I Was Wrong About Peacock
It's the secret hero of the streaming wars
Welcome to I Was Wrong About, a series of reconsiderations and mea culpas.
I am, first and foremost, an HBO Max girl. If you told me I could only consume one streamer’s library for the rest of my life, I would say bye-bye to Hulu and Netflix and the Paramount Plus account I got just to watch the Tonys. But while HBO Max may be the gold standard of streaming, every perfect child needs a weird sibling lurking in the corner who is actually kind of cool if you get them talking. That’s where Peacock comes in.
I cannot think of Peacock without thinking of this exchange from an episode of 30 Rock, referencing an ill-fated promo campaign for NBC:
Kenneth: This is bigger than both of us. It’s NBC. We comedy.
Jack: Kenneth, it’s we peacock comedy. You say the peacock.
Kenneth: What? That’s insane.
Calling Peacock “Peacock” is insane. Originally advertised as the home of all things NBC, the name was inspired by the NBC logo and met with similar bewilderment. How are they still trying to make “peacock” happen?
The original draw of Peacock did not work on me, someone who does not feel the need to rewatch The Office. I laughed at its ridiculous name and, like many others, assumed it would eventually go the way of Seeso, NBCUniversal’s previous attempt at a streaming service. That is to say, it would flop, fold, and no one would remember it ever being there. It did not help that the first Peacock originals that were announced (as well as quite a few since then) sounded like, apologies, more 30 Rock jokes: A gritty prequel to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? A werewolf show starring Isla Fisher and Josh Gad that is a drama? A dramatization of Tiger King released two years after the original docu-series ushered in a global pandemic? A Queer As Folk reboot about a mass shooting? Emmy Rossum? Who was any of this for?!
So imagine my surprise when, in a desire to mainline as many Bravo franchises as possible, I got a Peacock account and… loved it.
Calling it Peacock really undersells what is going on over there. Corralling content from all of NBCUniversal means that they have all the NBC shows, all the Bravo shows, all the Universal Television shows, and a deep library of Universal Pictures movies. All of that plus Peacock’s original content. If you don’t speak synergy, that means that you can spend a hungover Saturday afternoon watching Real Housewives of Atlanta, Armageddon, and any episode of Columbo without so much as returning to the Roku homepage.
I realize that might not be the most enticing sell. I will not bullshit you and tell you that the most innovative and exciting programming is happening over at Peacock (the general public seems to agree, as the streamer added no new subscribers in Q2). But, unlike whatever $100-million trash Netflix is pushing on you, you can watch and enjoy Peacock without your frontal lobe shutting down. It is the streamer that feels the most like channel surfing, most of the titles are recognizable, and at some point you can settle in and say, “Maybe a random episode of Monk is what’s on the menu tonight.” If you miss aimlessly flipping through the USA/TNT/TBS portion of your parents’ cable channels, Peacock is for you.
In addition to all of our familiar favorites, Peacock actually has good original television. Off the top of my head, I have enjoyed Girls5Eva, Saved by the Bell, Bust Down, and Rutherford Falls. Maybe I actually do peacock comedy.
For me, Peacock is not about “compelling” works of “art.” That’s what her sister HBO Max is for. Peacock serves the important role of serving up middlebrow content: Nothing is prestige, but everything is pretty good. She is doing such a good job of it that I’m even considering taking the plunge and going ad-free. That’s how you know my love is real.