It can be really annoying to find what to watch online. Decision paralysis isn't just a problem that stops me from picking a pair of new headphones, as I (and countless others) have just sat there staring at the seemingly limitless set of options and feel confounded.
Which of the many streaming serve app do I start in? Sure, I've built a giant list of "to watch" shows that I track in JustWatch and Plex's new Watchlist, but not everyone wants to spend that time. And this is where IMDb is coming in to help out.
Now that IMDb TV is Amazon Freevee, the IMDb brand has a new streaming app that came out last week: What To Watch. Available for Fire TV devices and Fire TVs, the goal of What to Watch is simple (as its name suggests), but its task is tough: help people find stuff to watch. I was more than a bit suspicious of the idea. IMDb What to Watch tries to use game-like menus to help find stuff you'll want to watch.
And, to my surprise, it's actually pretty darn good at its task. Which is, you know, good. It only has one job, it better know how to do it.
How What to Watch works
Before you jump into What to Watch (find it on Fire TV by searching "IMDb What to Watch app"), the app will prompt you to link your IMDb account. If you're like me, and don't have an IMDb account, this prompt may confuse you.
The app says it's meant to help sync your ratings for movies and shows and help you rate and track what you watch. After I made an IMDb account (using Apple's "hide my email address" functionality), the app dropped me into a menu where three "games" were available.
First up is the simplest: Quick Draw, which I skipped over at first because it seemed too obvious. The app "deals" you three "cards," suggesting three movies seemingly presented at random. This is the least personalized section, so my milage varied by my "hand."
The first set I got was Legally Blonde (a classic, and I won't hear otherwise), Black Widow (eh) and The Silence of the Lambs (another classic). If you're not ready to click Play, you can hold onto a card (click the menu button to 'pin' it to the table) and have the others refresh when you select Deal cards.
Then, my favorite mode is This or That. You get a series of questions with possible answers, starting with "a TV show" and "a movie," and each selection helps build a search for six suggestions.
If neither of the two possible options work for you — for example, I didn't want to select shows "about showbiz" or "supernatural" shows — you can select "swap options" to get other search terms.
This is where I had the most fun, as I opted for a psychological drama TV show with any rating, and one that's rated highly by fans.
What to Watch then gave me six suggestions and I have some confidence in the picks I haven't watched — Big Little Lies and Inside No. 9 — because the other recommendations fit for me. I loved Six Feet Under and Severance, I hear good things about (the early seasons of) Dexter and I always wanted to go back to Mr. Robot.
Lastly there's Watch Challenge, which has lists of movies for you to "complete." For example, the IMDb Top 20 Movies is first up and starts with Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather and The Dark Knight. You mark a movie as "watched" by rating it, and you'll get virtual badges (icons) to show your progress. Not all of those lists are that interesting as "A Galaxy Far, Far Away" is just a list of all the Star Wars movies and shows — and they're not presented in any particular order (unlike our list of the Star Wars movies in order).
What to Watch has one annoying catch
All of this is, annoyingly, moot for some. What to Watch is only available on Amazon Fire TV sticks, Fire TVs and the Fire TV Cube at the moment. And as annoyed as I am (and this limitation was partially responsible for why I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to test it), this is not completely surprising. IMDb is a subsidiary of Amazon, so it makes sense that they'd start with their own platform first.
This makes even more sense when you realize What to Watch has its hooks — the links that open content — in the Amazon ecosystem. So, instead of opening the related app, it finds that show's page in the Amazon search.
This is why I'm not holding my breath for a standalone What to Watch app on other devices. Instead, I'll posit that it would be good to see What to Watch wind up inside the Prime Video apps on Roku devices, the Apple TV 4K and the Chromecast with Google TV in the near future.
Outlook: What to Watch should grow
Two more games are listed as coming soon. Build-a-Cast is a game to be played with up to 7 other users, and you all pick people you'd like to watch on your phone or tablet. Ostensibly, Build-a-Cast will play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" with those names. Then, there's Time Machine, which will help you "visit any time in history or relive a night at the movies in your favorite decade." Both sound neat, and the former seems a lot stronger than the latter (at least for me).
Amazon and IMDb don't seem to have any plans to port What to Watch to other devices, but I can see this being a powerful tool to find what you want to watch. It'll also help keep people inside the Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Channels ecosystems.
I say this because I could really use something like What to Watch. I just prefer to use some of our other picks from our best streaming devices list.