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Author Topic: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop  (Read 2160 times)

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Offline Kete

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20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« on: August 26, 2014, 12:43:54 PM »
I don't understand why they keep making TV shows with more than 20 episodes in a season.  It used to be okay when TV shows were all bubblegum crap, but now that we expect TV to be surrogate movies, it just doesn't work out.  It takes so much time and effort to fill that many episodes that the quality is spread too thin, and the overall program ends up sucking.

Year after year, the network stations pump out new dramas that start well, but quickly collapse under the weight of too many episodes.  Heroes, Flashforward, The Event, Revolution, these shows all started out with really promising, interesting pilots, but couldn't maintain it with so many episodes.  In the end, they all just turned into gimmicks.

With the possible exception of 24 (which I haven't seen), I don't think any TV show has benefited from having more than 20 episodes per season.


Offline anais.butterfly

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2014, 12:47:17 PM »
I disagree. I think plenty of TV shows can make an entire season great with 22 episodes. The first two seasons of Once Upon a Time for example. Granted, when they started the two stories per season BS in season three, then they started to suck with their writing (the Peter Pan story line was too long, the Wicked Witch storyline skipped over important scenes and was too short).

So, if the writers are good enough, then bring on as many episodes as possible!
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Offline Kete

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2014, 12:54:06 PM »
I considered listing Once Upon a Time as an example, but changed my mind since I didn't think it was really great to begin with.

Despite not liking it, I have been watching it since my kids love it.  I most certainly think it suffers from too many episodes.  The Peter Pan stuff took soooooo looongggg.  Many of the "plot twists" felt so forced just because they were trying to fill time.  If they had cut about 8 episodes from that season, it would have at least been watchable.


Offline Pak-Man

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2014, 03:16:19 PM »
As a counter-point, I offer the last season of Venture Bros. When it ended after 8-10 episodes (Depending on whether you counted the specials that aired pre-season) there was this sense of "That was IT!? We were just getting started!"

Maybe it's because I'm from the old school of couch-potatoing, but I like my shows to keep me busy for 30-60 minutes a week for a few months. If the writers are good, they can keep the momentum going for the full run, and have time to throw in a few nice one-off episodes to explore a character or idea they wouldn't have had time to do if the season had been shorter.


Offline Trekker4747

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2014, 05:12:32 PM »
I don't think there's anything strictly wrong with 20+ episode seasons it's just the writing for those 20 episodes has got to be a lot better and it can be if studios tried a bit harder or were more willing to spend money during the season so as to not stifle the creativity.

As it is now networks mostly only focus on "sweeps" weeks/months in order to focus their attention on the show and focus the season's budget there. Thus you get better episodes.  The rest of the season is usually on a tighter budget stifling the creativity.  Most shows probably also discourage more interesting writing for times of the year when it's probably felt people are less-likely to be watching a particular show.

There's no reason why a 16-episode season is a magic-number or "better" than a 20+ season.  It's just the industry isn't built to focus on the whole season are all 20+ episodes but rather just those episodes during times when they "matter", mainly sweeps months where they can judge viewership to set advertising rates.

Which, really, in a day with so many DVRs and ways out there of tracking viewership the idea of sweeps periods should be obsolete.

While, I agree shorter seasons tend to be better it's because the writing has to be tighter and more compact out of a simple lack of time. They don't have the time to have bottle-episodes to save money or whatever.   But they could be just as sharp at 20+ episodes as they are at 16.  It's just that cable networks usually have smaller budgets for their shows.

20+ Episodes are fine.  They just need to use them better.

All said, 8 episodes is way too darn short for such an engaging series with interesting characters being played by great actors for a one-shot-story in an anthology series.  (Glares at True Detective.)



Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2014, 07:14:08 PM »
As a counter-point, I offer the last season of Venture Bros. When it ended after 8-10 episodes (Depending on whether you counted the specials that aired pre-season) there was this sense of "That was IT!? We were just getting started!"

Maybe it's because I'm from the old school of couch-potatoing, but I like my shows to keep me busy for 30-60 minutes a week for a few months. If the writers are good, they can keep the momentum going for the full run, and have time to throw in a few nice one-off episodes to explore a character or idea they wouldn't have had time to do if the season had been shorter.

While writing is definitely part of it, working on Elementary for the past two months has taught me a few things.  Elementary does 24 hour long episodes per season, and it's grueling.  They started shooting the beginning of July, and they go till April I believe (maybe May).  It's tough to spread a budget that far. 

With 24 hours of television to produce, writers are put under pressure to keep the number of locations and cast limited, particularly as the season goes on.  The number of locations greatly impact the budget of each episode, because it's such a pain in the ass to move locations during the day.  Imagine a traveling circus, but instead of setting up for three days, they set up in the morning at one spot, pack everything up, then set it all up again on the other side of town.  And I'm not exaggerating when I say a circus.  We have a minimum of 4 semis full of gear and about 6 or 7 trailers.  And sometimes we're forced to do 3 locations in a day.

If we had 15 episodes to produce instead of 24 we could have a lot more locations, a lot more action, and a lot less talking, because we'd have time to shoot it all. Instead we have a show that's pretty boring, though I'll admit I haven't really seen any past the first few episodes. 

EDIT:  On the up side, 24 episode seasons make sure that I'm employed, so I can't complain too much.


Offline Nunyerbiz

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2014, 07:21:54 PM »
I also think it depends on the type of show as well. A serial drama where it's one continuous story arc seem to be the ones that suffer from filler when stretched to 22 or 24 episodes. The Law and Order type procedurals don't seem have as big of an issue as they are telling largely self-contained stories. They don't need to necessarily keep any story momentum flowing from show to show to show.

The X-Files balanced it nicely for a good long time... Most of the season were standalone Scooby Doo Mysteries if you will while the handful of leftover episodes strung along the overarching story.



Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2014, 07:26:20 PM »
I also think it depends on the type of show as well. A serial drama where it's one continuous story arc seem to be the ones that suffer from filler when stretched to 22 or 24 episodes. The Law and Order type procedurals don't seem have as big of an issue as they are telling largely self-contained stories. They don't need to necessarily keep any story momentum flowing from show to show to show.

The X-Files balanced it nicely for a good long time... Most of the season were standalone Scooby Doo Mysteries if you will while the handful of leftover episodes strung along the overarching story.

Also, Law and Order type shows are largely in court house sets.  In other words, cheap. 


Offline Kete

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2014, 08:15:00 PM »
If shows were kept shorter and cheaper, maybe networks would take more risks on original projects. Then, if a show does well, do a spin off series with a different crew and team of writers. Sort of like Better Call Saul or the Walking Dead spin-off.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2014, 08:20:57 PM by Kete »


Offline ShadowDog

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2014, 09:49:20 AM »
I agree for the most part. Even 24 greatly benefited from a shorter season.

The only exceptions I can think of are Supernatural's first 6 seasons (which is the only time I can remember where a show literally got better for 6 consecutive seasons) and Person Of Interest which is fantastic and perfectly balances character development, action, comedy, standalone episodes and overall mytharcs.

Other than that the shorter season shows are doing it better.
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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2014, 11:03:41 PM »
I agree for the most part. Even 24 greatly benefited from a shorter season.

The only exceptions I can think of are Supernatural's first 6 seasons (which is the only time I can remember where a show literally got better for 6 consecutive seasons) and Person Of Interest which is fantastic and perfectly balances character development, action, comedy, standalone episodes and overall mytharcs.

Other than that the shorter season shows are doing it better.
I think 24+ episodes per season is excessive too. If you watch the early seasons of Dexter, even at some points 12 episodes seems to still be too many for each season. Some shows can pull it off though and I'm grateful for that, like X-files, Simpsons or Deep Space Nine.


Online Johnny Unusual

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2014, 02:38:39 PM »
It really depends on what is right for the show.  With Adventure Time, the number not only encourages experimentation in an already experimentation heavy show, but it allows a lot more exploration of the world created by focusing on other characters (or even brand new ones) in it's huge cast.  If there were fewer episodes, it wouldn't have the opportunity to do such things.  There's never anything resembling a filler episode in that series (though some episodes are weaker than others) that the number of episodes don't take away from the show's quality in terms of writing or animation.


Offline Variety of Cells

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2014, 04:27:38 PM »
It really depends on what is right for the show.  With Adventure Time, the number not only encourages experimentation in an already experimentation heavy show, but it allows a lot more exploration of the world created by focusing on other characters (or even brand new ones) in it's huge cast.  If there were fewer episodes, it wouldn't have the opportunity to do such things.  There's never anything resembling a filler episode in that series (though some episodes are weaker than others) that the number of episodes don't take away from the show's quality in terms of writing or animation.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't Adventure Time's episodes quite short?  There's a big difference between 15 min episodes and 45 min episodes. 


Online Johnny Unusual

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Re: 20+ episodes per season has got to stop
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2014, 08:17:39 PM »
Yep, but the show has basically been on nearly weekly since its inception in 2010 and since then has built up to 172 episodes.  That's a lot of content in that small amount of time, even for an animated series (Japan can often top that, possibly as an attempt to kill their animators).

Buffy was a show that definitely benefited from 22 episode seasons, as it built up its main plot each season while having individual stories that fed stood alone.  Angel did too, though it benefited from it when it become much more serialized.

Arrested Development was a show that managed to work each season despite it being shortened.  They make more then one joke in reference to their seasons being shortened in ways that caused trouble from the big plans of the season.  Season one, however, showed that it was capable to carry and entire 22 episode season with extremely few missteps

I'll agree there are some shows that can benefit by truncated seasons, but I think it is a bit silly to assume that all shows would benefit from a bizarrely draconian restriction that is apparently to act as quality control for all TV series.  Keep in mind that a smaller amount of episodes doesn't mean that a dumb show like FlashForward will improve.  Heroes' problem wasn't that it was too long, its that it didn't know what the heck to do with its characters (and its shortened second season was definitely not an improvement).  It didn't feel like it was killing time or padding things out: it felt like it was lost without a map.  Shortening a show doesn't mean that a show gets leaner and therefore better, but might just mean that its shorter and just as bad, only know they are desperate to cram in a bunch of stuff they wanted to accomplish that season because it is important for what the larger plan of the show is.  Shows where each episode stands alone may not gain from it either, as the hit/miss ratio very likely may remain unchanged.

I wouldn't mind short seasons of some shows, but I don't think that it means declaring war on episode numbers.  Poor planning or running out of ideas seems as much to blame, and I imagine are symptoms of a much larger problem.