Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Bingeing: a new media pattern
The first time it happened to me was "Six Feet Under". For three days, I was glued to the TV. I think my eyes became square or at least oblong.
I was reminded of this bingeing recently when I read a review on Hulu by a subscriber who claimed to have spent thirty continuous hours watching the entire first season of a TV show named "Cover Me".
It's a guilty secret, not often shared in public, but the availability of full seasons of TV shows offers new ways of watching TV. And the experience of watching a full season changes the way in which plots, character development, repetition and plot reviews are experienced.
Personally, I found the first season of West Wing almost unwatchable because of commercial interruptions. But when viewed without commercials, the series represents some of the best TV writing and acting ever put on television. I have watched the entire series twice. It's certainly one of my favorites, but only without commercials. When a show is this good, almost Shakespearian in its range, advertisements just don't work. Imagine Hamlet with soliloquies interrupted by advertisements. It just does not work.
I have my list of past binges. They include "The Wire", "True Blood", "Six Feet Under", "Dead Like Me", "Slings and Arrows", "MI5" to name just a few.
What does this mean for content developers? Perhaps that there is a emerging and strong appetite for long form drama where characters evolve and are transformed, perhaps even where main characters are regularly killed off, as happens so frequently and surprisingly to Americans in BBC dramas. The traditional advertising influenced plot structure of many TV dramas seems less compelling after the longer form dramas.
People underestimate change. Long form drama seems the opposite of our world today where people are described as having short attention spans.