Netflix lets viewers have control with first interactive show

Ah, summer. That time of the year when kids are home from school for a couple of months and parents find themselves scrambling to find something, anything to keep our precious little angels occupied and, hopefully, out of trouble.

And no matter how many day camps we sign them up for (and all the dough that those camps cost), there is no getting around the fact that our kids are going to spend some time in front of the TV. And with something like 7,365 times more viewing choices than what many of us had when we were kids, one might think that putting your son or daughter in front of the TV (or iPad, or whatever screen you happen to have around your home) would be the ultimate answer to keeping your child entertained.

But, these are kids we are talking about. Boredom with any activity typically sets in at around the 3-second mark, even if those kids are watching, say the Netflix series “Fuller House” for the 10 millionth time (as my daughters did last night).

Well, Netflix knows this. And in keeping with the internet TV streaming giant’s ongoing emphasis on original and exclusive children’s programming, Netflix has introduced a new interactive feature that lets viewers choose the direction in which the show they are watching will unfold. The first show to include the functionality is a version of Netflix’s “Puss in Boots” program called “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale,” which made its debut Tuesday.

The concept is fairly basic: Your child watches the program, which places Puss in Boots within the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” At certain points of the story, Puss breaks the fourth wall, and viewers are given a choice of two options on the screen to choose which way the story will go.

This “season” of “Puss in Book” consists of 13 episodes. Depending on the choices, an episode can be finished in 18 minutes, or up to 39 minutes. “Puss in Book” isn’t the only show to include the interactive features; an eight-episode series  of the “Buddy Thunderstruck” show called “Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile,” about a hilariously ridiculous competitive-truck-driving dog, will premiere on July 14, and a third series, “Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout” is in the works. Netflix said it expects to eventually to expand its “branching narrative” feature to other shows.

Right now, Netflix is focusing on the interactive capability for children’s shows. But with little seeming to be beyond Netflix’s imagination, maybe the company will bring interactive programming to other series? Maybe my daughters will be able to pick their own “Fuller House” storyline? I know they really want John Stamos’ character Jesse to actually get to play onstage with his hero, Elvis…

Photo: A screenshot from Netflix’s “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale” program, which is Netflix’s first show with interactive capabilities that let viewers choose the program’s storyline. (Courtesy Netflix)


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