Saturday night I had a conversation with the I Am Geek crew, a name I just created but am secretly loving, that went a little something like this.
Kevin: You know, I’d really like to re-watch The X-Files from start to finish.
Jennifer: So, do it.
Kevin: Ugh, it’s like ten seasons of twenty something episodes each. I don’t have time for that.
Jennifer: Whyyyyy is it so long?!
Kevin: Because that’s how they used to make tv shows sister.
During this exchange the Adorable Creature laughed at one point, Paul nodded his head, and I showed serious restraint by not saying “that’s what she said”
Then yesterday I had a similar conversation on Faceyspace with a fellow Fan Fest writer, Jerrold Reber, about the same thing. Wanting to watch The X-Files but not having the time to commit to over two hundred episodes of television (I did the math). Not when there are so many other things to be watched or re-watched with shorter seasons. Like the first season of Atlanta that I just picked up on the cheap (what whaaaat).
Seriously, I’ve had this problem a lot. Supernatural? I think I would be all over Supernatural as it certainly seems like something that I would love, but here is another case of a show having twelve seasons filled with twenty plus episodes. How could I possibly accomplish that? I wouldn’t be able to watch anything else. Take LOST for instance. I’ve been slowly itching for a great re-watching, it’s been about four years since I last visited the Island, and I’d really like to introduce the Adorable Creature to the show buuuuuuuut those first three seasons have the full twenty plus episode order. It’s just so time-consuming. Even for a show that I know is worth the time investment.
I’ve kind of grown fed up with this old standard of television. There really aren’t a lot of shows that still do the “full order” of episodes but the ones that do have me sort of shaking my head. Take the majority of the superhero shows on the CW. Arrow and The Flash are two shows that I happen to enjoy that do the full order and yes it keeps the show around until May sweeps but that means that there are a number of “filler” episodes put in place for prolonging the season. Filler episodes can be fun, sometimes, but mostly they serve to frustrate the viewer. “Where did the main story go? Let’s get back to that. I don’t care about this silliness.” As a story junkie, and someone who writes, I’m all for servicing the story. Filler episodes tend to be a placeholder and derail a shows momentum. I understand that sometimes you need a breath before the plunge but there are ways to do that while still advancing the story.
I have become completely spoiled with the current state of shows who sort of follow that HBO model of television where less is more. Hell, the first season of The Sopranos only had twelve episodes and that was part of the magic. It was all character and all story and you didn’t have to worry if an episode was just going to “be there”. You had to pay attention to everything in fear that you might miss something. Now we’ve got shows like Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, Fargo, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, Legion, and any of the Netflix Marvel shows that have no more than thirteen episodes a season and look where that’s gotten them. These shows are wildly popular with fans and critics mostly because they focus on the story being told. Yes, you’re left wanting more but that’s what good storytelling is. Leaves you wanting more. I’d prefer that to having to watch seven to ten filler episodes a season and getting frustrated over the lack of progression.
I think the time of twenty-four episode seasons should be coming to an end, there really isn’t a ton of them out there. We are in such a golden age of television that they’re sort of sticking out like old relics who refuse to adapt to better storytelling.