Necessary Evil: A Shortened TV Season?
by Marcus Luera
Does anyone ever feel the TV season goes on to long? It runs from late August to mid-May. In that time, we get twenty-two episodes of most TV shows. We also get reruns, long gaps with no new episodes, and mid-season replacements. So, why is the TV season so long? I don’t know. Could there ever be a shortened TV season? Maybe?
Cable uses this model already and it has worked so well for them. What are some of the benefits of a shortened season? For us, the viewers, it means less filler. I am not saying filler episodes can’t be fun, but sometimes it feels like there are too many. Imagine if the episode order was cut from twenty-two to fifteen. It worked for Lost, cutting the episode order along with setting an end date tightened up the story telling. True Blood, Mad Men, and The Shield all used the model of a shortened season to keep their storytelling on task and to the point. Very rarely do these shows ever veer off the main season storyline. Also, we could have no extended breaks between episodes. For story momentum, the break between November and February is killer.
We’d get less burn out for the writers as it is easier to write fifteen episodes than twenty-two, and for the actors, it frees them up to other projects. Take Alison Brie. She is on both Community and Mad Men. Mad Men only has a thirteen-episode season, but Community has had in past seasons twenty-two. There is some overlap, but she is tied down by the schedule of the shows for most of the year.
For the networks, a fifteen-episode season is a lot cheaper than twenty-two. This might encourage the big networks to take more risks. Let’s face it, network TV is a little on the bland side. With smaller budgets, more shows might make it to air. Also, most shows that make it to air get thirteen episodes anyway. A shortened season could give the networks three big roll out dates instead of one and a dumping ground for shows that were not good enough for the fall.
The bad of a shortened TV season is that, like with cable, we may be waiting up to a year for new episodes of our favorite shows. While that would be frustrating, I believe that would be a small price to pay. There may also be a risk of lowering the quality of what gets on TV, but if something bad gets on, it may only last a short season.
It will probably never happen, but does it make sense? It is a low risk and high potential/reward idea that could revolutionize network TV.