Variation of Season Lengths

So this is just a quick exploration of something I have noticed recently and that is the idea of a different number of episodes per season. There is a difference between different countries, but even in the USA there is a difference between series that sometimes seem arbitrary. It also can switch from season to season, one season is 24 episodes, another is 13 episodes and there does not seem to be an explanation why.

Part of this discussion is the idea of having filler episodes. There are plenty of series that have had to do various filler episodes that often slow down the story and really just seem to bore the audience. It is an interesting idea: do you try and fit in the required number of episodes, or do you try and tell a complete story? Some of it depends on the type of show I think, but there is still some level of how long can you stretch an idea out.

Different Season Lengths

13, 8, 10, 52, 24, etc are all various season lengths I have seen. Some of them are summer shows, some are shows that are HBO, some are not shows in the US, but from Britain or Japan. It is just intriguing that there are all lengths of seasons for shows. Summer shows in particular were an interesting discovery. I do not know why I had not noticed it before, but the summer shows on TNT, USA, TBS, etc. all seem to be lesser episode lengths.

The thing that I find most interesting is the fact that the stories are still just as good as the longer seasons. It just makes you wonder, do you really need some seasons to be as long as they are? Police dramas in some ways make sense because there is a crime of the week and even if there is an overarching story they have a few episodes based on the larger story and then tease at bits during other episodes. Other shows the longer seasons can seem problematic.

Filler Episodes

There are a lot of shows where the long seasons seem to drag on or at least there are plenty of episodes that either slow down the pacing or just feel put in simply to make a specific season length. One example of this is Battlestar Galactica. In some ways they could not seem to make up their mind how long they wanted their seasons to be. We ended up with season 1, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 4.5. Trying to figure out a balance for season length and story to tell.

Battlestar Galactica was a show that was all about the overarching story. When there were episodes that did not really move that overarching story forward it just felt like a waste. I remember that when the show aired the filler episodes tended to get the most complaints. They also tend to be considered some of the worst episodes of the overall show. Now Battlestar Galactica is not the only show that has had this problem, it seems to happen with other shows that have on overarching story that cannot stretch on for the standard season length.

Split Seasons

One of the worst things that I have seen happen recently is for them to split the seasons. This year Warehouse 13, Revolution, and Doctor Who are big offenders of this. The split is done one of two ways. One is to take the regular season length and just split the show into two where you have up to 3 months – possibly longer – between the first and second part of the season. The other method is if a season is like what Warehouse 13 did. Where normally a season is 13 episodes and instead of just having it be two different seasons they instead are making it a 20 episode season that just had a super long break in the middle of it – in this case, almost a year.

The part that annoys me the most about these is the waiting. When they split the season then you are usually left with some sort of major cliff hanger and then just waiting for the next part of the season to begin. At the same time you do not get to necessarily watch the first part of the season in the interim. If the wait is long enough you might not even be sure of where everything ended.

It is just particularly interesting that with all the idea of standard season lengths (at least within a single country), it does not really apply and that it might be better to base season lengths on story to be told instead of some arbitrary number.

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