What’s With The Shorter TV Seasons?

Image Source: @freestocks on Unsplash

I was a teenager during what I would refer to as the golden age of television. With the likes of The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, and Pretty Little Liars, we viewers were well fed. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the golden age of television, but in my eyes and the eyes of fellow teenagers, the drama these shows brought us was top tier.I remember tuning in to each week’s highly anticipated episode, wondering how in the world they were going to further their already complicated plots. Looking back, I don’t even know how I had the patience to keep up.

Still being the TV junkie that I am, I’ve noticed a trend these past few years: the number of episodes in each season of a show has significantly decreased. Shows used to be well over 20 episodes per season, but nowadays they’re typically between 6-13 episodes. At first, I was really peeved about this and felt deprived of entertainment. But I’ve since shifted my views to land somewhere in the middle on the matter. 

The downside to shows having too many episodes per season is that the plots become jumbled and difficult to follow. As a teenager, this didn’t matter much because I wasn’t looking for intelligent television, I just wanted to consume as much of a show as possible. While I miss the complex storylines and long hours spent with my favorite characters, I now see how having fewer episodes per season can actually enhance the quality of a show. 

Shows with shorter episode numbers also have better pacing. Instead of packing in as much plot as possible and going in several different directions all in one season, shows are able to spread everything out and set up what’s to come in later seasons. Consequently, this means that the show isn’t as messy and is more memorable to the viewer. As much as I loved The Vampire Diaries, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember much happening besides the love triangle and everyone constantly dying and resurrecting (and I’ve watched that show more times than I’d care to admit). 

This trend in decreased episode numbers likely has something to do with the rise in streaming. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max have completely transformed the entertainment scene. They encourage and make it easy for audiences to binge-watch. Binge-watching is arguably the best way to watch a show, but people won’t want to binge over 20 episodes, each around 40 minutes long. It gets cumbersome. This is where shorter series come to the rescue. 

I’m surprised that my stance on this has shifted because shorter seasons were something I used to passionately oppose. While I don’t think shows need to be over 20 episodes long anymore, I do still hold that 6-10 episodes is way too short. I’d be perfectly content with 13-15. It’s a happy medium that gives the audience a decent amount of content while keeping the plot clean and well-paced.