The first time I sought out a recap of a television show it was the last episode of the first season of Lost. My buddy forwarded it to me in gchat and I read it very carefully. Happy to know I wasn't crazy that a giant bird really did say the word Hurley as it flew by. Lost was a show that required a weekly recap to go over all the hints and clues. It made trying to solve this jigsaw puzzle of a show a communal experience. Flashforward six years later to the present day and the Internet has a recap for nearly every single show on TV. How did this happen?
Recaps of shows used to be something a dork like myself would seek out at televisionwithoutpity.com and, well, that's pretty much it. It was once thought to be kinda silly to recap a show. In 2011 however, every entertainment website (this one included) is recapping shows. But they're not stopping at serialized dramas that involve week after week of appointment viewing. Nope, there are now recaps of regular sitcoms.
The New Girl gets recapped. As does The Office, Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother. What's the point of all of this? Are we going to miss the show and then run to the web and read what I missed the night before? That's not the same as watching the show people!
The real reason these recaps exist all over the web is: These recaps drive a lot of traffic to these websites. Why? Because people love to complain and obsess over their favorite/least favorite shows. We, the people of the Internet, like to feel a connection with our stories. We like to talk about these shows with our friends and feel like we are part of a community. I'm guilty of this phenomenon. I used to troll the talkbacks of aintitcoolnews.com to see what the nerds over there had to say about the show (besides: FIRST!). Soap Opera Digest was probably one of the first to start doing these recaps so it seems like a logical next step for that style of recapping a soap opera to move to the web, but it's gone a bit too far when I can read up on what happened on last night's Up All Night.
On the other hand, some recaps are a delight. NYmag.com does a great job with their Reality Index of Gossip Girl. I actually stopped watching the show this year but still read the recap every week because it's hilarious. They even have a nice companion piece titled, The Recap of the Recap of Gossip Girl where the best comments on the Reality Index/Recap get their own post. Grantland.com does a clever NBC Comedy Recap that ranks the NBC Thursday shows from first to last (This is the only time I acknowledge Whitney even exists since it's usually in last place and a lot of fun to know that Andy Greenwald is watching the show because it's his job. It's like a sad social experiment). Speaking of experiments, Gawker.com has a fun recap of Jersey Shore that writer Brian Moyler coined as, "the most important sociological experiment of our time."
The above examples are the exception to a rather bland phenomenon. I can't imagine why anyone would want to read a recap of X-Factor or American Idol or Family Guy for that matter, but they're easily available to find. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if the Internet was recapping shows that aired before this trend began. I don't have to go far because avclub.com churns out recaps of The Larry Sanders Show, The Sopranos and even Scrubs! This is actually happening. There are writers out there right now recapping episodes of shows that aired years ago. And you know what? Each of these posts have at minimum 20 comments. People eat this shit up!
No matter how inane the recap is, there's an audience for it. It gets the people going, so to speak. That's why recapping of every single show on television both past and present is in our future. Does anyone have dibs on Happy Days? I'd like to give that one a go. To recap: Recaps are here to stay whether you like it or not.