Flowing Merrily Down The Free Stream

Here’s another way to deal with the streaming boom’s dilemma of too many content choices, now intensified by new services like Disney+ and the upcoming Peacock: Go for the free stuff.

For example, social-media superpowers Facebook and YouTube offer free, ad-supported scripted shows. Facebook is more generous than YouTube, whose content seems to be housed largely behind paywalls more than a year after announcing it was moving to a free model.

Users may not be aware of the shows on Facebook and YouTube, since both companies haven’t exactly gone overboard promoting them.

Also, it’s not always easy to find shows from a central location. Do a title-specific search on the sites themselves, at least for Web access.

True, you’ll find fewer shows to choose from than Netflix. But they’re often just half an hour, so they’re easy to sample — and a surprising number feature at least one well-known actor.

On Facebook Watch, consider the one-season Catherine Zeta-Jones comedy “Queen America,” which explores the world of teen beauty pageants. The show’s narrative seems cliched at first, but deepens as the characters come into their own.



More well-known -- at least by TV critics, who gave it stellar reviews -- is Facebook Watch’s “Sorry for Your Loss.” It’s a heartfelt, uncorny look at the grieving process of a young widow (Elizabeth Olsen) and her troubled family, including her mother, played by noted theater actress and Tony/Olivier award-winner Janet McTeer.

However, give “Limetown,” a whole-town-vanished, what’s-the-conspiracy? show starring Jessica Biel and Stanley Tucci, a miss. Facebook Watch’s “Limetown” is, yes, a lemon.

On YouTube Originals is the absorbing first two seasons of “Impulse,” a thriller about a bitter teenager (the superb Maddie Hasson) whose teleporting powers develop after she’s sexually attacked by a classmate. Hasson, however, doesn’t even appear in the best episode (season 2, episode 4), devoted entirely to the amazing backstory of a supporting character.

“Impulse” used to be available only on YouTube Premium, which was previously called YouTube Red. YouTube Premium still exists, offering such fare as the latest season of the breakthrough “Karate Kid” sequel “Cobra Kai,” for $11.99 a month. For that price, otherwise free shows like “Impulse” ad-free.

And therein lies the rub. Viewing the four series on YouTube and Facebook’s free, ad-supported platforms, there wasn't a single ad! Good for the viewer, bad for those services’ monetization plans.

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