Back when "hour-long" shows were close to an hour.

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Jack Briggs, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Many of our younger members will never know what it was like. Back in the days before commercials started to dominate the programming, one could enjoy well-thought-out teleplays that had meat on their bones.

    It all came back to me just recently. To wit: It had been in 2003 since I last screened my Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs. But recently, I had a hankering to sample some sixth-season episodes I remembered fondly.

    Oh my.

    I should not have done it so soon after screening the 1963-64 season of ABC-TV's The Outer Limits. But I did.

    The TNG episodes seemed ... abbreviated. They were more like jump-cutted, elongated half-hour shows expanded to forty minutes.

    Whereas The Outer Limits episodes were fully realized.

    Last night, for kicks, I screened a favorite Outer Limits episode from its first season, "O.B.I.T." I saw a teleplay with a premise, a fully developed drama, a climax, and a conclusion.

    In the process, I timed it: I started the disc at 8:43 p.m. and it concluded (after the credits) at 9:35. Which means there were fifty minutes of actual drama, and they were sandwiched by two minutes consisting of the program's opening title sequence and the end credits. That comes to a total of fifty-two minutes -- leaving only eight minutes for commercials.

    In other words, back in the "good ol' days," we got nearly an hour's worth of entertainment out of an hour-long program.

    However, earlier this week, I screened those TNG episodes from the series' sixth season. Shot in 1992-1993, they were missing an entire act that was available to programs in the 1960s. That act made a huge difference in story depth.

    So, I found myself far more satisfied by The Outer Limits. TNG, on the other hand, was not as satisfactory -- sometimes not even satisfying.

    No wonder I spend all my present time watching PBS. And watching DVDs.
     
  2. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    There is a cable channel that shows unedited versions of the original Star Trek series. They have to allow at least 1-1/4 hours to get the entire episode in and keep the same amount of commercials in. I believe the running time was something like 52 minutes for shows then. I think it is only about 45 minutes now.
     
  3. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Actually, now it is forty minutes. In TNG's day, it was forty-four minutes. Increasingly, commercials are dominating. A "half-hour" program today consists of seventeen minutes of programming, all the rest of the time going to adverts.
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Most modern shows are still around 43-44 minutes (including title sequence, credits, and "previously on..." recaps), but they get trimmed in syndicated reruns.

    Regards,
     
  5. Raasean Asaad

    Raasean Asaad Supporting Actor

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    Closer and closer to blipverts....
     
  6. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Hey, people might welcome blipverts if it meant less cutting away from the program.
     
  7. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    The spontaneous combustion/explosion would be a problem, although that might sort itself out in short order.
     
  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Ken I’ll admit that I’ve never timed episodes, but watching TV via my DVR, I normally expect to cut 20 minutes our of each hour. And we watch the beginning and ending (what is left) credits, though not the promos for next week, nor what happened last week.

    After all nether really has anything to do with this week’s show.
     
  9. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I Tivo every one of my favorite shows, even the one's I'm home for. Just start watching 20 minutes after air time and zap commercials along the way.
     
  10. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Heck, back when TNG was first airing, I taped it all on VHS, and paused the VCR whenever ads were one. I quicklyl realised that each ep was less than 45 mins, and I could get four notional "one-hour" episodes onto each 3-hour tape... (which actually wasn't a bad thing, since tapes weren't all that cheap in those days).

    Even nowadays, if it's late at night but I feel like watching something before bed, it's an easy choice to burn off another ep of West Wing, since it's only 43 mins, whereas any movie is around 2 hours.

    Odd, eh? Just another perspective. But I do agree a little more time would help some shows. Just like Sopranos, which isn't constrained by the need to squeeze in more ads, and regularly clocks in at over 50 mins each.
     
  11. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I keep commerical free video files of most shows I watch on my computer (the source of which is neither here nor there) The hour-longs run about 42-43 minutes, The half hour shows 21-23 minutes.

    In other words, S:TNG was still very much of the modern era.
     
  12. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    When the Sci-Fi Channel (US) aired ST:TOS uncut several years ago they had to run it in a 90 minute timeslot and add introductions and between-acts anecdotes from William Shatner (later Leonard Nimoy) in order to pad them out to that length. The shows ran too long to fit in an hour slot (because there wasn't room for enough commercials to let them pay their way) and because American commercial TV does not like "odd times" 90 minutes was the next choice. But even Sci-Fi couldn't put in that many commercials, hence the wrap-around of original material.

    I found the shows pretty much unwatchable in that format. While there was some novelty in seeing the full-length episodes for the first time in decades, there was simply too much filler. The shows just felt too long and there was a fatigue factor in watching them. (This was pre-TiVo and pre-DVD. Recording them on tape on skipping - or cutting out - the commercials was too much of a chore as far as I was concerned. I finally just stopped watching, as many others did. Sci-Fi eventually switched to editing down their newly remastered orginal cuts just like the old syndication eps had been edited to fit a conventional one hour slot.)

    Sad.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  13. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Jack Briggs wrote (post #1):




    Funny that. If I recall correctly, David Schow, in his Outer Limits Companion, states or implies that many of the first-season episodes came in at under the prevailing standard running time for hour-long shows of the day, simply because of budget shortfalls in the production. They just didn't have the money for a "full hour's" worth of filming. That's why the teasers (prologs) for each of those episodes is always a scene from the episode itself, used to "pad" the running time.
     

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