Age of the Geek


Patience is a Virtue


     Seventeen years ago, a former math teacher named Reed Hastings got upset over a $40 overdue fine for a movie he had rented. In response, he co-founded a mail-order movie rental service.

     I doubt Hastings ever dreamed that his company would become a legitimate competitor to the likes of Showtime, AMC, and CBS, but here we are.

     Netflix has become far more than a DVD rental service. Its online streaming function, once meant to merely allow you to watch movies without waiting for the mail, has evolved into an independent entity. Netflix is not only distributing exclusive content, it's creating it.

     Today it's far more appropriate to compare Netflix to HBO than Blockbuster.

     Last month, the second season of "House of Cards" was the talk of the town. Last week, the final season of "Star Wars: Clone Wars" premiered. Next year, Marvel Television will mirror their movie strategy by releasing four new shows and then bringing the character together for "The Defenders."

     All of it exclusively on Netflix.

     This is all great, but there's one thing I'm not thrilled about.

     When Netflix releases a series, they don't release episodes one at a time. The whole kit-and-caboodle hits the web all at once.

     This makes sense considering the company's origins. Netflix's streaming service was built around distributing complete seasons of "The X-Files" and "Breaking Bad" long after their original airings. It isn't designed to make scheduled releases, one episode at a time.

     But maybe it should be.

     Don't get me wrong, I like binge watching as much as the next guy. A couple weeks ago I needed some background noise while I worked so I queued up the 1998 "Godzilla" cartoon and went though 40 episodes in two sittings.

     But that show was more than a decade old. No need to worry about spoilers and very low odds of it being discussed at the water cooler.

     For new shows though, there's something to be said about the weekly ritual. How can I discuss "House of Cards" with anybody when there's no guarantee that we're going to be on the same page? I may have watched the first three episodes, they may have watched the first six. Odds are you won't be able to talk to anybody until both parties have finished the season, and by that point there's not a lot left to talk about.

     When you release all your episodes at once, there's no more "Did you see that last night?" and no more "I can't wait to see what happens next week!" So much of the social aspect of watching an episodic show gets lost when everything goes live at once.

     I hope that Netflix will start staggering their releases as they continue down this path. Having a whole season available at once is a neat novelty, but in the end I think we lose more than we gain.


     Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and just wants to talk about Star Wars with somebody.