We find our attention-span-theatre selves firmly planted in the unfortunate era of on-demand viewing and listening. From Netflix to podcasts, our favorite shows have evolved to be consumed on a binge, leaving great gaps in our attention spans.
I was so excited for the next season of House of Cards before it was going to be the last season of House of Cards, I didn’t even worry that Kevin Spacey was uncovered as a sexual predator … I knew they’d make it all about Claire which made it way better anyway.
And then months went by. And I forgot about it.
When the final season launched on Netflix, I’d moved on. I didn’t care anymore. It was the summer flame I met at Virginia Beach one year, daydreamed about until early September, then forgot her name and still don’t recall why she was so fascinating.
For Netflix, Hulu, Roku and various network apps today, you binge watch a season in a weekend. Then nothing for 10-12 months? And in an era where every other person claims an ADD diagnosis?
Used to be a season lasted at least six months … 22 or 23 episodes … and you watched them all over again. Remember the term “reruns?” In the interim you revisited the storyline and caught up again when the new season premiered.
Now, seasons are 10, 12 or 13 shows and while the random overzealous production crew might squeeze two “seasons” out in a calendar month, most are still half the amount of shows in the same amount of time. Oh, and with 11 months, 27 days in between last and next episodes.
And podcasts? Worse! Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History debuted on June 3, 2016. Its first season ran 10 episodes, published from June 16 through August 17. The teaser for season two ran a few days before June the following year. Or as Gladwell likes to say in accidental pretense when placed at the end of a sentence, “yehr.”
Two and a half months does not a season make … okay, I know climatologically it almost does, but that’s not what we’re talking about, and there are four of those in a year, not one.
Leaving 9-10 months for your audience to linger, and lapse and long is just too long. Yes, the quality of Revisionist History and similar well-produced shows is strong enough there is likely just renewed excitement when a new season drops, but let’s be honest: That describes about 10 podcasts total, in the whole world.
The rest of them are mediocre at best and easily forgotten.
The only respite an engaged listener or viewer has in the age of binge consumption, are the shows that have been out a while. I’ve recently become fascinated with the History of English Language Podcast from Kevin Stroud. Thank goodness he’s been cranking out about one or two a month — hour long lectures really — since 2012.
Some TV programs are mitigating a bit of the problem by issuing new episodes weekly or so for the paltry 10-12 weeks they’re out rather than just dumping them on us like some shows do. Podcasts generally follow the same rule of thumb, but then there are others that just shit in your yard and will see you next year.
Television shows are becoming like extended movies, which is good for entertainment value, but devastating for our free-time. Podcasts are becoming like greatest hits collections which is okay at first, but they aren’t music, so you’re not going to listen to them over and over.
Podcasters and show producers alike, you owe it to your integrity to produce more than 10 measly shows in a “season.” And you need get it in your mindset that there is more than one season in a year.
Because the future, as it stands, means we’re going to fall out of love with your stuff.
And a special note for the weekly podcasters (technically including me): For the love of god, take some time to write your shows. You ad-libbing, trying to be funny or discerning compelling insights from senseless banter is cluttering up the cyberwaves like paper towels in the plumbing.