I’ve mentioned the conundrum of one-star “protest” reviews a few times over the years, most recently last April when the decision to window the release of the computer game Borderlands 3 aggravated a whole lot of fans. Now it’s time for this year’s iteration of the story. This time the target of the reviews is a streaming television show produced by Amazon itself.
The Boys, a deconstruction of the superhero genre that paints most of its super-powered individuals as a bunch of jerks, released its whole first season all at once, so that viewers who wanted to know more of the story could indulge themselves immediately by binging the whole thing all at once. But the second season just released its first three episodes, then will be releasing the later ones on a weekly basis.
That move has made a lot of fans really angry—and as a result, they’ve started leaving 1-star review ratings for the show. This had brought the show down to 2.7 out of 5 possible stars on Amazon, even though the show still gets high marks on Rotten Tomatoes. (Apparently Amazon has been weeding the protest reviews out, since when I checked while writing this it was back up to 4 stars.)
The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke is frustrated by these reviews, telling The Wrap in an interview that he has a hard time understanding why fans would harm something they loved by leaving one-star reviews for it.
“So I get that people are disappointed, but I think one thing they need to understand is, this is not like a corporate, Amazon money grab — this was from the producers. We wanted this. It was a creative choice. So they may like it or not like it, but they have to at least respect that the people who are making the show wanted it to be released this way because we wanted to have time to sort of slow down a little bit and have conversations about everything. So they at least have to appreciate that it was a creative choice.”
Actually, it seems to me like they don’t have to respect or appreciate that. Consumers do get annoyed when they’re suddenly being given less than they had been. They’ve gotten used to being able to binge in this new streaming era of whole releases of series at a time, including the first season of The Boys, and when you take that away from them, they will complain. “Entitled”? Maybe. But these fans are paying money for the show (albeit indirectly, as part of their Amazon Prime subscription), so they don’t appreciate being told how they’re “supposed” to watch it.
(A funny thing is, people aren’t complaining that much about having to wait for other streaming shows that have always dropped on a weekly basis, like CBS’s new Star Trek series. Just goes to show that if you are going to want to release weekly, maybe you should start that way, rather than making a bingeable first season then slowing it down afterward.)
But, perhaps ironically, this very reaction validates the whole purpose behind fans leaving these one-star protest reviews. In this era when so many things are owned by faceless corporations that don’t have much in the way of consumer-facing customer service, consumers can come to feel that their only way to send a message is to use public complaints like one-star reviews to get the word out collectively. And in this case, it’s worked! As the interview shows, Kripke has definitely gotten—and responded to—the message. He doesn’t agree with the message, but at least the fans can take comfort that it was absolutely heard.
Meanwhile, fans who would prefer to binge the whole thing at once can simply wait a month until all episodes have aired. This is what a number of viewers who don’t want to pay another subscription fee for CBS All Access do for the new Star Trek shows—they wait until the whole show is out, then sub for one month and binge. Of course, that’s not an ideal solution given that their social media will be full of spoilers from the people who didn’t wait to watch the episodes.
In any case, the new possibilities offered by streaming services for greater control over how a show is distributed can be a double-edged sword. And when consumers feel like that sword has cut them, they’re probably going to turn to one-star reviews to cut back. With reviews being available for everything Amazon sells, one-star reviews will continue to be a contention issue for television shows, movies, music, games, and books.
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