and I know of some very talented people who partake in it, so I must be missing something.
I can’t relate anthropologically. I’m like an Ancient Mayan thrust forward in time and looking at a Ford Focus. What can this possibly offer me substantively and if I bludgeon it now to assert my authority…
Reblogging to address because I kept running out of space in my comment. Recap culture and why I’m a part of it.
First, let me say, I agree with Christine’s main thrust — more details and thoughtful writing on television is PREFERRED. My personal favorite writing about television I’ve done has been somewhat removed from the daily deadlines of recapping, although I also have my favorite recaps — sometimes brutal honesty and analysis is born out of immediate reaction. In this case I am not talking about total linkbait recap pieces that many sites do just to collect eyes, but the thoughtful stuff (Vulture. AV Club. etc.) It’s unfortunately that they’re stuck in a web race with the scraper sites that throw up keywords at the speed of light, but good work can be done, and done fast.
However, I want to point out three reasons why we recap — money, fandom and, the key one, required deep analysis — that makes me think the recap system, while flawed, is interesting and useful.
1. Google pageviews and rank. The day after a TV show airs, it is searched. People who missed it want to know what happened. People who saw it want to see if there’s videos somewhere to watch, etc. Sites are all competing for this traffic, and can win more with an “exclusive” piece of content. As someone who fights for exclusives for various sites, I can tell you the easiest “exclusive” is to pay a writer to recap something for you. Unique content, googleable terms, etc. That’s the easy answer to why we recap, that and the fact that talented writers get paid crap and getting a recap can be easy, regular money to supplement your passion projects.
2. Fandoms fandoming. It’s part of the culture to pick apart and analyize every moment of your favorite thing. There are gifs of single facial expressions on shows that are picked apart with the fervor one reserves for The Metamorphosis in whole. And the very best analysis of shows are the ones only fans see, and the ones that no one makes a cent off. However, the culture devours the media recaps, either to make fun or to highlight the points of excitement. They use them to document their fandom history (I learned this by checking my own name on Wikipedia) and the media story of their favorite stories.
3. A way that forces us writers to think about TV culture consistently. If I didn’t recap, I wouldn’t be so immersed in the culture of my fandom. I have to analyze the ups and downs of Glee every single week. It makes me more prone to notice both the flaws and the actual through-lines that will make better think-pieces during the long summer hiatus. It makes me a better writer, too, to be forced to write on deadline every week (I was also the kind of writer who thrived on the restrictions of AP exams, so that could just be personal.)
All that said, I wish recaps existed in a less frantic and overdone way, but I think they’re great when done right. Plus, I can’t be bothered to watch Idol anymore but I read every single Dave Holmes recap so I know who to vote for him my Idol fantasy pool.