Someone has worked out that WANDAVISION is the most popular show in the world at the moment. It follows THE MANDALORIAN as another example of Disney choosing to release their flagship series weekly, as opposed to what was becoming the standard – the release of all episodes at once. Releasing an entire series was seen to be the sensible way to go – because of the intense competition, sometimes even on the same platform, it seemed like the decision was to provide people with the whole series, enabling them to burn through it, make it “trend” for as long as possible, until the next cab off the rank came along to replace it. This follows a very similar strategy to blockbuster season in the cinemas (remember them?) where that massive tentpole release would only get about two weeks to make its money before another one came along.
It’s very possible that the pandemic played some part in that decision as well. With production having to think carefully about the safety of their cast and crew, the production line of new releases had to slow, as it would be foolish to lose momentum, especially on a new(ish) platform that is desperate to claw its way to the top of the pile.
Whatever the reason, it’s definitely worked.
I’ve missed the “watercooler moment” – as choice exploded, it inevitably reduced the chances of a show breaking big. Not only that, but by making all episodes available at any one time, the audience became used to watching in their own time, so any chance to excitedly discuss a plot twist were torpedoed by the need to avoid spoilers. “Where are you up to?” would become the cautious query. But, with both WANDAVISION and THE MANDALORIAN being released weekly, Disney have used the two biggest entertainment properties in the world – STAR WARS and the MARVEL universe – to reintroduce the concept of “appointment television”.
Other sites had already toyed with the idea of weekly episode drops, but the difference here is the status of the shows. And not only that, the shows are good, and maybe even a little brave. THE MANDALORIAN stripped away the increasingly complex backstory of STAR WARS to be a simple white hat/black hat cowboy show (in space). WANDAVISION went the other way, and thanks to all the hard work building a world over twenty-odd films, could tell an interesting story about grief via pastiche.
Maybe the pandemic wasn’t the motivator for weekly episodes – both of those shows are laden with drip-fed clues about future plot, or easter eggs to get the fans chattering, which also adds to the fun. A throwaway line here or a curious clue there is fodder for the clickbait articles and the frenzied speculation, yet again supporting the feeling that both shows are “must see” for fans. I hope that the speculation doesn’t drown the story, though, as barely any of those excited theories can possibly be true, and disappointment might be the logical endpoint. I hope not.
It has me thinking about the affect this anticipation has on enjoyment for viewers, and whether there is anything similar in my world. Would there be any mileage in releasing a book, chapter by chapter, over a period of time? I try and write in a similar fashion, by ensuring each chapter ends with energy, to encourage the reader to read “just one more”, but can there be anything like a “watercooler moment” in prose? One of my great inspirations, Sherlock Holmes, was originally featured in the Strand magazine, with those stories very much the “have you seen?” of their day. Could something like that be attempted again?
It’s worth thinking about – though I’m finding it hard to ponder too hard on it, as I’m too busy trying to work out how WANDAVISION might end…