Shortened Broadcast Seasons

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Ollie, Feb 20, 2006.

  1. Ollie

    Ollie Stunt Coordinator

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    I've noticed that with the 60's DVD sets (Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, Bewitched, etc) 30+ episodes per season was pretty much standard. But once you move into the 70's, 80's, 90's, 22-25 seems to be more the norm. Do any of you TV history buffs know why the broadcast seasons were originally shortened and have remained so to the present time?
     
  2. FrancisP

    FrancisP Screenwriter

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    The simple answer is money. The studios wanted more money per episode from broadcasters. Ordering fewer episodes were a way of keeping the total cost down.

    Another depressing measurement. '60s shows were around 50-52 minutes for hour shows and around 24-26 for half hours. Now they're around 41-43 minutes for hours and 21 minutes for halfs.
     
  3. ElijahS

    ElijahS Supporting Actor

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    The time development is more recent. You can go as far back as the early- to mid-1990s and find episodes of Law & Order (for example) that are over 45-46 minutes.
     
  4. Katherine_K

    Katherine_K Second Unit

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    One thing to remember is that some early 1980s series suffered from the infamous Writer's Guild Strike.
     
  5. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    From the early 1950s until about 1982, the FCC regulated the amount of commercial time that could be shown on prime-time TV. This was a rigid 8 minutes per hour until about the mid-1970s, when it was increased to about 10 minutes per hour. In the mid-1980s, the FCC relaxed its regulations and commercial time increased to 12 minutes per hour. Throughout the next 15 years, the networks would exploit the lack of regulation (and make up for the increasing costs of programming) by expanding prime-time commercial time. It was 14 minutes per hour by 1990, 16 minutes per hour in 2000, and 18 minutes per hour today.
     
  6. AnthonyC

    AnthonyC Cinematographer

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    The FCC should really regulate it today; that's much more important than censoring "objectionable" content if you ask me.
     
  7. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    The broadcast networks can't resist the quick bucks of more commercials, and then wonder why viewers are abandoning them by the millions. Sure, there are many reasons for that, but among them is definitely the knowledge that a half-hour of television will be close to one-thirds commercials. And the shows themselves are less interesting, because there's simply not enough time to tell a good story. And if they manage to get the story out, it comes at the expense of the character moments that most great shows are remembered for. The thing is, people always assume it must be easier to write a shorter show. In fact, it's much harder, because you have to cram everything into a very short time. Shows have no room to breathe, and they become hyperactive, without any casual time to spend to get to know the characters or let any moment actually have an impact. It's a real shame.
     
  8. Kyle_D

    Kyle_D Second Unit

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    I'd suggest you watch an episode of Arrested Development, South Park, Scrubs, (the first two seasons of) Alias, Lost, 24, Firefly, etc. and tell me television doesn't tell good stories. As far as content goes, I'd say we're in another golden age of television.

    Do I wish there were fewer ads? Of course. However, there's still a ton of interesting programming out there with GREAT story lines.
     
  9. Brady

    Brady Extra

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    I think he was referring to half-hour shows, and most of your examples are hour long ones. Besides, while you may find them funny, do you really think South Park and Scrubs are going to be fondly remembered thirty or forty years from now?

    Writers have to follow a set format, that lays out approximately what minute A will happen, followed shortly by B, to be resolved by C. Every once in awhile a great show will come along that buck the trends, but networks like to stick with what works. Why do you think there are so many Law and Orders, CSIs, and Lost-formula knock-offs?
     
  10. Jay_B!

    Jay_B! Screenwriter

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    there are still great shows on television, you just have to know where to look for them
     
  11. Kyle_D

    Kyle_D Second Unit

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    Look back throughout television history. There's always been formulas, knock-offs and spin-offs, although probably not to the extent that we see now. Still we tend to remember the greats, and if you're willing to look for 'em now, you'll find 'em.
     
  12. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    My statement was way too broad. My mistake. But the point remains, it is harder, not easier, to write a shorter show.

    To that, let me add:

    Yes, "South Park" is often very funny, and sometimes nearly brilliant (and sometimes not at all), but it is a series of jokes or satiric moments. There is no emotional connection with the characters. I'm not saying that that's good or bad, it's just a different thing.

    In many ways, the same applies to "Arrested Development," which is why I think it never caught on in general. It is a clever show, and the jokes can be fantastic, but people in general never connected with it. not because they're stupid, but because they wanted something else.

    As for "Scrubs," it's just not my cup of tea. If you love it, great, but I do not.

    My point, though, was not that it is impossible to create a good show that's very short. It's just that so many of my favorite moments in television comedy require time. Archie and Mike arguing over whether you should put on a sock and a sock and a shoe and a shoe, or a sock and a shoe and a sock and a shoe. Kramer critiquing Jerry's British accent when he said "Not bloody likely!" Bob Hartley's slow burn when he realizes Emily's IQ is higher than his. Moments like this are not impossible now, but when you have four or five fewer minutes to serve a story, these are the first things to get cut. And they're almost always my favorite moments.
     
  13. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    Incidentally, the topic of this thread has almost completely changed. And I guess I haven't helped. Sorry!
     
  14. Terry H

    Terry H Second Unit

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    While many more are using DVRs and simply skipping the commercials. [​IMG]
     
  15. Walter C

    Walter C Cinematographer

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    The thing that bugs me, is that the network places a higher priority on the quota of commercials per hour, where their shows don't end on time.

    ABC is especially guilty of this, ending their shows like Lost at 10:03 instead of 10:00, making it very difficult for people who depend on recording devices. I missed the last few minutes of the episode.
     
  16. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    For me, the reduction in show running times -- from 24-26 minutes to 21 minutes (and to 40 minutes for "hourlong" shows) is the primary reason for not being able to watch commercial television programming (in addition to all the other nonsense: station-bug logos, in-show promotions, etc.). An hour of, say, Star Trek feels more "thought out" than 42-44 minutes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (for example).

    Yes, the FCC needs to re-regulate some things, but in today's commercial-driven environment forget about it.
     
  17. Jay_B!

    Jay_B! Screenwriter

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    I honestly think in 25 years, Arrested Development will be the cult classic to another generation that Soap is today. Not a "huge" cult show, but something that has managed to win over newer fans thanks to outlets such as DVD (and HD-DVD, and whatever else will be out in 2031). I know Soap fans who weren't even born when the show ended in 1981, the same will likely happen with Arrested.
     
  18. John*P

    John*P Second Unit

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    This is why I always set the timer to record 3-5 minutes before a show starts, and to stop 3-5 minutes after it ends. I never miss anything...
     

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