We may be in the age of Peak TV, but The Leftovers showrunner Damon Lindelof says that’s no reason to engage in bad TV-watching habits.
In a tongue-in-cheek letter accompanying preview episodes of HBO’s apocalyptic drama series provided to critics, Lindelof shared his opinion about the rapidly-changing TV business model, and how streaming has negatively affected the viewing experience. You can read the whole thing below.
The Leftovers is returning for its third and final season on HBO in April and TV critics received advance episodes of the series for review purposes. Included with the screeners was a letter from Lindelof, imploring them to not binge-watch his television show while also making a statement about the current state of TV.
Here’s the letter in its entirety:
Dear Critical Community,
G'day! Welcome to the third and final season of THE LEFTOVERS. On behalf of our entire team, I just wanted to say one thing before you embark on the journey.
Bingeing is bad.
I am old school. And not just because I agree with Joss Whedon about everything. Never before in the history of the English language has "binge" been associated with something healthy or productive. Just because there is an entire can of Pringles in front of you does not mean you should eat them all in one sitting. Every time I have done this, I feel sad and guilty, and then mad at The Pringles Corporation. Which is probably not even a thing. But I also must acknowledge times have changed. I must acknowledge there is not just too much television, but too much good television ("Fleek TV?") and in order to make any kind of dent, we folks who produce it have to get out of our rocking chairs and get hip to the times. Which probably includes not ever saying "hip" again. Anyhoo…
The point is, I've never sent out this many episodes in advance and I feel scared and I am trying to mitigate that fear by controlling things, but the way I'm controlling them is by trying to convince you that I'm okay with not controlling them. I also ate an entire can of Pringles last night while watching the entire first season of FLEABAG until three in the morning, so y'know, hypocrite.
One last thing. Please do not reveal the year this season takes place nor the new architectural design of STERLING, COOPER, PRYCE, GARVEY & JAMISON.
In the letter, Damon agrees with Joss Whedon’s recent comments about disliking binge-watching culture — a habit jumpstarted by streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. “We lose our understanding of narrative,” Whedon said. “Which is what we come to television for. We come to see the resolve.”
With Netflix dropping all the episodes of their original shows online at once, it’s encouraged people to watch it all in one setting, or wait until a show has finished its season so they won’t have to wait week-to-week. I’ve been guilty of doing the same, and in the era of Too Much Good TV — or as Lindelof calls, it “Fleek TV” — it’s nice to watch things at my leisure.
But Lindelof makes a good point about both Pringles and binge-watching: it’s not healthy. And it’s also killed the phenomenon of event TV-watching, except for a few shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or Westworld. I would argue that it loses the the phenomenon of the “watercooler moment” as well, but that feels disingenuous — because of the oversaturation in the TV landscape, nearly all shows revolve around “watercooler moments,” just to try to stand out from the masses. Like Lindelof said, it’s forced writers to up their game, but it’s also contributed to the rise in spoiler culture — which Lindelof playfully pokes fun at in his reference to Mad Men and Matthew Weiner’s own sincere letter to critics about his show’s finale.
Let’s not forget too that Lindelof was one of the men behind LOST, one of the premiere shows for watercooler moments and a TV series whose impact depended on the week-to-week wait. There has been few show since LOST that took such advantage of its cliffhanger endings and weekly buzz, and there probably won’t be — the series finished its run just before the Netflix model hit its peak, when streaming television was a mere glimmer on the horizon.
Though Lindelof may yearn for simpler TV times, and I agree with him to an extent, the binge-watching culture is probably here to stay. Hulu may try releasing episodes week-to-week, but Netflix will keep dropping whole seasons at once — and I will probably wait until season 2 is about to begin before I watch season 1.
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