Rich Juzwiak at Gawker mentioned TV recaps as entertainment themselves when he announced he was done (“Recapping television…amounts to writing sandcastles”). It’s a classic set-up, really: as more people read them, and as more people comment on them, the blog gets increased traffic and links from bigger websites, and the blog itself becomes a little cottage industry of insight, or snark, or charm. All of which is to say: the more popular a blog, the more advertising money is generated, the more the writers have to churn out recaps to post the minute a show is finished for the week. The mice must turn their wheel faster, faster, faster. Look at how quickly reviews and analyses were posted Saturday night regarding Sasheer Zamata’s debut. By the next morning they were available on every major website.
No one really watches TV anymore, but everyone reads blogs, and TV recaps are everywhere, so thereby, everyone is reading TV recaps. Are TV recaps the new TV to some people, or is that a question Cher Horowitz would ask?
According to the Pew Internet + American Life Project, 58% of Americans “voluntarily” read something not required of them for work or school in 2012, but the percentage of people who read, like, a book declined from 50% in 2008 to 47% in 2012. You know the gist: books are outdated, magazines are obsolete, not everyone likes Kindles—we’re not a reading society anymore.
My theory is that TV recaps are potentially the antidote to all of it. Is the water cooler discussion the next day not only about the latest episode of “Parks and Recreation” but also about the insights you’ve gleaned from your preferred recapper (even though you’re thinking about breaking up with him because he is being so negative about everything this season)?
I know, I know: it’s not a panacea, and honestly, it’s kind of a Cliff’s Notes version of life. Which is maybe to say: bullshit. But I’m a glass half-full guy! I’m a the-sun-will-come-out tomorrow-tomorrow guy!
The one thread through all TV recaps is a love, or a fascination, with a show. I say fascination because it is possible to hate-watch a show, and hate-cap it, too. These feelings are the same with beloved books: everyone loves Jane Eyre and wants her to be happy, be an Independent Woman, and find love. We all feel that way about Leslie Knope, too. It’s also possible to devour a Bret Easton Ellis novel, hate all the characters, and be obsessed with them and their exploits. Hello, Don Draper.
The various recappers have audiences devoted to their recaps versus others, like loving Charlotte Bronte over Jane Austen. When Julie Klausner announced she would be unable to recap “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” for Vulture last week, the blog post generated over 1,000 comments. Many of them were choosing Team Brandi or Team Kyle, but there were also goodbyes and odes to Klausner. It was a similar feeling when Philip Roth, at 79, announced he was retiring from writing*.
As the entire world becomes a movie, as everything is devoured for screenplays and video games, TV recaps have become a buffer against the storm surge of capitalism in the last decade. It may be just five minutes worth of reading on our phones, but five minutes of exercise is still five minutes of exercise, #amirite?
*Philip Roth has much more cultural impact than Julie Klausner, but like I said: TV recaps=Cliff’s Notes.