A Night At The Circus: Why The Boys Got Review-Bombed

Amazon Prime's The Boys has a slightly unusual release schedule. This has not gone down well.

the boys

Season 2 of Amazon Prime’s The Boys premiered recently, and took the unusual step of dropping three episodes all at once, then putting the rest out on a weekly schedule like in the old days. Surely this isn’t controversial – hell, it’s hardly even noteworthy. The only way it could be that, would be if nobody was allowed to leave the house and we were all already stressed out by some kind of looming existential threat.

You may already know what happened next: The Boys got review-bombed. Thousands of people expressed their displeasure in the only way they could, with negative reviews and one-star ratings, many adding comments in tones of hurt and betrayal usually reserved for walking in on one’s spouse in bed with three other people.

A suitably hyperbolic example came from ‘Rick R’, who took to RottenTomatoes to write:

“Was really looking forward to this new season of the show until I find out that the producers are nothing more than sleazy drug dealer wannabes! They got us hooked with the first season giving the whole season of episodes at once for binging on, only to stagger the episodes weekly the next season.”

To be clear, I did not come into this with the intention of describing fans of The Boys as twitching, convulsing junkies desperate for their next hit – Rick R, for his part, seems blissfully unaware of the fact that’s what he’s cast himself as in his analogy. If you find yourself lying to your friends and family about watching The Boys, or how much you’re watching it, take that as a warning sign.

‘Tophong S’ was more straightforward in their criticism, writing:

“Release new episode each week ruins everything!!! Why would they doing this? So stupid. I stopped watching after episode 2 coz I don’t have time to keep up each week.”

And yet despite their hectic schedule, they did have time to put in this half-star review, in which they describe a superhero-based TV show’s elliptic release dates as something which ‘ruins everything’.

On Amazon Prime itself, ‘Ryan Allis’ contributed a review simply titled “Release the episodes you monsters”. Meanwhile, ‘Matthew Kingsland’ adopted a toothsome register in his dressing-down of the service:

“When we walked in and sat down for our second sitting at “The Boys” restaurant the anticipation was palpable and my god was it worth it…However 3/8th of the way through the lights were turned off and a large rude person came out of the gloom and asked us to leave. We had already paid the full fee for the top “prime” service but yet they still kicked us out!…Shortly after being drop kicked out the front door we recieved a notification all was not lost! Hurrah! We can go back for 1/8th of our meal a week over the next 5 weeks. I asked for a discount considering we paid up front but alas the large chain restaurant couldnt care less and only wants to sell us extra puddings everytime we revisit, capitalism at it’s broken best.”

To be entirely clear, there was not really a large rude person – not even Bezos himself – and Mr. Kingsland was not drop-kicked anywhere. While meals and television shows are both said to be consumed, the advantage with a meal is that if you have too much you’ll probably be sick and figure that that’s enough for now. The body’s only natural defence against too much TV is the need for sleep, hence the ‘are you still watching?’ pop-ups you’ll run into four or five episodes in.

In an interview with The Wrap, The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke responded with a mix of disappointment and bemusement, saying “Frankly, looking back, we thought that we were communicating that we were weekly…clearly, in hindsight, we had to do a lot more than we did to make sure that people weren’t surprised and disappointed. I would have done that differently. I mean, again, we announced it. But we should have neon-signed it on everything, clearly.” Kripke also specified that the scheduling was “a creative choice”, rather than “a corporate, Amazon money grab”, although many reviews have accused it of being just that – and unhelpfully, Kripke has not revealed exactly why this choice was made, so people will speculate.

One thing the review bombing made quite clear is how deeply the audience feels about the show itself, with many specifying that their one-star was directed purely at the scheduling – or, as ‘sgagne’ laconically put it, “Love show hate weekly release”. This led Kripke to wonder “why you would harm something you love because you’re disappointed with how it’s being released…We’re fine, and it’ll be fine, but it’s not fun to see bad reviews on a thing people actually love.”

So it is purely the idiosyncratic release schedule that has conjured up such wrath, which is odd, given that despite the trend for binge-watching it’s far from the only recent property to still go out weekly. In some cases this is because they’re owned by old-style TV networks, such as Better Call Saul, an AMC production that is merely distributed by Netflix. But even among streaming service originals, Amazon Prime’s own Vikings has a weekly schedule, as does Disney+’s The Mandalorian, and neither of these attracted anywhere near the same fury.

One recurrent point raised is that a weekly schedule is old-fashioned. ‘Ryan’ described it as “’TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR THE NEXT EPISODE’ boomer type television watching”, while ‘fireMUNKY’ saw it as a matter of personal fortitude, concluding “At least Netflix has the balls to release a whole season at a time”.

As bizarre an idea as it is that Amazon Prime simply didn’t have the guts to throw it all out in one go, fireMUNKY’s earthy language is perhaps getting nearer the truth. Having enjoyed three episodes on the trot, and then having their desire for more frustrated, the fans have been what I can best describe as blue-balled. Blue-balled by Amazon Prime. It’s a situation nobody really wants to be in.

While the natural impulse is to ignore the high-pitched whine of children who’ve had their toys taken away, it can’t be denied that the people have spoken – and audience feedback does get listened to these days, without the need to resort to Whitehouse-style moral hectoring. So while TV shows may still be released weekly, and may still be released in one block, having seen the results it’s unlikely anyone’s going to try mixing the two approaches again.

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