Last month, Facebook released Watch, its new section that features original, TV-like shows — and so far the programming has proven uninspired.
Watch’s shows span a wide range of genres: from scripted sitcoms, to short how-to videos, to documentaries. The videos are also quite varied in length, and can last anywhere from three minutes to well over an hour.
But are there any good ones? Not many.
Facebook Watch feels like programming that’s been curated for viewers by the algorithm that puts together YouTube’s suggested videos section. Almost every show (and I’m using the term “show” very loosely here) feels as if it were made by someone who was undecided about whether they wanted a TV show, or a viral video — and ended up accomplishing neither.
Facebook’s goals for Watch are ambitious, and there is still more to come, including live-streamed sports events. Facebook is also reportedly willing to pay millions to have the exclusive rights to longer premium shows, and could spend up to $US1 billion on original shows, according to The Wall Street Journal. But so far we haven’t really seen anything in that category.
If Facebook wants to build Watch into a robust platform pioneering new types of video, it needs to seed it with some good content to get users there in the first place. That hasn’t been the case yet.
But it’s not all bad. Some of Watch’s spotlighted shows are standouts, like Refinery29’s scripted show “Strangers,” which follows a newly single Isobel as she rents out her spare room to strangers; “Humans of New York: The Series;” and Vox’s “Overrated,” which unearths facts about different things that have oversaturated pop culture.
These are the exception rather than the rule, however. Some of Watch’s worst spotlighted shows include “We Need to Talk,” featuring “Catfish’s” Nev Schulman and his wife Laura Perlongo answering relationship questions, and “DUST short films,” sci-fi shorts that play on tired sci-fi tropes (for example, technology is ruining everything).
The scripted shows feel hastily made, with poor production value, bad writing, and incoherent plot lines. Non-scripted shows straddle the line between viral clips and reality TV. The biggest problem with almost all of the shows is that they feel like long advertisements, created with the intention of driving you to an assortment of Facebook pages with the help of your favourite D-List celebrities.
And good luck to you if you try to watch anything other than the spotlighted shows. The vast majority of Watch is a buffet of the internet’s most saccharine animal videos and dull reaction videos.
Note: Business Insider and INSIDER have shows on Facebook Watch.
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