Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
Claire O’Connor writes for Forbes about a research paper connecting episode-marathons with obesity…
“Harvard Medical School instructor Dr. Rumi Chunara published a study showing that areas with a high proportion of Facebookers with “sedentary-related interests” based around the television — say, box-set DVDs or episode marathons — generally have higher obesity rates. Conversely, neighborhoods with a greater percentage of the population showing “activity-related interests” through their Facebook ‘likes’ tend to be areas with fewer obese residents.“
Read the full article here.
It may seem like this is going off on a tangent, but bear with me. In the last two weeks, the BBC have screened a 4-part series titled The United States of Television: America in Primetime. In the first week, Alan Yentob analysed the role of masculinity within primetime TV (from Father Knows Best, through All in the Family and The Cosby Show and finishing with Breaking Bad). In the second week, he looked at the social misfit (noting Seinfeld, 30 Rock and Arrested Development). The strongest asset to the show is who Yentob has gained access to – David Chase, Vince Gilligan, Larry David, Ron Howard and Matthew Weiner all appear to discuss US primetime. In a crucial discussion on narcissism, Jeffrey Tambor (of The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development) explains how he doesn’t understand social networking as it so self-involved – “someone says “I just ate a grape” – who cares?” he says.
But in the age of social-networking, this remains the case. And the idea of audience participation feeds into this. Studios believe that by gaining audience participation, television – and films – are more personalised. As the audience, we believe we are now being heard. Amazon screening 14 pilot episodes including Zombieland: The Series and Alpha House, in the hope that we ‘as the core audience’ will choose the series to continue, is not only highly-patronising but also insulting. DO I really think Amazon “care” about my opinion that much? The bottom line is – I have better things to do then analyse 14 TV episodes and choose which one Amazon should pursue.
Not only are we more connected now, but publicity and marketing is everywhere too so we should be savvier to advertising campaigns. Studios, with their wealth of research (now the statistical data from social-networking and online streaming), should be able to create programmes and films that are of a high quality without our “say so”. Only recently I wrote a post about the problems with binge-watching and proceeded to watch a considerable amount of Breaking Bad religiously. Even then, I would argue that 3 episodes a night are a healthy amount to view (3 episodes = 2hrs 20mins, the length of a film). But it seems, with Entertainment Weekly now using “binge-watching” as a feature (advertised on the front cover no less), it is clear that this new form of viewing is growing.
Combining those initial issues of narcissism and the new ‘binge-watching’ style of viewing, it seems we have an unhealthy mix. So much so, this particular research dictates that those who ‘like’ too many TV series on social-networking sites are – shock horror – often obese. C’mon people! We need to set a better standard. We need to trust word of mouth, we need to be patient, we need to control our entertainment urges!
We need to be more active too. Amazon, in their “try 14 episodes and make a decision” incentive, is under the impression that we all just tune in and automatically watch whatever is playing on the box – happily wasting hours of our time for their sake. Netflix, and their single release date for an entire TV series, believes that it is worth ignoring a week-by-week release schedule because we are all clamouring around to desperately sit in front of the box and ‘binge-watch’ an entire series just to talk about it at the water-cooler the next morning. I believe we are interested in good-storytelling and strong television – not whatever happens to be playing. These new forms of viewing are rooted in a culture of “me, me me; now, now, now” immediacy and “you-have-to-be-a-part-of-this”-type publicity. Instead, we need to be more discerning in our choices – we should choose what to watch on the strength of experienced critics’ reviews; we need to stop watching a series if it becomes weak and less-engaging, fully aware that our time is valuable. Because clearly, our health depends on it.