In my newsletter on Thursday, I wrote about the addition of some of Norman Lear's classic television shows to Amazon Prime Video and IMDb TV. I noted that fans had been complaining about missing episodes and episodes listed out of order, both problems that could be confusing for casual viewers of the shows.
The piece generated a lot of comments from subscribers of other streaming services, who noted similar problems often pop up elsewhere. But some of the most passionate complaints came from Disney+ subscribers, who noted that the service continues to have multiple problems with its episode listings, primarily episodes that are out of order. Several problems were resolved by the service after complaints came from the creators of the affected shows. But for most of the other issues, repeated complaints have not led to any corrections.
One frequent chronicler of the problem is Drew, who runs the website DisneyDejaVu.com. He keeps a running list of all of episodic order issues on Disney+ and I am turning this over to him to explain why it matters:
I remember after Disney+ launched being irritated that some episodes were out of order while competitors like Prime Video had in the proper order. Disney+ says they add them in airdate order, but it's known that airdate order is often wrong for kid's shows. Disney was notorious for this - they aired episodes as they pleased, not as they were written. For TV that may have worked - people drop in and out.
The problem is that this is the binge era now and the service serves as the "forever home" for these titles. People don't "drop in and out." They watch from the start and in order. When pilots that introduce the story and characters are placed 20 episodes into the series or villains are appearing multiple episodes after they've been vanquished, it ruins your enjoyment.
While the airdate policy is necessary for uploading episodes efficiently, they have to be able to correct necessary mistakes they make or that were made at the time of airing. Case-by-case needs to be handled as it's reported. They cannot be rigid with it. How many months of people telling them Darkwing Duck's pilot episodes are listed as #29-30 are acceptable to take before they move them to the #1 and 2 slot?
In the case of the Disney Afternoon series every pilot is mid-series because Disney aired them first as a long movie, then split them up and inserted them as individual episodes in syndication. We've reported this constantly. They fixed DuckTales 1987, Goof Troop, and TaleSpin four months ago, but left Bonkers, Hercules, Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck with the same problem.
There are countless articles written since the launch calling them out for this which you'd think would amount to "bad press" - who wants to subscribe to a service that is accused of making series unwatchable for new fans or frustrating for old ones? Ever since launch I've become determined to amplify the voices of the many who complain daily about Disney+ episode order issues, hoping someday Disney takes it seriously enough to fix it all so new fans can discover shows as the creators intended them to be watched.
On my own news site, Disney Deja Vu, I isolated the 15 series with episode order issues that affect storylines / narratives. These are the 15 that need to be fixed the fastest or perhaps the only 15 that need to be fixed at all.
We've now seen them re-order shows for the creators of DuckTales 2017, Phineas and Ferb, Amphibia, and Big City Greens relatively quickly after the creators complained. In other words - they can do this fast when they choose to.
Yet the speed of fixes requested by the paying subscribers is glacial. I've spoken to some people who work there. They are very kind, apologetic, and ask me for patience. I feel awful - they likely don't have a large staff and have a lot to prioritize.
But then I stop and realize that these fixes cannot take very long. We've seen them fix three shows in three days back in the spring (TaleSpin and DuckTales 1987), then stop. The fifteen we've listed could be done in one week. None of these are massive re-orderings either. In most cases it is a pilot or finale airing mid-season or two episodes side-by-side that simply have the order flipped incorrectly.