The problem with poor pacing, and increasingly overlong television

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Having a more flexible runtime makes sense – generally speaking, the traditional forty-five-ish minute slot for a drama or the twenty-five-ish minute slot for comedy are fairly arbitrary ideas imposed by the demands of advertisers rather than anything else. There’s nothing inherent to the stories that dictate they hold this structure, so the opportunity to be a little bit more malleable and adaptable can be worth pursuing.

Yet it’s debatable whether this approach is really effective, and whether the freedom that’s been allowed has ultimately been a good thing. There’s an argument to be made that, over the past few years, it’s led to a slew of poorly paced television series; slow and plodding, not using their runtime effectively. It’s not so much that a serial has to be filled with incident, but that there’s a sense that not every minute has to be earned in the way that perhaps it used to be – in turn leading to more meandering, more superfluous storytelling.

This article brought to you by the hour I spent watching the first episode of Seven Seconds, though could just have easily been brought to you by the interminable thirteen hours spent on Jessica Jones series 2.

A while ago, I changed up my approach with how I write about television; I decided, basically, that I was only going to write about a show when I’d seen the entire thing. Just a different way of looking at it, taking the series more holistically basically, and a way to stop myself getting too complacent – after a while, I figure I’ll probably switch it up again.

But anyway, this led to a lot of Netflix binge-watching, which was always frustrating – with the above Seven Seconds, ten episodes totalled around eleven hours entirely (there was one episode which was seventy-five minutes long, which is pretty much never necessary) and it worked out that if I watched all ten episodes, then spent another three hours or so writing an article on the show, my final pay would work out as less than minimum wage. Which I was not wholly impressed by. So I wrote this article about why TV episodes are too long instead. Though admittedly I’d probably mind less if I was paid more. So, you know.

(Some months later, a more well established TV critic, the name of whom escapes me, wrote something similar titled something to the effect of “overly long episodes are the TV equivalent of manspreading”, which is a much better title than mine. Made me laugh, anyway.)

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The Defenders is less a story, and more a drawn out contractual obligation

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It’s not so much that The Defenders is bad, exactly. Bits of it are quite good. The leads are, if nothing else, good at their job and keep the show afloat even as the script drags it down. Equally, though, it has to be said – it takes a special kind of programme to waste Sigourney Weaver. At the end of the day, there’s never really a sense that someone went into this with a story they wanted to tell, or any particular vision they wanted to realise.

Me on The Defenders, which I found quite disappointing on the whole.

Actually, “disappointing on the whole” is being far too kind – wasn’t it just staggeringly bad? Quite apart from the fact it managed to waste Sigourney Weaver (!!!) it moved at an absolutely glacial pace while still doing very little. One of the big things that stood out to me, actually, was that it couldn’t find the time for a scene between Matt and Claire, despite how important they’d been to one another in Daredevil. Just such a lack of focus on or interest in the characters (to say of nothing of moments of outright sloppiness, like poorly staged fight scenes and tonally mismatched musical cues), it was ultimately pretty substanceless.

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Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky on The Defenders, how to break into the industry, and more

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[Conveying character and theme] is the main job of a costume designer. We carefully read the script and have many meetings where we discuss ideas. Essentially you want to convey a character’s present, as well as the past and even some of the future. Color and texture is important as well as silhouette. Economic status, state of mind, state of health, country of origin, political leanings—these are some of the many notions to be conveyed through costume.

An interview I did recently with Stephanie Maslansky – she told me a few interesting things about Sigourney Weaver’s character in The Defenders, as well as some great tips on how to become a costume designer!

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The Defenders catch-up: what happened in Iron Fist?

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We’re not far from the debut of Netflix’s superhero team up extravaganza, The Defenders. It’s set to unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, bringing each one together from their own shows to fight a new evil that threatens New York.

There’s just one problem though – what if you can’t remember what happened in the other shows? It’s been a while, after all, and you probably don’t have the time to binge watch them all ahead of The Defenders. No need to worry – here’s your explanation of everything that happened in Iron Fist

Your summary of what happened in Iron Fist, how it ended, and any unresolved plot threads that might show up in The Defenders…

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Marvel’s The Defenders: Iron Fist gave us these 5 clues about the upcoming Netflix show

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It’s been a few weeks since Marvel’s Iron Fist landed on Netflix.

Whether you binged it in one go or spaced the episodes out, we’ll all have had time to watch it. While Iron Fist wasn’t without controversy, one thing is for certain – it contained plenty of clues about the upcoming Marvel Defenders series.

A bit like The Avengers on the small-screen, The Defenders is going to unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist and they will fight a threat that’s greater than them all. Here’s what we learnt about The Defenders from Iron Fist. Warning: there are spoilers.

A post I wrote for the Metro a little while ago, about Iron Fist and The Defenders.

I’m still yet to actually watch more than the first episode of Iron Fist, because honestly who has time for that nonsense.

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Moon Knight can be Marvel Netflix’s answer to Legion

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Moon Knight is often criticised as being an “ersatz Batman”, which gives you some idea of the more surface level attributes of the character, but in fact it’s rather more complicated than that; a character who maintains a series of different personas (Moon Knight, Marc Spector, Steven Grant, Jake Lockley, etc) to help him fight crime, Moon Knight is a superhero with a dissociative identity disorder.

On one level, there’s scope to maintain much of what made the Marvel Netflix shows distinct in their own right, as part of the watershed moment that Daredevil once represented; Moon Knight’s mercenary past, his focus on vengeance and dealing with street crime allow for the same brutal physicality that has characterised the Netflix shows so far. And yet by the same stroke, the dissociative identity disorder inherent to the character would allow the show to play in the same sandbox as Legion, dealing with a deeper psychological drama and playing with the narrative in such a way we’ve never seen before. Indeed, a blend of these two approaches – the gritty realism and the subversive psychology – could help a prospective Moon Knight programme stand in its own right.

I wrote a post about Moon Knight, Legion, and what the next step forward is for Marvel Netflix.

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4 Easter eggs and comic book references you missed in Iron Fist episode 1, Snow Gives Way

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Marvel has released its latest hotly anticipated superhero show, Iron Fist. As ever, it’s packed to the brim with Easter eggs and references to both the source material they adapt and the wider world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Here’s just a few of these references you may have missed.

I’ve done another ‘easter eggs’ article, this time for the premiere episode of Iron Fist. I won’t be doing them for every episode of the show, however, basically because I don’t hate myself enough to watch the entire thing.

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Why are people calling Iron Fist a white saviour, and what does it mean?

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Marvel’s latest Netflix drama Iron Fist released today – but it hasn’t been without controversy. For some time now, the show has been accused of falling into the white saviour narrative trope; from when the show was first announced, to the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand, and to the advance reviews, many people have focused on this complaint.

If you’ve been following the show at all, or you’re a fan of Marvel, you’ve probably heard about this. But what does it actually mean?

Here’s an article on Iron Fist, for the Metro.

(An important caveat – the above title is how I pitched the article to Metro. When the article was published, the headline was changed to say “Iron Fist: Marvel could have avoided a ‘white saviour’ and made the Netflix series better”, which I assume was just for the purpose of increasing views and so on. I don’t think this headline reflects the content of the article, which was intended more as an explainer than outright criticism – I haven’t actually watched a single frame of the show outside of trailers at this point. So, keep that in mind here.)

[Of course, another important caveat is that I do actually think Iron Fist should’ve cast an Asian American lead and it likely would have improved it a bit, but that’s not what the above is arguing.]

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Everything you need to know about Iron Fist, Marvel’s latest Netflix Original and the final Defender

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Iron Fist follows the story of Danny Rand, who has returned to New York city to reclaim his family company.

He was presumed dead for 15 years, during which time he’s been in the mystical city of K’un-Lun, learning the power of the Iron Fist, or magical Kung Fu.

When a new threat emerges, however, Rand is forced to choose between his obligations as the Iron Fist and the family legacy he’s fought to preserve.

I wrote an article with everything you need to know about Iron Fist – who he is, what the story is about, and why it (might, but probably won’t) be worth watching.

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SDCC 2016 News Roundup: Marvel Television

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San Diego Comic-Con has been underway for a few days now, and we’ve already got plenty of exciting news from the Marvel Television department. A particular focus was on the Netflix television projects, which have enjoyed a lot of success already, with several new trailers having been released.

So, trailers have been released for Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders; that’s obviously all very exciting, so I’ve written a little bit of a news roundup/reaction post for Yahoo TV.

In related news, I finially got around to finishing the second season of Daredevil today. That’s kinda been my process for each of these Netflix shows, albeit somewhat inadvertantly; I watch the first 7 episodes or so, and then don’t get around to the back half until several months later. It’s a bit of a nuisance, really, because it means I tend to pick up on spoilers and whatnot  – but that’s all my own fault, really. I think in future I’ll try and watch the opening episodes more slowly in future, so I don’t burn out quite so quickly.

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