The Increasing Popularity of Standalone TV Episodes In British TV

Screenshot from BBC's "Inside No. 9"

There’s no getting around the fact that we live in an era of binge-watching. People regularly spend full evenings watching and rewatching episode after episode of their favorite show. In fact, binge-watching culture is so prevalent that many people actually wait until each episode has come out weekly so that they can watch the full series in one go.

With the growing culture of binge-watching has come the counter-culture of stand-alone TV shows. These are shows where you can watch the episodes in any order without having to follow the events chronologically. Each episode is independent of the next resulting in a series of what you might describe as mini-films.

Charlie Brooker gave rise to the popularity of standalone TV shows among Netflix users. Each season of Black Mirror comprises of a few short episodes which share very loose connections to one another. They can be watched in any order and you can pick the episode based on what mood you are in. This is great for re-watching as you can flick back to your favorite episode multiple times without getting sucked into rewatching the entire series.

One of the advantages of Black Mirror comprising of standalone episodes is that each episode is typically of a very high quality. Brooker releases just a few episodes a year, which means he can treat each like a mini film. Rather than receiving dozens of mediocre episodes, we receive a handful of well-crafted episodes that share a concept or theme. This is great for sci-fi fans who don’t necessarily have time to commit to seven seasons of TV.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have shows like Inside Number Nine. This series is made up of dozens of twenty-minute episodes that can be enjoyed independently of one another. By introducing new characters each episode, the writers can tell story after story exploring new ideas and concepts. The upshot of this is a higher quantity of enjoyable episodes, although it is inevitably a mixed bag.

To conclude, if you haven’t got around to watching all eight seasons of Game of Thrones because you have commitment issues, then do not despair. The trend of standalone episodes is becoming increasingly popular and there are now a great selections of shows you can dip in and out of without having to commit to several seasons.