OPINION: We have damaged our enjoyment of watching TV series

by | Feb 5, 2021 | Opinion

We’ve all heard the age-old complaint that a show is “too slow” or “moved too fast,” but those points can’t always hold up.

There are arguments to be made for shows like HBO’s True Detective, which had a first season that excelled in slow storytelling. It did so in a way that kept the viewer captivated by the mystery of the murders which was complimented by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s performances.

Before Netflix took binge-watching into the form it is today, all viewers had were week-by-week viewings. There was the option to wait for home video releases and binge-watch then, but if you wanted to be on top of a show from its premiere, you tuned in weekly.

While Netflix has been a revolutionizing service, it created an enemy of its own in the streaming wars. Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Peacock and more all now offer streaming content of their own, and the release models vary greatly. Some will be like Netflix and drop all episodes at once, and some, like Disney+, aim for a week-by-week release.

Amazon was soundly criticized when its second season of The Boys aired in fall 2020. The first season used the all-at-once type release model, but the second season dropped one episode at a time. This triggered an immediate online response from fans.

Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) were stars in The Mandalorian’s second season which fans claimed moved too slowly. © Disney+.

Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) were stars in The Mandalorian’s second season which fans claimed moved too slowly. © Disney+. Photo credit: Disney+

Of course, waiting wasn’t as bad as the season unfolded with some shocking moments, primarily in the final two episodes. Had Amazon released them all at once, those moments could be spoiled within hours of release.

What many people don’t see in the benefit of slowing down a release for a TV show is keeping the discussion alive. Television doesn’t garner the views it once did. When services like Amazon, Disney+ or Netflix release episodes weekly, the episode ends but the discussion spills out onto social media for most of the following week. Then the next episode releases and the cycle continues for seven to 12 weeks.

If they release the entire season at once, yes, discussion happens but for a much shorter window as most people get through the show in a weekend.

Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) make their debuts as the first Marvel series on Disney+. © Disney+.

Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) make their debuts as the first Marvel series on Disney+. © Disney+. Photo credit: Disney+

On Disney+, the new Marvel series WandaVision is already under fire for being too slow and boring. In actuality, the show is dropping small hints and clues as it builds its story. Episode three turned the show on its head and the fourth began to tell the wider story. The episodes are 30 minutes on average, so the two “slow” episodes only take up about an hour’s worth of time.

Both seasons of The Mandalorian were also labelled as slow yet all of the storytelling served a purpose with each passing episode.

The shows aren’t always slow. People are just impatient.

In storytelling, it’s all about the ride, not the destination.