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The Guardian view on interactive TV: not quite as daring as it thinks | Editorial

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The mathematics of the new heist series Kaleidoscope might dazzle, but it’s still a story with a beginning, middle and end

When Netflix streamed Bandersnatch – a standalone, interactive episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – back in 2018, it was hailed by some as a moon-walk moment: a small step for the streaming service, which had already experimented with choose-your-own-adventure animation for children, but a giant leap for television. One fan calculated that you could watch it in 90 minutes or 46.5 hours, depending on how many byways you explored on the way to its multiple endings. Now that you could watch your own thing in your own time, the watercooler culture of television – already weakened by the decoupling from broadcast scheduling – appeared to be being dealt a fatal blow.

Five years later, the same streamer is offering Kaleidoscope, a heist series of eight colour-coded episodes that can be viewed in any order. Its boast is that there are 40,320 different routes through it. This is a calculation familiar to any campanologist who has ever thought about ringing the changes on eight bells in an old church: the Scottish bell tower of Inveraray even offers a handy diagram of the pattern it makes.

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