Original programming from video streaming megaliths like Netflix and Amazon Prime is all the rage these days. The lines between TV and film are blurring more than ever before – both we (the watchers) and them (those responsible for what we watch) are changing. Whole seasons are released at once because the medium no longer relies on a weekly episode structure. Well-respected actors are acting in these shows, not just because we demand big stars for our big shows, but also because there’s so much less stigma attached to this new Netflix model. We want our TV and we want it all at once, globally available, and perfectly streamable at all times, anytime; we also want it to be incredible.
In an interview back in 2013 (after the first season of House of Cards went down like a house of cards on fire – see what we did there?), Kevin Spacey said of the new Netflix model: “Studios and networks that ignore either shift – whether the increasing sophistication of storytelling or the constantly shifting sands of technological advancement – will be left behind.”
And why is that? Because these amazing new original programs do more than just add delicious options to this giant TV menu of ours and show us what Jeffrey Tambor looks like in a maxi dress: they actually solve a lot of common problems and elevate the entire TV-watching experience. Here’s how:
Film-like experience? Our TV sets are bigger, better and smarter; we’ve all basically got mini movie theatres in our sitting rooms. But simply watching run of the mill TV shows on them wouldn’t do justice to the technology. Enter TV shows that are on a par (or even better in some cases) with films in terms of visual quality, sound production and narrative. Example: Better Call Saul (Netflix). (If Breaking Bad was a masterclass in filmic television, it’s spin-off is fast becoming the grandmaster.)
Uneven beginnings? No week-long wait means your interest is less likely to wane. (This is something that films can often get away with on account of the small time commitment.) Not all shows start off with a bang – nor should they – but quick consumption means you can avoid the sensation of waiting seven full days only to find yourself thinking, meh. And when it starts to speed up you better believe you’ll take it all back for an extra hour on the clock and another snack. Example: Bloodline (Netflix).
Unwanted by networks? Streaming services to the rescue! Especially for shows whose pilots have been turned down or whose existing audiences class as “cult” – which, frankly, we all know is just code for “good TV for smarter people”. Alas, hits that fall short of mainstream attention :-? may find a happier home on these burgeoning alternative networks. Example: Arrested Development season 4 (Netflix).
Too “scandalous” for network TV? Some subject matter can be deemed too much for standard programming. Of course this is also where the likes of HBO or Sky Atlantic may come into play, but the chances for generating interest or getting picked up get seriously narrowed down. Streaming service shows help get less mainstream, more “risky” TV in our eyeline – where it often needs to be. Example: Transparent (Amazon Prime).
Full of diversity? Yeah, that one can be hard for the networks, too. Old white guy executives, am I right?! Alternative TV shelters like Netflix take in all kinds of oft-ignored characters and champion minorities. And it’s seriously refreshing to watch. Example: Orange is the New Black (Netflix).
Is it hard to follow? That’s not always a bad thing, but when there’s a lot going on the week-long lull between shows can obfuscate the plot beyond repair. Bingeing lowers that risk, and makes labyrinthine plotlines a bit easier to navigate. Example: House of Cards (Netflix).
Is it just really, really good? Treat yourself. Get cozy, order a takeaway, and binge watch to your heart’s desires. Let the good TV wash over you like a warm bath… for ten straight hours.
Examples: Literally all of them. Bonus points for Better Call Saul as it’s probably the best, but ironically one of the only programs released week-by-week. Damn you, Vince Gilligan, you beautiful, punishing genius you.
A quick look at its wiki page tells me that Netflix is bringing in the big guns (and big paychecks) and is currently developing 32 new original series. 32. And, as technological progress dictates, these shows are only going to get bigger and better, crisper and cleaner, even more readily available. It’s clearly the way of the future people, so grab some popcorn and settle in for the long haul. To be released all at once and consumed at your pleasure in your home theatre, naturally…