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Netflix's binge-release model once felt innovative, but now it feels burdensome

  • The binge-release model has led to a feeling of TV overload. "That sense of never being able to keep up with every series worth watching has much to do with the fact that there's more TV now than ever — and more high quality TV as well — but also because shows land on our virtual doorsteps in bulk quantities with alarming frequency," says Keith Phipps. "It's not great for TV fans. But it's also not great for TV series." Phipps says the approach "worked brilliantly, at least for a while" with the "daring" binge release of House of Cards, Arrested Development and Orange Is the New Black in 2013. But as he points out, the recent season of Stranger Things had a lot to unpack, while GLOW Season 3 should've provided conversation fodder for weeks. Instead, the window for talking about them opened and closed so quickly that TV chatter quickly moved on to other things. "There's nothing wrong with binge watching (within healthy limits, of course) and the idea of having full runs of TV seasons past and present accessible at all times is an innovation that might have seemed like science fiction even 15 years ago," says Phipps. "But where the option of giving viewers new seasons of TV en masse once served as a novel competitive advantage — why wait when you can have it all now? — its limitations have started to become apparent. That's to say nothing of how intimidating it can be to stare at 10 or 13 episodes and wonder when you'll have the time to watch all of them, particularly with new full-season blocks following so quickly on their heels. (Done with GLOW? Here's nine hours of Mindhunter for you.) TV released on a weekly basis, however, becomes part of the ebb and flow of daily life. The days of everyone sitting down at the same time to watch the same show are in the past, apart from outliers like Game of Thrones. But the all-or-nothing option of the full-season-at-once feels like an inadequate replacement, offering few of the communal pleasures that have defined TV from its start and blunting the cultural impact of shows we should all be talking about together."

    TOPICS: Stranger Things, Netflix, Arrested Development, GLOW, House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Binge Watching