Fallout vs The Boys: Is bingeing or weekly TV dose better?

Streaming services such as Netflix have normalised releasing a whole season all at once

Fallout - which was released in full on Amazon Prime last week - has received rave reviews. AP
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Amazon Prime Video’s newest TV show Fallout is receiving great reviews from critics and fans. All episodes of the first season of the video game adaptation were released on the same day, continuing a trend made popular by streaming giant Netflix.

The strategy is a bit of a surprise from Amazon, as some of the platform's biggest shows follow the tried-and-true technique of releasing an episode on a week-by-week basis, as is the case with recent hits including The Boys and Invincible.

And the new release strategy has invited discussion from fans and viewers who questioned if it was the right move for the streamer, and the future success of the show. We take a look at the merits and cons of different release systems.

To binge or not to binge?

Despite being popularised during the global rise of Netflix in 2013, the term "binge watching" can actually be traced back to the 1950s when "marathon-watching" first became popular.

Back then, the television-watching public in the US and the UK were more accustomed to watching shows weekly, but the arrival of Japanese anime shows dubbed in English changed that.

Anime fans could purchase whole seasons of their favourite shows on VHS tapes, allowing them to start and finish a season in the same day, or a weekend depending on the length of the season, thus indulging in a marathon viewing session.

In 2015, "binge watch" was chosen as the word of the year by the Collins English Dictionary. This exemplified just how popular the habit had become, with the term easily entering people’s lexicons within only two years of Netflix popularising it.

The streamer had chosen the new strategy originally as a way to stand out against the rest of the industry, essentially telling viewers that they could wait for an episode per week with others, or go to them and complete a season at their own pace.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the practice of watching a whole season in one sitting boomed. With more people staying home, there was more opportunity for them to fill their time with TV shows.

Did you see the latest episode?

Episodic broadcasting was first used by radio shows that aired new episodes daily or weekly. The practice carried over when televisions became a household item and families gathered to enjoy their favourite shows when they aired.

Before the 1990s, some of the biggest shows included comedies such as M*A*S*H or soap operas such as Dallas, and episodes from this era remain some of the highest watched single episodes to date. The M*A*S*H finale alone commanded a viewership of over 105 million, by far the largest number of people to watch a prime time TV episode.

In the early 1990s, HBO ushered in a new era for quality programming with high quality production and first-rate writing. Epic series such as The Sopranos and The Wire commanded a returning audience every week, with the shows often being the first point of discussion on Monday mornings at offices up and down the country.

Over the past two decades, other shows including Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones have maintained the practice of weekly episodic releases, keeping viewers on their toes and holding their attention for months.

And even recently, despite viewers becoming more accustomed to binge-watching, shows such as Succession and Euphoria have proven that there’s still merit to the weekly model.

So, which is better?

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but there are pros and cons for both models.

The weekly release method helps to keep viewers invested and interested for more than a weekend. And if shows are able to stimulate discussions and debates between friends and colleagues after each episode, a show’s popularity can increase using this delayed gratification method.

While the Netflix binge-watch model has proven successful in growing the streamer’s popularity, not as many of the platform's shows have experienced the same adoration as HBO’s often still do. Netflix itself may have realised the merit of suspense too, as the streaming giant has inched towards a weekly release model, albeit in their own style, splitting a season in two or three parts.

Personally, I enjoy the odd Netflix release, knowing that I can start a season and get to its resolution at my own pace is sometimes preferable. The downside is that these shows all too easily become disposable, coming and going without making much of a lasting impression.

When a show airs or releases weekly, there's more incentive to join in and keep up to date with it, mostly to avoid it being involuntarily spoiled to you, online or in person. But it also means that you can partake in discussions at work or with friends dissecting the latest happenings of the current popular pick.

Ultimately, viewers will continue to decide how to consume media, and options have never hurt. TV is becoming more popular, and the streaming services will ensure there’s always new and interesting shows of high quality to enjoy.

Published: April 14, 2024, 12:08 PM