At a “Supergirl” after-show I was hosting this week, we found ourselves asking this question: Do we really need 22 episodes in an era of cable/streaming shows that only have 10?
For years, our favorite shows have had a lot of episodes. Sometimes, we even got 24. From sitcoms to dramas, we spent what ended up being almost an entire day with the characters we loved. We watched our “Friends” deal with the single life in New York City or Jack Bauer try to save the country, hour after hour, week after week.
Things have changed with the advent of cable series and streaming services like Netflix. Now, we’re looking at a mere 10 hours (more or less) of programming. At first, when “Game of Thrones” premiered, I was horrified. How in the world were they going to get those tomes I’d read and loved into 10 episodes? How were we going to get to know Daenerys and Arya in such a short time? How was I going to survive until the next season?
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Then Netflix started releasing its series all at once. I binged on “Jessica Jones” in one day to write a story. (Your dreams get really messed up when you do that. I developed a strong aversion to purple for a few days.) The thing is: It totally worked. I was left wanting more, and I was OK with that.
I’ve recently been doing a lot of binge-watching. Sometimes it was to remind myself of a time before the world went crazy (“Friends” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Sometimes it was for work (“Supergirl” and “Supernatural”). A very strange thing happened as I did these: I started to get bored. I know! I’m sorry! I love these shows. Truly I just recently realized that my patience for filler episodes has worn thin.
It started with the flashback episodes in “Friends.” You know, the ones where the gang recalls moments from earlier episodes and there is only about five minutes of new dialogue. Then there are the ones that are just plain silly, clearly there to beef up the season. As I’ve been watching “Supernatural,” I’m seeing it again. In the middle of Season Four, there are these great episodes with Ruby and the angels, then a bunch of — forgive me, fans — boring creepers of the week. All of a sudden, the longing for more “Game of Thrones” really hit me.
Sometimes, it’s easier to do impactful storytelling when you have some restraint. It’s sort of like a sonnet: When you have a big idea, but you have to put it into some sort of framework, with a set number of lines and beats, sometimes the result is far better.
I know this probably won’t change in terms of network shows, and it’s not like I’m upset at seeing as much “Supergirl” as I can. I love the show with all my heart. I just think it might be time to look at the shows that are getting all the critical acclaim. Most of them don't have conventional seasons. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. Now, back to my marathon.