send him/her on his/her merry way.

Which brings me to my cable, cell phone and satellite-radio providers. Every year, they attempt to hike my rates. Every year, I call up, ask to speak to a retention specialist and, after embarking on a scripted “I love this service with the intensity of 1,000 halogen dorm lamps, but it’s a lot of money and I simply can’t afford it, and I’ll have to close my account if there’s no wiggle room here, which would break my heart, but I know you’re empowered to help me, and thanks again for your help and patience, and for the record I think it’s really unfair that you are judged by the number of people you keep from jumping ship, because how could that possibly be your fault, and I guess we’re all a statistic nowadays, but you do what you gotta do and just be good to people, especially your family, and hey are you a parent?, because I’ve learned so much from my children…” filibuster, eventually secure an extension of the old rate. This is my superpower.

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Or at least it was, until one of the companies called me on my bluff last week. So I went the kid-number-two route, amping up the orneriness and condescension to a level that, frankly, made me ashamed of myself. And it worked. I suspect that there may be a cute little PSYCHOTIC notation in my customer file now, but that’s the price you pay for saving $5 per month.

It shouldn’t have to be this way - and with Optimum, it never is. The customer service is attentive, the price is fair and the technology itself almost never poops out. Either Optimum is the rare cable/Internet/communications/whatever company that has its act together, or I’m so hardened by years of doing business with Time Warner Cable that anybody seems pleasant and proficient by comparison.

Anyway, my glee with Optimum after this year’s renegotiation prompted me to check out “The Unmovers,” the company’s first true branded-content effort. The premise - moving company muffs innocent customer’s move, but Optimum is totally awesome when it comes to transferring service over to a new address - struck me as odd for a cable company, so I came into it expecting Optimum to do to brand video what its owner has done to the Knicks.

Instead, “The Unmovers” ranks as one of the most pleasant surprises in recent memory. The four-video series chronicles the adventures of Three Brothers Moving as they systematically destroy a client’s belongings over the course of a (way longer than expected) day. In “A Good Ten Minutes…,” they muff the arrival time. In “Technically, We’re Early,” they dawdle and delay. In “Glassware!,” they trash the glassware. And in, “We Have 1 Star,” they half-heartedly defend themselves.

Nobody overthought this thing. I’d be surprised to learn that there was a formal script; the series has an improvised feel, complete with thrown-off lines like “we were just making sure this bed was still working” and “there can’t be any secrets between a mover and their movee.” The scenarios are brought to life with deadpan delight by the titular “brothers,” each of whom puts far more effort into the endeavor than anyone has any reason to expect. If they’re not enjoying themselves, they do a hell of a job pretending otherwise.

Another aspect of the series that I love: There’s zero resolution. The movers do not receive their expected comeuppance and a competent moving company does not arrive on the scene to save the day. The last ep is set almost entirely in the moving truck; that’s where it ends, with the protagonist and her belongings left in limbo. We’re not exactly in Tony-Soprano-can’t-enjoy-his-onion-rings-in-peace territory here, but it’s nice that the creators weren’t compelled to wrap things up neatly. Do I smell a sequel? No, that’s just the throw pillows. Long story.

“The Unmovers” is kinda old - it debuted last fall, when I was otherwise occupied - and, as mentioned before, its focus on the headaches/perils associated with moving seems a little strange for a communications company. But the series is just the right length, the performances are inspired and the brand isn’t over-burnished. That’s all it takes, really. Go, Optimum.

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