As some streaming services adopt weekly episode release patterns, it’s not as bad as you think
Note: This article contains very vague references to spoilers for “Wandavision” and the second season of “The Umbrella Academy.”
Three weeks ago, I logged on to a friend’s Disney Plus account to watch “Wandavision.” As a hardcore, longtime Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, I’d been waiting for this show since it was announced. I counted down the days to January 15, its release date. I cleared my schedule that Friday afternoon. And when the time came, I logged on to find that only two episodes had been released.
“Wandavision,” despite being a streaming service exclusive, would be releasing episodes weekly. I knew some other streaming services have begun experimenting with this, but never before had it been on a show I wanted to watch.
My experience with streaming TV goes something like this: A show I want to watch comes out. I binge it. If I’m free, I watch it in 24 hours. The longest a season has taken me is a week from when I started it. The last show I watched as it came out, waiting a week between episodes, was “Gotham,” a show that aired its final episode nearly two years ago. I thought I didn’t have the patience to watch shows like that anymore, certain that I would just stop watching after the first or second week.
I was wrong. The fourth episode of “Wandavision” aired on Friday, and far from being irritated by the amount of time I have to wait between episodes, I’m enjoying it. I know that every Friday afternoon for the next few weeks, I’ll have 25 minutes of TV to watch. I look forward to it. Having that weeklong gap makes me think about each individual episode—since I can’t know, for example, what happened to Geraldine by just playing another episode until the mystery is revealed, I’m forced to wonder. It draws out the mystery, makes me engage with it and keeps me wanting more.
I can’t help but compare this to another show I watched recently. In July, the second season of “The Umbrella Academy” dropped on Netflix—all 10 episodes in a single day. I couldn’t watch that day, or the next, and when I finally did finish the season, only a week later, everyone I knew who was into the show had already seen it. It was old news. Nobody was getting their heart torn out with me as all of the show’s couples fell apart. Nobody was even still shocked by the ending: it had been weird, but the surprise had worn off. And it had only been a week. By the next month, I was barely even thinking about “The Umbrella Academy.”
Until the final episode of “Wandavision” airs on March 5, I know I am going to be thinking about it. Sure, it’s annoying that I can’t just know what’s going on, solve the mystery by watching every episode as fast as possible. But I’m getting the best of both worlds here—unlike a network television show, there are no advertisements, and if I can’t watch when it drops, I know I can later. But unlike a streaming show that drops a season at a time, the hype doesn’t fall away. And if I want to binge it, I just have to wait a few weeks.
Senior Cadenza Editor Isabella Neubauer has other reflections on the ups and downs of modern television, too:
- Television shows should quit while they’re ahead
- Television just can’t replace live entertainment, and the pandemic proved it