Monday, May 8, 2017

13 Reasons Why | Lefsetz Letter

The buzz comes AFTER!

We were searching the Netflix/Amazon files for something to watch. Primarily new, one of their series, something we could sink our teeth into while we await “House of Cards” and “Bloodline.”

Not that I used to employ Netflix this way. I used to assume everything was on there, now that’s not the case, now it’s HBO with a whole hell of a lot more product all available instantly, but we’ll get to that feature later.

And after dissecting the offerings, I take my watching time seriously, we delved into “Dear White People,” which was a mistake, not because of the subject matter, that intrigued me, but because it instantly became soap opera sophomoric with modern details thrown in. I mean I’m better off watching “Atlanta,” which I’ve never seen, but is now unavailable. What’s with these filmed entertainment people, haven’t they learned any lessons from music? I’m paying for all these services already, I’m certainly not gonna buy it.

So we dug into “13 Reasons Why.”

Now I pulled up “Dear White People” because of the reviews, which were all positive. But the even more favorable reviews scared me away from “13 Reasons Why,” since they all pegged it as “Young Adult,” but at this point I was just looking for something good, I could see Felice’s mind wander during “Dear White People.”

And “13 Reasons Why” IS good. Good enough to watch, which is more than I can say about “Orange Is The New Black,” but it’s certainly no “Transparent,” no HOC, no “Narcos”…but we got hooked.

And what bugs me about the show is it’s supposed to be about high school and everybody looks like they’re in college, and I know high school was supposedly done better in “Freaks and Geeks,” which I’ll get around to some day, but the darkness in “13 Reasons Why” appealed to me.

We’re not finished, we’re seven in with five left.

But now I feel part of a tribe, part of the juggernaut, you see “13 Reasons Why” is building a head of steam.

Now the movie business still functions on the old paradigm. Teasers a year in advance, trailers a few months in advance and then bombardment with spots and billboards the week before, all imploring you to go on Friday night. But the truth is, if something’s good you’ll find out about it, and if it’s bad, you might find out about it even sooner. So all that money is spent to what effect?

Whereas on Netflix… There’s almost no advance buzz. They announce shows, but they’re not in the superhero genre that dominates movies and they’re voluminous in number so they can’t be promoted as Tiffany-quality as they do on HBO, they’ve just got to come out.

And make it or fail.

And most do fail. Because they’re just not good enough.

But the winners…

Gain viewers over time, become water cooler conversation even months later, when you’ve forgotten whether you’ve seen the big summer release or not, the one about as nutritious as a Coke.

Now this is not TV. It’s not even HBO, where they dribble out the episodes over a period of time, where if you don’t get in early you give up, you don’t even bother to participate. I saw an episode of “Big Little Lies,” I liked it, wanted to watch more, but was on the road and didn’t have the time. Then everybody’s talking about the finale, the reveal, and not only am I not gonna watch that, I’m never gonna watch the rest of the series, I feel left out.

But finding a Netflix series is like stepping on a land mine. To mix metaphors, you go down the rabbit hole, in darkness, alone, it’s a private journey but you link up with like-minded viewers on the other side.

It’s not too late for you to check out “13 Reasons Why.” You can begin tonight and still feel a member of the club. No one watches all 13 episodes in a day, it’s not a race, just a matter of making the commitment.

And once you do…

You notice the continuing press.

Put out a movie or a record and you don’t hear another thing about it after the week of release. Have a hit Netflix show and it permeates the culture for months. I know, I know, Netflix is loving the backlash, the inane parents saying “13 Reasons Why” CAUSES teen suicide. But when you’re in the marketplace you can get lucky, others can give your story to you, promote your product.

Yes, “13 Reasons Why” is about the suicide of a high school girl, but I’m giving away nothing, ruining the show not at all, because that’s the set-up, that comes right up front. I don’t need any spoiler alerts. Watching this show is like living life. It’s less about the facts than the experience.

So, how can Netflix get it so right and everybody else get it so wrong?

Maybe, because the rest of the media outlets were born before the internet era. Cable has still not figured out the future. I mean the cable systems have, they’re all about the internet, but the channels? Did you see Charter just kicked MTV up to a pricier tier, one a lot of people don’t want to buy? That’s a death knell.

But who needs MTV anyway?

We don’t need much, but we do need great.

And when something is great it takes a while to percolate in the marketplace. You hope to get traction MONTHS down the line. Don’t tell me about the new releases, tell me about the records everybody’s talking about six months from now, the wisdom of the crowd, abhorred by purveyors but loved by consumers. After all, we check the reviews on Amazon, we don’t want to waste either our money or are time.

So maybe you’ve already finished “13 Reasons Why,” you’re gonna e-mail me your take.

Or maybe you’ve been thinking about watching it.

Or maybe you’ve never even heard of it.

But one thing’s for sure, you’re gonna check it out now.

Because that’s the life we lead. Where we want a peek at what is creating the buzz, we want to get inside, marinate and then render an opinion, whether it’s thumbs up or thumbs down, we want to belong.

This is the culture you want to tap into. You want to create a haven, a hive, that draws honeybees to it. And it all comes down to the work, hype doesn’t matter. The only hype that counts is that which comes AFTER you’re on the road to success, that trumpets the bandwagon, that features in-depth stories about these people who were previously nobodies. You trickle out the info and fans eat it up.

I’m eating everything up about “13 Reasons Why.”


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