Magazine article Variety

The Revolution Will Be Televised and Binge Watched

Magazine article Variety

The Revolution Will Be Televised and Binge Watched

Article excerpt

BINGE-VIEWING IS ONE OF THE MOST profound changes to hit the smallscreen business in memory, a revolution in the way TV is distributed and consumed.

By Advanced Television's estimate, 70% of U.S. viewers self-identify as "binge-ers," and Netflix's decision to put out full seasons of "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" day and date practically begs a marathon.

But is binging changing the way TV is written? Scribes on today's most avidly devoured series reflexively deny it, but when pressed, they admit they're having to evolve with the times.

"I just write the show," reports Julian Fellowes when asked about catering to a marathon of PBS' "Downton Abbey." D.B. Weiss, partnered with David Benioff on HBO's "Game of Thrones," says: "From the outset, the goal with 'Game' was to tell a single, coherent, 70-plus-hour story, with a beginning, middle and end."

"House of Cards' writer Beau Willimon says: "No one would ask the author of a novel, 'Do you write it thinking that someone is going to read it in one sitting, or a chapter here, a chapter there?' I think it's analogous to what's happening in TV."

Really? Charles Dickens, who doled out most of his novels in monthly installments, wrote to a friend: "Notice how patiently and expressly the thing has to be planned for presentation in fragments, and yet for afterwards fusing together as an uninterrupted whole."

Dickens preened that he felt he'd become "rather cunning in this regard," and if you press them, showrunners reveal similar cunning. Even Willimon, who says: "You're on a slippery slope if you're trying to write to a binge-watching experience," acknowledges viewers "might watch it all in two days, or over two months." so "it has to be able to work both ways."

"Exposition is the writer's enemy," says Simon Blackwell, co-exec-prod of HBO's "Veep," which posts all old episodes on HBO Go. …

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