Growing up in the nineties, I remember my favorite television shows would run for a solid 22 to 24 episodes. Sure, the animated shows, limited series, or miniseries might be WAY less than that, but typically I could count on close to two dozen episodes for whatever the show might be. However, in this age of streaming and digital platforms, the seasons seem to be getting smaller. 16, 12, 10, and sometimes as low as 6 episodes are becoming the norm.
It is to be expected that streaming services would have shorter seasons as they do not have the same corporate resources that network or cable television might be able to bring in through ad revenue. So when I see one of these more traditional studios shortening their season, it does feel like they are not trying hard enough.
Now, Business Insider did a piece where they give five reasons why television is getting shorter. They can get better star power as the commitment won’t be as big for recording. They want more focused story arcs. Syndication has changed with streaming apps so they become viewable faster as opposed to reruns. Streaming services don’t take a break like networks do in summer or winter, though now they are shifting. The shorter seasons can prevent fan fatigue.
A Quora piece added that the shorter seasons allow the networks to give the shows bigger budgets so the episodes can be better quality-wise.
While I am sure all of these reasons are likely true to some extent, I honestly wonder if these proposals are correct as the quality has not gone up when it comes to TV. If you look at remakes like the CW’s Walker (or any CW show for that matter), Paramount wrecking Star Trek, NBC’s lack of comedy in their comedies, Disney’s non-stop MCU and Star Wars disasters, or Netflix’s Gilmore Girls cash grab… the entertainment industry seems to be floundering.
It seems that the issue is a lack of imagination, not an issue of cash or competition. It is no secret that I think Hollywood has run out of ideas and it seems to be true of the television industry.
While I do like some shows sticking to an overall arc (I mean, hey, I’m an anime fan), I do miss the filler and episodic nature of some shows. It gives you a break from the story arcs and provides opportunities for the characters, especially side characters, to grow. It is harder to do that with a shorter season unless it gets bloated, which does happen sometimes. The Walking Dead, anyone?
If you look at a show that I liked, for instance, Gotham, the final season was shortened to twelve episodes. A lot of time that could have been utilized focusing on more solid arcs had to be wasted closing storylines that had been building since the first season. It led to the finale feeling more like a pilot than an ending to the show. I’m not saying the shorter season had EVERYTHING to do with that, but it was definitely a contributing factor.
The shorter seasons are also frustrating in terms of anticipation. With a full 22-episode run, you knew the show would be coming back after 7, maybe 8 months if it got renewed. With the shorter run, you are waiting a year, sometimes a year and a half for the show to return, if it does at all. By that time, I am no longer waiting in anticipation, I’ve moved on and usually don’t return unless Chuck Norris guest stars.
Obviously, I know it is always not the episode count that factors into a show getting canceled. There could be many other reasons, but honestly, unless I am a diehard fan of a show, I do not come back if it takes forever to return to the small screen.
Hopefully, networks will rethink this and return to a more lengthy television season. I think it will open to better writing and better character development. These shorter seasons, while fun for streaming, do not always mesh well with network TV. Of course, this argument could be moot as we may all be streaming at some point. Nonetheless, I miss the longer seasons.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my breakdown of how corporate overlords are gaslighting fans. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.
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