How to Track All Your TV Shows So You Never Miss an Episode
If you're like me, your Netflix queue is full of stuff you've been meaning to watch and your Hulu favorites can scroll on for a while if you let it. Combined with multiple profiles, everyone in your household may have a long list of shows they want to watch or have already tried. Here's how to keep them all organized so you always have something to watch.
Organize All Your Saved Shows in One Place
You probably already have a Netflix queue (possibly one for everyone in your household), Hulu favorites list, and maybe some bookmarked TV shows or movies you want to stream from Amazon Video on Demand. If you're sitting down in front of the TV, ready to watch something, it can be tricky to try and sort out which service the show you want to watch is on, or whether the show you're interested in is on any of them. Thankfully there are services that will check and add those TV shows and movies to a queue so you'll always know where to find them:
- Can I Stream It? is the quintessential search engine for TV shows and movies on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and more. You can search for anything just by typing it in, but if you create an account, you can save any of your searches or favorite programs to your account. That way if they're not available on any service now, you can be notified when they are, or you can just keep them in your queue for personal reference.
- Go Watch It is similar to Can I Stream It? in that you can quickly search for anything, but it focuses a bit more on movies than TV shows or anything else. Plus, it also takes into account theaters, DVD and Blu-ray release dates, and cable provider On-Demand schedules in addition to online services. Build your queue, and one glance will tell you where to go to watch whatever you want to see.
- Watch It Stream is another simple search service, but if you sign up for an account you can build your watch list and use the service's Chrome extension to search for and add items to your list from anywhere on the web. It also searches paid services like Amazon and iTunes, and while I found its database for some services (notably Hulu) a little out of date, it did a great job everywhere else.
The goal for these services is to help you organize your disparate queues and favorites lists and build one collective watch list you can work down every time you're looking for something new to watch. Since services like iTunes and Amazon don't really give you a way to save shows you want to watch for future reference, it can be helpful to put them all in one place, right next to the shows available on Netflix or Hulu, even if you aren't planning to buy them. Best of all, they'll let you know if something you're interested becomes available (or just serve as a reminder that you need to go buy, rip, or download them so you can stream them yourself).
Use a Tool to Track What You've Already Watched
Once you've built a unified queue, you can just remove items from it as you've watched them, but where's the fun in that? Besides, if you want to watch it again later, you'll have to figure out where it was all over again. Here are a few useful tools to keep track of the things you've watched:
- Trakt.tv is probably the ultimate tool for keeping tabs on your favorite TV shows, movies, and more. It plugs into XBMC and Plex so you don't even have to leave your HTPC to see your lists and episodes, has partner apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone that hook into it so you can add/remove/organize your list of shows and movies on the go, and it automatically notes episodes you've watched, highlights episodes you haven't, helps you discover new and similar shows and movies to watch, and more. If you have your own HTPC, it's a worthwhile tool.
- Followmy.tv keeps tabs on the TV shows you've watched (or are watching), and gives you a platform to discuss them with other fans, your friends on Twitter or Facebook, or just a way to keep tabs on which episodes you've seen, which ones have aired, and how the show is progressing overall.
- GetGlue is part social network, part TV and movie tracking tool. You can "check in" to the programs you're watching, earn badges and stickers, and discuss the programs with other users. It's just as useful for building a list of the programs you're interested in, exploring similar shows and movies, and to find out what airs when (for those of you still watching OTA or cable television) in a personalized programming guide.
- iShows (iOS) or Twee (Android) both give you a way to track your shows on the go from your smartphone. Both apps are just for show tracking, so don't expect to watch anything, but they do give you a gateway into more reading about your favorite show (especially good if you just watched a season finale and you want to know what everyone else is saying about it), seeing if there have been any episodes past the ones you've seen, or learning more about the show and its production.
We're being a little facetious here: If you have a watch list and you've watched something on it, you may as well remove it so it doesn't clutter up the things you haven't gotten around to yet. However, some of these apps can help you read up on the world of a show you particularly enjoyed, find it again if you want to give it a second viewing, talk to your friends online about it, or remember to pick up a Blu-ray when it lands in stores.
Put Together a Shared Calendar or Household Programming Guide
If you, your roommates, siblings, kids, or everyone else in your household is serious about TV and movies, using all of these tools together will lead you to an unwieldy mega-list that might be hard to follow. They're one thing for a small group or a couple of people, but the bigger the list and the bigger the group, the worse it gets. Instead, build a household viewing calendar or programming guide.
If you like the idea of a shared notebook of everyone's favorites, we'd suggest using Springpad if you want to go the notebook route—it's a pretty visual tool (a bit more-so than Evernote, although you can use that too!) and it automatically categorizes TV shows and movies for what they are and adds relevant information for them. Similarly, you could create a shared Google Calendar with everyone who wants input, and then fill that up with the programs you want to watch and when they're on, when they're available for download, or when they expire from Netflix or Hulu.
If you need help getting the schedule just right, Episode Calendar is a free service that will help you build it out with on-air programs and other useful information for each show. It'll even notify you when new shows hit the air, keep track of new episodes, check when new ones will air, and more. They even have a public guest calendar you can try out to see how it works before you sign up.
I knew I was in deep when I stopped being able to remember if the show I wanted to watch was in my Hulu favorites or my Netflix queue, or if I'd seen it on Amazon VOD or downloaded it weeks ago and it was on my hard drive. The worst part was that I realized I don't even watch that much television, I just have a backlog of shows I wanted to see eventually. Thankfully these tools helped me (and can help you) keep everything straight and organized so you don't miss or forget something you want to check out.