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Is binge watching the new theatrical experience?


HelsinkiZim
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So I lost my binge watching virginity with the first season of Orange is the New Black. 

Now it  is my preferred viewing experience, so much so that I dont even look forward to films anymore.

With a (well-made) TV season I get more bang for buck and also resolution in my own time.

E.G. British crime drama like The Fall, Happy Valley or River - or American drama like Transparent, Bloodline, OITNB, - or even international capers like The Last Panthers and Top of the Lake. (Most recent binge was Strange Things - it was like the homage to Spielberg that Abrams wanted to make with Super 8 - but much better with its odes to Serendipity and The Goonies!).

Is slo-burn (crime/ suspense) drama (over 6 - 12 hours) becoming and actually art-form?

Is it a digital fad, a new production model or the beginning of the end for cinema?

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It draws in a large audience, no doubt, maybe even more than a film these days, but I don't prefer it or anything.

I've heard some filmmakers say they're "switching" to tv.. and that's just baffling to me. Maybe it can work that way for comedy or if you include mini-series as tv, but for me the best part of a film isn't the viewing experience or budget or anything, it's the ending. The Graduate, Reservoir Dogs, A Woman Under the Influence, The Departed, Primal Fear, Drive, etc - the ending is what makes the whole thing count, and shows you they were competent the entire time. And tv shows made without an ending in mind often flop when it counts. Most shows jump the shark, and the very end can be even worse. For Lost, the important part was definitely supposed to be the ending.. which turned out to be.. who even cares? it was so-so. Purgatory or something. The end of Dexter nearly killed the whole series for me. Breaking Bad, ugh. I'm slightly embarrassed to say I used to watch Pretty Little Liars, 80% as a joke, but I was curious who A was.. turns out it's no one! Or everyone.. the writers don't have a freaking clue, and it shows. Scenes From A Marriage is an amazing show, but if Bergman wrote the first episode and then let new writers swoop in and carry it to nowhere for 10 seasons.. and then try to end it with JUSTICE, kill me. Season 3 of Sherlock was a mess, made me wonder if any of it was ever good. Anyway, too many examples.. For a comedy, I don't care how it ends, especially if it's episodic, like Cheers - and those endings are so much easier, just pat yourselves on the back and say goodbye to your fans.

I AM, however, very into Girls and Love. And to a lesser extent, You're the Worst and Casual. The genre those all fit under I think has real potential. Not sure what it is, but it's a great tone, very human, and I don't particularly care where it's heading. but again, none of them have ended.. I'm a little scared what may happen. And I have noticed a little drop in quality of Girls in some of the latest season episodes I think, but their good stuff is so good, I can forgive them. anyway, those are my 4 cents

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41 minutes ago, Liam said:

I've heard some filmmakers say they're "switching" to tv..

What are your thoughts on Steven Soderbergh's TV ventures - The Knick and The Girlfriend Experience?

I personally enjoyed them more than any of his actual films...

Edit: Gonna check out A Woman Under the Influence, haven't seen it...

Edit Edit: albeit, Sex, Lies and Videotapes was the first VHS I rented because of the title. Boy was I disappointed. All they did was talk.

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7 minutes ago, HelsinkiZim said:

What are your thoughts on Steven Soderbergh's TV ventures - The Knick and The Girlfriend Experience?

I personally enjoyed them more than any of his actual films...

Edit: Gonna check out A Woman Under the Influence, haven't seen it...

Haven't seen either of those, but I've heard good things, I'll have to check em out.

Yeah, I love everything by Cassavetes

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45 minutes ago, Liam said:

The end of Dexter nearly killed the whole series for me. Breaking Bad, ugh. I'm slightly embarrassed to say I used to watch Pretty Little Liars, 80% as a joke, but I was curious who A was.. turns out it's no one! Or everyone.. the writers don't have a freaking clue, and it shows. Scenes From A Marriage is an amazing show, but if Bergman wrote the first episode and then let new writers swoop in and carry it to nowhere for 10 seasons.. and then try to end it with JUSTICE, kill me. Season 3 of Sherlock was a mess, made me wonder if any of it was ever good. Anyway, too many examples.. For a comedy, I don't care how it ends, especially if it's episodic, like Cheers - and those endings are so much easier, just pat yourselves on the back and say goodbye to your fans.

You cover a lot of ground here, and I thoroughly disagree with the Sherlock assessment. Bad Sherlock is still good TV... and I thought that way back when I snoozed on The Hound of the Baskervilles (Season 2?) - but it was still the best of British.

I agree that writers are at the forefront in TV. When the second season of True Crime came out, the penmanship was slaughtered, as is every writer on any TV show that loses its way (*cough* Wayward Pines).

I think we are in a Writers Renaissance. I still remember when Charlie Kaufman was an enigma... now good writing is abundant, like uber to taxi drivers - or airbnb to hotels. Its not rocket science and anyone who can download The Poetics by Aristotle is miles ahead of the older generation who were told about it at a dinner party.

But what I wanted to discuss was that experience of spending up to 13 hours watching one show. What dynamics make it work and when would it fall on its face.

Haven't seen Pretty Little Liars or Scenes From A Marriage... will check them out!

... and Breaking Bad and Dexter where serialised formats... I'm talking about the new slow-as-folk stuff (that used to be the domain of BBC drama- Wallander, Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Prime Suspect etc).

Oh! and The Missing (James Nesbitt)- it is the perfect example. Would have been a snooze-fest week by week, but emotionally gut-wrenching when watched in one go.

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interesting discussion

is watching 17 hours of one show nonstop a fad? absolutely not: its the new way, people love it, its a normal part of media consumption now

when i first heard of this phenomenon, i was actually surprised that people have the attention span to watch, say, an entire season of a show at one time. as a content creator who might want to make some abnormally long content in the future, and just in general, i find this encouraging. i think it will allow more options for people like me

be that as it may, theres something to be said for the empty time between installments of a serialized product

when im into a show, i spend that time with the characters, even though theyre not on tv. so when the sopranos comes back after a season break, im like Whats been going on in their lives the past X number of months. additionally, the sopranos wasnt meant to be watched back to back for 6 seasons – it wasnt designed that way. but thats not to say that one could take binge watchers into consideration during the early stages of conception for a product, in order to produce a show that can be watched in 44 min episodes or in 7 hour chunks at a time

waiting is also good. hell waiting is the best. whats better than anticipation? that time is significant

getting a show over that people HAVE to watch live is really hard these days.... live tv used to be a thing, now i think most would prefer watching at their convenience. for narrative its a tough sell. i watched the main event of UFC 202 live the other night because it wouldnt have been the same later (i was rooting for nate diaz btw #stocktonstrong #frownyface)

the times are changing thats for sure

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14 minutes ago, kaylee said:

be that as it may, theres something to be said for the empty time between installments of a serialized product

True. It humanises the characters in a way. I think the best current example is The Walking Dead. We are somewhat 'in sync' with their show schedule and breaks - as humans who are evolving and growing - so are the cast. They are almost the anit-instant-gratification model. Nobody is complaining and it is a welcome repreive to have a show keep you waiting.

14 minutes ago, kaylee said:

waiting is also good. hell waiting is the best. whats better than anticipation? that time is significant

But then the show better satisfy.

Or is that too demanding.

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1 hour ago, HelsinkiZim said:

You cover a lot of ground here, and I thoroughly disagree with the Sherlock assessment. Bad Sherlock is still good TV... and I thought that way back when I snoozed on The Hound of the Baskervilles (Season 2?) - but it was still the best of British.

I agree that writers are at the forefront in TV. When the second season of True Crime came out, the penmanship was slaughtered, as is every writer on any TV show that loses its way (*cough* Wayward Pines).

I think we are in a Writers Renaissance. I still remember when Charlie Kaufman was an enigma... now good writing is abundant, like uber to taxi drivers - or airbnb to hotels. Its not rocket science and anyone who can download The Poetics by Aristotle is miles ahead of the older generation who were told about it at a dinner party.

But what I wanted to discuss was that experience of spending up to 13 hours watching one show. What dynamics make it work and when would it fall on its face.

Haven't seen Pretty Little Liars or Scenes From A Marriage... will check them out!

... and Breaking Bad and Dexter where serialised formats... I'm talking about the new slow-as-folk stuff (that used to be the domain of BBC drama- Wallander, Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Prime Suspect etc).

Oh! and The Missing (James Nesbitt)- it is the perfect example. Would have been a snooze-fest week by week, but emotionally gut-wrenching when watched in one go.

sorry if I didn't quite follow, sounded more like film vs tv to me, maybe because binging is the only way I watch shows. It's addictive, just not as worth it as a quality film, I'd say

Keep in mind I said I was embarrassed that I watch Pretty Little Liars ;)

1 hour ago, kaylee said:

 when i first heard of this phenomenon, i was actually surprised that people have the attention span to watch, say, an entire season of a show at one time

Great point. How did we get from Vines to this? Probably helps that every show you binge has a million subplots

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2 hours ago, HelsinkiZim said:

I agree that writers are at the forefront in TV. When the second season of True Crime came out, the penmanship was slaughtered, as is every writer on any TV show that loses its way (*cough* Wayward Pines).

*True Detective

13 minutes ago, Liam said:

sorry if I didn't quite follow, sounded more like film vs tv to me, maybe because binging is the only way I watch shows. It's addictive, just not as worth it as a quality film, I'd say

Keep in mind I said I was embarrassed that I watch Pretty Little Liars ;)

No, you simplified my convoluted hypothesis!

Yes... the question is - do you still enjoy films more than binge watching a series of good TV?

Should have said that in the first place. But I have issues.

Thanks Liam for getting my head outta my butt.

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Since TV became popular in the 1950's, cinema has been playing catch up to lure back its audience...employing cinemascope, Todd AO and other large format experiences to give people sights and sounds that they simply could not get at home on their square black and white box. Now, an average home cinema setup can deliver image and sound fidelity that is light years ahead of any developments made in mass cinema presentation. A bluray is not a huge jump in quality from a theatrically mastered DCP, even 4K projection does not 'wow' the general audience enough to book a babysitter, drive 10 miles and spend a premium on ticket prices.

3D/4D/IMAX/HFR are all recent examples of cinemas trying to offer an experience that can not be mimicked at home...at least not as well.

But we are in a time now where the quantity (or quality) of content for theatrical 'experiences' are not prevalent enough to warrant expensive overhauls in laser projection systems or a return to the days when a screening would physically be at a larger scale - before auditoriums got sliced up into multi screen multiplexes. This can be seen as a marker of when cinema started to be downscaled and be made to rival the revenue from competing home-based media (VHS/BETA etc).

Hollywood (for the most part) are still milking the udders of the comic book movie cash cow. Often with clear intentions of shaping movies to appeal to the chinese market....the days of breakout summer blockbusters such as Die Hard, Jaws, E.T are over (at least for now)...we are currently at the mercy of money men making and marketing movies, the theatrical experience is never a priority, they are looking at cross platform revenue to a rigorously test audience approved demographic. They are selling Pepsi and Happy meals.

The few stand out films of recent memory are from Nolan, Tarantino, Cuarón - where they used their weight to push for a more 'throwback' cinematic experience...big screens, large formats...for content they shot to purposely be shown in that way. We need more of this...with strong stories that really impact the viewer when viewed on a 60ft screen.

Lots of talent can be seen on TV these days, often giving audiences an opportunity of immersion into characters and situations over a season or run of seasons. But this is what film used to be able to achieve in under 2 hours!....before those scripts got dropped in development, over simplistic fighting robot stories. The talent is there, it's just made a nest in TV land until general audiences get tired of the same old shit being spoon fed to them. There seems to be backlash already happening with DC films of late, but annoyingly these films can 'flop' yet still make a billion dollars. Unfortunatly 150 x 1 million dollar indie films are not as an appealing prospect for a big studio to greenlight, as their opening weekend gross of a flagship franchise is what the business has become. 150 x 1 million dollar films would be what you could commision from one blockbuster film's budget - imagine the breakout films that you would (by the law of averages) uncover...maybe the next spielberg and Kubrick. I totally understand why some Directors are migrating to TV, they are simply following the audience shift that would have once been able to see that directors interesting work on a silver screen, but is now seemingly harder to do so. Sometimes this can be liberating for director and story to have a longer run than the 3 act restrictions of the feature film construct.

I am totally hopeful that cinema will get its audience back...and win one over the streaming generation (if there is even one). It's hard to tell when the wheel will turn, but I have hope. There is a great opportunity to be had by both co-existing, but at the moment TV is kicking the ass of most hollywood releases in terms of character development, story and original tone....often because it is not trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but rather capture an audience and keep it loyal -  the values of what used to make mainstream cinema great. Modern TV offerings often have comparable production values (and often star power) as that of feature films, often with lower budgets, which seemingly also make for an under reliance on visual effects to support a story - this can often lead to tasteful implementation of effects and used sparingly to support an interesting story. This reminds me of the good old early 90's where CGI was really hard and expensive to produce, so often only used sparingly to great effect....Jurassic Park,T2,Abyss etc.

On the flip side, I sometimes wish Nolan, Tarantino, Cameron etc will stop lording their aesthetics and presentation methods - and simply make more engaging films to the viewer. If Nolan wants to retain the glory days of large format film acquisition and presentation - great, just give me a story with characters I give a shit about first. 3D blue elves in the next 100 Avatar films I would be excited about seeing in 3D IMAX, if I thought it was not going to be like watching an animated pocahontas TV show that is tied to a theme park development. Tarantino has already said he will likely retire in the near future and turn to TV...that could be interesting, his short form episodic style obviously works well for the medium (and of course he's done TV before).

So binge-watching may be the new experience for now, I just personally think that is because there has been such a drought from mainstream cinematic offerings, and maybe the audience are so thirsty for story and character...a sizable audience has simply migrated to TV, for how long we will have to wait and see I guess. 

 

 

   

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18 minutes ago, Hans Punk said:

 

Since TV became popular in the 1950's, cinema has been playing catch up to lure back its audience...employing cinemascope, Todd AO and other large format experiences to give people sights and sounds that they simply could not get at home on their square black and white box. Now, an average home cinema setup can deliver image and sound fidelity that is light years ahead of any developments made in mass cinema presentation. A bluray is not a huge jump in quality from a theatrically mastered DCP, even 4K projection does not 'wow' the general audience enough to book a babysitter, drive 10 miles and spend a premium on ticket prices.

3D/4D/IMAX/HFR are all recent examples of cinemas trying to offer an experience that can not be mimicked at home...at least not as well.

But we are in a time now where the quantity (or quality) of content for theatrical 'experiences' are not prevalent enough to warrant expensive overhauls in laser projection systems or a return to the days when a screening would physically be at a larger scale - before auditoriums got sliced up into multi screen multiplexes. This can be seen as a marker of when cinema started to be downscaled and be made to rival the revenue from competing home-based media (VHS/BETA etc).

Hollywood (for the most part) are still milking the udders of the comic book movie cash cow. Often with clear intentions of shaping movies to appeal to the chinese market....the days of breakout summer blockbusters such as Die Hard, Jaws, E.T are over (at least for now)...we are currently at the mercy of money men making and marketing movies, the theatrical experience is never a priority, they are looking at cross platform revenue to a rigorously test audience approved demographic. They are selling Pepsi and Happy meals.

The few stand out films of recent memory are from Nolan, Tarantino, Cuarón - where they used their weight to push for a more 'throwback' cinematic experience...big screens, large formats...for content they shot to purposely be shown in that way. We need more of this...with strong stories that really impact the viewer when viewed on a 60ft screen.

Lots of talent can be seen on TV these days, often giving audiences an opportunity of immersion into characters and situations over a season or run of seasons. But this is what film used to be able to achieve in under 2 hours!....before those scripts got dropped in development, over simplistic fighting robot stories. The talent is there, it's just made a nest in TV land until general audiences get tired of the same old shit being spoon fed to them. There seems to be backlash already happening with DC films of late, but annoyingly these films can 'flop' yet still make a billion dollars. Unfortunatly 150 x 1 million dollar indie films are not as an appealing prospect for a big studio to greenlight, as their opening weekend gross of a flagship franchise is what the business has become. 150 x 1 million dollar films would be what you could commision from one blockbuster film's budget - imagine the breakout films that you would (by the law of averages) uncover...maybe the next spielberg and Kubrick. I totally understand why some Directors are migrating to TV, they are simply following the audience shift that would have once been able to see that directors interesting work on a silver screen, but is now seemingly harder to do so. Sometimes this can be liberating for director and story to have a longer run than the 3 act restrictions of the feature film construct.

I am totally hopeful that cinema will get its audience back...and win one over the streaming generation (if there is even one). It's hard to tell when the wheel will turn, but I have hope. There is a great opportunity to be had by both co-existing, but at the moment TV is kicking the ass of most hollywood releases in terms of character development, story and original tone....often because it is not trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but rather capture an audience and keep it loyal -  the values of what used to make mainstream cinema great. Modern TV offerings often have comparable production values (and often star power) as that of feature films, often with lower budgets, which seemingly also make for an under reliance on visual effects to support a story - this can often lead to tasteful implementation of effects and used sparingly to support an interesting story. This reminds me of the good old early 90's where CGI was really hard and expensive to produce, so often only used sparingly to great effect....Jurassic Park,T2,Abyss etc.

On the flip side, I sometimes wish Nolan, Tarantino, Cameron etc will stop lording their aesthetics and presentation methods - and simply make more engaging films to the viewer. If Nolan wants to retain the glory days of large format film acquisition and presentation - great, just give me a story with characters I give a shit about first. 3D blue elves in the next 100 Avatar films I would be excited about seeing in 3D IMAX, if I thought it was not going to be like watching an animated pocahontas TV show that is tied to a theme park development. Tarantino has already said he will likely retire in the near future and turn to TV...that could be interesting, his short form episodic style obviously works well for the medium (and of course he's done TV before).

So binge-watching may be the new experience for now, I just personally think that is because there has been such a drought from mainstream cinematic offerings, and maybe the audience are so thirsty for story and character...a sizable audience has simply migrated to TV, for how long we will have to wait and see I guess. 

 

 

   

Cinema just got Uber'd.

But seriously, you said what is in my mind and heart in such a well thought out response. I think it surmises everything succinctly.

Nolan, Tarantino, Innaritu, Cuaron have pushed for an 'independent spectacle'. They promise an experience that transcends the technology, but their movies are still essentially super hero movies.

I often ask myself how many people would still rate Gravity, or The Revenant, or even Hateful 8 among their top ten films.

They would make the top ten of each year they were released, but like popcorn, I feel they are mostly air.

Maybe all this disruption in filmmaking technology is going to lead to a collective of young kids (or old pros) who redefine cinema?

 

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Television only appears to be currently much better than film if you limit what you watch to mainstream American features. 

3 minutes ago, HelsinkiZim said:

I often ask myself how many people would still rate Gravity, or The Revenant, or even Hateful 8 among their top ten films.

They would make the top ten of each year they were released, but like popcorn, I feel they are mostly air.

The only one of those I'd rate in the top ten of the year it released is Gravity. I'd also disagree with the assessment of Hateful Eight as basically a super hero film - it has much more in common with theatre and slow burn horror (looking at you, The Thing).

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Well, I get more out of "Better Call Saul" than I do from any Marvel vehicle.  But then again I'm a grown up. 

I'm not the demographic that's buying tickets. 

This is the golden age of TeeVee.  It's something incredible really, and cinema might not be dying, but it's got a heck of a cough.

You can't stop progress. It's a brave new world. The king is dead, long live the king.

Take your pick at the cliche. It may be banal, but that doesn't mean it's not true. 

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23 hours ago, HelsinkiZim said:

Is slo-burn (crime/ suspense) drama (over 6 - 12 hours) becoming and actually art-form?

Is it a digital fad, a new production model or the beginning of the end for cinema?

It think they all have their place.  It really is an exciting time.  We have our weekly dramas, cinema, and binge watching.

Each of the formats lends itself to a unique way of story telling.  It's up to the writers and directors to make the content that maximizes unique properties of each format.  To me weekly shows have to have some big event every episode.  With binge watching you can just kind of go with the story.  If one one hour block is not all that exciting or doesn't have a bunch of big reveals it is no big deal.  It's not like you sit their fuming saying this weeks episode was a bit slow or whatever.  So you can take your time and have episodes with more conversation and back story and follow that episode with a big battle.  There just isn't a rush to get everything done in a 45 minute episode or a two and a half hour movie.

I would think the "binge watching" model would be a great way to shoot a novel.  You would have the time to cover all those nice details in the book but you wouldn't lose audience interest by spreading out a bunch of episodes over months.

I don't usually literally binge watch.  I may watch three hours of episodes one day and then several days later watch three hours more and so forth.  And binge watching for me is usually a solitary affair.  I have maximum flexibility.  I can even stream stuff to my phone and watch episodes on the go.

Cinema is a lot more social.  Directors like Tarantino are on to something.  Making cinema an experience is a good move.  For me there will always be room for cinema.

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I'm a big fan of binge watching. I've realized that I enjoy shows much more when I watch the full season within 2 days instead of over 12 weeks. I watched seasons 1 and 2 of The Americans in 4 days and loved it. I watched season 3 weekly as it aired live, but couldn't connect to it as much. Looking back the season was great, but having a weekly gap kind of takes you out of the story.

I think television can have more depth with characters as well. It's not surprising that writers/directors are flocking to cable TV.

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On 22/08/2016 at 11:40 PM, HelsinkiZim said:

E.G. British crime drama like The Fall, Happy Valley or River - or American drama like Transparent, Bloodline, OITNB, - or even international capers like The Last Panthers and Top of the Lake. (Most recent binge was Strange Things - it was like the homage to Spielberg that Abrams wanted to make with Super 8 - but much better with its odes to Serendipity and The Goonies!).

*I meant Serenity not Serendipity, which was a millennial Cusack vehicle when he was the quick-talking leading man to many a beautiful bevy. The original Jesse Eisenburg, without the creepy factor. Actually, I liked the flick. I like John Cusack, actually..

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