Fallout Makes the Latest Case to Kill the Binge Model

Fallout Makes the Latest Case to Kill the Binge Model

Like pretty much everyone else this weekend, I’m watching the TV adaptation of Fallout. I’m really enjoying it, and there’s a lot about it to like, from its characters and sense of place to the way it incorporates the game’s mechanics and setting into a non-interactive format. It’s a very solid show that has the potential to be great over time, something Amazon is reportedly already giving it with a season two renewal.

Just one small problem, or at least one that isn’t really the fault of show: this should be a weekly series. Unlike with its other hit shows like The Boys or InvincibleAmazon elected to put out all eight episodes in one go, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. It’s not short enough to be billed as a miniseries event, and its scope is so big that each episode runs roughly an hour or a little more. From its opening moments, Fallout feels like a prestige series, which tend to thrive with a weekly schedule that makes you put the work in to watch it.

Streamers are content to release their show howver they like, and in theory, the all at once binge model helps viewers dictate the pace of watching a show on their own terms. But this has arguably hurt TV in a variety of ways—it’s too easy for shows to fly under the radar (and subsequently get canceled before they can really find their legs), you end up getting spoiled on something because everyone else on social media is way ahead of you, which puts you in the wrong headspace. When the first season of Luke Cage came out in 2016, I watched it all day one, and ended it feeling a little burnt out. The choice may have been mine, but Netflix punishes nearly any show that doesn’t burst onto the scene as a success. It’s one thing to marathon a few episodes of an hour-long show (or ones with 11/22-minute runtimes), and another to do an entire 13-episode season that probably could’ve benefitted from being 10 episodes.

On the flip side, shows tend to benefit more from weekly drops. Right now, two of the biggest shows on are Shōgun and X-Men ‘97Both of them are equally great in their own right, but they’re being talked about so much because they’re weekly. Each episode lets their respective communities grow and discussion to foster as people post theories and memes to have a laugh or just cope with what just happened. It’s the effectively the TV circle of life—studios put out a show, which gets audience attention, who then come to love it and treat the thing like an event.

TV is in a weird spot right now as companies are beginning to remember what the medium is for and how to thrive in it. Ads are getting inserted into shows again (albeit awkwardly), and shows are getting retooled into actually being shows instead of sliced up movie. Even Netflix, king of the binge model, is going weekly for something like Delicious in DungeonBenDavid Grabinski, who co-created Netflix’s Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, even went so far as to call putting a show out all at once “the dumbest shit ever. There’s literally no upside.”

It’s understood TV has been broken for several years in a variety of ways. Part of the path to fixing that should be going back to our weekly roots: Fallout feels like it was made as a weekly show to begin with, and it just feels wrong that a series this strong already have a series of “Season Finale, Explained” posts just a few days after coming out.