Friday, April 21, 2017

Core - Post TV

I was really struck by the way that Lotz’s piece identifies the emergence of DVD box series of television shows as a phenomenon that began to sever TV time and led to the “viability of highly serialized programming such as 24 and Alias” (62). She even goes so far as to say that the new way of viewing these box sets, which we might now call binging, “suggested the new potential viewing pleasures that might develop from the possibility of condensed viewing” (62). I.E. the Netflix or Hulu model of binge watching shows actually did start with a physical version not dependent on rerun marathons and the like broadcast live on TV.

I find this really interesting, not only because I had considered binging as a distinctly digital mode of consuming content but because it seems as if the consumer was eased into this model of watching television (from the one-off broadcast model) over a series of time. If DVD content and the binge made serialized narratives possible in that they allowed the viewer to keep complicated plots and details fresh in her mind, it begs the question, how has programming on digital platforms where binging is the primary mode of content consumption, furthered this trend?

An extension of Lotz’s argument might suggest that as plots became more complicated, binge watching them became more necessary, even if shows were originally not released the Netflix way. Therefore, the content itself is driving a particular type of consumption even as that mode of consumption allows for more complicated content. I wonder if this is why we are seeing more and more ‘quality’ television come from digital platforms? Think of the shows with the most critical acclaim in recent years, and the intertwining nature of their plots. Most of them have dramatically increased not only the number of characters who are focused on for any length of time, but many of them have played more with time itself, using flashbacks and flash forwards in a way they certainly did not as much during the broadcast age. The knowledge that consumers are likely going to allow Amazon or Netflix to immediately serve up another helping of the show does seem to allow content creators to explore alternate forms of temporality, narration and character development. If this increased seriality began with shows like Alias (and in terms of temporality, I’d argue LOST is one to think about), where does such a cycle end, and is there room in digital platforms for content that is not specifically geared towards a binge-mode of consumption?

Anyway, these are a few of the questions I’m grappling with as I work through the reading this week.

1 comment:

  1. I think Arrested Development is a great case study for both aspects of your post -- the DVD binge and the streaming binge. Clearly, Arrested Development was ahead of its time for a network comedy in terms of its comedy relying on its complex narrative structure and intricate referentiality, which is equally a reason for its cancellation and a reason for its second-life on DVD. This was taken one step further with the Netflix revival, which attempted to push the intricate narrative structure even further by focusing episodes on single characters, creating an intertwining timeline across the entire fourth season (as opposed to just single episodes, as the show had done during its Fox run). The relatively lackluster reception of the Netflix season might point toward the limitations of this kind of marriage of form and content, but this certainly doesn't indicate a trend, merely a potential avenue of thought.