Television consumption is a contentious topic for me. With how fast the world moves, everything coincidently moves faster with it, but faster does not necessarily mean better. Television shows used to be events and they were consumed on a week to week basis. If you missed an episode, too bad, maybe you see it on re-run. But it was that need to not miss an episode that gave shows of yesteryear such high ratings. The ratings shows like Seinfeld or Friends got will never happen again (I guess The Big Bang Theory is close, but it’s not a good show, so let’s move on). Not all of it has to do with consumption habits, but the idea of watching hours of the same show was unheard of.
But this isn’t really even the issue. The issue then became the quality. The Hollywood writers and producers starting dipping their toes into television and thus started the Golden Age of television, a period of time that saw shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men on the air. Shows that changed how we view tv drama. Television was changing and people were hooked. One of the greatest aspects about television is its length. It is not a 2 hour movie. The characters can be developed over hours and hours of television and due to this a bond formed between the show and the audience. These characters are in our lives on a week to week basis and there is a comfort in knowing they will return next week.
Which brings me to my point: Stranger Things is just too good for Netflix. If this show aired on any cable channel it would have snowballed into a cultural juggernaut. To be fair, it did anyway, because the show is just so damn good, but Netflix did it such a disservice to plop it onto people in one day, with no way to build an audience. Sure, people watched the entire show in that weekend, and then it was done, for them at least. There was no discussion about what is going to happen next week. It just existed and people had to watch it at their own pace without much of a joint discussion.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching television at my own pace. It is a great luxury in this day and age, but there is a reason Game of Thrones is the cultural marker it is and that is because for ten weeks we have it in our lives. It breathes with us and after each episode we have the time to take in what we watched, discuss it amongst friends, and look forward to the next episode. It is a process and, more importantly, it is a communal experience. The waiting between each week allows television shows to gain momentum, momentum that Netflix does not allow people to share.
Which brings me full circle to how I started. The world moves so damn fast, that sometimes we need things in our lives to slow down. Television can be one of those things, if we let it. Television is art, especially great television like Stranger Things, and art needs to be appreciated. Now I am not saying that people who binged the show like it any more or less than I do, but, I wholeheartedly believe that Netflix needs to change how they unveil television if they want their shows to be more popular. Dropping all the episodes at one time does not allow people to become as attached to the characters, at least not in the way people are attached to other shows. It’s impossible to care about something that is only in your life for a few days compared to a few months.
And just look at all the shows that are accompanied with their own after show. Chris Hardwick has a made a killing on after shows and there is a reason that networks want these talk shows (Talking Things with Chris Hardwick. Ball is in your court, Netflix). It is because people like talking about tv shows. It is really that simple. People crave that communal experience that we rarely get now and it also feeds into the basic human desire to feel included.
So, sure, I am glad Netflix allowed the Duffer Brothers to create this show, but if Netflix wants it to reach Game of Throne levels of fandom, they need to slow it down and give each episode time to breath. Let people share in the experience. Have something to talk about the next day. Instead of going, “have you seen Stranger Things yet?” we can ask, “man, how about the upside down. Do you think the Demogorgan is going to get Jonathan and Nancy next episode?” The finale of the first season could have been a huge pop culture moment i which we all could have shared together, instead, we all had to tippy-toe around it, unsure of who has seen it. Where is the fun in that?
You know what is fun? This A capella Version of the Stranger Things theme song: