When it comes to episodic TV, I realized I can’t keep up with everything. We are at a point where there are many more choices for us to find shows to delve into, yet I find myself not wanting to. Perhaps I was just becoming ‘that person’, refusing to try to stay up on the latest conversation about the hottest shows on the air. I realized that shows such as Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Gifted, and so many other shows that would be in my wheelhouse were going uncompleted and that maybe I was becoming a bad geek.
However, something happened recently. When I asked many of my friends about many of the shows that they have not finished watching, I started noting that many of the shows on my list started popping up on theirs as well. Maybe we are all just bad geeks or is there something more? When I started considering the issues, I wondered why we all started quitting (or not even getting on board in the first place) some of the most popular shows in probably one of the best climates of geekdom. Maybe we got bored, or just didn’t have the time. Others may have found their shows too predictable or too moody, who knows? While I can’t speak for everyone, the conclusion I came to for myself is that, in many cases, I don’t have the time anymore to devote to some of these shows. Of course there are those that will say that no one is forcing me to watch these shows and I don’t watch and won’t fault those who do. But I think the biggest problem is that with some of the shows out now, even those that can be binged, I quickly lose interest if the story takes too long to develop. Let’s be real, if you are asking me to devote 12 hours to your show, every last hour had better be gripping and for most of these shows, at minimum 3 of those hours are nothing but filler shows.
Solving the issue can be done in a few ways. One idea could be that if your show is 12 episodes, make separate story arcs that last three to four episodic arcs in a show season. This allows the story to move at a better pace and viewers can dip in and out of a season if a particular arc doesn’t suit them. It could also minimize audiences having to stay invested for an entire season waiting for a story to develop with a less than satisfactory closing. Or, for shows running a bit longer than 12 episodes, devote ½ a season to one arc and finish it completely. The next arc should be a new story with little or no connection to the prior one which gives opportunities for viewers to jump on and off without feeling a need to have to watch a series from a much earlier start point to understand everything.
Another idea could be something taken from how some European shows run only a few episodes in a cycle. If you take a look at Luther for instance, each season ran between 4 to 6 episodes at about an hour long. Sure, that may be well too short for most people but just think of how much exposition can be saved when you don’t have any filler. On the other hand, you have Sherlock, whose episodes average around 3 per season with about 90 mins per episode. So it’s almost like you are getting a mini movie every time the show comes on. There are so many ways shows can be made more entertaining without so much filler. Think of it like this, Season 7 of Game of Thrones is probably one of the best seasons for the simple fact that instead of having 10 episodes, and a lot of waiting around for stuff to happen, it had 7 episodes where there was enough interesting and enticing storylines running and events happening. The final season is supposedly 6 episodes.
Which leads into wanting shows to have an endgame. It’s really bad to to see TV shows get dragged on for years with no end in sight. If you have an ending, just roll with it instead of trying to force a show to slog on for years. if you go to the separate story arcs idea as suggested above, it wouldn’t be a problem!
The bottom line is this: if a story is good, then don’t drag it out for 10 to 20 episodes hoping and praying that audiences will keep enough interest for 1/2 a year to watch. Focus on taking lesser time to tell a good story, mix it up during the course of a season and even those who may not jump on right away, may do so later on without the added pressure of having to have watched a show from the beginning. Of course one can say what about advertisers and the such. Again, see what i said about Game of Thrones and think…it’s on HBO. I don’t need everything to be episodic to the point I have to have a scorecard to keep up. There is a big reason why a lot of us haven’t finished some of the most popular shows out there. It’s not because they are bad but, sometimes we just need you to wrap that 20 episode arc up.