In a fan debate between longer or shorter seasons, more often than not, fans tend to side with the longer seasons. Probably because that means that their show is on for a longer amount of time during the year, and when the season ends, it normally only takes 3-4 months for the return as opposed to the 6-8 months it takes when shows have shorter seasons.
With the recent announcement that one of my favorite shows, Bones, is going to be seven episodes shorter, and not even begin airing new episodes until November, I was a little upset originally. After taking a little while to think about it, I’ve realized that some of my favorite shows, are shorter seasons (Doctor Who, Haven, Drop Dead Diva, ect. Hell, season three of Torchwood was only FIVE episodes).
Some people seem to think that shorter seasons are a curse, convinced that with shorter seasons, it gives the audience time to forget about the show and never come back. Though this may be true, having longer seasons is not a guarantee that your audience will stick around come the following season. Especially if you have a lot of filler episodes.
Sanctuary for instance started off as a web-series but gained a big enough fan following that SyFy made it a full time series. The first two seasons both had 13 episodes, never having any problems with episodic arcs or full season story lines, in fact it did so amazing that SyFy ordered an extended third season this past year of 20 episodes. Originally this sounded like an excellent, more Magnus, more Biggie, longer story arcs, and so on. With the season over, my thoughts have changed. Though the story arcs were fantastic, this season seemed to be a little lack-luster. In my opinion, as far as Sanctuary is concerned, more is not always better. With the longer season, there seemed to be a lot more filler episodes, episodes that didn’t really seem to move the overall storyline along.
Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, you have Eureka. Season one started with 12 episodes, in season two they moved to 13 episodes, season three had 18 episodes, and now in season five they are having 20 episodes. Although, the fact that they’re airing the Season 4.5, almost exactly a year after airing the first half of the season does make it feel like a brand new season, gradually increasing the episode count, seems to work for them. It kind of allowed them to feel the water a little bit, and understand how to fill this new time amount correctly.
So for those who are upset about when a series only has 13-15 episodes, let me give you a few good points about shorter seasons.
Shorter seasons allow for more fleshed out story lines.
You may think that it would be the exact opposite, but in some cases it’s not. With shorter seasons, it makes the writers have to think of how to make all the working parts of a season arc come together in such a short time span. Meaning that, when it comes right down to it, we’re going to be getting more information in each episode, allowing the story to progress faster than you’d see in an extended season. You may not have every episode devoted to the over all season arc, but more often than not, you’ll at least get a small hint by the end of the episode.
Not as many ‘filler’ episodes
You know those episodes that I’m talking about. The ones when they end you just stare at the tv and think (or even say aloud) “What WAS that?” because you aren’t sure why that became an episode, or what it had to do with anything else going on in the story line. With shorter seasons, filler episodes don’t happen nearly as often. Of course, they’re going to happen no matter how short or long the season is, but with shorter seasons there seem to be less of them.
With a shorter season, this allows the creators, producers, and other behind the scenes people, to really be able to give us quality television. Whether it’s a series that shoots almost entirely on green screen (Sanctuary), or one that likes to have a lot a really awesome guest stars (Drop Dead Diva). Having shorter seasons give them the budget to be able to do all those things.
What it all really comes down to is that when it comes to the shorter seasons, things are going to be a little rocky, and probably frustrate you to no end when the season ends and you have to wait a longer than usual time before the series comes back, but it’s not a death sentence, and it definitely isn’t a reason not to tune into a series. Just give it a chance, and think about it this way, if you don’t like it, you’ve only wasted 13 episodes, as opposed to 22.