I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I have an incredible amount of respect for Netflix. They’ve created an entertainment empire and household necessity that began with stuffing envelopes with DVDs. They are making some of the best original content available and even have their own fucking button on our TV remotes. They’re riding pretty high right now. They probably think they have this whole thing figured out and are cruising. But I’ve begun to notice a trend that might create an issue in the future if they don’t make some changes.
Yes. I’m smarter than the people running things at Netflix. NBD.
The problem is the lack of restrictions, which is exactly the thing that made Netflix so attractive in the first place. Writers and directors don’t love network projects because commercials force them into a rigid time table with mandatory breaks that limit their ability to maintain momentum. HBO & Showtime used to be the answer for that, but they aren’t perfect either. The thing about traditional television is there are a limited number of prime time spots for these shows to air, and the length of each season is predetermined via contract before they start filming. That means the writers and directors have X amount of time to cram their story into a season. This results in a lot of content being cut and left on the editing floor. Directors hate this because it’s not the final product they wanted.
Enter Netflix, which has very little restrictions. Basically you have to make 13 episodes, and it doesn’t matter if that episode is 40 minutes or 65. It’s a paradise destination for all the creative minds that want to create entertainment. No more waiting around to see if your project would fit in with some network’s Sunday night lineup. Just make them, release them, then watch the numbers roll in. Pretty sweet situation, right? Wrong.
Wait, I don’t see the problem. Explain?
Traditional television has restrictions. Those restrictions force the creators to edit and restrain themselves for the overall good of the show. No sense in creating a tangent off the main story if you don’t have enough time to properly develop it. So the restrictions (based on time slots and season length) aren’t a handcuff as much as they are a built-in safety. Without them, the directors have free reign to create what they want within their budget.
I’ve seen “Directors cut” movies and they seem fine, what’s the problem?
Directors cut movies are fine if you loved the original and want more. But if you loved the original, doesn’t that mean the editing did the job it was supposed to do and the final product was the best it could be? Addition by subtraction.
So what are you saying?
You know damn well what I’m saying. I think I’ve made it clear. If you lose the editing aspect of an original series, the quality of the product goes down. Directors are not always right. Especially the ones who call their work a “craft”.
Ah, so the directors might ruin this for themselves?
Right. If we keep getting series that are roughly 20% too long and intentionally drag out a plot to 13 episodes then Netflix will have a quality control issue on their hands. Diluting good content with a bunch of ok content will hurt their brand. No story needs 13 hours to tell. Even that movie 13 Hours was only 2 hours and 24 minutes and it was awesome just the way it was.
Wow you’re pretty smart. Any suggestions on how to fix this?
Hey thanks. Nothing needs to be “fixed” per-say, but a good start would be limiting each episode to 50 minutes, and not requiring 13 episodes in a season. That’s just a good solid way to reduce any fluff that just creates an opportunity for the viewer to get bored and lose interest.
Actually yeah there is. Unrelated but still kinda related, how about not releasing all the episodes at once. I get that it’s the appeal of Netflix, but it’s become such a pain in the ass. Whenever a new show is released on a Friday you have to watch it IMMEDIATELY so by the time you make it to work on Monday you won’t be bombarded with spoilers. What’s wrong with releasing 4 episodes every other week? By slow releasing a small block of episodes at a time they would generate a ton more interest and discussions on social media and blogs. Whenever you read about these shows it’s always a summary of the entire season. How about a sweet discussion 1/4 of the way through so we can all follow along together and absorb everything going on rather than just mindlessly watching 13 hours in a row? Just a thought. I’d like that better.
I’ve enjoyed this. Thanks for your insight.
You know what? I’ve enjoyed this too. It’s nice getting this off my chest and out into the world. I’m going to go watch a few Iron Fist episodes and pray it doesn’t drag as much as Luke Cage. Good talk.