New Formats of Television: All At Once & Plot Per Season
It doesn’t take a historian to understand the fact that television has changed a lot since it became commercially available in the late 20’s. From black and white to color, from big and heavy television sets to LCD screens, from creating cinematic sound systems at home to the possibility of purchasing a 3D television (!) if you happen to fancy that kind of a watching experience. But technological enhancements aren’t the focus of this article, more precisely, the actual aim is to satisfy the curiosity towards apprehending the overall change of receiving television through a more psychological understanding.
Firstly, I’m not an expert when it comes to psychology but I do consider myself as a higher level addict when it comes to watching television. So I’m quite sure I have a certain insight to the process of absorbing television, may it be considered a healthy weekly program or a heavy load of shows that more than often get you emotionally attached. For some years now, I have even established a new kind of vocabulary because of watching and getting mentally invested in numerous television shows, for instance, shipping, bromance, otp and the feelings filled expression of asdfghj. If you happen to be familiar with these (to be fair, these words are of course present in the movie fan-world as well) you are certainly invested in the television universe through a show or two or more – there seems to be no limit.
Now, while technology has made possible for people to Tivo their favorite television programs, the availability of shows has become much wider and more likely to appear to a larger audience. It also increases the possibility of expanding the general viewership of any show, after recording the pilot the person already invested in the show decides to stay at home with a box of ice cream instead of Tivo’ing the program. Next day at work, the four ladies of the office decide to gossip over the latest episode of Desperate Housewives and spike an interest for the fifth one. This seems to have an important effect on the show itself because the politics behind the unknown curtain of the television world has somehow established a very cut-throat approach – if the numbers are low, no show!
Finally we get to a point that expresses the change of scenery in the television universe through two very innovative approaches, for clarity, let’s call these two “all at once” and “plot per season“. Though these formats are still relatively new, I have a feeling that they will become more popular in the upcoming years or at least they should because they appeal to the needs of the audience on a whole new level. For those fanatics who opt to enjoy a huge portion of the series (or all of it) over the weekend “all at once” means getting the opportunity before there’s even a DVD box set. Netflix’s House of Cards is a perfect example, and currently the second TV-show (in addition to Netflix’s Lilyhammer) that released all its episodes at the same time instead of following the regular week-to-week programming. There is a certain freedom of choice that comes with this format, the viewer is not forced to wait for a new episode each week and the actual watching schedule is a decision left up to the person not the program.
The second example, “plot per season” was a creative decision by two TV veterans Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, who made the choice of changing the plot of American Horror Story after each of its season. This is a whole new territory for television as well, regular series that doesn’t have to live in the constant fear of becoming uninteresting or falling into the trap of irrelevance. Though American Horror Story changes almost everything each season, including the characters the regular cast portrays, The Killing will present a new case for its returning third season. The example is not the same, obviously the successful horror series is much more radical with its changes, but it shows a need for renew story lines many of the current television series are in a desperate need for.
That being said, there is certainly room for other fresh thoughts regarding the common television formats but not all shows could be as innovative. While the examples presented here have a certain element of continuity in their story lines throughout the season, shows such as CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds could never succeed in using “all at once” or “plot per season” as their core format. Same goes for comedy shows such as New Girl, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, which do get enjoyed all at once but would most likely never benefit off of it on a higher scale. Besides, for the existing shows changing their regular programming would most likely cause some confusion as the innovative formats are something to think about for the TV-shows to be created in the future.
Reason why this discussion has such importance is the way the viewers of television have changed their perspectives. Before the Internet, television was the source of news and a strong link to the things happening in the World, now, the purpose of sitting on the couch is to be entertained. For the working population, that entertainment is more than often left for the weekend which means hours of entertainment in a row – something that House of Cards thought about and succeeded. As a television addict myself, I’m also familiar with the feeling of exhaustion that comes from watching multiple seasons of the same show during a short period of time – a feeling American Horror Story did not generate. Therefore, these innovative formats, “all at once” and “plot per season” have found a way to enhance the experience of watching television shows and most likely, paved the way for newcomers to think outside the box not just with the plot but with the format presentation of the show itself.
What do you think? Leave a comment.