The Wall Street Journal uncovered a seemingly subterranean sect whose members subsist on little more than Red Bull, all-nighters and combative TV fans. They’re The Recappers (The TV Recappers: From Breaking Bad to Honey Boo Boo) and they’re here to analyze TV shows down to their sub-atomic minutiae.
These recappers, the WSJ reports, are an elite cadre of bloggers who do the heavy lifting of scouring through each episode of every TV show to deliver reports laden with facts and hidden meanings. They retrace all the steps, peer behind each door and thread the needle of any obscure reference embedded in a show. And fans love and loathe them for that. Mostly love except for the argumentative types.
Ad industry bible Advertising Age famously recaps Mad Men, retelling plot points, psychoanalyzing characters, spotlighting subtle clues and musing over lessons never learned.
While this group of recappers wallows in details and communicates almost exclusively online, there’s another breed of recappers serving fans.
These ‘other’ recappers discard details that don’t serve a purpose and their foundation is light but durable. Their value to fans: creating easy-to-digest catch-ups on episodes, seasons and even entire series. Just the facts, ma’am, with enough color commentary to satisfy hard core fans and plenty of teases to attract newbies.
These recaps come in the form of show clip-driven special episodes that launch seasons, bid series farewell and fill the need for fan buzz when a show is on hiatus. For example, the CW Network offered up this series wrap-up special as a thank-you to fans of buzz champion Gossip Girl. They did the same for the now-departed 90210 and One Tree Hill.
Recaps also come as web clips, like the semi-iconic LOST in 8:15, which revisited three seasons of complex story arcs with economy and snarkiness to spare.
Why are recaps even a thing? As the WSJ points out, people don’t watch TV the way they used to. There’s binge watching, platform jumping, parallel content and a lot of other ways for fans to get satisfaction. Recappers from both camps serve as glue that benefits fans, the shows and especially the networks that are constantly vying for fan loyalty.