Are You Still Watching? turns the camera onto viewers

Photo: Alamy, Creative Commons

Netflix’s latest hit series asks its audience Are You Still Watching? and so far the answer has been a resounding yes. The show consists of a blank screen, silence, and a passive aggressive pop-up message that won’t go away–and yet is so much more.

Netflix pulled a Beyoncé and unveiled their new series on July 27, without so much as a teaser-tweet. Over the course of the day, Are You Still Watching? took the world by storm.

“That was just a default message that aired when our servers shut down for a day,” said Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings’ when asked about how they came up with such an original idea. “I am baffled that anyone would think that a message that says ‘Are you still watching?’ on a black screen would be a show we would air.”

Despite Hastings’ comments, Are You Still Watching? has claimed the title of most pirated TV show in history from Game of Thrones.

Many have tried to sum it up and oddly, no one can agree on what the point of the show is. The lack of plot and limited character development hasn’t stopped viewers from connecting with the show.

According to a study conducted by the Huffington Post, 100 per cent of viewers surveyed said they “saw themselves reflected in the series.” Renowned TV critic, John Stevenson of the New York Times describes Are You Still Watching? as “a quasi-documentary style, exercise-in-procrastination meets against-the-clock action as perfectly scored by John Cage.” Whatever that means.

It’s this gritty realism that has led viewers to connect with the show, which has already spawned a devoted online community. Who knew isolated boredom was the ideal condition for grand-scale, collective creative output?

In fact, the content surrounding the show has begun to overpower the series itself. The subculture of supporters for this new show call themselves Watchman. We sat down with one Watchman to talk about what impact Are You Still Watching? has had on him personally. This Watchman has asked to remain anonymous due to the general stigma surrounding face-to-face conversation within the Are You Still Watching? community.

The show has seen unprecedented success, even on a service that has seen more than its fair share of success stories. “Viewers really see themselves in the show,” said the Watchman, which he sees as the reason for its mass success. It’s so gripping that once you press play on the first episode you end up watching at least seven more than you planned on watching.”

While the show’s first season was a success there are still many questions about what a possible second season might involve. The Watchman we were in touch with described the first season as “really challenging me to look at my life and ask myself ‘Am I Still Watching?”