Streaming is too big for its own good
Inside I finally got to watch, and quickly fell in love with, Reservation Dogs– the ethereal dark comedy on FX about four rebellious indigenous teenagers creating trouble on a reservation in a small town in Oklahoma – almost a year had passed since its premiere in 2021. My sojourn was not conscious, but it meant I had missed a of the more satisfying aspects of what makes TV, especially a jewel of a program like Reservation Dogsall the more negotiable in this messy streaming age: the ability to absorb the quirks while watching and arguing about it with everyone else on social media.
This has become a trend lately. I find myself unable to keep up with the abundance of TV and movies offered across all the major streamers (I was wondering Reservation Dogs last month on Hulu, FX’s business partner), and on the network and cable outfits that have come too late with the generation of cultural IP on different platforms. (Yes, I signed up for Paramount +’s free trial, and yes, I saw the pre-cooked US version of Love the island without a bit of embarrassment.) I just finished The gilded age (10/10 recommend – that’s it Housewives for Housewives) and has not yet started Station Eleventhe second season of Followand could not even tell you where I left off Ozark (actually I just watched; Season 3, Episode 1). In the midst of all this, I still did not have time to watch the movies piling up in my ever-growing queues, including the dystopian thriller Mother / Android and the documentaries Ailey, High scoreand Our father.
The context is, as always, crucial. All of this has happened at one time – spring to summer, a little after Covid, but not completely – when streaming was, and still is to a large extent, throwing content at an unparalleled speed. In addition to playing catch-up, I also added my treasure chest with streaming ephemera: I subscribed to Peacock in April (Bel-Air is the first reboot in a long time that has problems with real-world genre lines) while watching, chronologically, all the animated DC universe had to offer on HBO Max (in terms of animation overview, DC Marvel far surpassed). Such are the times. According to an analysis done by Vulture on spring programming, “streaming platforms and cable networks” rolled out more than 50 new and recurring high-profile series “over a 10-week period. One leader put it bluntly: “It almost hurts consumers at this point. It’s just too much. “
On top of this, creator-first apps, such as YouTube and TikTok, have slowly reconstructed where we look for entertainment and escape. During the first year of the pandemic, Instagram Live became an agreement TV, when users came together to watch the song battle series Verzuz, or bound over the eccentricities of influencers like Boman Martinez-Reid on TikTok. Video streaming, Neilsen reported, now accounts for 25 percent of TV consumption, an increase of 6 percent from the previous year.
It does not register as bad. An immediate upside to the algorithmic amount of content that catches our attention is the joy of being introduced to a genre or series that is otherwise overlooked. Compulsive feeding, I can admit, has its benefits. Streamers like Netflix and Hulu who previously abused to bring international stories to the state have since come around, with the rare surprise hit that seems to take hold of culture in a roundabout way: a strange series seems inconceivable until suddenly fanfiction is written about it on bulletin boards.
By the fourth week after release, in October last year, Octopus games– the South Korean Survivor– drama about class hostility – had become the most watched program on Netflix across all language groups, and talked about social media. (According to the company, the total number of hours watched at the end of the first month was 1.65 billion.) With fluctuating results, other foreign series have found audiences in the United States, including Netflix’s recent South African Society soap, Savage Beauty.
Still, I can not shake the feeling of that instinct of more, bigger, now has only exacerbated our worst impulses. The choice is either to stay connected and up to date on everything or be ridiculed in the group chat so as not to catch any of the Keke Palmer references from the latest season of Legendary. Moreover, for the average consumer, power companies have maneuvered with what appears to be mere rapid growth and blind profits in mind. Sure, we reap the benefits of the almost impossible ethics, but is that what we want – or even need?