Kevin Spacey Gave a Lecture and We Really Wish We’d Been There

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was discovered on the web by one of our spies. We don’t know where she got it, so if this steps on anybody’s copyright we extend at least a thousand requests for your pardon:


Netflix's "House Of Cards" Washington DC ScreeningGood evening. I’m delighted to be here. First, I can honestly tell you that no event in my life this year has given me more heartfelt pleasure to prepare for than giving this speech today. As an Edinburgh Festival virgin I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for so you will be pleased to hear I did my homework before sitting down to write a word. And the relief for all of you is that I’m not someone with an important job in broadcasting using this speech to audition for an even more important job in broadcasting.

Since, in the history of the MacTaggart Lecture, no actor has ever been asked to give this speech, I also won’t be spending any time justifying why I’m giving this speech. If what I say today is responsible, then I alone am responsible for saying it. And if the MacTaggart were a political office that you actually had to run for, then the banner hanging over this lectern would be my campaign slogan and theme for today and it would read . . . “It’s the creatives, stupid.”

Now when I think of what it must have been like for this industry when the MacTaggart was first given almost 40 years ago, I imagine that the audience then probably went home at the end of the festival and shared that time honored tradition – when the entire family would gather around the television set – tuned to a certain channel, at a certain hour and watch a favorite movie (like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’). They probably felt blessed to be living in such a modern age with a 21-inch television that brought the family together.

Today when I think about how all of you might go home at the end of this festival, you can sense things are a bit different now than they were then: Its more likely that you have already recorded ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ on your DVR, as you gamely try to gather the family around the giant movie screen you’ve installed in what used to be the basement; then you can try to find out where your children are on Facebook, and might ask your partner to stop Instagramming photos of the meal they’ve just ordered from the delivery service – during the film – while Grandma desperately pins even more pictures of cats on her Pinterest page, as your son quietly and surreptitiously clears his entire browser history, and your daughter Tweets how boring ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is because its not in 3D or even in color . . . you too will feel that warm glow of precious family time when we all come together to . . . ignore each other.

It is indeed a more complicated, modern and wonderful life, isn’t it?

A bit of cautious humor as I begin my comments today. And I want to start by sharing with you a couple experiences I have had in television that profoundly changed my view of this medium and are perhaps some of the influences that led to my doing ‘House of Cards’ with Netflix – one of the primary reasons (if not the only reason) I was asked to speak today.KevinSpacey1-285x280

Now I was lucky, my parents loved literature and the arts so we had a house full of books and I was taken to the theater often as a young child. But I was also captivated by television. We loved to sit down as a family and watch Upstairs/Downstairs or The Wild Wild West, crowded round our set for the latest episodes. Television showed me a world beyond my neighborhood, people I had never met, places I had never seen. It fired my imagination, just like theater and books had.

I was not a studious kid and I struggled to find things that would command my attention and engage my ideas and energies. But I knew I loved stories and drama. I had even sat down with a school friend and drew on a napkin in a restaurant the plans for the theatre we dreamed of opening one day – a theatre we would name Trigger Street after the street my friend lived on.

Well, as it turned out I did eventually get to run a theatre, the Old Vic but I saved the name Trigger Street for my production company; so I am one very lucky guy because I have been able to live out my dreams almost so perfectly now as I look back on it, that you’d think I’d made it up. But in fact, it was a teacher who had an idea how to engage with young people who saved me.

You see, it turns out I was drawn to acting at a very young age and this smart drama teacher pushed me towards a workshop, where I was blessed to meet the man who would become my mentor, the great actor Jack Lemmon.

At this workshop – that was being run by Mr. Lemmon in 1974 – we had to do scenes from Juno & The Paycock, which he was performing at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. And after I finished my scene, Jack Lemmon walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, kevin_spacey_617189“That was a touch of terrific. You should go to New York and study because you are born actor”. Mind you, I was just 13 years old.

So after graduating high school, I took Mr. Lemmon’s advice and went to NY to study at the Juilliard School of Drama. And then I later got the chance to audition to play Jack’s alcoholic son in the Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey into Night. So in 1986, 12 years after I first met him I found myself in a room (once again with Jack Lemmon) and after I finished my audition, in which we did four scenes together, once again Mr. Lemmon walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I never thought we’d find the rotten kid, but you’re it. Jesus Christ, what the hell was that”?

I spent the next year working every night alongside Jack – including our run in London at the Haymarket; and he became the most important mentor, friend and father figure I could have hoped to find. We did 3 films together, ending with Glengarry Glen Ross.

Fast forward to 1990 when I was invited by Jack to sit at his table at the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award to Sir David Lean. And for those of you who haven’t heard of Sir David Lean, two things you should know; one – he directed Lawrence of Arabia and two – if you don’t know who David Lean is – you’re in the wrong business.

Anyway, I remember being on the edge of my seat as Mr. Lean dedicated his entire acceptance speech to the idea of promoting and supporting emerging talents. It turns out he was concerned, perhaps even frightened, about the film industry’s lack of commitment to developing talent and the greater and greater number of films that the studios were making that appealed only to the pulse and not to the mind.KevinSpacey.jpg

This is part of what he said that night in 1990 in front of all of Hollywood: “I find myself thinking that nearly everything Noel Coward and I used to talk about in doing new things and nearly everything I learned in those early days seems to be contradicted today. We don’t come out of many new holes anymore. We try to go back and come out of the old ones. Parts 1,2,3 and 4 and I think its terribly, terribly sad. Okay, do the old things – Parts 1, 2 and 3 – but don’t make them a staple diet.

This business lives on creative pathfinders. I terribly miss; we all miss, I think, somebody like the great producer Irving Thalberg. He had a foot in both camps: He understood us creative people. And he understood the money people. And we’re in terrible danger. I think there are some wonderful new storytellers coming up now.

They are going to be our future. Please you chaps in the money department, remember what they are. I think the time has come, where the money people can afford to lose a little by taking risks with these new filmmakers”.

And then Lean said the following… “I think if they give these new storytellers encouragement, we’re going to come up and up and up in the film business and find the new ideas. But if we don’t – were going to go down and down and down and lose it all – to television. Television is going to take over”. Hold onto that thought, because I’ll come back to it.

The second experience I want to tell you about is when I took my first trip to Los Angeles as a working actor in 1987; after studying at Juilliard and having begun my career in the theatre, I was offered a reoccurring role on the CBS series Wiseguy, which I immediately turned down. At this point I had only experienced two guest starring parts in episodic’s: one on The Equalizer and the other on Crime Story.

The experience and the performances I gave in both these shows was, frankly, forgettable. I was an unknown theatre actor, who’d never worked in front of a camera, but I understood story, I understood arc and how to create a character and I wondered who all these guys were standing around the camera in suits; asking why my hair was that way, or why I was wearing that tie or why I was acting “that way”.

These weren’t the directors or writers; they were . . . network people. “I see network people”. Sticking their fingers in creative decisions and having opinions about everything. Even though I was just starting out, I already knew that I didn’t want to have that kind of experience as a steady diet. So I turned down this offer to do Wiseguy. When my agents began to scream at me – who the hell did I think I was, etc., I picked up the phone and called Jack Lemmon.

17th Annual Webby Award Winners Announced

For those not in the In Crowd, the Webby Awards are, in a nutshell, the interwebs’ version of the BAFTA Awards – which are, of course, the British version of the Oscars. In other words, the Best of the Best that you can find online.

Now that we’re all up to speed, time for the press release:

2013 Webbys Capture

by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

NEW YORK, April 30, 2013 — Mars Curiosity Rover, The Verge, Google Maps for iPhone, Charlize Theron, Red Bull Stratos, Humans of New York, HuffPost Live, and Songza are just some of the Webby winners that will be saluted alongside special achievement honorees Frank Ocean, Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti, the Obama for America 2012, Grimes, Burning Love and GIF inventor Steve Wilhite at the 17th Annual Webby Awards, organizers announced today.

Academy judges like Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone, Arianna Huffington and Instagram creator Kevin Systrom, selected The Webby Award Winners while Internet voters around the world chose the Winners of The Webby People’s Voice Awards, setting a Webby Awards record with votes from over 200 countries and territories.

The star-studded ceremony will be available to view on-demand in HD at beginning at 9 a.m. ET on May 22rd, 2013. This year’s ceremony will be hosted by critically acclaimed stand-up comedian, writer and actor Patton Oswalt.

Organizers also announced a set of outstanding individuals and breakout achievements that will be recognized with Webby Special Achievement Awards. Joining the ranks of Al Gore, Prince, Sir Tim Berners Lee and Bjork, they are:

Webby Special Achievement: Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti will be honored for their role in creating and producing Netflix’s groundbreaking series, House of Cards. The widely acclaimed series was Netflix’s first major original program, and its first season success has been heralded as a watershed moment for the entertainment powerhouse.

Webby Person of the Year: Frank Ocean, the R&B music artist, will be honored for proving the power of the Web as a medium for cultural change when he published his letter “thank you’s” to his Tumblr. By challenging stereotypes historically engrained in the hip-hop and R&B music communities, Ocean brought a conversation about discrimination to the national dialogue. The launch of his debut album Channel Orange in parallel with the statement was a historic moment for both the music and social media industries, and for popular culture as a whole.

Outstanding Comedic Performance: Jerry Seinfeld will be honored for his performance in the hit Web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The 10-episode series, which chronicles the conversations between Seinfeld and his comedian friends, including Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin, and Larry David, demonstrated the continued merging of Hollywood-style entertainment with the Internet.

Webby Breakout of the Year: Obama for America 2012 and its tech team’s historic effort masterfully combined savvy political and tech genius to become the secret weapon behind Obama’s commanding reelection. Most significantly, the team’s unique understanding of the power of big data ensured a real-time analysis of American voters that enabled the campaign to more efficiently read and target voters than ever before.

Webby Artist of the Year: Grimes will be honored for a deep understanding of the Internet as not only a distribution platform for her music and art, but as a social tool to connect with fans through candid, meaningful dialogue. In 2012, on the strength of her breakthrough album Visions, she was on myriad “best of” lists and topped The Hype Machine’s increasingly influential ‘Most Blogged Artists’ list.

Webby Special Achievement: Burning Love and its team including Ben Stiller, Ken Marino, and Erica Oyama will all be recognized with a Webby Special Achievement Award at this year?s Webbys. By successfully challenging the standards of network television with regard to both production quality and distribution, Burning Love has set a new benchmark for quality content on the Web.

Webby Athlete of the Year: Chris Kluwe, punter for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, will be honored for his online activism, including essays, online debates and tweets, against the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. His open letter to Maryland state assembly delegate Emmett Burns via sports website Deadspin was a candid, compelling, and opinionated voice among contemporary athletes who often elect to stay out of controversial conversations.

Webby Lifetime Achievement: Steve Wilhite’s two-decades old invention, the GIF file format, has proven to be one of the most durable and enabling achievements in modern computing history. Despite developments in moving image and animation technology on the Web, the GIF remains a staple among image formats used to spread news and information and is a key enabler of NetArt, memes and pop culture trends across the globe.

The entertainment industry’s biggest names continued to use the Internet to produce some of their best work.

Justin Bieber won the People’s Voice Award for “Girlfriend” Fragrance Launch in the Social Media Campaigns

Rainn Wilson’s Soulpancake won two People’s Voice Awards for Best Variety and Best Variety (Channel) in Online Film & Video category

Funny or Die earned two Webby Awards for its videos ‘Charlize Theron Gets Hacked’and The Wire: The Musical.’

The Onion earned its record 18th and 19th Webbys for Best Humor Website.

One of the breakout stars of the 2012 Presidential Election, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, earned its second consecutive Webby Award for the Best Political Blog.

The ESPN 30 for 30 Short Film Series, which featured shorts about legends Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer and Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, picked up a Webby Award for Best Documentary Series.

Gaga’s Workshop, pop sensation Lady Gaga’s social media integration with her storefront at Barney’s, was honored with the Celebrity/Fan Social Presence Webby Award.

Other highlights from The 17th Annual Webby Awards winners include: Best Charitable Organizations/Non-Profit (Webby Winner)

One Tiny Hand: Best Weird Website (Webby Winner)

Mashable: Best Business Blog (Webby & People’s Voice Winner)

Techcrunch: Best News (Tablet) ) Webby Winner

Angry Birds Star Wars: Best User Experience Games (Webby & People’s Voice Winner)

Nike FuelBand: Best Connected Products (Webby People’s Voice Winner), Social Gaming (Webby Winner), Consumer Electronics & Services (Webby Winner) and Mobile & Experience Marketing (Webby Winner)

NYTimes: Best News & Information (Social) (Webby & People’s Voice Winner)

Conan O’Brien Presents: Team Coco Digital: Best Celebrity/Fan Website (Webby & People’s Voice Winner)

HBO Go: Best Practices Mobile & Apps (Webby & People’s Voice Winner) ,Best Media Streaming Service Mobile & Apps (Webby Winner)

VICE News: Best News & Politics Series Online Film & Video (Webby Winner)

The Engadget Show: Best Technology Online Film & Video (Webby & People’s Voice Winner)

Winners of multiple awards include, among others:

Dumb Ways to Die (7) (Webby and People’s Voice Awards for Best Viral Online Film & Video, Best Animation Film & Video and Best Viral Marketing Interactive Advertising & Media and People’s Voice Award for Best Public Service & Activism (Social Content & Marketing))

Dropbox (6) (Webby Awards for Best Utilities & Services (Handheld Devices) and People’s Voice Awards for Best Practices (Website Features and Design), Best Utilities and Services (Handheld Devices), Best Utilities and Services (Tablet and all other devices), Best Web Services & Applications (General Website))

Google Maps for iPhone (5) (Webby and People’s Voice for Best use of GPS or Location Technology (All Devices), Best User Experience (All Devices) and People’s Voice for Best Guides/Ratings/Reviews (Handheld Devices))

Tumblr (5) (Webby and People’s Voice Awards for Best User Experience (Website Features and Design) and Best Community (General Website) and People’s Voice Award for Best Social (Tablet and All other Devices))

HBO Go (4) (Webby Awards for Best Media Streaming Service (All Devices), Webby and People’s Voice for Best Practices (All Devices)and People’s Voice Award for Best Consumer Electronics & Services Website (Websites, Micro Sites, and Rich Media))

Nike+ FuelBand (4) (Webby Awards for Best Consumer Electronics & Services Interactive Advertising & Media, Best Mobile & Experience Marketing Interactive Advertising & Media, Best Social Gaming (Handheld Devices) Mobile & Apps and People’s Voice Award for Best Connected Products (All Devices))

The Onion (4) (Webby Award for Best Humor Website, Webby and People’s Voice Awards for Best Entertainment (Tablet and all other Devices) and People’s Voice Award for Best Entertainment (Social Content and Marketing))

Our Food. Your Questions. (4) (Webby Awards Best Food & Beverage Interactive Advertising & Media, Best Integrated Campaigns Interactive Advertising & Media and Webby and People’s Voice Awards for Best Customer Service (General Excellence Categories))

Pinterest (4) (Webby and People’s Voice Awards for Best Social (Handheld Devices), Best Social Media (General Website))

Hashtag Killer (3) (Best Online Commercials Interactive Advertising & Media, Best Public Service & Activism Social Presence, Best Social Media Campaigns Interactive Advertising & Media)

Red Bull Stratos (3) (Webby Award for Best Events & Live Webcasts Online Film & Video and Webby and People’s Voice Awards for Best Branded Entertainment Short Form (General Film Categories), Best Branded Entertainment Short Form Online film & Video)

Want even more details? You can find ’em HERE.

EDITED TO ADD: Yeah, we know this isn’t exactly in our style, but it beats thinking, you know? And, yeah…writing it ourselves too.

Power and Powerlessness in House of Cards

Overthinking It, um, overthinks again!


by John Perich

Netflix’s House of Cards boasts an extensive cast, but it follows the rise and fall of two men in particular: Francis Underwood and Peter Russo. Underwood is the majority whip of the House of Representatives; Russo, a representative from Pennsylvania. Russo seems fairly satisfied with the modest power he has: an attractive aide he can sleep with, the ability to do favors for his constituency, a big office. Underwood craves power at all times.

That in itself isn’t too noteworthy. What makes it interesting is how much of the show dwells not just on power but powerlessness.

When Russo is plucked from obscurity to spearhead an environmental bill, one of the conditions Underwood imposes is that Russo get clean. No more drugs, no more drinking. To keep Russo on the right path, he sends Russo to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with his enforcer Stamper. The congressman from Pennsylvania sits in a church basement every morning, drinking stale coffee and listening to other people’s stories.

20th century pop culture has given all of us, on the wagon or off, a passing familiarity with the twelve-step program that defines Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step, as originally authored in 1935: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. Is this something Russo does? Is this something anyone in House of Cards can do?

Say what?

Consider the first episode, where Underwood learns that he’s been passed over for Secretary of State, possibly the most important office in Washington outside of the Presidency. He spends the entire day in a despondent sulk, ignoring texts from his wife. When she asks him why he trusted Chief of Staff Linda Vazquez’s promises, he pouts, “I didn’t; I don’t; I don’t trust anybody.” He throws a temper tantrum, spends the whole night brooding, then comes up with a plan – a plan that will result in the sidelining of a senior member of Congress, the ouster of the Vice President, and one man’s death.

Is this a rational response to Underwood’s setback? Disappointment at a broken promise, anger at having one’s efforts go unrewarded: these are believable. But the steps Underwood takes not only put his entire career at risk – he stakes his own reputation on the education bill that he spends several weeks sabotaging – they put the relative strength of his party at risk as well. Think how it would look if Joe Biden resigned the office of the Vice President in 2010 to go campaigning for his old seat in Delaware.

Underwood considers these stakes acceptable for the game he’s playing. This, frankly, is not a man who can admit powerlessness.

Russo has a hard time admitting powerlessness as well. This stubbornness reflects in how little he participates in the AA meetings that Stamper drags him to. “He never shares anything,” Stamper says. While there’s no requirement that you share something at an AA meeting to earn your place, openness about your inability to deal with your addiction alone is an essential step.

But Russo doesn’t clean up because he wants to repair his life. He cleans up because he wants to earn Underwood’s trust and become governor of Pennsylvania. Getting sober is a means to an end. He’s using that motivation – the chance for political glory – as a lever to help him stay on the wagon. But when that carrot is taken away, in a deliberate ploy by Stamper and Underwood, he has nothing left to stay sober for.

Not exactly a power move.

To live and work in Washington means to seek after power or serve those who do. It’s a city that produces no exports but law, fulfills no need but legislation. You’re there because you want to sway human affairs. The thing I found hardest to believe about House of Cards is that the Washington it depicts has any AA chapters at all. Can you imagine a sitting member of Congress running the risk of being photographed outside a church basement? Can you imagine a member of the Ways and Means committee seeking to make amends to those he had harmed?

(In real life, there are doubtless actual support groups in DC that operate with healthy discretion. But this is the DC of House of Cards, where people are more rabid and cruel than in the world we recognize)

So Russo cannot own up to his powerlessness and, as such, his powerlessness overtakes him again. Underwood can’t admit to his powerlessness either, but he appears to end S1 on an upswing. His schemes have triumphed and he’s about to be selected to replace the resigning Vice President. But is he in control, or is he just bouncing between relapses?

Is there a moral ... something ... that should tell me what to do here?

Russo’s addiction is alcohol (or some blend of booze and cocaine). Underwood’s addiction, on the other hand, is obedience. He gets off on having people do what he wants. Sometimes this is a subtle high, as when he arranges circumstances such that he gets control of the President’s education bill. Other times it’s an uncut dose, as when he takes Zoe roughly in her tiny apartment. Either way, Underwood can’t stand when people don’t dance to his tune.

Put that way, it sounds petulant rather than noble, just as the boasts of a three-day drunk sound. And just like a career alcoholic, Underwood is heedless of the damage his addiction does to those around him. His need to whip Claire into line costs him the environmental bill that would have put Russo on the governor’s ballot. It also drives her into the arms of her old flame, sexy Manhattan photographer Adam Galloway. When she comes back, there’s no tearful reconciliation, no promise to change his ways – just back to business as usual. We might call Claire an enabler if she weren’t co-dependent on Underwood’s style.

S1 of House of Cards is the story of two addicts on alternate trajectories. Both have coping mechanisms that they’ve built up over years of practice. Both see those coping mechanisms fail, with damaging results. But Underwood lives in a city that caters to his addiction and punishes Russo’s. He has his network – Claire, Stamper, Congress, the Oval Office – to prop him up when he falls. Russo has nothing, and the few people he has, he drives away. The result for him is tragic. Will the result for Underwood, in later seasons, be the same?

(As a postscript, it’s ironic that this is one of the first TV series released in its entirety on its debut weekend. Seth Godin called this a mistake, but Kevin Spacey, at least, seemed to understand the reasoning behind it. “When I ask my friends what they did with their weekend, they say, ‘Oh, I stayed in and watched three seasons of Breaking Bad’ or it’s two seasons of Game of Thrones. For whatever reason, people are consuming large chunks of story – they’re getting really involved in big arcs.”

So, yes, it’s a show about addiction that’s catering to TV addicts.)

HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.


HOUSE OF CARDS, is meant for the likes of me in one respect: I have recently streamed the entirety of shows like DOWNTON ABBEY, BREAKING BAD, SONS OF ANARCHY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES and the old and the new versions of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS.

I enjoy watching serialized shows that leave me wanting more, but because I waited I don’t have to wait.

Tensions built up over previous hours are instantly gratified with another hour, and so on… until all the hours are over and there is a profound sense of satisfaction and loss that there is no more.

So I’m a big fan of Netflix and genuinely want this kind of 13 episode drop of HOUSE OF CARDS to be a success, so we’ll get more of it in the future.

The problem with HOUSE OF CARDS though, is that it there is nothing that I really needed to have gratified after the first few episodes. There were no interesting characters I cared about, there was no clever plot I needed resolved, and there were no satisfying insights of the time and place.

Just a bunch of unlikely stuff happening to a bunch of unlikely people who I didn’t give a shit about.

If you like acting and actors Kevin Spacey (Frank Underwood) and Robin Wright (Claire Underwood) are as good as anybody, but their characters are two-dimensional psycho power-crazed nut-jobs who stick together like a pair of serial killers, and manipulate anyone who gets in the way of their grand plan.

For Congressman Frank Underwood it’s revenge for being passed over for Secretary of State in a new president’s cabinet, and a reacceleration of his career trajectory to where he believe it belongs. For Claire it’s the advancement of the clean water non-profit organization she heads. The two are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. If they can help themselves by helping each other, great, if not, screw them too.

In one scene, Claire sadistically gives her former bodyguard, in hospice for cancer, a hand job under the sheets, after he professes his unrequited love for her. Asking, “Is this what you wanted?” While explaining why she chose her husband as her life partner over the likes of the man dying in the bed in front of her.

And she didn’t even finish him off!


There’s no tragedy in Claire or Frank just self-absorbed assholery; and therefore, nothing to root for. No humanity to redeem.

Not even among the plot devices secondary characters. Everyone around Frank and Claire just lets themselves be manipulated and abused and does nothing about it. They all just lie there and get wanked around.

And that’s it. The show might be good if others fought or manipulated back. If there was true political intrigue. If HOUSE OF CARDS took a cue from GAME OF THRONES and Frank and Claire’s opposition pawns were at least somewhat formidable. But they aren’t. For the most part, they just take it.

After the first few episodes I realized that HOC lacked tension. That I really didn’t care if I found out what happened next. That the only reason I was watching the next episode was not that I had to see what happened next and I was relieved that the next one was already there waiting to be seen.

I was watching it just because it was all there and I had to finish it, like a new version of World of Warcraft.

In my quest to become a level 13 lawful evil streamer, I actually lost respect for myself. I’ll watch anything. I have no standards. Maybe I should start drinking again….

Don’t end up like me (hic!). For a truly satisfying experience, I recommend the British version. In fact, you can watch the whole thing on Netflix.

No waiting.

–Dan D.

Will Marathon Viewing Become the TV Norm?

We think this is an issue worth discussing. We also think that the answer to the question will be “no,” at least in terms of the general – as in casual – audience. But true believer fans have always been marathon viewers. And now it’s become so much easier!


by John Farier (Neatorama.Com)

I used to watch new episodes of my favorite shows every week on television. Now I watch one show, episode by episode, in sequence and on a computer screen. Then the next show. According to New York Times reporter Brian Stelter, that’s become normal:

Binge-viewing, empowered by DVD box sets and Netflix subscriptions, has become such a popular way for Americans to watch TV that it is beginning to influence the ways the stories are told — particularly one-hour dramas — and how they are distributed. […]

On Friday, Netflix will release a drama expressly designed to be consumed in one sitting:“House of Cards,” a political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Rather than introducing one episode a week, as distributors have done since the days of black-and-white TVs, all 13 episodes will be streamed at the same time. “Our goal is to shut down a portion of America for a whole day,” the producer Beau Willimon said with a laugh.

“House of Cards,” which is the first show made specifically for Netflix, dispenses with some of the traditions that are so common on network TV, like flashbacks. There is less reason to remind viewers what happened in previous episodes, the producers say, because so many viewers will have just seen it. And if they don’t remember, Google is just a click away. The show “assumes you know what’s happening all the time, whereas television has to assume that a big chunk of the audience is always just tuning in,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.

Television producers now have to grapple with customers who won’t even start watching a series until it’s over:

Some hoarders wait years: Mr. Mazzara, for instance, said he’s waiting to watch HBO’s “Girls” until the whole series is over, several years from now. This stockpiling phenomenon has become so common that some network executives worry that it is hurting new shows because they cancel the shows before would-be viewers get around to watching them.

Economist Tyler Cowen reflects on this trend and notes where immediate sequentialization does and does not work:

You can buy an entire book at once, as serialization — while not dead — has ceased to be the norm for long novels.  At MOMA they do not run an art exhibit by putting up one new van Gogh painting each day.  Coursera, you will note, still uses a kind of serialization model for its classes rather than putting up all the lectures at once; presumably it wishes to synchronize student participation plus it often delivers the content in real time.  Sushi is served sequentially, even though several cold courses presumably could be carried over at once.  Still, a plate in an omakase experience typically has more than one piece of fish.

For TV I do not think upfront bingeing can become the norm.  The model of “I don’t really care about this, but I have nothing much to talk to you about, so let’s sit together and drop commentary on some semi-randomly chosen TV show” seems to work less well when the natural unit of the show is thirteen episodes and you are expected to show dedication.