Slogging through the first four chapters of Raymond William’s Television: Technology + Cultural Form was a rather arduous experience but for me the biggest takeaway was his idea of flow, that both television programming and within the programs themselves there is a flow, a continuous movement that keeps viewers watching and the idea of commercials as sitting within natural breaks within programs (Williams 79-83). Josie talks about this in her post as well, that with the prevalence of streaming and television that is intended to be viewed without commercial breaks has resulted in a modified way of creating and viewing.
I think it’s interesting to consider then television that is viewed in ways that aren’t its intended form. Whenever I’m deep into bingeing a show on Netflix, one that was originally aired on television, there are no commercials. But there are still the spaces for commercial breaks, the abrupt cut where I was originally meant to be advertised a car or a birth control advertisement (or whatever type of advertisement that is meant for the audience that views that program at that time), jolts me out of the flow that Williams refers to. In this way, Jane Feuer’s addition to Williams’ flow: that there isn’t necessarily a flow, one continuous stream that keeps you riveted, but that there is both segmentation and flow, that flow exists only because there is segmentation (Feuer 16). The commercials were once part of that flow, a segment that kept the segments of the program together and once removed, I am allowed to be disengaged in those few seconds of black screen. (Whenever Netflix asks if I'm still watching something, it not only breaks this flow (and my binge) but I feel like Netflix is quietly judging me.)
Another prominent streaming service to consider is Hulu but where Netflix is ad-less, Hulu has advertisements (unless you’re willing to fork over $12 a month) but not necessarily the ones originally meant to be aired with the program. While certain advertisements on television are targeted to certain audiences/certain time slots, Hulu ads are targeted to the specific viewer, sometimes even interactive ads. Different ads, placed in the same places within the natural breaks of the program. Does this mean the flow is different now? Does it even matter? Also, as an aside, I found Marshall McLuhan calling commercials a folk art, a bastard child of television hilarious (Medium is the Massage 126).
Another thing that occurred to me whilst reading McLuhan’s “Television: The Timid Giant” was the example of JFK and Nixon to talk about television’s influence. He refers to Nixon’s defined look backfiring on television: “For the hot movie medium needs people who look very definitely a type of some kind. The cool TV medium cannot abide the typical because it leaves the viewer frustrated of his job of 'closure" or completion of image” (365). Perhaps that explains why so many cannot look away from Trump when he’s on a screen: he’s certainly atypical and his lack of motivations/reasons for his actions lead us wanting a sense of closure, to complete his (ridiculous) image for ourselves.