Brian De Palma talking about one failed project (1):
I would get stacks of notes, over and over again, from multiple sources. It’s changed. They want to be included on everything. I remember throwing executives out of the room during a reading for “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Are you kidding? I can’t have these actors performing in front of studio executives during the first reading! They claimed they wouldn’t say anything, which was nonsense. I had the same thing with the Paterno project. I said, “This is the first time Al [Pacino] has heard this material. I can’t have executives sitting here.” They were offended beyond belief — sulking, tense. I finally walked away from it. ... If you’ve seen HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” the HBO executive on that show, Len Amato — that was the guy I was dealing with. On the show, there’s Len in the editing room, making suggestions. That’s like my worst nightmare. I have never dealt with a producer in the editing room. And you can’t get final cut on television. Can you believe that Martin Scorsese doesn’t have final cut on television?
Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec) described the control that executives have over casting and other key creative decisions in his recent Fresh Air interview (2). It's depressing.
At the same time, I think this encourages higher-quality content overall, because in standard television, the product are ad-views. You put up content only so that people watch the ads. Like clickbait articles in the internet. This is especially so, as people got used to the formula of the television dictating when to watch your movies.
Here they give you quality content, because the subscription payment is the actual value for them, and they know they'll lose it if you don't put up good enough content. (to keep up the analogy, it's like subscription based online magazines like NYT or nautilus, the content differs diametrically)
On another note, I really like the data driven approach described here. The metric of people turning off an episode of a series midways, without ever coming back to it.
The important point here though is that this has nothing to do with Netflix. They don't demand a certain length nor do they require product placement. That's all on the producers and creators of the show.
If the show runners want to make a bunch of money with product placement, that's their creative tradeoff.
Some of Netflix's Marvel shows for example, are great, but could really use a more aggressive editor.
However, I have not watched another Netflix series yet that suffers from the same problem.
The problem is when there really only is enough interesting content for 4-5 hours and you feel like half the series is there only as a filler. Handmaid's tale is an example that comes to my mind. I like the series overall, but it's 2-3x times as long as it should be in my opinion.
Likewise, even fictional shows with short seasons can feel tedious at times, which for me, many happen to be British shows, though not all (I enjoyed Safe, but got really bored during Collateral and The Fall, both of which I've heard great things, but much of the storylines just ended up feeling as if scenes were there to "enhance the tension", but served some other purpose).
Again maybe super personal and cultural, but I do love long format television, just please give me a reason to keep caring about the outcome without having to wind down some plot rabbit hole).
I might just be impatient and a typical American who is affixed with getting "a hook" somewhere in the first 3 episodes, or I'm probably going to give something else a try.
And there are quite a few really good foreign series that I enjoyed, (such as The Rain and 3%) and then some domestic and international shows that put me in the same taste cluster as shows like Dark, The OA and Sense8 that really just never connect. I'm not sure if that's a padding issue per se, but I guess anything that you're not really getting into just feels tedious after a while.
Netflix is a double-edged sword. You no longer need to fill time for a format, so you can murder your darlings to your heart's content. On the other hand, there's such a tiny incentive to make a show shorter, that there aren't enough voices telling directors to cut the dead weight.
Netflix's streaming model is strictly better than the broadcast model. It has little to do with the revenue sourcing.
This is a big advantage for Netflix. Live-TV cable companies don't have the same luxury of picking and choosing specific content, as they buy all-in to a single stream of ABC's content, NBC's content, etc. If there's an NBC show you like on Thursday at 8pm EST via Comcast, you know it will be available at 7pm CST in the Midwest via, say, Mediacom. There's not that much wiggle room. Analytics isn't all that useful unless you can deliver specific content, which is exactly how Netflix works.
It's like the show was written by a robot trained on Breaking Bad and The Wire. It has all the building blocks of a hit show, but it totally lacks any personality or inspiration.
Don't get me wrong, Bateman's performance is just great, but the material is so blah. You can tell the show thinks it's much smarter than it really is.
I think we'll start seeing more of those shows on Netflix. People binge the hell out of Breaking Bad, so we got Ozark. I'm sure we'll eventually see their own "The Office", because people binge the hell out of that, too.
As an American who likes the occasional UK show, I have the possibly mistaken impression that BBC shows run on a more similar model to Netflix. It seems like they will tell a story for about as long as the original idea is interesting and then the show ends.
In the U.S. it seems like anything popular will get milked as long as possible.
Oddly, it seems like even in the Netflix model there are "series" and "movie" categories that mirror film and TV running lengths and seasons.
It would be interesting to see more deviations from that pattern. Shorter serials with longer episodes. Marathon length features.
Black Mirror is the best example of a non-traditional show as far as episode length and quantity and I think it works quite well.