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SpoilerTV's Weekly Round Table: 97th Edition

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Hello and welcome to a new edition of SpoilerTV's Weekly Round Table! Joining us this week is Lisa Macklem (LM), Alejandra Molina (AJ)Jessica Carnes (JI), Prpleight (JH), Dahne (DH), Eve (EV), Milo M-J (MJ), Giulia Del Buono (GB), KathM (KM), Ellys Cartin (EC), Cecile (CL), Naomi Anna (NA), Jamie Coudeville (JC), Laura W (LG), SarahR (SR), Julia Krassnik (KK), and myself (ZF). You just have to sit back enjoy the read and join the discussion in the comment section down below.

Disney+ has shown that show runtimes can be flexible. The Mandalorian episodes could be as short as 25 minutes or as long as 47 minutes. How do you feel about the fluctuating runtimes that streaming TV provides?

I think that format Disney+ incorporated regarding running times of the episodes is better because sometimes you need more time to tell the story in an episode, sometimes less, this way you don't end up with scenes missing or filler scenes added just to adhere to a set runtime.

JI: I prefer runtimes to stay fairly consistent. If I have a certain amount of free time available, I like to know whether I’m able to sneak an episode in. It’s much easier to do that if I know approximately how long an episode will take. It would be hard for me to stop in the middle of an episode and come back to it later. From a creative perspective though, I could see how some storylines may not need as much time to resolve, or conversely, may need more time and are still important to the development of the show. I completely respect that.

JH: In a lot of ways streaming has brought about some refreshing changes to way TV series operate. When discussing broadcast...the ad sales makes the idea difficult. Although it could theoretically work there as well. My day time soap has dropped, over the years, from about 45 minutes to 32 minutes – i.e. more commercials. So, I suppose, theoretically an episode could have more or less commercials one episode to another. (Although that'll never happen.) From a viewing standpoint, I'm more concerned that the story being told feels complete and satisfying (for an episode even if it's a cliffhanger episode). I don't want to feel like a story isn't being fully served. (This is a problem I've run into with the short episode counts for some series.)

DH: I don't watch a lot of streaming so adjustable run times seems strange to me. I guess it would depend on whether the show aired all at once or if it came out weekly. All at once, it wouldn't matter the length. If it was weekly, it would annoy me.

EV: I was happily surprised that the Mandalorian was only 25-30 minutes long. The episodes didn’t feel short to me, it all depends on story structure and pace. Same for Ted Lasso by AppleTV that only had 25-30 minute episodes. When enough interesting things happen a ‘short’ episode feels full. I guess it also kind of depends on the genre. Comedies should not be longer than 25-30 minutes, heavy and complicated dramas can need 45 minutes to include everything and dive into the story more in-depth. However, I'm not a fan of 45-60 minute episodes of shows where the story is slow and dragging and you start to lose interest because of filler scenes and episodes.

MJ: I love it! It's so refreshing and it's something that I wish Netflix experimented with it more as most of their episodes don't earn the full hour - The Last Kingdom is one of the few rare shows that makes the most of its runtime, and it's a shame the closest they've seemingly gotten around to playing with the runtime is The OA's random shorter episode - something that should be borrowed from Disney at the earliest opportunity. Just because you can go longer doesn't always mean you should.

KM: Honestly, as long as the story is told well it can be as long or as short as it likes. I’m not a huge fan of ‘filler’ episodes, which seem to exist solely for the purpose of satisfying a number of required episodes or a specific amount of on screen time. Frankly I liked the random length of Mandalorian episodes because I didn’t see a lot of unnecessary screen time. If anything, I often wished they were longer.

EC: Recently when watching Queen's Gambit I was taken by surprise when some episodes ended up being shorter than I was expecting. I think flexible runtimes can make binge watching more exciting in that regards. Still, for an ongoing show like The Mandalorian, one does wonder if the shorter lengths correlate with a lack of story to tell.

CL: I'm not a fan of episode lengths sometimes being cut in half, I don't feel like it makes much sense over the course of a season.

NA: I love consistency, but if it's a show I absolutely love, I am willing to deal with it.

JC: I do kind of like to know ahead of time how long an episode is (so I can plan) but I like that Disney+ is going for a shorter format. And it should be possible for the writers to adapt the lenght of an episode based on the storyline.

LG: I really love the fluctuating runtimes. It helps ensure that the episode, whether heavy in plot or a filler, is including everything it needs to, with no time constraints for unnecessarily long commercials or openings. It makes it more enjoyable, as a fan, because it’s almost a guarantee that they’re putting the best things in the episode, not just what could fit.

SR: I dont mind the fluxating episode times, but I wouldn't want every show to do it. It definitely wouldn't want every show to do it, it works with The Mandolorian but i feel like it wouldn't work with procedural shows like NCIS.

WandaVision certainly brought back some nostalgia for the old TV shows. What 20th century TV program still lives close to your heart and why?

 That I would watch again? Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman were huge for me, but, especially with The Bionic Woman my sensibilities have changed and they're more difficult to watch now. Can I count Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It started in the 20th Century didn't it? I loved original Battlestar Galactica, MacGyver (until they started preaching more than story telling), Magnum PI and Dynasty. Of those that have not been remade: Miami Vice, Fantasy Island, Dallas, Knots Landing, Quantum Leap, Twin Peaks, Babylon 5, Crusade. This could take days.

DH: For me, some of my fondest memories are the comedies of the 1980's. I would like to see some more comedies in that vein today, nothing too raunchy or cynical. Something that gives a good laugh that you can watch with the family.

EV: Soaps were a huge thing for me in the 80's. Especially Santa Barbara and As The World Turns. Since many years I'm unable to invest in a daily show like Soaps were but I do have fond memories of coming home from school and being excited about what had happened with the Capwells and in Oakdale.

MJ: I've watched a bunch of episodes from The Green Hornet and Wanted: Dead or Alive with Steve McQueen over the last couple of years or so and had plenty of fun with both shows - the half hour format and mostly standalone episode length makes for a welcome change of pace from the modern narratives, and I love the sets used. Plus it helps that in the case of Wanted: Dead or Alive, you can clearly see that Steve McQueen is a star in the making. I'm also a massive fan of Doctor Who, its classic series is just excellent and I'm really enjoying revisiting the earlier William Hartnell years and seeing the show in its earliest form. Britbox is a godsend for classic series like this as well as picking up the collection boxsets as they are available due to the pure amount of extra content that are a dream for fans, I have preordered Season 26 and Season 8 due to come out later this year and can't get enough of the sets. Who is easily the show with the best attention and commitment to its physical format in the market.

EC: Night Court, Remington Steele, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King remain all-time faves. I often have to remind myself that these past eras also turned out many shows that were forgotten or swept away due to not being particularly interesting; the glut of mediocre shows is nothing new, but also mediocrity is a subjective metric at the best of times. As a result, I try to avoid discussing shows I dislike.

NA: "I Dream of Jeannie" is my favorite 20th century television show. It was so silly but really sweet at the same time. I also love when characters have a special thing they are known for and Jeannie certainly had that.

SR: I loved the first episode of WandaVision! It reminded me of The Dick Van Dyke show. When I googled it, I found out that it was the vibe the writers were going for. For 20th century shows I love, Mission Impossible (1960s) and The Dick Van Dyke show are a couple of my favourites.

Do you think social media has added to or reduced the TV experience? Why?

I absolutely can't live tweet a show. But then, I'm old. I DO think that social media has added to the tv experience even if you don't do the live thing because there's lots of background information before airing AND you can always go back and review what went on during a show. It's also nice to get that information a lot sooner than was often the case through traditional channels.

AJ: I feel social media has brought more people who enjoy the same TV Shows together, as well as the same likes within a show, which enriches the experience overall. One thing some might find discouraging is seeing spoilers right after an episode aired, but that also encourages people to watch episodes faster.

JI: In general, I’d say that social media really adds to my experience. Engaging with the fanbase of a show I’m watching by live tweeting or theorizing is a lot of fun for me. It’s an easy way to find others who enjoy the same shows and who are wanting to talk about all of the same storylines, scenes and couples that you are. I do it often but there are some shows that I will reserve my interactions until post-show so that I’m not so distracted that I miss a good scene or plot point. Social media does have its downsides though and it can go from a positive experience to negative one very quickly so it’s important to remain balanced in using it.

JH: I have never minded spoilers. So it was never an issue. Although, these days I'm not chasing news as much as I was before. The only downside I'm seeing with regard to social media these days is that people have lost the ability to have a discussion. I have communicated with people on SpoilerTV who have been bullied for not agreeing with posters on social media. I think that is tragic.

DH: When I watched TV live, Twitter was a great way to enhance the TV experience. I watch a lot of shows that no one in my family or my friends watch so watching with online fans made it feel like a group experience. Ever since I got a DVR though, I haven't used social media near as much. It's less fun to discuss a show that you're not watching at the same time.

EV: For me it has certainly added to the TV experience. It depends on your personality but for me I always love reading other peoples thoughts about what they saw. I love reading TV message boards and Twitter. On occasion I participate in online discussions and in the past I’ve been a member of some online TV fan communities. The only downside is that sometimes the online TV communities can get toxic, usually due to shipping wars and some very obsessed fans. I keep things light and positive.

EC: The great two-edged sword of our times. Social media can help you find that one other person on the planet who has watched the same show as you, to say nothing of all the new shows you can discover through social media. Especially right now, social media can be lifeline for people more alone than usual. And of course social media is also a monster through which people lose their minds. I'm sure we've all seen how some people flood the comments of any Netflix post to beseech the streaming service to bring back their favorite show that was cancelled umpteen years ago. Ultimately, most people are unprepared to navigate social media, and in the long run it has probably done more harm than good. I still find a lot of joy in sharing about my favorite shows on social media, but I see other people who only encounter the negative, and it wears them down.

CL: I do enjoy the collective experience (after the episode though, I don't enjoy getting spoiled before I've had time to watch it because of timezones and air dates), because sometimes no one you know in real life is watching the show you're watching and it's more fun to be able to discuss about that cliffhanger and everything else! That said, I think I prefer the longform articles from websites I like and trust, or fans who do hilarious recaps (which are sometimes better than the episodes themselves).

NA: I think social media has definitely enhanced the tv experience. You can share your excitement and disappointments with so many people, but I do see a downside especially if you are a creator. I'm sure its no fun having your passion ripped apart by people who don't really know all that it entails to get your work on a screen. But, I guess everyone has to take the highs with the lows in life, creator or not.

JC: Both, I think. Added because it's easier to build up a fanbase. Being able to talk about a show online is how a show grows its popularity. But there's a downside as well. Read enough negative opinions for a show and people will choose to stay away without ever trying it. Then there are the spoilers, which can really ruin the experience for people who aren't that far in yet.

LG: I think social media has absolutely added to the TV experience. I love finishing an episode and going on social media to discuss it with my friends. I love live-tweeting as well. It’s a fantastic way for fans and the cast, even writers, to engage with each other. There are of course negatives -- fans thinking they should be owed things because they have access to the cast and writers -- but overall, social media has introduced me to so many friends, who in the long run, introduce me to even more shows. It’s a great cycle!

KK: Definitely added. While I do not often check twitter while I'm watching a show, I certainly tweet about it afterward or during the commercial breaks. What I enjoy most, however, is that social media offers you a peek behind the scenes. There are photos and videos from the cast & crew filming the episodes. There are extracts from the script. There are photos from the dressing room. TV shows don't consist of just episodes alone anymore. It has become a crossmedia experience that often even offers the possibility to interact with the actors and actresses, writers, directors etc.

There has been a lot of controversy as of late regarding the fact that filming continues despite the COVID restrictions and government suggestions to pause all unnecessary activity. Some argue that film shoots are bubbled, constantly tested, and provide work for many — others believe it is a reckless risk. What side of the spectrum are you on?

Because I work (in my day job) in the legal area of entertainment, I've been pretty fully immersed in the roll out of the regulations in several countries. Shoots that are doing things correctly are probably a lot safer than your average grocery store. Actors need to work, but more importantly, everyone ELSE involved with production needs to work. Very few of these people have much of a safety net - like a lot of us - so they really need to get back to work and that's another incentive to keep the work place as safe as possible because one of the biggest regulations is that if ANYONE gets sick EVERYONE gets sent home and production is shut down. I'm one of the many who loved and applauded Tom Cruise's meltdown on set. So I'm fully on side of continuing production. AND if the rest of us are trapped at home, providing fresh entertainment is an essential service!

AJ: I feel like as long as there is proper measures in place to avoid a COVID spread within a production set it's fine if they're filming. If the show can be contained to filming in a specific set without too many people/extras and it doesn't represent a risk then why not.

JH: I think that there are some industries that are taking health restrictions and guidelines very seriously because, they realize that, as we have seen, ignoring the restrictions will only make things worse. That seriousness, theoretically, means those workplaces are safe. But there are others, like restaurants or grocery stores where either the owners or members of the public refuse to follow guidelines present a major risk. It's not black and white. I suppose where I fall on the spectrum is that there may not be a one size fits all aspect to all of this. Health departments need more honest, trained employees so they can do their jobs.

DH: The film and TV industry knows a lot more about what they are doing for COVID than I do. If the people who are employed feel safe and they are following the guidelines set up, who am I to disagree?

EV: I’m someone who takes Covid19 very serious. I’m very conscious of all the rules and I try to follow them as best as I can. However regarding the TV and movie industry and their continuation of work and taking unnecessary risk: I’m selfish. I’m so happy that some of my favorite shows are back in production and new seasons are on their way. In this stressful time all we have is entertainment such as movies and TV. Please let us have that. I trust that the TV and movie industry takes all necessary precaution to make sure their sets are Covid-free and safe environments.

GB: Surely the situation isn't perfect and all the restrictions necessary should be followed and respected, but I also feel like that people need to work. TV and movie sets have on-site testing and the actors and the crew are constantly tested and checked, so I think sets should continue working, always following the guidelines and rules provided by the government.

EC: Most shows are shooting without incident, adhering to their safety protcols, so it's not a major issue in my opinion. Particularly in the United States, there's no income replacement likely to ever arrive that will take care of everyone who needs it, so if people can work safely they should be allowed to do so.

CL: I really do hope the sets are being very careful and safe, and that the protocols are stringent enough that people feel OK to work without taking risks. Like others said, selfishly I'm really happy to see that some shows have managed to restart production and that we'll be able to get some new content, because it's a dark period in time and entertainment is direly needed. However, having seen first hand that even in the medical industry, precautions are taken more as a nudge rather than an obligation... it kind of becomes infuriating when you're actually trying to be as careful as you can.

NA: I think that if people feel safe, they should keep working. The minute they don't feel safe, anyone working on a set should be able to opt out without feeling any pressure. I am very happy that shows are trying to keep production going because without them, the rest of us would have such a hard time surviving through these difficult days. TV shows and movies on the horizon have given me and so many others something to hope for.

JC: I get why they have continued shooting and I know they've taken a lot of precautions. And while people say that people should be able to opt out when they don't feel safe, I wonder how possible that is for crew members. How many are going to opt out and lose a job in an industry where jobs are so uncertain? Not to mention that I've seen what this virus can do... I just don't know how to feel.

LG: Look, the fact of the matter is, bubbles don’t exist in COVID. I know we would all love to believe they do, we would love to see our select five people, or in this case, fifty, but bubbles just aren’t a thing. Every person in a bubble has their own bubble, the other bubble has their own bubbles, so on and so forth. Last March, the CDC said if everyone in the US wore masks for six weeks, we could get COVID under control. We are rapidly approaching one year since then and it’s worse than ever. It’s time for movie and television studios, and actors and actresses to take the time off that’s required of them so we can get back to a safe environment for everyone -- not just people lucky enough to have access to daily tests and so-called bubbles.

SR: I like that we have new TV and movies on the way, however, if the government has told them to stop production they should stop. The precautions put in place won't properly stop COVID, only temporarily stop it before a massive outbreak happens.

KK: I'm on the side of science. Most TV shows have enough money available to take all sorts of precautions. If various covid experts deem these precautions as safe enough I'm fine if they continue filming. We should listen to the experts, people!

That wraps up another round table! Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below. See you next week!

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