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Catch "Another Episode" May 18 in North Liberty

Outdoor binge-watching event to feature jumbotron
Another Episode, a “binge-watching” series organized by the City of North Liberty, will take place on four Thursday evenings this summer– May 18, June 15, July 20 and Aug. 17– on the lawn south of the aquatic center. The community is invited to watch entire seasons of popular shows on a giant TV, all while enjoying fun trivia, unique Snapchat filters and food. (photo by Shianne Fisher)

North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– Everyone’s doing it: binge watching.
And this summer, the City of North Liberty invites area residents to watch their favorite TV shows together– outdoors– in front of a giant screen.
“It’s about taking people away from their couches and bringing the community together for an otherwise isolating activity,” said Jillian Miller, the city’s community engagement coordinator.
The event, a four-part series dubbed “Another Episode,” begins Thursday, May 18, with the entire first season of the hit sitcom “Parks and Recreation” at 6 p.m. on the North Liberty Recreation Center lawn south of the swimming pool. Subsequent broadcasts of other shows will take place one Thursday evening each in June, July and August.
“Watching a whole season at one time– binge watching– is the way it’s going,” said Miller. She added while movie nights are fairly popular in communities, incorporating TV shows was a novel concept. “We just wanted to tie the event into behavior that people do now.”
And if a night outdoors with neighbors isn’t enough to get you off the couch, maybe a 240-inch screen will fit the bill.
Organizers are trucking in the 17-foot-by-10-foot LED television from Urbandale the day of the event. They’re calling it their jumbotron.
“One nice thing is it can be out in the sun,” Miller explained. “A lot of movie nights have to display on a wall, a projector or blow-up screen, where it has to be dusk. You’re still going to be able to see ours, and it’ll be over as the sun is setting.”
She said that’s important for families unable to stay out late on a Thursday night, but added shows with ratings TV-14 were chosen to target adults and teenagers, versus young children. She also noted shows with nonlinear plots were selected to make watching more accessible for those unable to attend the entire evening.
“Sitcoms certainly have an overarching storyline throughout the season, but if you watch the fifth episode but nothing before, you can still understand it,” she said.
She noted organizers would like participants to stick around for the whole season, especially “Parks and Rec,” which only has six episodes and likely won’t run past 9 p.m. Other evenings will end by 10 p.m. at the latest– depending on which shows triumph in online voting.
Viewer participation, Miller said, is a huge part of Another Episode, which led to choosing each show (save May’s programming) via a Facebook poll.
“You first think, OK, let’s just pick four shows. But we thought about what Millenials, especially people in our community, are looking for,” she said. “It’s to be heard, to suggest their own ideas.”
On Another Episode’s Facebook page, the public can vote for two shows per day, through the end of the month, prior to the showing: through May 31 for the June 15 event, June 30 for the July 20 event, and July 31 for the Aug. 17 event. The winning show will be announced on the first of each month.
“We want people to enjoy being in control of the programming,” Miller said.
That control extends to being able to write in a show, which could appear as an official option on a later poll.
As of May 8, “Scrubs” had taken the lead for the June 15 showing with 25 percent of the votes, over “The Office” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which both had 23 percent. “Full House” clocked in at 18 percent and “Friday Night Lights” at 13 percent. But by Friday, May 12, Miller said “The Office” had pulled ahead.
Viewers can also participate using social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. The city has even purchased two personalized Snapchat “filters” for the May 18 “Parks and Rec” showing, which will pop up on users’ phones when on the lawn. Fans of the show will be happy to be able to insert themselves behind a City of Pawnee podium or magically acquire Ron Swanson’s notable facial hair.
A special hashtag on Twitter or Instagram might also get your photo on the jumbotron next to show-specific trivia between episodes. For May 18, Miller said the trivia can be discussed among friends and family but organizers are working on a live answer format for later dates.
“None of the questions are spoilers for any seasons,” she noted.
Food in the form of gourmet popcorn from the North Liberty Friends of the Library and Marco’s Grilled Cheese will be available for purchase May 18, but attendees can bring their own snacks barring alcohol. Participants will even receive a free popcorn if they ride their bicycle to the rec center, in celebration of Bike Month.
All events will take place, rain or shine. If it does rain, the TV will be moved into the recreation center gymnasium. Attendees should bring their own seating.
“It’s all totally new,” Miller admitted. “But we hope a couple hundred people would come out and join us. The lawn can fit a lot of people.”
For more information, visit anotherepisode.org and like Another Episode on Facebook.