‘Loki’ and the return of TV by date

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Earlier this week, an old joke surfaced on Twitter. In the countdown to the exit of Disney +On Marvel’s last show, fans started tweeting that they were “staying up all night to have Loki.” This riff on the Daft Punk (Daft Pun-k?) Track “Get Lucky” has been around since at least 2013, when Loki Tom Hiddleston star sang it with a journalist at a press conference for Thor: The Dark World. But these days it seems even more appropriate. Considering Disney + seems to be sticking with this plan where they release new episodes of stuff every week at 12:01 am PT / 3:01 am ET (seriously, why?), The only way to see them ASAP will be to brew coffee. and wait.

There is of course a term for this: TV rendezvous. But in the golden age of television, most of which is streaming, people don’t often line up to watch something the second it’s available. The last show that people (well, nerds, at least) really insisted on watching ASAP was Game of thrones. (Watch now, lest you be spoiled!) Since then, there have been shows that fans have over-watched as soon as they became available, but the thought of showing up week after week for watch a new episode just when it tunes feels archaic. And yet, in very specific cases, it’s making a comeback, even if it feels as retro as Time Variance Authority technology.

I cannot stress enough the “specific cases” part of that last sentence. Streaming services have adopted weekly rollout schedules for a few shows now — HBO Max’s Hacks, for example, releases two new episodes every Thursday, the last of which came out yesterday, but it’s the established property shows that seem most easily gaining a spot on fan calendars. Therefore, when The Mandalorian discontinued in 2019, or when WandaVision emerged in January, the audience was on board, as fans have been following the Star Wars and Marvel sagas for years. Viewers are going to introduce themselves to these shows in a way that they won’t for a second season of Feel good on Netflix (although people should watch Feel good; it’s a great show).

Certainly, this is partly speculation. Disney + was pretty speechless about its viewership count, so it’s hard to say how many people are tuning in, but the volume of conversation on social media indicates that they are. It’s not Game of thrones engagement levels, but it’s there. Also, to clarify one thing, yes, there are still crowds of people logging in in time for, like, Grey’s Anatomy and the NBA playoffs. Often a presidential speech or candidate debate can also be a televised nomination. This is not what I am talking about here. Rather, it’s about streaming programs, which viewers have typically seen as part of a buffet of TV options to visit anytime, becoming a must-see TV (right now).

It is possible, of course, that part of this is the result of Covid-19 pandemic. During the closings, no Star Wars or Marvel movies have been released in theaters. (Plus, most people were stuck in there and running out of options.) Anyone who cared about this opening night fix had nowhere to go. The bad lot or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Perhaps once the big Marvel movies start hitting theaters this summer, the appetite to watch new Disney + shows the minute they release will wane. Until then, however, we all hope to get Loki.

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