Last weekend I, within the space of just a few days, watched Netflix’s new show Making a Murderer in its ten hour entirety.
After many friends telling me I literally had to watch it and seeing numerous articles and debates popping up online, I decided to give it a go.
Needless to say, I was gripped from the very first episode. And still, several days later, find myself regularly googling ‘Steven Avery’ to see if there’s been any update in his case since I last checked.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, Making a Murderer tells the true story of a man who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and was only exonerated 18 years later when DNA evidence was discovered. When he files suit against the sheriff’s department that puts him there he is then accused of another crime, murder. The show details his case, court trial and sentencing over the coming months.
In recent weeks I’ve seen numerous tweets and Facebook statuses begging people for recommendations on what to watch next. Many of my friends ARE acting as if they can’t remember what they used to enjoy Watching on a Monday night before this new documentary aired.
So what is it about this new style of TV that has got so many people hooked? Is it simply because of the dramatic nature of the narrative? Is it because Netflix made all ten episodes available at once allowing people to indulge in their favourite pastime, ‘binge-watching’? Or is it because the show directly plays on people’s emotions, encouraging a whole range of feelings (anger, sympathy, uncertainty to name but a few) Whilst Simultaneously providing no sense of catharsis or giving any finality to the ‘story’.
I believe it is largely due to the latter. Gone are the days where people feel satisfied with the concept of ‘reality’ TV only demonstrating fame hungry individuals in staged settings where they are all fully aware their antics are being broadcast on TV. Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Made in Chelsea and Big Brother are all losing viewers, largely because the public are craving real reality TV.
Making a Murderer epitomises what has made Netflix the success it is. It is compelling, filled with cliff-hangers and unlike anything on regular channels. Netflix is aimed at anyone wanting to escape everyday life and a real-life series is the ultimate example. Whilst fictional TV shows can do that to an extent there is always a barrier in that viewers know what they’re watching has been completely made up. This documentary doesn’t hold that problem and becomes true escapist TV.
Not only that, but the show has also been a hit because of its uncertain ending. Steven Avery’s fate still feels unknown, the question of his guilt has still been left unanswered and the future of the judicial system is still up in the air. All these topics creates a programme that becomes the show that keeps on giving. Viewers can keep discussing it even after finishing it.
This method makes use of Netflix’s cult following which is an entire generation who regularly share tweets and statuses regarding what they’re watching and why everyone else should be too. Gone are the days of talking about Eastenders around the water cooler, now people can share their thoughts from the comfort of their own sofa.
Whilst other Netflix dramas make use of cliffhangers, this one is real. Viewers can google and research the real life ending to the plot whilst simultaneously sharing their own thoughts on how they’d like things to play out. Viewers become a marketer’s dream as they tweet, blog and share thoughts on the topic with all their followers.
The Netflix documentary will undoubtedly spark a frenzy of similar shows, trying to play on the success of this new reality TV. Whether we’ll see another success story like it is unclear, but it has certainly set the bar high for what’s needed to keep modern audiences happy.
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