Rueben's Ramblings

Throwback Tuesday: Should TV Series Have A Shorter Run?

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It was this time 8 years ago (on June 2 to be exact) that I joined the staff of NiceGirlsTV. I wanted to honor that anniversary by taking a look back at a column I wrote in February of 2010.

It was entitled “Should TV Series Have A Shorter Run?

With each TV season comes a crop of new pilots, hoping to be picked up by a major network for at least an initial 13 episode run. If things go well for said pilot – such as decent ratings (obviously) as well as fan, and sometimes even critic, acclaim – the series could potentially be picked up for a full season, which is typically 22 episodes.

But what if the major networks took a hint from British television (beyond trying to copy-cat their shows) and began to shorten the episode runs for these new series? Would the new show perform better or worse with the viewing audience? Would the show simply be lost in the shuffle of the multitude of programming that is now available? Would the change really make any difference?

I have to wonder if in the not-too-distant future that the norm for new pilots, once they have been picked up by a network and ordered to series, of course, will be for shortened season runs. This could allow for more programming to be picked up by the networks because each show would only get between, say, 6 to 12 episodes.

Now, this may sound like a crazy idea, but go with me for a minute. The powers that be behind a particular show would be able to focus on story-telling (hopefully better than usual) because they would only have 6 to 12 episodes to focus on. The networks would be able to adopt a “time-share” with the timeslots (even more so than they are now), allowing for more shows to be picked up and hopefully more entertainment for all of us.

This would not only work out for the folks who work within the industry (after all people need to have a job, like writers, producers, actors, et al), but would also hopefully work out for those of us who love to sit at home in front of that big screen and be entertained.

Granted, it would all be about quality AND quantity and yes, that could become a slippery slope; but being the optimist that I’m attempting to be more often, it could be a win-win situation for all concerned. Right? Okay, maybe not… but I have to admit it’s an interesting idea and one that’s not too far fetch given the direction that the major networks seem to be, albeit, slowly heading toward.

And, if they can learn one thing from the cable channels that are already succeeding with this type of format, it is to find good material and allow it to flourish even in a shortened format. Of course, it’s important for the new shows to be cast properly, have good writing and be interesting to watch; otherwise, we would all be watching reality. But I won’t digress into that arena just yet.

Case in point: The Canadian series Being Erica is quite popular with our northern brethren (and is slowly becoming popular here in the States too) and is currently in its second season. The first season of the series had only 13 episodes, allowing the writers to hone in on the storyline, making each episode sharp, engaging and imaginative. The second season will consist of 12 episodes and I’m sure they are just as crisp and creative as last season.

Other examples are Burn Notice which aired 12 episodes in its first season and 16 episodes in its second; In Plain Sight also has 12 episodes during its freshman run and had 15 episodes in its sophomore year; Army Wives had 13 episodes its first season followed by 19 and 18 episodes, respectively, for their next two seasons and The Closer has averaged 15 episodes for each of its seasons except for the 13 episode run it received for its first season.

So, it is possible to have successful shows with shorter runs and here’s to hoping that the major networks can come close to their cable counterparts.

I am so thankful for the NiceGirlsTV staff and look forward to many more years of being a part of its contributors.

Image Photo Credit: The Kelly Alexander Show

Using her favorite online handle, Rueben is an East Coast-bred gal who is now a permanent Californian and a lifelong tv-oholic. She watches at least 25 TV shows a week, goes to the movies as often as possible, listens to music every waking moment, reads every day and “plays” on the internet every chance she can. Some of her current favorite TV shows are Outlander, Arrow, Grimm, The Blacklist, Teen Wolf, Killjoys, Dark Matter, The Shannara Chronicles, Good Witch, When Calls the Heart, The 100, Switched at Birth, Jane the Virgin, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash and The Fosters (among others). Follow her at @ruebenrambling or contact her at rueben@nicegirlstv.com.