Netflix knows you. It knows that on some nights you have a plan to hunker down and watch an entire season of "The West Wing" and some nights you're just not sure what you want. For those indecisive moments, Netflix has introduced Max, a new feature that chats with you and plays games to help you figure out what you should watch.
Max, available only on PlayStation 3 for now, is an alternative to the strangely specific categories (we're looking at you, "Canadian Made-for-TV Movies") for discovering new TV shows and movies on Netflix. "He" is chatty and spunky, offers a few different ways to pick what you want to watch and perhaps was given a male persona to make his recommendations seem more authoritative, as research on the subject suggests.
In one experience, "The Rating Game," Max lets you choose a genre of movie or television you'd like to watch and then asks you to rate programs from that category. Max will then choose a show or movie for you, and will even give you a 30 second pitch if you're unsure.
Another game is "Celebrity Mood Ring," where Max asks you to choose one (or neither) of two very different actors, and will suggest a movie or show based on your choice. A similar game pits two specific genres against one another, and you choose one. "Talking Animals or Tortured Genius?" It's fun to see Netflix recognizing the absurdity of their categories.
Finally, there's "Max's Mystery Call." Here, you agree to let Max call the shots, and a movie or TV show will automatically play. If that feels too random and risky, know that Netflix has gathered an absurd amount of data on each subscriber's viewing preferences.
It's exciting that Netflix is finally improving how it recommends movie and TV programs. While categories like "Critically-Acclaimed Slice Of Life Documentaries" and "Cool Moustaches" are entertaining in and of themselves, they can be useless in actually finding that next TV series you'll spend an entire weekend watching.
Max will be rolled out to other devices in the future, with the iPad "likely" coming next, according to Netflix's blog.