Alan Sepinwall talks about Amazon’s new show Mozart in the Jungle and the benefits of binging:
But plenty of series improve greatly when watched in rapid succession, whether they were made with this new model in mind or not. In some cases, like “The Wire,” it’s incredibly useful to see a lot of episodes in a row just to figure out who the hell everybody is and what they’re doing. In other cases, like “Parks and Recreation” or Amazon’s new “Mozart in the Jungle,” the binge is helpful because it allows the viewer to zip through early growing pains and get to the good stuff before they lose interest.
This is an interesting point to be made. There have been so many shows over the years that have lost viewers because of slow starts. The aforementioned Parks and Recreation is one of the more well-known examples, but Sepinwall’s point about The Wire makes tons of sense. Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones are even better more recent examples. Shows with lots of characters or story lines that take weeks off are much easier to follow without weeks in between episodes.
It even begs the question if Netflix’s House of Cards would have been as successful without the ability to be viewed all at once. The second season was pretty rough, and got a little ridiculous as time wore on. If it had been viewed, reviewed and recapped weekly it might have been compared more to Homeland, which is a struggle to watch one episode at a time because the lows are so low. When consumed all at once though the highs are more enjoyable and the lows are less noticeable.
As the model shifts more and more towards frequent TV bingeing and original shows from places like Amazon and Netflix this will become more relevant. The networks that release all of the episodes at once will actually benefit from this mindset as more people just get going on a show and see it through because they can at will rather than having to wait until weeks later. It would be interesting to see some data on this. Does Netflix or Amazon see more consistent ratings across episodes for the first season of a show compared to something like CBS or NBC? Netflix and Amazon don’t pull shows “mid-season” but that is obviously a result of them releasing all the episodes at once.