How Long Should Shows Last

Misfits season 3

Misfits cast season 3

People want shows on as long as they are good. Networks want shows on as long as they make them money. And some shows, at a certain point, even after they are no longer really good continue to have an audience large enough for a Network to justify a shows continuing. All of that feeds into a cycle of why a show is continues to air. Now, that isn’t saying some shows aren’t good from beginning to end. But it because almost inevitable when you start getting more seasons that the quality dips. The show is no longer there. The excitement of finding the show’s stride has long since disappeared and something just inexplicably dips out. But just because some shows should know when they need to throw in the towel, some others need to recognize that they aren’t quite done yet.

Season Three Bliss
There is a phenomenon with shows that seems to fall onto season three. I like to call it season three bliss. If a show makes it to season three, there is a good chance that season will be the best season yet. I believe it is because the show has finally found their stride. They know what works for the characters and they know the characters for that matter. The decisions made tend to make the show stronger and even more exciting when it comes back in season four. But many times, season four doesn’t live up to the excitement. Misfits is one example of this. Misfits began as an off beat show, killing offprobation worker after probation worker. Then it found it’s heart and the show blossomed in season three. It very well may be my favorite season in the entire show. But it was so exciting and epic because the stakes were upped. But as a result, it needed to fall even further to return to a state that could be followed for the next season. Unfortunately, other things came up outside the show that made it even more difficult. Point is, if the show ended with season three, I would have been sad it was over, but it would have made sense.

Over the Hump

Supernatural Season 9 promo

How can you not love the men of Supernatural

Then there is a show like Supernatural. I will maintain that Season Three was still one hell of a season and possibly was one of my favorites. It almost fell into the Season Three Bliss trap, but it pulled out a trick that made the show more interesting. Season four they introduced Castiel to the show, one of the best cast members, and had a wild ride with Sam getting caught up drinking demon blood for power. It wasn’t until Season five that the show could have ended in any satisfactory way. But, I’m glad it didn’t. Season nine has been the best season in a while. We wouldn’t have got there if we didn’t go through a couple mediocre seasons and one painful one. Supernatural was one of the lucky shows too. Even in their not so good seasons, the characters still always shined and there were plenty of episodes to still be enjoyed. We’d never have been introduced to Charlie otherwise.

Five Season Arc
I”ve seen numerous people over time claim that five seasons was the ideal time span for a show. In theory it sounds perfect. You get just long enough to flesh out a show and really delve deep into the characters, allowing you to invest in them. But it also isn’t so long that you can waste time on flubber episodes that don’t add anything to the plot. it condenses a show and forces you to leave it before it gets a chance to get soggy. Like I said, in theory it is perfect. There is just the pesky business of people wanting more from the characters. It doesn’t happen always, but not all shows are Breaking Bad and are able to satisfy an audience. Many times, a person just wants more of the characters and the finales don’t provide the necessary sense of closure. Although, The Office very well should have ended after Season Five and definitely after Michael Scott left, it didn’t. However, the finale left me with a sense of closure for the characters and that says a lot, considering how few shows do that well.

The five season arc could possibly save a show from tumbling down into the territory of poor quality. Having a plan is what makes these shows better. Sons of Anarchy has a plan and thus it moves through seasons with a similar effectiveness as Breaking Bad. The show has an end game, there will be seven seasons, but Kurt Sutter had that imagined from the beginning. Similarly, Kurtzman and Orci have already said that they imagine Sleepy Hollow to be a seven season show if the network will allow it. The show has a plan and that is welcome. We know that there will be some divergences, but the show is always moving towards a particular end already envisioned. It is telling that many of these shows tend to be 10-16 episode seasons, but that’s a whole different conversation.

How to Make the Show Go On

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special

All the Doctors in the 50th Anniversary Special

I get attached to characters. I get attached to worlds. At some point a standard world that focuses on only certain characters, with specific personality types will grow stale. It is inevitable. However, there is a way around that, which could make a show last for a long time and it’s far more simple than one thought. Change things up.

Doctor Who is possibly the best example I can think of for this. The show has been running for 50 years, give or take a span of time where it didn’t exist. The point is, the show has been around for a long time. There have been people who played the Doctor who weren’t even alive when the show first aired. Doctor Who has lasted so long not just because it appeals to people on a massive scale, but because on a whole it remains fresh. They do this by utilizing a new cast. They change the Doctor, they change the companions and off they go on what is the same show, but can take a very different trajectory than previously. It is a way of exploring the same world from different viewpoints. It is brilliant.

American Horror Story does something similar. Rather than refreshing the cast, which they will need to do at some point, they refresh the story. Every year, there is a different thirteen part story being told. With new stories always available, they can in theory go on for a long time before they exhaust their store of concepts. Every year, we get something new.

Do you think shows should have a five season or full planned arc with a designated number of seasons from the start of a show? Or do you prefer to keep shows around for as long as possible? What do you think of shows like Doctor Who that can carry on for a long time?

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