The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff wonders if Netflix’s new programming strategy — namely, premiering entire seasons of new shows like House of Cards at the same time — will kill the “golden age” of television:
Shortly after the 30 Rock finale aired, I was talking with someone who’s around a decade younger than me. “I’m glad it’s ending!” he said. When I asked why, he said that he likes to watch things all at once, and now that the show was over, he could binge on it over the course of a week or two. Now that the story was “complete,” it was finally time to watch 30 Rock without having to wait. The marathon—of a season or a whole series—had become essentially the only way he watched television, and that was how he preferred it. Sitting and watching one episode per week was, to him at least, for suckers, for people who were tied too closely to the old ways of doing business, and weren’t ready for the wave that was coming to wash away TV as we know it.
Needless to say, as someone who edits and writes for a section that lives and dies by the weekly TV review, I take the opposite point of view, and not just because I’ve written before about the pleasures of “slow TV.”
While VanDerWerff is primarily concerned with how TV shows differ when premiered as weekly episodes, or as entire chunks of story, I’m interested in how this “binge” viewing will happen without a build-up of interest.
I haven’t yet watched House of Cards, and wonder if or when I will. Part of the allure of “binge viewing” is having a number of friends/peers/writers recommend something to you: as the number of recommendations grow, so too does the expectation that this show will be worth watching. But such recommendations typically grow over time: initial reviews, followed by live viewers, followed by people who record episodes, followed by people who take a chance on the first season DVD set.
The potential downside I see to premiering a show like House of Cards all at once is that many of us will look around and wonder who’s jumping in the pool first. Certainly, there are plenty of people who have decided to take a chance on the show, and have likely stuck with it longer than they would have if it aired on a weekly basis. But given that the general reaction has been mixed, where does the show go from here? I doubt the early reviews have built up interest — if anything, interest in the show has taken a hit since it’s been released. Will those initial viewers be around when the second season is released? Will there be a clamor for the show to return, or will it simply be forgotten?