IT’S NOT CLEAR exactly when this happened, but sometime in the recent past, many streaming-TV providers simply gave up. Not on pushing out material of questionable quality, thank God — just on bothering to even attempt to explain what it is.

Previous trite show summaries began to drop off providers’ TV grids, replaced by autoloading show clips and, in the case of Netflix, a series of one-word descriptors — ill-defined adjectives that left even the more discerning TV viewers scratching their heads.

The decline of American civilization: There’s more bad TV than ever; it’s available everywhere; and it’s making us fat, lazy, selfish and stupid

Among these: Ominous. Romantic. Suspenseful. Psychological(?). Witty. Irreverent. Emotional. Slow burn. Dark suspenseful. Explosive. Exciting. Cerebral. Dark. Thriller. Drama. Mind-bending. Chilling. Social issue drama. Slick. Violent. Docuseries. War. Sci-fi TV. Horror. Scary. Soapy. Riveting. Provocative. Investigative.

These descriptors are then grouped in combinations apparently intended to convey, in true grunt/click simplicity, the genre of a show. For example, the FBI series “Mind Hunter” is “chilling, slow-burn, psychological.” The highly entertaining tech-geek retro series “Halt and Catch Fire” gets the labels “cerebral, drama, tortured genius.” “Young Royals” earns “romantic, teen, emotional.”

Further, according to Netflix, the saccharine “The Last Letter From Your Lover” is “swoonworthy, soapy, intimate.” Conversely, if you’re into “chilling, gory and gruesome,” best queue up “Fear Street Part Two: 1978.”


Problem: Most of the terms are ill-defined and of little use in making critical streaming/time-wasting choices. So we’re offering up our own key to Netflix’s more open-ended one-word descriptors:

“Soapy”: Many furtive glances, to give way to actual kissing, likely with some tongue. People will have regrets.

“Slow-burn”: Stultifyingly boring, likely requiring full immersion in seven or eight full seasons before series “finds its groove” and becomes marginally passable entertainment.

“Intimate”: Usually involving body contact and always including bouts of weeping.

“Ominous”: Likely to make you question certain choices related to once again exceeding your monthly bandwidth limit on Comcast.

“Swoonworthy”: A bodice will be ripped. In a great episode: two.


“Dark”: Possibly shot in Fall City, Washington.

“Quirky”: Show that didn’t really work, was available for next to nothing, doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything. Four stars!

“Teen”: Acted mostly by 28-year-old purported high schoolers who obviously were held back on several occasions.

“Raunchy”: Fart jokes and/or one gratuitous strip club scene every 30 minutes or less.

“Social and cultural”: Something to recommend to one’s parents.

“Mind-bending”: Best watched at least partially baked.

“Riveting”: Of sufficient marginal interest that when the next episode auto loads, one does not immediately scramble for the “EXIT” button on remote, in the fashion of trying to change the channel before Ari Melber breaks out into rap lyrics on MSNBC.

And it’s impossible to sign off without suggesting a few of our own:

“Mega-Superfluous”: Stock descriptor applied to any content involving Darren Star.

“Drooly”: Likely to provoke saliva streams as one immediately lapses into head-drooping stupor during second episode.

“Spongeworthy”: Containing birth control options and, usually, regrets.

“Mangrovian”: Shot entirely between massive tree roots, usually on a tropical island.

“Flippery”: Involving dolphins.