Even if intriguing projects do make it onto the Top 10, it can be hard to tell the names apart. According to Netflix, U.S. viewers are currently obsessed with In the Dark and Dark Desire, Last Chance U and The Last Dance, The Kissing Booth and The Kissing Booth 2. Sometimes, sensational titles spend weeks in the No. 1 spot, such as the erotic drama 365 Days, which titillated touch-starved viewers with its sexual hijinks. But the makeup of such rankings reflects a rather banal truth: People are really bored right now, and that leaves a lot of room for uninspired content to flourish.
If HBO’s Game of Thrones was the last great piece of TV monoculture, then the pandemic has popularized a series of forgettable productions that each offers a fleeting, miniature facsimile of communal attention. Absent the usual summer blockbusters, and with few prestige shows rolling out new episodes, the landscape of American entertainment is barren enough for C- shows and movies to rack up the viewership of B+ productions, if not the associated enthusiasm. The mechanism by which Netflix measures its subscribers’ consumption habits is itself a paragon of low expectations. The company, which has historically withheld actual audience numbers, recently revealed that it counts anything longer than two minutes spent on one movie or show’s screen as a “view.” Whether because of the content’s mediocrity, or the sheer exhaustion brought on by living through a historical event, few of these “most watched” works have generated a collective viewing experience that feels cohesive, much less exhilarating.