We are living in an era of television that few other time periods can even begin to match.
There are so many options available thanks to the advent of new media and a meteoric shift in consumer habits. Needless to say, it is almost impossible to stay caught up with my favorite franchises and others that have piqued my interest.
Long-running TV shows, like many of the programs in the Arrow-verse, have no doubt found success in their longevity. To me, however, long-running programs are not a measure of success.
In fact, many shows that run longer than five to six seasons often become stale and overstay their welcome. I point to The Walking Dead as a prime example of a show that was gripping but started to break its stride around the fifth season. I understand the show is following a comic series, but despite its best efforts, it couldn’t keep me.
I’m not here to tell you to get off my lawn with your long-running TV shows, I’m just here to convey a method that I have found that works.
We’re all susceptible to burnout and, sometimes, I think the writers of shows begin to feel the exhaustion. Writing a TV show is difficult and maintaining its success is difficult.
That’s why I believe the best approach TV shows can take is to run for five or six seasons before spinning off into another show with new writers. This would help maintain the freshness we experience in a new show and allow a show’s world to further expand.
Let me elaborate.
From Breaking Bad to Better Call Saul
One of arguably the greatest shows on television was Breaking Bad. It told a fantastic story of a straight-laced high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin. I believe Breaking Bad did so well because it didn’t overstay its welcome.
It ended after five seasons, running for 62 episodes. Yet it gripped a vast sea of waters for those years, sailing off into the sunset as the crown jewel of AMC’s armada.
The show didn’t overstay its welcome and, two years after ending, it spun off into Better Call Saul. The prequel follows criminal lawyer Saul Goodman from the original series, showcasing his own transformation into the conniving attorney.
Vince Gilligan, creator of both shows, had the right idea of telling the story he needed to before joining with Peter Gould to create another highly-successful show. The best part? Better Call Saul, which will end in the coming weeks, ran for six seasons and 63 episodes.
Between Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, that 125 episodes of television set in the same universe with each episode garnering can’t-miss status.
By comparison, The Walking Dead, which is set to wrap up later this year, will air 11 seasons of 177 episodes. This doesn’t include its spinoff Fear the Walking Dead.
It’s not just Breaking Bad that enjoys success by this formula.
The Star Trek franchise came out of three seasons (79 episodes) of TV. The franchise stretches across the various quadrants of the galaxy thanks to its humble origins.
Yes, Star Trek had to do that by necessity since ratings at the time were low and NBC opted to cancel it. Still, those three years helped blast the franchise to its lofty perch it enjoys today.
So much TV, so little time
Thanks to my ever-thinning amount of free time, I’m limited on what I can watch. I’d love to dive into long epics of the Arrow-verse, Smallville, or any of the plethora of anime that’s been running since I was in middle school.
That said, these shorter shows will usually always grip my interest and, thanks to consumer habits, it appears we’re seeing that shift solidify.
Disney Plus has brought our favorite franchises to the small screen. We’re still in the early goings of those shows, but so far, the majority appear to be limited series.
You can also look at Stranger Things, which just wrapped up a highly-successful four-season run, as another that has followed this trend.
As TV habits continue to change, it’ll be fascinating to see where we go in terms of storytelling and episodic programs. My only hope is we keep the storytelling fresh while extending our time in the worlds we love.
But what do you think? Are you a fan of spin-offs? Do you enjoy a long-running show? Let us know in the comments or head on over to our Discord channel to continue the discussion.
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