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Nothing But Net: Binding Arrrrr-bitration (It’s A Pirate Pun)

I fell asleep Saturday night with the TV on. Hours later, I woke up in a pitch black room, blinding white light pouring from the screen. “News Corp. is holding sports fans hostage,” it read, with a monotone-voiced woman chanting some edict of war. It was part Poltergeist, part The Exorcist—my head started spinning around and I began vomiting green (that may have been the Four Loko). While Cablevision and News Corp. settle this bitch fight, let’s take matters into our own hands and watch whatever we’re missing online—for free! (Illegally!) Here’s a list of sites to do that, with ratings using a jail-time metric. Fight the power! – IceFilms came heavily recommended from a friend of mine. It’s the only .info domain on this list which immediately made me a little apprehensive, and in true .info fashion the site is a clusterf*ck of ads, text and graphics, marginally saved by decent search functionality to wade through its sizeable catalog of TV shows. In the House Test, IceFilms gets a C: it has the first six seasons but only two episodes of the one currently airing on TV. Watching a show requires you to install a proprietary plug-in script (which, when I clicked “Install” I was informed could access “[My] data on all sites,”), navigate through some menus, enter a Captcha and wait 40 seconds. The quality of the Millionaire Matchmaker episode (heretofore referred to as the Worst Show Ever Test) was pretty good, although my laptop fan is spinning like a wind turbine right now as a result. It’s hard to deny the quantity and quality, though. Rating: 25-to-life, showers with “Bubba” for the forseeable future – In contrast to IceFilms’ Las Vegas casino buffet-style layout, QSS’ homepage is more Sizzler—decent presentation, but you know what you’re getting into. I think it aces the House Test—I say think because the first five videos in the “House” category are the five aired from this season, but the other 3,585 are a jumble of old episodes and other stuff. No special plug-ins needed, no Captchas and no perceivable load time. Unfortunately, QSS doesn’t have any Bravo shows—or search capability—so I replaced Millionaire Matchmaker with Ugly Betty for the Worst Show Ever Test. The differences are indistinguishable in terms of how much both suck but the QSS’ video quality is noticeably worse. On the flip side, there’s a good in-video navigator for changing size, sharing and grabbing info (the Ugly Betty episode’s info simply said “Awesome,” so I’m not putting much faith in the info part). Rating: 25-50 years, chance for parole

advertisement – Forget Vegas. Forget Sizzler. SideReel looks like Sunday brunch at a three-star restaurant. (Sidenote: There’s an ad for Optimum Online on SideReel, effectively funding illegal means of watching TV.) It also nabs an A on the House Test, with all this season’s episodes and great organization. Try to watch one of those episodes, however, and you’re met with a list of places to watch it. SideReel doesn’t let you watch shows on its site; rather, it shows you a list of other places you can. The list is pretty dense, but it requires tons of clicking and often contains dead links. What makes things worse, each page beyond the homepage has at least two separate video players hitting you with ads that start playing the moment the page is loaded. These usually have audio on and, because they compete with each other, get choppy. SideReel is like a brick-and-mortar eBay store. Rating: Misdemeanor charge, two weeks grounded

And just to be fair: – Fox’s website is like being spoon-fed a delicious meal by Satan. OK, that’s a little strong. Obviously Fox’s site is the nicest one here. It passes the House Test—as it should—but notice Fox waits eight days to post episodes of the show online. What does that mean? It means if you miss one, you won’t get to catch it until after the next episode airs. That sounds intelligent. Video quality is very good, but keep in mind you’ll be sitting through commercials every so often (an episode of House has six). Fox keeps the five most recent episodes of a given show available for viewing, after which you’re off to the iTunes Store (or Hulu Plus). Still—and maybe it’s the brainwashing from hearing “…more than $150 million” over and over in my sleep Saturday night—it’s hard to endorse watching anything on these greedy assh*les’ site, as they’re getting money for ad views. Rating: The fifth circle of Hell, forced to watch So You Think You Can Dance reruns for all eternity.

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I’ve toyed with the idea of live-tweeting a TV show. It would be like taking live-blogging to its next logical step. Except I’m easily excited—after Tony Romo’s season-ending collarbone fracture, I’d have tweeted “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” for the next two hours.

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