The Episodic Network Television Model Failed Westworld

The Episodic Network Television Model Failed Westworld 3

The way people watch television has changed drastically over the past few years. It’s no longer the norm to sit through wave after wave of commercials while watching primetime network TV. If a person is interested in a show like Designated Survivor or The Walking Dead, more often than not they will just wait until it’s available to rent on Amazon or iTunes the very next day. That way they won’t have to watch any ads at all and can consume the episode at their own pace. With the emergence of services like Netflix and Hulu, the power is in the hands of the consumer. This puts weekly eposodic shows like HBO’s Westworld at a disadvantage.

When new seasons of Stranger Things and House of Cards debut, people often binge watch every episode over a single weekend. This removes the risk of spoilers, and watching new seasons in this way allows fans to feel part of the conversation about a certain show for a short period of time. However, cable channels like HBO and Showtime are still churning out new episodes of their hit shows on a weekly schedule, and this has had a negative impact on one of 2016’s biggest series.

Network Television Failed Westworld 1

Westworld is a captivating, original, and often brilliant sci-fi show that’s based on a 1973 film. It tells the story of a high-profile company that offers its consumers the chance to visit an amusement park of sorts called Westworld, where they are allowed to kill or have sex with any life-like robot they please. It asks the classic question of what it means to be human. In its first few episodes, Westworld introduces quite a lot of characters and intriguing plot points, most of which are begging to be answered. This, of course, led to the Internet dissecting every little scene and character moment in those first episodes, leading to plenty of fan theories and conspiracies.

As it turned out, without spoiling too much, some of those theories were correct. Fans actually predicted some of the biggest reveals in the show and this ruined some surprises down the line. There are three particular plot twists that Westworld throws at the viewer in its last three episodes. But due to the excessive amount of theories and research done by countless fans, instead of people being genuinely shocked, viewers saw these twists coming a mile away. It’s been the show’s number one problem: it was never given the chance to tell its story at its own pace.

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Now, some would argue that the actual reveals weren’t all that great, and Westworld’s writing and overall plot are too bloated and convoluted. However, there’s no denying just how much the Internet took every single episode apart scene by scene. By the time the finale rolled around, not even someone like Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, could have shocked the viewer.

The main reason this happened is because the manner in which Westworld was rolled out by HBO. This is a show that needed to be on Netflix or Amazon because people would have consumed the entire first season in a short amount of time. That way, all of the theories and discussion about Westworld would have likely came after everyone had already finished the finale. Thus, all of the big plot twists would have actually been, well, surprising.

Network Television Failed Westworld 2

Westworld is the first high profile show that fell victim to the new way people consume content. It’s in this digital age where viewers demand to be given entire seasons all in one go. While a series like Game of Thrones still benefits from having new episodes debut on a weekly basis, it doesn’t rely on major twists to engage the viewer. The love for Game of Thrones stems from its grandiose tale about powerful people killing each other, as well as the show’s strong cast of characters.

Westworld, on the other hand, hooked its viewers by introducing plenty of puzzles and a promise to solve all of them in a clever way. It most definitely would’ve done a better job at this if HBO just released the entire season over one weekend.

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