POLL: Short TV Seasons – Boon or Bust?

Justified, Major Crimes, Falling Skies, Game of Thrones, Warehouse 13, Burn Notice

I’m sure by now most of you have noticed the shrinkage in all kinds of products at the grocery store. Rather than raise the price, retailers simply offer you less product in the same size package and charge you the same price – effectively raising the price under the radar. It is particularly noticeable in items such as toilet paper and facial tissues, as they shrink in actual dimensions.

Something similar has been happening with TV programs – the seasons have been shrinking in length. And while it is not the focus of this article, let me also point out that the length of each episode has also been shrinking, probably to make more room for commercials.

Let’s consider the example of Gunsmoke, which ran from 1955 to 1975. The first 10 seasons featured 34-39 episodes. The second 10 seasons featured 24-32 episodes. For Broadcast network TV programs with a fall debut, 24 episodes per season seems to be the current standard. The same cannot be said of Cable networks. For instance, Game of Thrones on HBO has a 10 episode season. Programming on USA network averages a 12-16 episode season. TNT averages 10 episode seasons. On the other hand, Syfy channel is a bit all over the place, with seasons for any given show varying from 12-20 episodes per season.

Clearly shorter seasons are here to stay. For the networks, I am sure the trend has a lot to do with saving money. But, as a viewer, are there any advantages to this trend? And, what are the disadvantages? I would like to take a look at the good and the bad and then ask you to vote for whether or not you feel short seasons are a boon or a bust for you.

Boon?
 

Flynn, Provenza, Sanchez, Raydor, Sykes, Taylor - Major Crimes

Programs with shorter seasons are frequently repeated multiple times per week, allowing the viewer options as to when they view the program. I know for me personally this is a very good thing, as sometimes there are multiple programs that I watch on at the same time, and repeats allow me to stay current on all my shows.

Madeline, Sam, Michael, Fiona - Burn Notice

Shorter seasons mean more TV shows, which of course means more variety. There are multiple seasons per calendar year when the networks switches in and out one short season program for another. Cable networks like TNT, USA and Syfy, to name a few, have what seems to be 3-4 sets of programs that premiere and run together, and are then replaced with the next set after their short season run.

Pete, Myka, Claudia, Artie - Warehouse 13

Producing fewer episodes to save overall costs means that programs that might not have been made in the first place are now able to be made. This is probably most important for my favorite genre, sci-fi, due to the high cost of special effects. This is probably most important for my favorite genre, sci-fi, due to the high cost of special effects.

Bust?
 

Ned Stark - Game of Thrones

With short seasons come long hiatuses. Forgetting what happened last season becomes more problematic. When you are waiting a year for the next short season, like for instance with Game of Thrones, it is very difficult to keep track of the action. This problem is particularly exacerbated in a program which has a very intricate plot.

Raylan - Justified

Also with short seasons, it is harder to keep track of when your favorite shows are coming back. If something you watch is on a network that you don’t usually frequent, then you might not see the ads alerting you to an upcoming season premiere. This problem can be solved by visiting the TV Equals site everyday to see what is coming up and to see the listing of what is on tonight.

Hal, Tom, Ben, Matt, Anne - Falling Skies

With fewer episodes per season, it is harder to cover all the story lines in a show. This was possibly the cause of the several months skip in the story on Falling Skies when it premiered its third season this summer. Many fans were unhappy with the long gap in events for the characters.

 

This is a hard choice for me. But, all things considered, I think I will have to go with shorter seasons being a boon for me. They allow that greater variety of programming, particularly good quality sci-fi, which is very important to me.

So, what do you think? It is unlikely that we will ever return to the longer seasons of yesteryear, but maybe you don’t mind. Be sure to vote and then tell me your thoughts in the comments section below.