When I finally got to see, and quickly fell in love with, Reservation dogs– the ethereal dark comedy on FX about four rebellious native teenagers creating problems in a small Oklahoma city reservation – it had been almost a year since its premiere in 2021. My lingering was not conscious, but it meant I had missed one of the more satisfying aspects of what makes TV, especially a jewel of a show like Reservation dogsso much the more noteworthy in this messy age of streaming: the ability to absorb its quirks while watching and arguing about it with everyone else on social media.
This has become a trend lately. I find that I am unable to keep up with the abundance of TV and movies offered across all the major streamers (I bent Reservation dogs last month on Hulu, FX’s business partner), and on the network and cable clothing that has come too late with the generation of cultural IP on various platforms. (Yes, I signed up for Paramount +’s free trial, and yes, I saw the pre-cooked US version of Love Island without a bit of embarrassment.) I have only just finished The gilded age (10/10 recommend – it is Housewives Before Housewives) and has not yet started Station eleventhe second season of Successionand could not even tell you where I left off Ozark (actually I just checked; season 3, episode 1). In the midst of all this, I still did not have time to watch the movies pile up in my ever-growing queues, including the dystopian thriller Mother / Android and the documentaries Ailey, Highest scoreand Our dad.
The context is, as always, crucial. All of this has happened at a time – spring into the summer, a little after Covid, but not quite – where streaming was, and still is, to a large extent, vomiting content at an unprecedented rate. In addition to playing catch-up, I also added my treasure chest of streaming ephemera: I subscribed to Peacock in April (Bel-Air is the first reboot in a long time that complicates genre lines with real payoffs), while chronologically looking at everything the animated DC universe had to offer on HBO Max (in terms of its animation list, DC far surpassed Marvel). Such are the times. According to an analysis conducted by Vulture about the spring programming, “streaming platforms and cable networks rolled out more than 50 new and recurring high-profile series” over a 10-week period. One director colored it bluntly: “It almost hurts consumers at this point. It’s just too much.”
On top of this, the creator-first apps, such as YouTube and TikTok, have slowly rebuilt, where we look for entertainment and escape. During the first year of the pandemic, Instagram Live became a pay-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 completely bad. An immediate benefit of the algorithmic abundance of content that clogs our attention is the joy of being introduced to a genre or series that is otherwise overlooked. Compulsory feeding, I can admit, has its benefits. Streamers like Netflix and Hulu, who previously abused bringing national stories to the state, have since come around, with the rare surprise hit that seems to address culture in a roundabout way: a strange series seems unfathomable until suddenly there is fanfiction is written about it on bulletin boards.
In the fourth week after its release, in October last year, Play squid– the South Korean Survivor-drama about class hostility – had become the most watched program on Netflix across all language groups, and the talk of social media. (According to the company, total seat hours at the end of the first month were $ 1.65 billion.) With fluctuating results, other foreign series have found audiences in the United States, including Netflix’s recent South African social soap, Savage Beauty.
Still, I can not shake the feeling 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 to be ridiculed in the group chat for not catching any of the Keke Palmer references from the latest season of Legendary. What’s more, for the average consumer, streaming companies have maneuvered with what appears to be only rapid growth and blind profits in mind. Of course, we reap the fruits of the almost impossible ethics, but is that what we want – or need at all?