Aside from a few minor developments in terms of content and scheduling, television has remained largely the same since it was invented many decades ago. Technological advances have changed the number of channels that viewers have available to them and the kind of shows that can be created. But, for the most part, it didn’t really change up until the introduction of streaming technology became mainstream in recent years. When streaming was introduced, television became a completely different beast. Fans no longer had to wait a week – or more – for the next episode of their favourite show. They could watch entire seasons in a single day – a show could come out in the morning and be thoroughly consumed by evening.
For all the convenience this afford, it does have an often unconsidered impact on the relationship between the viewer and the content.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Joss Whedon expressed his concern about what this could mean for both creators and fans. He said,
“The more we make things granular and less complete, the more it becomes lifestyle instead of experience. It becomes ambient. It loses its power, and we lose something with it. We lose our understanding of narrative. Which is what we come to television for. We come to see the resolve. I’m fond of referencing it, but it’s ‘Angela Lansbury finds the murderer.’ It’s becoming a little harder to hold on to that. Binge-watching, god knows I’ve done it, it’s exhausting — but it can be delightful. It’s not the devil. But I worry about it. It’s part of a greater whole.”
His worry extends not only to the impact on viewers, but to how it might effet creators like himself:
“I would not want to do it. I would want people to come back every week and have the experience of watching something at the same time. We released Doctor Horrible in three acts. We did that, in part, because I grew up watching miniseries like Lonesome Dove. I loved event television. And as it was falling by the wayside, I thought, ‘Let’s do it on the internet!’ Over the course of that week, the conversation about the show changed and changed. That was exciting to watch. Obviously Netflix is turning out a ton of extraordinary stuff. And if they came to me and said, ‘Here’s all the money! Do the thing you love!’ I’d say, ‘You could release it however you want. Bye.’
“But my preference is more old-school. Anything we can grab on to that makes something specific, a specific episode, it’s useful for the audience. And it’s useful for the writers, too. ‘This is what we’re talking about this week!’ For you to have six, 10, 13 hours and not have a moment for people to breath and take away what we’ve done … to just go, “Oh, this is just part seven of 10,” it makes it amorphous emotionally. And I worry about that in our culture — the all-access all the time. Having said that, if that’s how people want it, I’d still work just as hard. I’ll adapt.”
Category: Nerd Culture