Netflix is up to some kooky business lately: Buying a movie theater, developing their own print magazine, and now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, testing a "shuffle" feature. It seems like a ’90s movie starring Pauly Shore as some stoner intern who, due to a name mix-up, is promoted to an executive position at Netflix – problem is, they think he's some sort of "ideas man," so he has to come up with something, and fast. One night he gets stoned with his buddy, who's like "Weasel-dude, I miss the good old days when you'd turn on the TV and you'd just have to watch whatever was on." And then Pauly Shore is like, "BINGO" and he becomes a billionaire by making Netflix incorporate outdated/endangered media formats. Like "shuffle."
According to the report, Netflix is testing this feature on Android devices, allowing users to shuffle TV shows and watch episodes at random. The feature removes the agonizing process of deciding what to watch by just having Netflix's algorithm figure it out for you. I suppose the intent is to also emulate the way we'd watch TV back before DVR and OnDemand, when you'd channel surf until you found something you like. There was (and still is, for some people) something comforting about being able to turn on Comedy Central or TBS at 5 or 6 p.m., knowing that some random episode of The Office or 30 Rock will be airing – even if you've seen it dozens of times already. And that tracks with the Netflix Originals model, which is mostly (with few exceptions) made up of the kind of TV shows and movies you can kinda-sorta pay attention to while looking at your phone. A huge chunk of their library is comprised of stuff that requires maybe half of your attention span. It's honestly the perfect system for this day and age, regardless of how you feel about it.
Obviously, this feature would be better suited to shows like Friends (and other sitcoms) or Love, Death, & Robots, than, say, Stranger Things or GLOW. But between buying a theater, starting a print magazine, and testing out this shuffle feature, it seems like Netflix is dedicated to becoming a comfortable replacement for most forms of media. Maybe next they'll discover books – oh wait, they just did.