Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reviewing shows on NETFLIX

It can’t be done. Not without totally ruining them. Since everyone watches NETFLIX series on their own schedule there’s no way to review anything without being a spoiler.

This is fine for me, but my heart goes out to poor TV critics. Some of the best shows on television are on NETFLIX (or AMAZON for that matter).  How often can you analyze EMPIRE?

I guess the best you can do is say you liked one series or another. Or discuss in very general terms. I liked season two of HOUSE OF CARDS better than season three. I loved season one of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK then gave up after four episodes of season two. Why? I can’t tell you without spoiling the storyline.

Obviously, this is the wave of the future. It’s only a matter of time before networks as we know them will either cease to exist or become a subsidiary form of programming. It may be five years; it may be ten. At the rate things are going it may be July.

But one casualty in the wake of this new trend will be the water cooler. No more will people gather the day after a show is aired to discuss it. Instead, someone will mention a show and six co-workers will wave their hands and say, “Don’t tell me anything. I’m going to watch it this weekend.” I will miss that shared experience. We as a nation have so few anymore. Making ass-fun of Donald Trump today is one. (I’d add bitching about all the characters they killed off on GAME OF THRONES as another but for all the hoopla, still only a tiny fraction of the country saw or cared.) But Donald Trump? Everyone knows that moron.

Word-of-mouth and social media will take on bigger roles in attracting audiences. TRANSPARENT has become a big sensation sans a network promotional campaign. Imagine if it were on NBC. “And after UNDATEABLE it’s “unwearable” as Mort tries on a new dress. TRANSPARENT – all part of NBC’s ‘Racy Monday’!”

The trouble will come when there are more and more of these new series premiering on streaming sites. For now there are only a handful. If you’re a baby boomer you have the Jane Fonda-Lily Tomlin show, so there’s some buzz about it among its target crowd.

But what happens when there are ten series aimed at that audience – when Diane Keaton and Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn and Geena Davis and Oprah Winfrey have their own sitcoms? It will be easy to come and go in absolute obscurity once there is a glut of product.

And one way to draw attention to your show is through reviews. But again, how do you review these streaming series? Maybe you can discuss that around the water cooler today. Nah, you’re going to dump on Trump. I don’t blame you.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

All may not be lost. Netflix scored big by giving people what they wanted, control over what people wanted to watch when, however in a recent interview I read they have acknowledged that people may be growing weary of binge watching whole series and are considering release some(only some) series on either a weekly or set schedule so as to tap into that water cooler effect.

Watched OITNB on your suggestion, liked season 1, got through season 2 but what confuses me about that series is it's the first series I've can recall, that if they dropped the lead character I wouldn't miss her at all, dare I say, the show would even be improved? Nothing against the actress but I don't find her character interesting. Can't even imagine thinking that with something like Justified!
cheers
Dave

Pat Reeder said...

I tried watching "Transparent," but only made it through episode #1. I liked Jeffrey Tambor and the Jim Croce song. Other than that, I found the characters to be the most obnoxious, irritating collection of spoiled whiners since "ThirtySomething." I sympathized with the dad when he asked how he could have raised such a pack of useless, self-involved children, but not enough to stick around and find out.

BTW, I proved I'm not a robot just by clicking on a box. I'm pretty sure a robot could do that pretty easily.

James Lamb said...

But Netflix tells me what to watch as soon as I sign in. (@Pat - apparently a robot won't use the mouse in exactly the same way a human would it's all scientiferific.)

Ane said...

Seriously? I liked OITNB season 1 but I loved season 2. I have seen some of those episodes like three times now. I'm currently watching season 3, and liking it just as much. When I have finished it I will probably watch certain parts again, to analyze them. I just think it's such a fantastic, funny, detailed and overall brilliant show.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm waiting for a Netflix series about Rachel Dolezal called "White Is The New Black."

Snoskred said...

We need to see the birth certificate for Trumps hair, or whatever that stuff is, on his head. :)

John said...

To me, having grown up in Sweden with only two TV channels, it was a bit of an adjustment upon moving to the US in my early teens to realize that not everyone had watched the same thing as I had the night before. So that water cooler thingy was already gone for me by 1979, except maybe for major events like "Who shot J.R.?".

Daniel said...

I'm sure we'll develop a social etiquette for discussing the binge-watch shows. Actually, we already have a social etiquette. It's called a spoiler warning. Some people get overly paranoid about avoiding spoilers, and at some point we'll probably come up with a more sophisticated device than writing SPOILERS in enormous letters, but for now, a warning works perfectly well in a review. We've managed, for decades, to have conversations about movies, and not everyone sees a film on the opening weekend (although the studios might prefer otherwise). Talking about a TV show is not an insurmountable problem.

Anumeha said...

Why are streaming shows called "television shows"? Why are they allowed to get Emmys? If you say they're that way because some people can see them on their TV sets at home, shouldn't you make Gone with the Wind, Harry Potter, or the Hangover eligible for Emmys?

I believe that streaming shows should have their own awards because they are not television and they are not movies. I'm sure if programs like Transparent or Orange is the New Black had been nominated for Oscars you would have heard lots of screaming from the movie snobs. You can't use the argument that these programs are episodic. How about Halloween, Harry Potter, James Bond?

With the growth of streaming, these programs should have their own awards and stop piggy backing on the Emmys. It's not fair to the broadcast shows and it's not fair to the public who have to pay extra (just like going to the movies) to see these.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need more awards shows. Actors, singers, producers, etc just don't get enough credit for all the hard work they do! It is so sad that actors can't afford more than 3 cars and a different pair of shoes for each day of the year. We need to push this idea of another awards show to give them the credit they deserve. Screw teachers and their low pay, they have direct connection with their fans (students). Screw nurses who take care of sick people, they get free juice! Let's help actors get the credit and money they deserve.

H Johnson said...

I think the moment an artist (I include writers) starts worrying what an audience thinks is the moment the art becomes product. The only thing I want tailored for me is my clothes. And with the shape I'm in now I'm not so sure about that.

If a writer panders to his readers than he's probably doomed to repeat past successes. How boring. I don't need things "on the edge" all the time, I just want to see/read/hear/watch something from someone else's perspective, not mine.

Anything that has been run through the filter of consensus usually has all the best and freshest parts removed as a result. It's like having someone chew your food for you to make sure you're gonna like the taste. A gross thought (sorry Ms Paltrow).

Don't worry about us, just write what you feel. F**k us if we can't take a joke.

Aloha

Cap'n Bob said...

Yeah, I just can't wait to see the Hanoi Jane show. Right.

Hamid said...

Bob

I respect your right to dislike Jane Fonda but come on, there are worse people than her out there. She made a stupid mistake but most recently that giant intellect Dennis Rodman hung out with the barbaric North Korean regime which treats its people in horrific ways.

Brian said...

Ken, I'd still like read reviews in general terms because it gives me ideas of shows to watch. Personally, I don't see what's so great about Mad Men. I don't like OITNB season 3 as much as the first two seasons. If you review something here, try not to spoil it.

michael said...

How to review streaming shows - like a book reviewer. Book reviewers have been reviewing books without spoilers for awhile.

The shared experience has left the office and joined twitter. There will always be one shot stories such as books and movies. There will always be live TV events from the Super Bowl to the Oscars. There will be always shows such as GAMES OF THRONES where those who read the books first gather at one watercooler and those who watch the TV episodes first gathered at another watercooler.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Pat Reeder: I loved TRANSPARENT. I think a point that comes out in the series is that one reason he has self-absorbed children is that he himself has been self-absorbed a lot of the time. I think the show lays out very well the distortions to family dynamics that are a logical consequence to one member having such a deep secret.

Ken: re reviewing Netflix and other streaming shows, I'd suggest you wait a couple of weeks and then simply do it with a big spoiler notice at the top. Why is it any different than reviewing a movie lots of us haven't seen yet?

wg

Anonymous said...

@Hamid
Re: Dennis Rodman and Jane Fonda
Dennis Rodman is the one who made a stupid mistake. Not the sharpest knife to begin with.
But Jane Fonda's was anything but a stupid mistake. It was conscious support of the North Vietnamese Communists, who were using her as a propaganda tool at the expense of our troops, some of whom were imprisoned only a few blocks from where she sat on a gun turret with a Vietnamese helmet. She claims now it was a one time thing but there are plenty of pictures of her laughing with North Vietnamese regulars in the country side. She extolled the virtues of North Vietnam long after that and denied American troops had been tortured, against all evidence to the contrary.
Even today her apologies are more about her career than about the actual offense she gave to our troops, not to mention the propaganda value she afforded the enemy.

Pete Grossman said...

Trump is gold! Can't wait until he gets into the debates! It's going to be beautiful! Looking forward to Bill Maher this Friday evening. Jon Stewart launched the first great bit. Enjoy!

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/full-episodes/8mfir8/june-16--2015---aziz-ansari

Anonymous said...

"Dump on Trump"! Now that's the most appropriate slogan of the year, so far....

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Yet another possible Friday question from yours truly:

Ken, you've discussed, compared, and contrasted writing for shows that use teasers instead of tags, and shows that use tags instead of teasers -- but what's your opinion on shows that use both, as many 60s sitcoms seemed to use (BEWITCHED, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, HOGAN'S HEROES, etc.)?

Diane D. said...

To: Anybody
I know what a teaser is, but what's a tag?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lee said...

I know what a teaser is, but what's a tag?

A tag is a short scene at the end of an episode, separated from the rest of the show by a commercial and preceding the closing credits.

Cap'n Bob said...

Well said, Anonymous.

Dave Olden said...

Anumeha said... “…I believe that streaming shows should have their own awards because they are not television and they are not movies…“

Of course they’re television! It’s in the very definition of the word: “tele-“ meaning “at or over a long distance” and “vision” meaning “the ability to see.”

“Broadcast” and “Streaming” are two words for the same thing: “deliver to an audience.”

Dana King said...

The real problem is too many reviews are little more than plot recaps. Talk about how well the story works, the casting, the qualify of the performances. There are a hundred things to discuss in a review that will still help people other than telling what happened.

Diane D. said...

To: Lee
Thanks for taking the time to answer.

Anonymous said...

Grow up, Bob. It's 2015, not 1970.

Anonymous said...

See comment to Bob above.

RCP said...

Though many (Cap'n Bob and Anonymous, for instance) would probably rather drive thumbtacks into their skulls, others might be willing to consider another perspective and can Google "The Truth About My Trip to Hanoi" by Jane Fonda.

Johnny Walker said...

Not sure I get this argument, but hey, it's not a big deal.

I think the biggest problem with binge watching is not being able to enjoy it as a group:

"OMG! Are you watching TRANSPARENT? I can't believe what happened to X!"
"Argh! I haven't seen that episode yet!"

You pretty much have to gather your friends together and have a viewing party.

Anonymous said...

@RCP
Sure, it's another perspective.
It's Jane's sanitized perspective, unchallenged, 40 plus years later, tailored to exactly how it will look to people who don't know what happened.Easy to rewrite history.
A better perspective is to google some articles from 1972-75, where Jane doesn't have the final word. Or watch her speeches from back then. Try the one at Berkeley in early 1973.
In fact, even in some of her interviews today, she is hardly contrite.

Charles H. Bryan said...

When I first watched CITIZEN KANE, I knew Rosebud was the sled. Didn't ruin my appreciation of the film. Whenever we watch or read something a second or third time, we know the ending, but if it's good for reasons other than a twist or a reveal, well, then it's actually good. In fact, teasers and trailers do plenty of spoiling. So, I'd say go ahead and review - and include SPOILER WARNING in the first line.

RCP said...

Anonymous:

Then it’s a matter of deciding whether Fonda is being truthful or not; but presuming to know her motives (doing it for her career) and inner thoughts is not the same as knowing them for fact. I understand people's feelings and long-simmering anger (my uncle is no fan), but it’s curious that the level of vitriol that has been focused on Fonda by those who profess to ‘support our troops’ has not (unless I’ve missed it) also been focused on those who lie about the necessity of war, who send soldiers into battle without proper equipment, who turn a blind eye to veteran suicides and homelessness, or who regularly seek to cut veterans’ benefits and programs.

Kaleberg said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. It totally destroyed the book business.

Anonymous said...

@ RCP:
I don't know how old you are or whether you were around then, but to a certain extent the whole "support our troops" thing is a tangential issue. The men and women who fought in Vietnam can deal with the Fonda issue and come to terms as they wish (for the record, my lottery number was high so I did not fight in Vietnam).
But it is much more than that and it is a matter of record. It was Fonda's sneering contempt for America before, during and after the North Vietnam sojourn. She glorified Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese socialism (the latter in a well-known speech at Berkeley in early 1973 on You Tube), at the expense of the United States, where she had the advantage of every privilege, material and otherwise.
I don't think she should be tried for treason, like some of the heard-core vets do, because it was her right to express her dissent, as millions of others did. But her excuses and protestations of loving her country wear very thin when you see what she said at the time. For the record, she also funded and supported some very nasty homegrown terror groups that included bombers, and vicious murderers (see Weathermen, Soledad Brothers, BLA). Again, within her Constitutional rights but let's not kid ourselves about what her views were.
And also, it's amazing how quickly she forgot about Vietnamese socialism after 1975 and the Communists took over. While the North Vietnamese were killing thousands and the Boat People were trying to escape as hundreds of thousands died, she was filming California Suite and Fun With Dick and jane in Malibu. Right around the same time the wonderful Southeast Asian socialism she extolled was working its magic in the form of the Khmer Rouge, who killed 2 million out of 7 million Cambodians. This was a direct consequence of the North Vietnamese victory and happened less than 300 miles from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. I've tried to google Jane and anything she might have said about the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot but I come up empty.
As i said, all this is a matter of record, whatever version Jane gives you today.