Quality Over Quantity in TV

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Limiting the quantity may lead to quality?

The bottom line when it comes to producing high quality televison may lay in producing fewer shows with the impact being better results. For example, the average network show produces 22 episodes in a season. the critcally acclaimed cable show Mad Men produces only 13 episodes per season. 

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the shows that pour all of their energy into 13 episodes tend to have a better quality standard. Or perhaps it’s a sign that their producers have more focus and not the marathoners pace of the network guys.

Producer/performer Ricky Gervais gained a ton of critical praise for his recent limited series Extras. That show produced only 13 episodes over its entire run and is considered one of the best comedy shows of all time. The same can be said for his previous series, the British version of The Office with only 14 episodes. It’s harder to jump the shark if you don’t stay in the water too long(www.jumptheshark.com.) Not to say the American version is bad. On the contrary, The American show is smart and edgy in its own way, but I worry that it will overstay it’s welcome like Scrubs did.

In addition to the quality being condensed into tighter scripts and story  arcs, The limited nature of the shooting schedule means that actors who might not normally commit to a 22 episode run, will make time for smaller more curated shows. For example, Dame Judy Dench appeared for 13 seasons in a comedy series called As Time Goes By, while simultaneously doing her best work as a film actress. 67 episodes in 13 years, thats a breeze on a tight schedule. You would never ever expect to see Meryl Streep play a regular character on The New Adventures of Old Christine. It is a good show, but it would never attract her because of the 22 episode commitment.

I am not saying that all of the shows that produce under these conditions are great. I am only saying that if the effort were put into 10 to 12 solid episodes per season, we might have a higher quality product than we are used to.

Another effect would be that different shows could run at different times of year on a revolving basis and we would have time to miss that show while it was in hiatus. Writers would not be forced spread their resources out over 22 episodes or by putting their talents only into the episodes that run during the sweeps rating period. It certainly would not be boring. A Fall and a Spring season might make for a lively and entertaining change of pace.


September 29, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment