I am starting to think shorter shows and shorter seasons are better

The classic US TV format is for hour long with ads dramas with a season running around 20-24 episodes, with comedy shows usually running 30 minutes with ads and a similar size season.

This does nothing but mandate insane amounts of padding, sometimes it seems like a game to see how long they can stretch out nonsense like establishing shots and such. There is just no need for that much time to tell a story. Rarely an episode will actually attempt to actually use the entire hour for storytelling and it is breathtaking, only because you have the other padded episodes to compare to.
It leads to predictable A and B plots where the B plot is total garbage, watch as daring hero must battle through the valley of death without his sword! Oh and also comedy relief sidekick struggles to make oatmeal and learns a valuable lesson about humility on tonights episode!

Comedies in particular seem to benefit from lack of filler. I’ve realized this especially on Adult Swims line up, some shows that were hilarious in small doses just become boring when extended.

Maybe my attention span is declining but I am really coming to prefer both shorter seasons and shorter episodes.

I am asking because I don’t know: what current hour long (or 40-something with commercials) shows have 20-something episodes per season? Hour long shows seem to predominate on premimum HBO/Showtime/Starz, and also FX/AMC type channels.

Also, what Adult Swim shows are increasing in length? They seem to favor 15 minute (11 with commercials) shows, sometimes paired with another. I haven’t watched that much lately I must say.

And of course UK [del]seasons[/del] series have fewer episodes.

Most broadcast network shows are still 20 something 40 minute blocks a year, sometimes there are blips like writers strikes that make it shorter.

You’re right that right now shorter seasons are the norm on cable, but the Battlestar Galactica reboot went from a 13 episode first season to every season after that having 20 odd episodes.

Adult Swim changed Metalacoplypse to a longer format and it was dreadful, then they shortened it again.

I think US television has more episodes per season because of syndication reasons.

American TV has always had long seasons, even before the networks sold their shows into rerun syndication. I Love Lucy had, for example, 35 episodes in its first season. 30+ episodes was the norm in the 50s, came down to around 26 in the '60s and dropped down to 22-24 by the 90s (every season but a strike shortened one of Law & Order’s 20 years was in that range).

I think (purely supposition on my part) the move towards short seasons on cable was driven by the success some networks (I think USA may have been in the lead on this; though the success of HBO shows likely as well) had in using original series during the summer to counterprogram the networks going into hiatus (and that success is why the networks now run many more short original series in the summer than just letting their shows rerun throughout like they used to).

I honestly believe the move toward shorter seasons is driven by the home video market. Shorter seasons mean faster turnaround to home video mean more back-end profits.

I have come to like the shorter seasons. Shows like Warehouse 13, Eureka, Haven and some of the others may not have a chance if 22 or 24 episodes were required, or the shows might not have been quite as good.

Much of British television seems to be a small number of shows (series vs. season) in a given year, and many with a Christmas special to tide us over until the next series begins.

The shorter seasons are not as expensive to produce either.


I think 24 would have been a much tighter show if it had been called 12 instead. Compare Homeland, which had a short first season and knocked it out of the park.

Weeds has short seasons and short episodes (only half an hour each) and it’s amazing how much good stuff they pack into every episode.

Most main networks have them too: House, Bones, Law & Order, CSI, Lost, et cetera. All hour long. And I’m sorry none of these are super recent- I stopped watching TV on an actual TV a few years back. But Bones is still on the air, and ABC and Fox both appear to have hour long dramas in their fall line up.

The trend toward bigger budgets and CGI is probably a driving factor too. The more money it costs to make a single episode, and the longer post-production takes, the fewer episodes you’re going to be able to put out.

We have at least as much total tripe tv as the Americans, in the U.K., but we also have the odd gems.

We have Inspector Morse, Lewis, ( an offshoot), and Miss Marple, all of which last two hours, and allow time to establish an actual story.

There are some excellent U.S. t.v programmes, but it seems to be that they underestimate their viewers attention spans.

And so never take the risk of making something for grownups (No innuendo intended )
I think that they might be pleasently surprised with the viewing figures if they did.

When you have a short programme, there is no time for red herrings or other distractions, there is no time to build up real characters .

So you know instinctively when the only person who is apparently irellevant to the plot turns up, the road sweeper who knows nothing, the victims; kids; schoolteacher…

You know that they’re the killer, even if you don’t know why.

I’m looking at you !

Which tends to lessen both the the suspense ,and the enjoyment of the programme.

I’m all for longer, not shorter progammes.

The Thickies get more then enough stuff to keep them occupied when they’re confined to their houses by ASBOS, lets have something for the rest of us.
I’m a Brit .

It aint going to happen .

As a short series, American Horror Story was able to get an Emmy nomination as a miniseries instead of a drama series. The requirement was that the story is finished and wrapped-up, instead of continuing on and on. I think that was a good idea for them to actually end the story (and they’ll start a different story next season).

While shorter season are good, I think many of the recent great shows have benefited from having extended time between seasons without having reruns shoved down the viewer’s throats. Even though it’s somewhat annoying as a viewer, I think shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, etc. benefited from allowing the show runners and creative people behind the show to have more time to film episodes, and to recharge creatively. I recall reading that breaking up the current season of Breaking Bad gave them almost twice as much time to film and edit episodes. I am sure that luxury will make the final product much better.

True, but SciFi/SyFy also has insists on splitting each 20 episode season into 2 half-seasons, airing 6-9 months apart, and even advertising episode 10 as a season finale.

Honestly, I hate shorter seasons. I like filler. It gives me a longer time to spend in a universe that I like. Because of short seasons, I often hold back and don’t watch things because I know once I watch them I won’t have anything else to watch in that universe.

Filler doesn’t bother me unless you completely drop the main plot thread, show absolutely no progression, or just take years to get around to stuff. But shows like that are generally shows that I wouldn’t want to watch anyways.

This is a silly thing to say. There is no single correct length for a TV episode or series. There are examples of “traditional” shows that used practically every second to good effect (e.g. The Simpsons during its golden age, when, perhaps coincidentally, episodes were a minute or two longer than they later became).
In cases where shows don’t have enough substance to sill up the time allotted, this may be a failing on the part of the writers and producers, or a mismatch between that particular show and its format, rather than the inevitable nature of the beast.
If a “padded” series were made shorter, would it become more concise and economical, or would we just get less of it, with the same hit-to-miss ratio?
Though I share the OP’s dislike for “filler,” not everyone does. Some people watch TV for the “comfort food,” and want to spend as much time as possible in the company of the characters they love.
“Regular” network series have gotten shorter. Decades ago, shows used to pack about 50 minutes of actual programming into an hour; nowadays it’s more like 40. And in some ways this is a good thing (at least for those of us who are watching in a way that allows us to avoid the commercial breaks): it has forced TV writers to be more economical and to pack more into the time they do have, making for faster-paced and, in some cases, better television.
I would, however, like to see at least the possibility of the half-hour drama. In the golden age of radio, there were plenty of dramatic shows that worked quite well in a half-hour format, so it’s possible to tell a satisfying, dramatic story in half an hour. (By contrast, later attempts to revive the radio drama, such as the 1970s CBS Radio Mystery Theater, were longer and, IMHO, less successful partly because they were padded out.)

I agree 100%. I love British telly, partly for this reason. Otherwise we get stupid episodes like Jack Bauer’s daughter being threatened by literal mountain lions or some shit.

But then, I never watch sitcoms, ever. I prefer sci-fi, and the best are ones with a tight story (babylon 5, I’m looking at you).

When I was teaching English in Japan for a year I discussed this with an American coworker and a Japanese coworker. We Americans had noticed that some shows weren’t recording on my VCR properly and asked what happened to them. The Japanese native told us the shows simply ended because the stories were done and some other show was dropped into their time slots.

She had spent a year in an American college and noted that she preferred the Japanese pattern: Produce a good story from start to finish regardless of how much time it takes. The TV executives and sponsors will sign on for the long (or short) haul. This contrasts strongly with the American pattern: Start with a good premise, often from a strong creator, then produce a pilot. If it draws good audiences and sponsors, pile on the episodes via scriptwriting teams until the audiences and sponsors dwindle. Then kill it – sometimes slapping on a story resolution and usually just releasing the writers from their task.

B5 is actually excellent example. From what I remember (and remember hearing) Strazynski had an awesome story and sold it to the studio with an “I’m in control or you don’t get a single word” ultimatum, and then he got to tell his story at his own pace and it was high quality stuff from start to finish. [The spin-offs, made to placate eager fans who wanted still more, were a joke (though I’m sure they sold commercial slots anyway).]

I think I prefer the Japanese pattern, as well, but I don’t watch enough TV to care any more. I kinda stopped watching when the jokes were recycled from one show to another (I mean completely different shows, not just different episodes with the same characters) and when special effects and fake suspense/thrills overshadowed good plot lines and stories. The writers’ strikes and the so-called ‘reality’ game shows and ‘reality’ voyeurism shows kinda killed the fun.

I noticed House used to start out with an intro scene, jump to credits, then immediately jump into the first hospital scene. As it got more and more popular, they seemed to put more and more commercials in the middle. Then as the show started winding down, they even started putting commercials between the credits and the first hospital scene.


The play’s so twisted
Maybe that’s the reason
why it’s so addictive

All the alibis
and fake surprise
Will Cecil B,DeMille
be turning in his grave

But even so
like the ratings show
We’ll watch it once again - everytime
. --Basia
. Prime Time TV
. Time and Tide

Does this mean that all Japanese TV shows are serials, telling a connected story over the course of the series, rather than each episode telling an individual story as so many American shows do?

It depends on the show. Light sitcoms may as well have a lot of shows. A good sitcom doesn’t have much depth in a single episode. I expect to have new ones available on a regular basis. As shows get more serious, or just more complex, with character development and continuing plots, then it helps to have more quality in each episode. More time provides better scripts, directing, editing.