Stranger Things 2 came out Friday October 27th 2017 and I consumed it with the ferocity with which Homer Simpson attacks an all you can eat buffet. By Saturday morning as I hit play on the 9th and final episode a feeling of bitter sweetness came over me and It’s a feeling I assume a lot of people were also feeling. The show was about to end and I was going to have to wait at least another year to enter this world again. It’s a very recent problem that has befallen the binge tv generation, really great shows are not so much consumed but swallowed whole (like Homer Simpson) and people are left clamoring for more, so what to do until then? I think Netflix has figured it out, or at the very least done something to mitigate the unfortunate hole that binge watching a show leaves in you. As soon as Episode 9 ended Jim Rash came up and started talking about how he too was feeling what I was feeling and to join him as he talked about the show with a panel including the show’s creator. I didn’t think twice before I pressed play.
I binged all of Beyond Stranger Things. It’s the perfect thing to pop up right after you’re done with the show and it has just enough of “behind the scenes” and exploration of the show to satiate some of the thirst for discussing the show that one feels right after sitting through 9 hours of it. A couple of things, Beyond Stranger Things isn’t the first panel show discussing another show in history, I believe that title goes to Talking Dead which was the Chris Hardwick hosted panel show which accompanied AMC’s The Walking Dead. This treatment was also applied to Game of Thrones with a post show that aired on HBO one season and on Twitter another. Beyond Stranger Things takes tweaks the concept of those shows by not being an “episode by episode” discussion but instead talking about the entirety of the show in each and every episode. Netflix knows how we watch it’s shows. Netflix knows that once we start Stranger Things 2 chances are you won’t stop until it’s done. It makes total sense that the panel show will talk about the whole thing.
The show also fills a very important “need”, for lack of a better word. That is the need to talk about the show. As soon as the show ends my mind was swirling with ideas, takes, observations and this show did a great job of informing, affirming, or extending a lot of those. This is especially useful in engaging the non social viewer. What I mean by that is not only the viewer that isn’t watching in a group, but the viewer that’s not listening to podcasts, or going to message boards or reddit, the one who’s not going to cons. There’s still a multitude of people who just watch shows but there’s nothing else fueling their “fandom” for whatever reason. Netflix has provided fuel to the fire in the same way that they already know ALL their viewers have accessed the show. It’s a perfect companion.
Overall I think the “post binge panel” show is all around a great concept. For the viewer it fills the void left by just consuming a whole show in a handful of days and provides a friendly affirmation that the show you’re into HAS that many talking points. For Netflix it strengthens the brand of their shows, forms more involved and knowledgeable fans, and it provides roughly another 9 hours of show related content to hold off the clamor for “MOAR!”. What I’m most looking forward to is which other shows Netflix will apply this to because it can’t be all of them. I don’t think anyone outside of myself would be interested in a Flaked post binge panel show, but I do think this could work on shows like House of Cards or GLOW. Will Netflix do this on any first season shows or wait until second season plus? Another interesting wrinkle to this is maybe incorporating a panel in-show much like it already exists in the Fuji TV Produced(and Netflix distributed) Japanese reality show series Terrace House. Terrace House features the panel speaking an average of three times each episode and provides all those “talk about the show” stimulus that Beyond Stranger Things does only DURING the show. I’d be interested to see if this could work in any other type of show.
I’m all in on post binge panel shows and I think Netflix nailed it with Beyond Stranger Things and I’m looking forward to them investing more in this concept.