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Monday, May 07, 2007

LOST has three more seasons... and they're short ones

Variety is the first to report that Lost is being given three more seasons by ABC, putting the end of the show in 2010.

Each season will be only 16 episodes long, compared to the average 22 or 23 for a network show per season. When they run, they will run continuously. Which is good. But there will also be a longer hiatus in between seasons.

What would be great to happen is if ABC produces each episode of these next few seasons with fewer commercial breaks, and then charge mega for those scant minutes of advertising. That would make each season of Lost more of an "event" to tune in to, just like American Idol is each season. And it would give more time for intense storytelling like what HBO does with its shows like The Sopranos. If we're going to have shortened seasons, that would a neat thing to do for the viewers... 'cuz I will admit to being let down that there's going to be less Lost these next few years.

But it's still good to hear that as of now, there is officially a cut-off date for the show. It's going to get to bow out on top of its game. I've come to think of Lost as some of the best televised storytelling ever and it gets to set another great precedent for ensuing shows to follow.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a good idea. With only 16 episodes of Lost per season, perhaps the show runners will be less tempted to do episodes that feel stand-alone or seem to move too slowly.

I also like Sci-Fi Channel's model for doing it's most popular shows, 20-episode seasons broken up into two separate but continuous blocks of 10 eps each. Twenty is just slightly less than the standard 22 to 26, which probably saves the company money, but is also just long enough to have blow-out action episodes and a couple quieter character-based pieces. And having two blocks of eps allows for two "season" finale cliff-hangers per year.

I think with TV shows being more intense and arc-driven, people having shorter attention spans, studios being more money-minded than ever, and studios & viewers both being more intolerant of reruns, I think having shorter, higher quality TV seasons (with fewer, if any, gaps between eps) is a good idea.

Moving toward seasons with only 13 to 20 eps per season may also help open up TV schedules so that networks can try new shows without knocking established ones out of place (as Grey's Anatomy did with Boston Legal a couple years ago and as October Road did with Men In Trees this year). The only drawback, of course, is the longer, frustrating wait between seasons.

Chris Knight said...

What ABC is about to do with Lost is also a *lot* like how television is produced on the BBC and other networks in Great Britain. They just started the third season of the revived Doctor Who and each season has had only 12 episodes... but for the most part, those episodes have been golden.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's also similar to how certain cable shows do it, such as The Shield and Rescue Me on FX and The 4400 on USA. I don't have premium channels, but I'm thinking that most, if not all, HBO and Showtime shows have shorter seasons too.

I think 12 or 13 episodes might be a bit too few for most American shows, especially those that are hits and keep the networks in business. But, 16 to 20 episodes, I think, would be a good paradigm for shows in the future. It gives the cast, crew, writers, producers, etc. chance to rest and/or do other projects and more time to come up with better ideas for subsequent seasons.

It was recently revealed that the seventh season finale of Gilmore Girls will be the *series* finale. Considering how things have gone in seasons 6 & 7, and that the finale is only two episodes away, I'm guessing it won't be a satisfying conclusion for fans. However, the two stars of the show were ready to move on and too "tired" to come back for an 8th season, not even a short one with a 13-episode length (which was one option on the table).

If a show like Gilmore Girls had always been 13 to 20 eps per season, instead of the regular 22, maybe the stars would be less "tired" and would already have had more opportunity to do other projects (or rest).

In other words, fewer episodes per season might help with contract negotiaions of actors. If you've read the recent volumes of the Babylon 5 script books by JMS, you know just how drastic Claudia Christian's contract negotiations jeapordized the integrity of B5's fifth season and eventually led to her not being in it, all because she wanted about four eps off to work on her movie career (what movie career???; and, to clarify, the problem was she wanted to still be paid for eps she wouldn't be in).

I wonder if longer seasons has something to do with 100 episodes being the "magic number" for 2nd-run syndication. I don't think it's the magic number anymore, as there's less room for syndication nowadays, and most popular network shows go to cable way before their 100-ep mark (such as House already re-running on USA and Grey's Anatomy already re-running on Lifetime, both only in their 3rd season).

Maybe I'm drastically over-analyzing this issue (I love both TV and numbers), so in short... I think 22 to 26 episodes is too long, but that 12 or 13 episodes is too short. I think all TV shows should switch to a paradigm of 16 or 20 episode seasons.

Chris Knight said...

Say whu... Claudia Christian had a movie *career* ??

The only thing she was ever in that readily comes to mind was a REALLY messed-up thing from 1992 (I think) called Hexed. I saw about ten seconds of it once, but those were plenty enough thankyewverymuch. It was a scene where Christian's character is angry at this guy for calling her a "murderess" and she says something like "I thought you were calling me a Methodist" :-\

Remember when Shelley Long left Cheers? She wanted to be in movies too. Leaving Cheers was meant to be a career stepping-stone. Other than The Money Pit and Troop Beverly Hills, what exactly became of *that* move?

Average season for an HBO show is about 12 episodes. If people think that there can't be much deep storytelling and resolving of things in 16 episodes, they should consider Carnivale's second season. Heck, there were single episodes of that show that had more stuff going on in one *hour* than some shows have going on for an entire season. Darn shame that HBO cancelled it before its time: it really was some amazing storytelling and cinematography.

But I think Lost has surpassed anything that HBO has produced in the past decade. All things considered, we should be in for quite a good story these next three years.