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Did We Forget How To Watch TV … Or Did TV Evolve? | Column from the Editor

For better or for worse, Disney has extended the life of both “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision” by sticking to a traditional weekly episode release schedule, which directly contrasts with Netflix’s model of dropping every episode of a show at once, and allowing the viewer to binge at their own discretion. 

Understandably, this has made many people — myself included — feel at some point that at least one of these shows were slow and weren’t going anywhere. Forbe’s Paul Tassi claims that this isn’t the case; we just forgot how to watch TV

“I feel like we’ve forgotten how to watch TV,” he wrote. “I have heard this complaint about just … a whole bunch of shows lately that are not released in Netflix binge format. Shows that have way more action than WandaVision like The Expanse or The Boys that are too ‘slow’ when viewed week to week if there’s not a massive battle scene in each episode.”

He makes some points that I agree with about how “WandaVision” and “The Mandalorian” benefitted from fans being able to use each week in between episodes to build conversations about the episodes and to theorize what’s going to happen next. But I do admit that this format doesn’t work for every show, with “The Boys” Season 2 being a prime example of a show that doesn’t look too great when you slice and dice it into weekly releases, as while I think Season 2 is pretty good as a whole, several episodes are just too connected by the show’s longform storytelling to stand on their own. 

It’s also fair to say that these weekly-released shows have benefitted from the relative lack of competition, as the first season of “Mandalorian” released at a time when the only thing bigger than it was a theatrical “Star Wars” movie in 2019, and Mando Season 2 and WandaVision Season 1 both had the benefits of releasing during a global pandemic when competition from blockbusters have been nonexistent. 

But I do reject the notion that we forgot how to watch TV — it just evolved, as viewers realized via the Netflix model that traditional broadcast models existed not for their entertainment value, but for broadcast companies to make money. Netflix put out a superior product, and people got so used to it that serialized TV started to feel alien to them. 

This is not to say serialized TV has no place. As Tassi rightfully points out, shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Survivor” probably would never had been able to have had the impact they had if they released their entire seasons at once under the Netflix model. But in a streaming world, serialized episodes is just one TV format, and while it has its merits, I’m not sure it’s the best one. 

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