iTunes Ambiguations / by Erin Wade

Before I launch into this, let me just say that I get it - this may be more my problem than it is an iTunes problem. I am a person who used to organize his cassette tapes, and then CD's, in alphabetical and chronological order - by artist and then by release date, respectively.

Because I'm not an animal.

Perhaps this is the reason why I find the episode numbering system for iTunes TV episodes so frustrating. For example, we recently started watching The Expanse (which is excellent - if you are not watching it, you should be). The picture below shows how the episodes are numbered, and the order in which they download from iTunes.


Episode 1 - Dulcinea - is indeed the first episode of the season. But if you want to go to the second episode of the season, the second episode that contains the continuing story that you are following, you must in fact select Episode 3 - The Big Empty.

Why? Because iTunes insists on tagging "Inside the Expanse: Episode 1" with the numeric indicator slot that should be reserved for Episode 2. So it lists like this:

2 . Inside the Expanse: Episode 1

This means, of course, that the first episode of "Inside the Expanse" is actually listed as episode 2, which is confusing in and of itself. It also means the real Episode 2 is actually listed as Episode 3, and it gets progressively worse, as the third episode becomes Episode 5, the fourth is Episode 7, the fifth is Episode 9, and so on. It also means that "Inside the Expanse: Episode 2" actually refers to the numeric Episode 3, that "Inside the Expanse: Episode 3" actually refers to Episode 5, and, and... dogs and cats are living together...

How could this possibly be considered less confusing that just giving these extra episodes a three-digit designation, as they've done with the other extra features also within this show - e.g. Episode 101 - Sneak Peek, or 102 - Premise. Wouldn't it make far more sense to have something more like this:

106 Inside the Expanse: Episode 1 107 Inside the Expanse: Episode 2

Done this way, Inside the Expanse: Episode 2 would actually then - believe it or not - refer to episode number 2.

Incidentally, Apple, I hereby waive all rights to this incredibly clever, innovative numbering idea I've invented myself out of whole cloth - please feel free to just go ahead and use it.

I have to believe this approach would be clearer for the people watching the extra features as well. Which brings up another thing:

Aside from the clear organizational chaos that this causes, it is exacerbated for me by the simple fact that I don't believe I could possibly care less about whatever appears on "Inside the Expanse: Episode Unclear". I am certain there are people out there who delight in extra features (there must be, since they are all over the place), but I am not one of them. I want to watch the show, and experience it as it is presented, interpret it as I experience it. I do not want the writers telling me what they intended I feel, the set designers telling me the mood they were trying to achieve - the proof of all of that is in the pudding. If they did their jobs well, my experience will gel with their intentions and, if they did not, well, all of their protestations to the contrary won't matter.

And while I'm taking these things to task, let me also note that putting up additional extra features for a season still in production is not equivalent to putting up a new episode. Earlier this week I was greeted with the following email:


ā€¯Finally!" I shout in my head (it echoes in there, incidentally), call LB down to partake in the latest installment of zombie gore and Ricktator shenanigans, and fire up the TV, only to find...

Lying Lies!

The email clearly states that "The Latest Episode of The Walking Dead, Season 6 is now available". Except it's not. Second tier extra content - in this case, actor interviews about their characters - does not an episode make. If it's not clear by now, that term should be reserved for a segment of content that is part of the continuing story being told by the show. As it stands, receiving the email only to find an extra feature is disappointment at best, and feels like a cruel trick at worst (oh, the agony of being denied blood and guts and interpersonal angst).

There's a lot to like about iTunes - it provides reliable access to things that are difficult to get anywhere else, and it lets you watch favorite things over and over again, without fear they will be pulled from availability. Still, one would think that a company so clearly concerned with precision in design of its products might also provide similar precision in its communication and organization.

One would, apparently, be wrong.