Life expectancy of tv series

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by LanieParker, Apr 14, 2005.

  1. LanieParker

    LanieParker Supporting Actor

    Apr 15, 2004
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    So tell me what is the normal life expectancy of a tv series ( be it comedy or drama or whatever)? Do most shows run their course in 4 seasons? Are there series out there that have really stood the test of time through all seasons?

    Alias started going south around the second half of S3. Smallville from what I hear is losing it's magic in it's recent season (4). I do here that 24 is killer and has been for all seasons so far.

    So what are your opinions on this topic?
  2. RickER

    RickER Producer

    Jan 4, 2003
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    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Real Name:
    Thats a hard one to figure. some shows jump out of the gate as good, Cheer's and X Files as example. However both of those shows took time to catch on with an audience. Batman was a ratings HIT from day one, and then started a down turn and was gone after 3 years. Good shows are canned after 5 or 6 weeks, and then others run for 25 years (Gunsmoke)just because the top man at the networks wife loves the show. Course Gunsmoke WAS a good show. I think the original Star Trek would have run longer if they had started using demographics a year earlier with the ratings. Dr. Who, a British show ran 28 years with highs and lows in production. How can you judge when a show will burn out with so many factors?
  3. chuck_b

    chuck_b Supporting Actor

    Jan 13, 2003
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    I am expecting "Stacked" with PS Anderson to set a new "shortest series" ever record.
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    Girls Club was pulled after 2 episodes.
  5. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

    Jun 8, 1999
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    Series need to have something to keep people tuning in year after year. Some dramatic shows start out with a main character who acts as the center of the story. Once their original story arc is done it is often better for the series to end rather than pick up entirely new story arcs. As soon as the writers have to start resorting to tired cliches and cast changes to try to hold on to its audience then it's probably better for the show to have ended. It's much better for a show to have a conception of how long it will run and how it will end than for it to just run until the viewers or the actors give up. The number one symptom of a show lasting too long is cast changes.

    Examples of shows that didn't end when they should have:

    ER: Although it was structured around an entire staff with an emsemble cast, the core of the initial story was either following Dr. Carter as he went from naive student to attending physician or it was following Dr. Greene through what were to be the final years of his life. Those two were the lead characters in the show, and both of their storylines ended a few years ago. Now the show is just cruising along on auto-pilot. Noah Wyle will leave soon and I believe he's the last lingering member of the original cast.

    The X-Files: The central storyline was Mulder's search for the truth - about his sister's disappearance and also about all of the strange things related to it. Partnering with Skully the Skeptic was just a way to juxtapose Mulder against someone else. The situation with his sister was poorly resolved and somewhat ambiguous. The other "strange things" were twisted and contorted and obfuscated so much that even Mulder had to leave the show. They should have wrapped up the show much sooner and much better than they did. Bringing in other agents to partner with Skully was never a good idea.

    Northern Exposure: I love the show, but there was no reason for Dr. Capra to ever exist. It was a show about Joel Fleischman in Cicely, Alaska. When Morrow wanted to leave they should have ended the show or paid him what was needed to keep him around.

    The West Wing: Bartlett got a second term, but there's no reason for this show to survive through another presidency. Although this past season was a noticeable improvement over last season, the show should have ended when Sorkin left. Likewise, Picket Fences got a little worse when David E. Kelley left the show.

    NYPD Blue: I tuned out when Bobby Simone died, because it was a natural place to end my involvement. It may very well have been a decent series after that point, but I wasn't prepared to invest the time in meeting new characters when I felt that an effective and touching story had already been told. I felt the same way about Chicago Hope when they killed Alan Birch (Peter MacNicol) and about The Practice when they killed ADA Richard Bay (Jason Kravits) and about Ally McBeal when they killed Billy. David E. Kelley always likes to let me know when it's time to stop watching his shows by killing off a lawyer. Newsradio suffered with the loss of Phil Hartman, but I can't blame the creators too much on that one.

    Law and Order is the one show that can survive any number of cast changes because it has never allowed story arcs to exist. Each episode is more or less self-contained and the story structure is the only constant.

  6. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

    Jun 30, 1997
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    Nah, if it runs next week, it beats South of Sunset. And, hey, it's already ahead of the likes of Rerun, The Ortegas, and Still Life.

    I think one year is probably the average life expectancy for a series - for every show that runs five-plus, there are a lot who run 13 episodes (or less).

    In terms of maintaining quality, I don't know if there is an average. I think it's more dependant on the willingness to reinvent the series than simple time - but you have to be willing to do that within the first three or four years, or else the audience just won't accept changes later.

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