Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment Weekly’

Not but yesterday I reblogged a post from Newsarama about how the modern age of instant discussion could affect the way a serialized comic book might be perceived. How basically a whole lot of people did a whole lot of shouting about something they thought ‘might’ happen. I said this could easily be applied to tv shows.

Today comes another article I’ll be reblogging below, this one from Entertainment Weekly, that directly addresses the idea of serialized storytelling and its place in the instant/streaming television media market place. The crux of the argument is this: What is better, binge watching a tv show all at once or having to watch an episode each week?

It’s a hard question to answer. Many people are thankful for binge watching being readily available via dvds and services like Netflix. I myself didn’t watch the tv show Psych from the beginning and binge watched the first two seasons and am now addicted to it. So yes, there is a definite plus here. But as the article points out, once you binge, you’re done, that’s it. Unless you’re waiting for a new season, you have nothing to come back to, nothing to anticipate.

You’ve essentially watched a Mini-Series with a cliff-hanger ending.

Netflix likens watching tv shows episode by episode to getting a book chapter by chapter. I don’t think this is accurate. Watching a well made tv show is like getting the individual books of a series. Each book is self-contained and has a story that is entertaining/satisfying in its own right. Would the recent successful book series of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter been nearly as successful if they all came out at once and didn’t have fans shouting “you have to read this” and getting more people hooked and increasing numbers buying the next book?

But again, we’re in a time of instant gratification. Will there come a moment were a week is just too long to know what’s going to happen next? And if that time comes, will it be the ushering of a new gilded age or a veritable entertainment apocalypse?

Netflix touts binge viewing: Is waiting better?

Arrested-Development

We’ve all done it. The marathon. Those Lost weekends. The red-eyed nights watching episode after episode of 24 and Rome. We start acting like Breaking Bad meth-heads at 3 a.m. just one more hit show and then we’ll go to sleep.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wants to feed our guilty-pleasure viewing habit. He’s previously declared that “Netflix’s brand for TV shows is really about binge viewing.” In his latest earnings report to investors, he touted the revolutionary wisdom of his company’s ongoing plan to release entire seasons of original TV shows all at once. “Imagine if books were always released one chapter per week, and were only briefly available to read at 8pm on Thursday,” he wrote. “And then someone flipped a switch, suddenly allowing people to enjoy an entire book, all at their own pace. That is the change we are bringing about. That is the future of television.”

On Friday, Netflix debuts the first 13 episodes of its new series House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey as a Machiavellian politician. Hastings predicted the event “will be a defining moment in the development of Internet TV” due to the company’s innovative delivery plan — here’s our show, clear your weekend.

If any single series marks a light-switch moment for the release of full TV seasons, it will probably be when Netflix unveils the eagerly anticipated fourth season of Arrested Development in May rather than Cards. But let’s take a look at his overall point. Most of the major recent technological entertainment evolutions are about more, better, faster, everywhere. So why should the way we watch TV seasons be any different?

Some analysts say there are distinctions that make Netflix’s model unwise. After all, even street corner dealers know the value of customers coming back week after week.

Variety’s new media guru Andrew Wallenstein wrote a deep-dive on this issue, criticizing the strategy from a business perspective.

“Allowing consumers to consume at their own speed contradicts [Netflix’s] financial imperative to keep them on the service paying the seductively cheap flat monthly fee of $8 for as many months as possible,” he wrote. “Yes, the binge opportunity makes Netflix all the more addictive. But compelling the viewer to pace their programming consumption will generate more revenue.”

Wallenstein also points out that the model ignores all the media buzz-building and word-of-mouth benefits generated by having a show parsed out for 13 or 22 weeks of the year.

“For Cards, ardent bingers will make for pretty passionate brand advocates in the days, maybe weeks, after they’ve gobbled up the first season, but will they be talking it up at the watercooler for months the way a series like Homeland is as the buzz of its 13 episodes gets dispersed across a broader time span? No matter how high-tech Netflix fancies itself, it’s old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations from fans that are the most effective ambassadors for a brand.”

While over at Fast Company, writer Austin Carr knocked the Netflix model from a more humanistic perspective.

“Stringing viewers along has its benefits,” he wrote. “And to say the web has killed our patience to wait for serialized content to be rolled out is to say human beings no longer have an appetite for the building of excitement, anticipation, and suspense … Yes, it’s annoying having to wait for new seasons of Game of Thrones or Mad Men. But when they premiere, isn’t there something enjoyable about the campfire moments the shows create?”

I think Wallenstein and Carr are both correct, yet ultimately it won’t much matter. Making customers wait for episodes might be better business for Netflix. And waiting for episodes might be more emotionally satisfying for viewers. But that’s like telling kids to save their Halloween candy and make it last for weeks. Once a more, better, faster, everywhere system is invented, it’s difficult to stop its spread and adoption. If technology permits us to watch full TV seasons over days or weeks instead of months, we’ll do it.

Think of it this way: One study showed that — like Carr’s point on a micro level — having to sit through commercials instead of skipping them actually increases our enjoyment of a TV program. “The phenomenon we think is at work here is adaptation,” the researcher said. “The easiest example of adaptation is a massage chair. The longer a massage goes on, the more you get used to it. You adapt. But if it stops briefly, then starts again, it re-triggers that initial enjoyment.”

TV viewing, he says, is the same way. “It’s more enjoyable when it’s interrupted.”

So who wants to give up their DVR?

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Entertainment Weekly Online article: 7 Books That Would Make Great TV Shows
I’m reposting a few choice bits here with my thoughts.

#7 Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka

Pitch: A semi-realistic police procedural set in Batman’s hometown.
Upside: It’s the most reliable of TV formats — the big city crime drama — paired with one of the most popular franchises in entertainment history.
Downside
: Batman rights owner Warner Bros. prefers to make Batman films. Even though Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan has finished his trilogy, The CW’s entertainment president told me earlier this month that the studio won’t yet permit a TV spinoff. Also, remember Nikki and Paulo on Lost? Viewers like to focus on a story’s most interesting characters, not the background players, so that could be a creative challenge. Still, this CSI: Gotham is worth a shot.
Perfect Home: The CW or Syfy

While a CSI: Gotham would be interesting, having Batman return to his roots as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’ would probably be a better bet. Batman has already proven he can carry a tv show with the Adam West series, plus that fact that he has such a wonderfully large and memorable rogue’s gallery means you have plenty of room to work to keep things interesting. You’d have to play it smart though, take a few lessons from the Batman: The Animated Series and learn from Arrow’s mistakes.

#5 American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Stephen King

Pitch: Comic series about a notorious outlaw in the Old West who is transformed into the first of a new kind of faster/stronger sunlight-proof vampire who eventually teams with a Hollywood silent movie actress (in this tale, studio moguls are vampires who feed on struggling actresses — nice).
Upside: With an awesome title like American Vampire, I’m amazed this isn’t on my DVR already. Ridiculously easy for a network to market. HBO’s True Blood and The CW’s The Vampire Diaries are modern-day hit vampire shows. A historical tale could be the next step.
Downside: The decades-spanning tale could be too ambitious (read: expensive and complicated) for a TV show.
Perfect Home: AMC

I think the upside is actually the downside. Don’t we have enough vampire stuff in movies and television? Surely we’ll hit the saturation point here any second now. Especially since this sounds a bit like Blade, only old timey.

#2 Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Pitch: The ultra-violent Japanese cult hit has basically the same setup as The Hunger Games, only with lots of guns and without the ’70s glam makeovers.
Upside: Nowadays, it’s tough for a TV show to feel dangerous. The first season of CBS’ Survivor pulled it off. Starz Spartacus, which stretched the boundaries of gore and sex for a cable drama, did it too. And so did AMC’s The Walking Dead — remember that first scene with Rick Grimes shooting a child zombie in her bunny slippers? If executed correctly, Battle Royale would be a must-watch, high-buzz show. With The Hunger Games blowing up the box office with the teen-friendly two-hour version of this concept, there’s room for an R-rated, uncompromising multi-season version. It’s like a reality show where being voted off the island means a character dies; a structure that can be re-set each year. Writers could drizzle in serialized nuggets (such as who is running the games and how to stop them) while previous “winners” could return to the competition (which happened in the book too).
Downside: Do you need to ask? Teen gun-play on TV is radioactive in the wake of Sandy Hook. One could argue that such sensitivities are exactly why this subject is worth candidly exploring in a commercial art medium like television, but that’s one of those intellectual-sounding points that tend to get shouted down during a media frenzy. Still, if I’m making an honest list of a books that could make great TV shows, Battle Royale should be on it. One option: Having “contestants” of all ages and from all walks of life instead of just a high school class arguably has more dramatic potential and will draw a wider audience while making the story less about kids killing kids.
Perfect Home: Starz (The CW recently looked into the rights, but, yeah, not happening).

The simple fact that they can say a plot line involving kids killing other kids “[blew] up the box office with the teen-friendly two-hour version” should make everyone worry. The fact that they want an R-rated blood-soaked version is even worse. Sure, an honest discussion on teen violence and the cause of it is needed, but in a situation like Battle Royale you’re not going to get it because the characters are being forced into killing. Even those kids who want to participate in the games do so for the game/rush/etc aspect which is removed from the realities of every day life. In a Battle Royale tv series there is no room to look at why kids would willingly hurt each other in everyday life.

#1 The Stand by Stephen King

Pitch: Only the greatest post-apocalyptic novel ever written, and one of the most popular. When a super-flu virus kills more than 99 percent of the world’s population an eclectic group of survivors struggle to control the fate of humanity.
Upside: The Stand has all the components for a great pay cable series. There’s compelling end-of-the-world hook, a lengthy narrative, a diverse ensemble cast and beloved source material. Like AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead, the original story would need to be expanded, but there’s enough components in King’s “dark chest of wonders” to support five cable-length seasons (the spread of the flu and survivors coming together in Nebraska and Las Vegas could span the whole first season).
Downside: The Stand was already adapted once (successfully) as a miniseries in 1994. It’s currently in development at Warner Bros. as a feature film (films?). Even King has expressed doubts that this sprawling story will work as a single movie. Here’s a prediction: If CBS’ adaptation of King’s Under the Dome is a hit this summer, The Stand will get a green light  — either as a film or TV show.
Perfect Home: HBO. You don’t need HBO-level sex and language to pull off The Stand, but you do need plenty of money (and HBO has more of it than anybody else). Another network I could imagine wanting this project (though fans probably wouldn’t call it the “perfect” home): Fox.

The 1994 mini-series was indeed fantastic… so can we leave it as a monument and call for a moratorium on post-apocalyptic tv-shows/films? The USA channel is the biggest basic cable channel in the US with top rated and critically acclaimed shows. The secret to their success? “We always go for a blue skies feel” and they “Keep it light.” [Source] Also, the #1 rated tv-series on network television who just reached 25 MILLION viewers? NCIS. A procedural drama that is as light and fun as it is dark and gritty.  Even I can do this math.

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