Believe it or not, “Netflix Bloat” is a very real phenomenon. It’s a symptom of what writer Paul Schrader calls “narrative exhaustion”.
Enter the humble anthology.
It’s the reprieve you’ve been craving, the snack between meals, the short story between novels. Single-serve episodes that require no prior knowledge and no further commitment, brought to you by the biggest streaming services in the world, who apparently heard your wearied sigh all the way in the head office.
So exactly what is an anthology series and why are they having a strong moment right now? Well, here’s everything you need to know.
What Is An Anthology?
Once belonging purely to the literary field (even more specifically, poetry), anthologies are collections of works that have some sort of connective tissue, binding together otherwise unconnected art.
For example, it could be a book of Romantic poets, writing on several different subjects, or a book of romantic poems, written by several different poets.
It’s a term that was adopted into the music industry with the introduction of albums. Aptly named, The Beatles’ Anthology is a collection of the band’s work, spanning their entire musical history. The Forrest Gump soundtrack could also be described as an anthology, the common thread being “songs about the Vietnam war”.
Now this way of collating art has been applied to television in series like Love, Death + Robots, an anthology of short-story anime which has recently been renewed for another season, and Black Mirror, a collection of near-future tech-sci-fi stories.
So Why Are Anthologies Having A Moment Right Now?
Anthologies are not an entirely new idea. The Twilight Zone, a science-fiction series, ran from 1959 to 1964, though its 2019 reboot is indicative of our times for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, streaming services are the perfect platform for anthologies. Much like a book or an album, they allow for the collection to be released all in one hit, letting the common theme shine through.
Secondly, they’re the (much-needed) antithesis of highly involved shows like Game of Thrones. It would be impossible to just pick an episode of GOT and watch it without context. You’d have to go all the way back to season one for it to make sense, and who has the time for that? Heck, we can’t even watch Riverdale without a recap. But, in an anthology, each episode stands alone so you can view them in isolation – no need to dedicate years to a story arc.
Just to prove that point; Netflix released the episodes of Love, Death + Robots in at least four different orders, meaning your first episode could be different to your neighbour’s. Despite the shakeup, however, the audience’s viewing is not affected because the episodes don’t rely on each other for context.
Here Are 9 Anthologies You Need To Stream Now
Love, Death + Robots – Anime – Netflix
Black Mirror – Sci-fi – Netflix
The Twilight Zone (2019) – Sci-fi –10 All Access
Fargo – Crime – Netflix
American Horror Story – Horror – Netflix
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams -– Sci-fi – Stan
Easy – Drama/Comedy – Netflix
True Detective – Crime – Foxtel
The Romanoffs – Drama – Prime Video
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Image credit: Netflix