Saturday, December 3, 2022

‘WandaVision’ short runtime truly is the best of both worlds

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Episode six of Disney + original WandaVision definitely gave things a boost. That should silence complaints that the show was crawling around, but one of the reasons it seemed slow is that we get so little of it each week – the longest episode, number five, clocking in with a 42 minutes duration. The shortest was the first, a tight 30 minutes. And that includes the endless streak of credits at the end of each episode.

Streaming has really changed the way productions look at episode length. Traditional television programs are designed around the need to periodically insert advertisements. So an hour-long episode doesn’t really represent the full 60 minutes – older TV series might have 52 minutes of content, while 42 seems to be the standard allocation these days. Sitcoms take place in half-hour blocks, which equates to 20-22 minutes of actual performance.

Marvel Studios

Online, there is no hard and fast rule that dramas must be one hour long and comedies must be half. But that’s what viewers expect, so producers are sticking to the formats – especially when there are so many old programs streaming with all that original content. But that doesn’t mean the shows haven’t taken advantage of it, drawing their programming for an entire hour because they can. Scenes no longer need to be cut, and they can linger on things like planning and building characters.

This use of extra time is more evident in dramas than in comedies. These still adhere to a 22-minute runtime, in the hope that they could be picked up by a network anyway – One day at a time aired on CBS, while BoJack Rider and Schitt Creek both work on Comedy Central. (Streaming dramas don’t usually appear on regular TV, partly because it’s easier to fill an empty half-hour slot, but mostly because many dramas are decidedly R rated and not suitable. not in prime time.)

Debra Jo Rupp and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision

Marvel Studios

So where then WandaVision falls? It’s a show that mimics and parodies the traditional sitcom structure and style, changing each episode to suit the aesthetic of different decades, from The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 50s to Malcolm in the middle in the late 90s / early 2000s. Trying to pull this into a full hour would ruin the sitcom feel, stretching the stories and tropes the series indulges in beyond their “natural” length. But that’s only its surface; in his heart WandaVision is truly a drama about a grieving woman and a mysterious magical menace. If they really wanted to, the producers could easily complete the episodes with more action and drama, with looks at what’s going on outside of the town of Westview with even more backstory and references at most. great Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But they don’t. Instead, the series stayed within its runtime of around 30-40 minutes, using its main plot to move the sitcom’s story forward with bigger and bigger pieces of advancing the series. plot b. It is very economical; apart from the authentically stylized opening sequences (reminiscent of sitcoms like Family ties, Growing pains and Full house) there is very little that does not give the viewer more information and does not advance the plot.

Teyonah Parris in WandaVision

Marvel Studios

Tight run time is nothing but a godsend for WandaVisionthe plot. Viewers are forced to focus on the relevant parts of the story when speculating on the show, reducing the number of fan theories that spread. Most of these theories would have been wrong, and in some cases (we’re looking at you, Game of thrones and Lost) led to backlash from fans when a show fell short of expectations.

The willingness to keep things brief is a lesson learned from Netflix Marvel shows, which have often been criticized for being too long by a few episodes. With the exception of The defenders, each season was 13 episodes. Why this number? Because traditional shows are typically 13 episodes (one quarter of a 52 week year) or 26 episodes (half a year) long. But with Netflix removing episodes at the same time so people can consume them anytime, the exact number of episodes has become irrelevant.

Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision

Marvel Studios

People don’t need 13 episodes like a network needs this number to maintain their schedule. Viewers will watch a show until they are tired of watching TV, and pick it up once back in the mood. This lesson is more evident in the fact that WandaVision will eventually have nine episodes in its first season. Yes, Disney + releases them weekly, but even then the number of episodes doesn’t matter. The service will give up just another show, Falcon and Winter Soldier, the week after WandaVision end. There is no “hole” in the schedule to fill, and Disney offers many other new content on the service to meet the needs of viewers.

And those needs are just not what they used to be, thanks to the advent of social media. The shorter airtime makes the show easier to watch as early as possible, whether you’re one of those lunatics who stay up until 3 a.m. ET, or just want to have it before work on morning to not be spoiled on Twitter and Facebook. The culture of frenzy may have turned streaming programs into “consume at your own pace”, but the culture of spoilers threatens to make them watch dates so you don’t have any wasted surprises for you. you. At least WandaVisionThe runtime makes it a bit easier to integrate these appointments into a busy schedule.


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