Nerd Factor: Kaleidoscopic

Dr Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

Kaleidoscope series music  poster via Spotify

Kaleidoscope is a Netflix series with a different approach. When the viewer first starts the program, Netflix purportedly randomizes the order in which the seven middle episodes of the series are shown. An interesting narrative experiment, Kaleidoscope left me nostalgic for the way television used to be watched. 

The various episodes of the series are named for different colors. Everyone starts with “Black,” a short introduction to the process of the series, and ends with “White.” Just for the record, my viewing order was “Yellow,” “Green,” “Blue,” “Orange,” “Violet,” “Red,” and “Pink.” 

Kaleidoscope is a heist narrative. The events of the series circle around a complicated criminal score that, like all great heist stories before it, hinges on detailed planning and clockwork organization. The opening graphic of each story tells the viewer when the story is set in relation to the heist itself. I want to be particularly careful about spoilers here, but basically episodes set before and after the heist give the viewer glimpses into the origins and motivations of the characters whose lives are woven together over time. The time-jumping effect generates a powerful curiosity in the viewer to see what actually goes down during the robbery itself, keeping the viewer bouncing between asking “how is this going to happen?” and “how did this happen?”. 

I was grateful that I saw the story progress in the order that it did. Had I watched one particular episode first, I may have been left with the idea that another character was the lead (and since I really did not like that character, I may not have wanted to see more episodes). Had another episode been the series’ opener, I would have been thoroughly depressed and may not have continued. Some reporting has suggested that Netflix has rigged the process a bit, keeping certain episodes from being first. I hope not, but if that is the case, I benefited from that micromanaging. 

An unexpected effect of Kaleidoscope upon me though was a fondness for the way that television used to be. Streaming makes the current television experience into a package. Episodes arrive in order, dropped all at once or played out in a set number of episodes week by week. It works like a book. A new series catches my attention or is recommended and then I sit down and watch the story in the order presented. This is not a complaint. By and large I enjoy this set up. 

However, I also miss the “good old days.” Doctor Who, for example, is one of my all-time favorite things. When I first started watching the show, I had no clue that the program had been on for a decade before. I had no idea there were three Doctors before the one I liked. One of the appeals of the show was just figuring out what was going on. Even if I had wanted to, I could not start at the beginning. It was impossible. Those episodes were not even available. Likewise, my love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer took off when I attended a convention and saw an outstanding third season episode in which a friend of mine briefly appears as an extra. That friend kindly mailed me new episodes while I tried to catch up on old ones using my “Buffy-dedicated” second VCR. One semester in the early 2000s, I even set up the big screen in Hopwood Auditorium to watch reruns on FX before we viewed movies for my film class. 

Ultimately, Kaleidoscope reminds us that by chance every episode is someone’s first episode. The difference this time is that it was designed that way.

Leave a Reply

No widgets found. Go to Widget page and add the widget in Offcanvas Sidebar Widget Area.
%d bloggers like this: