TV series: do you prefer the American way or the British way?

In British-made productions, each season is usually self-complete, and the series may or may not be renewed. Rarely is one cancelled part way through. Sometimes a series takes a while to get going.

In American-made productions, each season has a defined maximum length, but is subject to cancellation, and other interference by executives - like padding (BSG Season 2, I’m looking at you) or reordering episodes (Firefly) - and has an open-ended end, often a shootout or similar (Dallas, West Wing, I’m looking at you).

Which do you prefer and why? Maybe I’m biased but while I have no objections to mid-season cancellations when necessary, I vastly prefer the British method. Not many series are going to generate the interest that ‘Who Shot JR?’ did. And the padding episodes! Aaargh!

What about the British tradition of really. short. seasons. Like, 6 episodes or 13 if you’re lucky.

On one hand, this system has produced some spectacular shows that are indeed real gems because every one of the episodes is perfect.

On the other hand, having only 6 weeks a year of my favorite shows drives me nuts.

I vastly prefer the American system.

100 episodes of The Office is much better than 14.

First of all, remember that any judgment by Americans of the quality of British TV series (and vice versa) is based upon cherry picked examples. The really crappy British TV shows never make it to the US; the really crappy US TV shows don’t make it to the UK.

I do prefer the British method of short seasons and the networks ordering a full season at a time.

OTOH, that can’t work in the US because everything depends on ratings. A network just isn’t going to finish out a season if the ratings aren’t there; they’re going to want something in its place ASAP.

Y-y-you mean Are You Being Served and Keeping Up Appearances are the good stuff?

How about the example of American cable series? They take both the shorter length of British shows with at least a season commitment. As long as they keep it around 13 episodes per season, they seem better in quality. Quartz, I agree with you on BSG season 2 and its filler eps.

Oooh, snap!

British, hands down.

With very few exceptions shows that go on and on for years and years ala’ American-style TV tend to get stale and suck.

But I still watch “The Prisoner”.

Except for episode #17, But that’s another thread.

I think those few exceptions are what makes the American system great. Case in point, the last couple seasons of Lost.

We have those on American TV too. They’re called “miniseries.”

I vote for the American way, although I would want the network execs not to be too quick to cancel good-but-low-rated shows before they have a chance to find their audience. I wouldn’t want to have to give up a single season of Cheers or MASH or The Simpsons, or to have only a half to a fourth as many episodes as made up one of their better seasons. Plus, the American system lets you have your weekly routine, where, for example, Sunday night means it’s time to watch The Simpsons—very often a new episode of The Simpsons.

And, as noted, there’s a difference between American network TV and cable TV. My impression (though my familiarity with how the Brits do it is limited) is that American TV allows for doing things close to the “British way” but not so much vice versa.

I think there’s plenty of evidence that quality is not necessarily inversely proportional to quantity, and having an open-ended run or lots of episodes in a season may actually inspire creativity. Especially if you have enough creative people working on the show—don’t American series typically have a bigger pool of writers, directors, etc. working on a given show?

Some of the aspects of American TV are pretty, mostly keep running the show until it’s a dead bloated corpse and then kick it some more.

On the other hand, we’re in the middle of Season 3 of Doctor Who and I really like David Tennant’s Doctor. I liked Eccleston but I really like Tennant. If this were America, they might be more motivated to stay in the role a few more years.

I mean pretty lame. How’d I miss that?

I like the British system generally better, although I prefer American length seasons (or at least half seasons such as we get with cable shows). I really think US networks are shooting themselves in the foot the way they do things with willy nilly canceling, unaired episodes, and unresolved endings. 1) now that there are DVD sets, it would seem more profitable to have a definitive series resolution to make collecting the DVD worth it and 2) people who have tuned in loyally to any kind of show with an arc or mythology that doesn’t get resolved is going to feel burned and not tune into any future show that isn’t all stand alone episodes.

I think studios should commit to a whole season or half season, and either write them to work successfully as a single season to being with, or if the show is of a long term mystery sort like Lost or X-Files, agree from the start to give ample notice to writers to be able to wrap things up satisfactorily.

I was thinking along the same lines. A lot of the original programming on cable channels these days combine aspects of the two ways, and IMHO, the result is often the best of both worlds.

I like it when shows are arranged into discrete, identifiable seasons. (Never mind that it’s great for selling the DVDs, right?) I like having fewer, better, episodes. But not too few! I think that it generally makes for better quality television than the practice of doing episode after undifferentiated episode, year after year after year. There are a few shows that were good enough to be able to keep up the quality for most of the run, but not many.

I have a very low appetite for TV, but when I do watch, I almost always choose something that exists in this “hybrid” format–The Closer, Psych, Monk, Breaking Bad, etc.

Hmmm…I wonder if the advent of reality TV influenced the adoption of this type of format? People got used to having shorter runs and discrete seasons–and no reruns in the regular time slot! (I’m sure that there are exceptions to that last bit, but I can’t think of any.) People got used to “committing” to a show for a specified period of time. Also, I’m sure TiVo and the like has had an effect. Interesting.

Aside from having shorter seasons, how are any of those shows different from a network show?

Anyone care to expand on the issue of execs interfering?

This is all very informative. I’ve noticed lately that different “series” of British television shows that I like each have a different feel. I know that all shows change over time, but in the case of, say, Sherlock Holmes and Doc Martin, each series of episodes feels a little different style-wise from the preceding ones. Am I right in this or am I imagining it?

Taking it in another direction, I oftentimes prefer the style of British shows over their American counterparts.

Take Hell’s Kitchen. British version was pretty good. The American version tried to make drama out of crap and quick cutted it to death.

Ladette to Lady, while similar to MTV’s new Girls of Hedsor Hall, is superior.

Look at Last Restaurant Standing or The Dragon’s Den. Both are really really simple. One takes place entirely in an attic! There’s no possible way they could do the Dragon’s Den in America without a 500 person studio audience booing and 100 flashing lights.

I really prefer the Britain’s use of style over substance in a lot of their editing and production choices.

Sad, isn’t it? The more I see of REAL British “comedy,” the chaff as well as the wheat, the less impressed I am.

I do think that the Brits are better at this kind of smart, low-to-middle brow factual (I use the term lightly) TV. Hell’s Kitchen, Top Gear, Big Brother, even things like Ready Steady Cook… the US equivalents I’ve seen are too earnest and take it all a bit too seriously. Taking things too seriously is a mortal sin over here :slight_smile: