UK TV producers vs US TV producers: attitude Q

I was reading something about the BBC series “The Office” a while back and the producer said something about how he was only going to do one more series (season) before wrapping it up. This isn’t the first time something similar has been talked about regarding a British TV show. Do British producers go into production with a different attitude than American producers do? I can’t imagine an American producer voluntarily stopping production after two or three seasons. How many threads have we opened here on shows that have hung around way past their prime, pretty much only to make syndication money?

The Office’s short run was down to the writers, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant - they didn’t want the series to jump the shark, so they killed it. They are, however, (IIRC) doing two Christmas specials as a final farewell. This is similar to the reason for the small number of Fawlty Towers episodes.

US comedy shows are largely created by huge writing teams, so if a couple of writers drop out, they are just replaced.

There may also be a difference in funding: the BBC, being non-commercial, isn’t relying on advertising revenue to fund the programs, so it doesn’t (always) need to flog a dead horse.

The above is a bit of a gross generalisation, since there are plenty of totally rubbish UK shows that just run and run and run way past their sell-by date, and US comedy shows that eventually run out of steam (e.g. Seinfeld).

In general, then, do British shows go into production with the idea that “we’re going to make two series of this, and that’s it”? Are British shows for all intents and purposes conceived of as very long mini-series whereas American shows are looked upon as having no definite ending point?

This is all opinion-based, so someone who is better informed than me could probably correct me… but I get the impression the attitude is rarely to look beyond one run of (usually) six or 12 episodes. The producers see the pilot or hear the pitch, commission the series, then see how it went with the audiences and critics. If it flopped, then bye bye. If it was well received, then make another one. Repeat until quality is gone ('Allo 'Allo ran for years and years, with ever-diminishing humour). It should be pointed out that Gervais and Merchant voluntarily removed themselves from the payroll by stopping The Office - the Beeb would no doubt have been delighted to continue making such a popular programme.

Agreed, it varies. Some series have gone on and on until well past their sell-by date - e.g. Last of the Summer Wine or 'Allo 'Allo - because they’re ‘zero sum’ stories. But I think there’s a recent endency, particularly in comedy, for writers to want to develop their character relationships in ongoing ways, which keeps things fresh and makes the series self-limiting.