Should US networks adopt UK style seasons?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Will_B, Dec 6, 2002.

  1. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    Lately it seems (or I've just begun to notice) that many good new series here in the US are being canceled before anyone has even had a chance to catch more than an episode or two.

    Birds of Prey (the Buffy-like Batman show), Firefly (the Andromeda like sci-fi show) are two shows which are either already canceled or soon to be.

    So my question is, would it make more sense for the US to adopt the British style of having "seasons" that last only like 8 episodes? And have the networks commit to showing all 8.

    That way storylines will already be designed to end - and quality might even improve since the writers of the show won't have time for any "filler" episodes. There may be less resentment towards the networks, who are currently being accused - justifiably, I'd say - of yanking shows before they've established an audience.
     
  2. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    No, but I would like them to adopt the 6 month season, that way we see a new show every week.
     
  3. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Well... It's one alternate way of structuring TV that I'd like to see considered. Now that there's a bigger home-video market for TV series, this might become a more appealing idea for studios. Heck, it seems to be working for HBO.
    However, I do think that this should be only one of a variety of ways to produce TV. I mean, I happen to like the old-fashioned, open-ended American TV series. I like the way characters and their stories can evolve with time, how a show like Law & Order or ER can completely re-invent itself over the course of a long run but still remain faithful to the original idea. I like that, with a few exceptions, shows are written by a staff, and we get to see different takes on characters.
    Don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of stories with a beginning, middle, and end with a single creative vision, too. But part of what makes television such a great medium is that there are so many ways to create it.
    Eventually, I think we'll eventually see the same shift in television that's going on in comic books - continuing series that are designed to be collected in six-piece chunks.
     
  4. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Or how about a compromise

    Why not give shows an 8 episode trial run? Have a "potpurri" timeslot or 2 that might see 3 different shows over the course of a season. The ones that do well might get picked up next year. That way you have shows with beginning/middile/end but still enough time to tell a story
     
  5. Grant B

    Grant B Producer

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    Since most broadcast networks own or are affliated with cable channels, I dont see why they dont use them as a preping ground for shows....or a graveyard for ones that dont quite make it
     
  6. andrew markworthy

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    With respect, I think you're thinking of how Brit 'seasons' used to work (incidentally, the norm was either 6 or 13 weeks, not 8). Although there are some fiction series that repeat every week, a lot are on in concentrated bursts over several consecutive nights (e.g. big book dramatisations), sometimes spread over a couple of weeks (e.g. two or three consecutive Sundays and Mondays). However, I cannot think of a Brit fiction series (other than our soaps, which I have to say look like Chekov in comparison with the few US ones I've seen) that's had more than a 13 episode run in a year.

    Brit series tend to be serials, so once started, they will finish to avoid viewer complaints (even if they get shunted into a graveyard slot because the viewing figures are low). The idea of totally axeing a show before it has run its scheduled quota of appearances because of low figures is practically unheard of in the UK, and when it happens it tends to be big news.

    I've got to say that I find US series lengths rather wearisome. IMHO, practically every US series I've seen would have benefitted from shorter runs (Friends and the various Star Treks most definitely and even the excellent CSI has some dud episodes). So I'd say - try it: you might well find that fewer shows creates a higher average level of quality.
     
  7. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  8. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    Well, with Smallville, they did intend to have episodes (the villian-of-the-week ones) for "new people to get into it", which certainly ended up being filler. Supposedly they know where they want to be at the end of each season. I would rather it be tightly plotted in 13 (or whatever) episodes per year.

    Maybe not typical, but there it is.

    //Ken
     
  9. andrew markworthy

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  10. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Yes, Andrew, I did forgot about clip shows and their ilk. So it would atleast lessen the problem. Personally, I think a nice mix would be good. Spielberg's Taken is probably the bridge between them... roughly the length of a full season drama, but one tightly knit story planned from beginning to end. Only problem is, it cost $40 million and 4 years to put together.
     
  11. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    TV shows are taking the road Hollywood has, bigger, riskier, all-or-nothing ventures that threaten to doom the whole fleet.
    It comes down to two things, solid writing and good acting. With those 2 things you can have the most successful show on the planet. Need we look any further than the performance of My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding in the face of blockbuster competition? Go back to I Love Lucy, one of the best TV shows of all time. You don't need gobs of money, just good talent. All the special effects and fireworks in the world won't make up for a bad foundation.
     
  12. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    HBO does a great job with 13-18 episodes of their best shows. Generally 13 for dramatic series and 18 for comedic series. They even allow a series to run shorter than that when there isn't enough left to tell (Oz's last season is 8 episodes).

    If there comes a time when a pitch for a series can include #'s of episodes for network TV, we'd all be better off.

    Some shows could even be paired off. They could run 13 episodes of "Birds of Prey" with 13 episodes of "Nightwing" in it's off-season (just an example). Then if either show takes off, allow it to increase or decrease it's number based on need.

    Surely though, this is an expensive proposition.

    What do I know though, every show I like gets cancelled rather quickly.
     
  13. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  14. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    But, what about "Friends?" It has a small group of talented actors and good writers with a minimum of sets, but its production costs are astronomical due to salary demands.

    I like Jeff's idea of a six month season, and have two of them. Viewership might go down in the summer, but people still tune in. Put something on, besides reality shows, for the majority of adults still in the prime demographic who work during the summer and who's schedule doesn't change from season to season.
     
  15. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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  16. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    HBO proves when you have solid writing and solid acting, viewers will find and support your product (show).

    They're the only network that's demonstrated they've figured out what tv viewers want. The others keep cranking on their old model that assumes the audience will tune in for crap since there's nothing else to do but tune in.

    News-flash, there's lots to do these days vs prior times that saw dramatically more limited entertainment options for the general consumer.
     
  17. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I too am pleased with many of HBO’s offering. But the success of their shows can’t really be duplicated by commercial-driven networks (either in the UK or the U.S.) This is because of HGO being driven by a completely different economic model that the networks.

    Networks get revenue by sponsors being willing to pay money for commercial time during the telecasts. The amount of money that the networks can charge (for any particular show) is calculated by a combination of the number of viewers who watch the show and the demographics of those viewers. Therefore, commercial (not necessarily the same as artistic) success is measured by the size of the audience (and its makeup) for any given show. Which means that shows must appeal to a broad audience. If this were not enough, the shows must also not offend too many people who might be in its target audience. Finally as the networks telecast over the airways, there are restrictions as to what they can show (and say).

    Is it any big surprise that a lot of TV is routine, formula-driven, no surprise programming?

    HBO, on the other hand makes its money by signing up subscribers. Which means that they can keep a show like Oz on the air, even though there is probably not any five continuous minutes that could be shown over the air—and if it was shown over the air, any company sponsoring such a show, would be the immediate target of multiple boycott campaigns. But, HBO only needs to have enough people to keep subscribing to pay the bills. Same with Arli$$, same with much of their other programming.

    Each show can get a small audience and not have to worry about offending anyone. While I don’t really know, I don’t expect that HBO gets many letters along the lines of: ‘cancel this show or I will drop my subscription.’

    And when HBO strikes with a Sopranos or a Sex in the City, its just a very big bonus.

    And since HBO needs to appeal to many different target (even if small) audiences, it should come as no surprise that they take a lot of chances.

    And reap the rewards.
     
  18. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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