Why Instagram Shows Would Be a Disastrous Future for Television

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We dig gifs. We compose Tweets. We Snap. We Vine. Some of us even Slingshot. So while our attention spans might be minuscule and our brains trained to only accept information in bite-sized doses, maybe a TV show split into 15-second segments is one of those crazy it-just-might-work ideas. Or it’s one of those terribly gimmicky and contrived ideas, because that’s exactly what an Instagram TV show sounds like.

A New York trio of filmmakers is set to release Artistically Challenged, the self-lauded first Instagram TV show, on July 1. You can find it @ACtheseries on Instagram. It’s about New York artist Nick as he struggles and fails and lives and possibly eats, before he turns into a celebrity because of a small fib. It’ll span over seven 15-second episodes, posted daily onto everyone’s favorite photo-filtering app. That means the entire show totals to one minute and 45 seconds long, and that we can definitely binge watch the entire series during our morning commute, if we wanted to.

I’m honestly not that curious about Artistically Challenged, but that’s because I don’t think you can get me to care about characters or this storyline in 15 seconds. As much as Beta Beat jokes that this Instagram show is the way for millennials to watch TV because of their short attention spans (hardy-har-har), the demographic made binge-watching Netflix the norm, allowing lengthy narratives like Orange is the New Black or House of Cards room to breathe during one sit-down. It’s proof that the audience would want more substance in a storyline than just enough to kill time, though a 15-second time killer would only cover sitting up in bed or sneezing, then grabbing a Kleenex.

But TV shows aren’t time killers. They’re meant to comment on our current cultures, say something political, teach us something about ourselves. Fifteen seconds just doesn’t seem enough for proper conversation or exposition. I’d be damned impressed if Artistically Challenged did just that in a seven episode arc, but they’ll have to do extreme condensing and deal with extra posts to compensate for the abrupt cliffhangers Instagram videos are known for.

When I first heard the idea of an “Instagram TV show” I immediately balked because Instagram as a medium itself isn’t about continuity or storytelling. It’s more about giving glimpses into your life — yes, Kim Kardashian butt selfies included — and more like vain self-promotion — yes, Kim Kardashian butt selfies included. Of course photographers, bloggers, and designers use the app to share samples of their work or some behind-the-scenes peeks, but it’s not the main means to convey an entire narrative or their business.

An Instagram show seems more of an art experiment for the sake of gimmick. It’s the only real thing going for Artistically Challenged — at least to get me intrigued enough to look into it. It was shot with proper DSLR cameras and lighting too. It’s a legit set, and pretty much takes away all of the struggles and magic that would come with trying to film a TV series on a camera phone. So what exactly is the Instagram platform adding to this story if not just gimmick? Is the NYC artist Nick documenting all of this? Does his Instagram account have anything to do with his art? Will the filter change depending on mood? (Walden for flashbacks. Inkwell for surreal dream sequences.)

The series markets itself as revolutionary too, ignoring the Ron and Fez Show’s young adult Instagram drama The Halls, and incorrectly claiming to be “The First TV Series Created for Instagram” on its site and app profile. The Halls has been running a new 15-second episode every Thursday since late May. So far, their video bites of office life garnered three thousand followers, and it has all of the deliciously awkward cuts and terrible lighting and inconsistent acting that an Instagram show should have.

We’re hard on anything new, of course. Web series themselves weren’t as readily accepted when they first came out, but it now launches people’s careers. A Funny or Die series was turned into a TV show. Broad City is killing it on Comedy Central. House of Cards won a Primetime Emmy. But webisodes don’t have the same time limitations Instagram does. Though maybe Artistically Challenged will prove me wrong in those 15 seconds, and maybe I’ll come to care about Nick and his quick quest for —nope. Cut off.