So while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets ready for a second season, one of my other favorite shows just aired its season finale. Warehouse 13 wrapped the 5th season and it's been a great ride. (If you've never seen Warehouse 13, check it out on Netflix. The premise is basic... remember the warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones... Pretty much that, but funnier.)
It got me thinking about the changing nature of television. How many times have shows I like been cancelled with no wrap up? Cliffhanger with no resolution? More times than I care to admit.
Syfy green lighted a final season for WH13, but it was only 6 episodes. The whole point was to allow the producers to tie up the loose ends and leave the fans satisfied. They did the same thing with Eureka, giving them a two hour movie to wrap up the plot points. And with Stargate, they made two movies. We should applaud Syfy for getting that right. I wish more networks would grant a long running show an additional wrap up episode or "season."
The other thing that stood out to me was the varying number of episodes per season. The first season had 12 episodes, the second and third had 13 each and the fourth season had 20. And of course the final season had 6. Traditionally, a full season order for a show is 21 shows.
But that is changing, and I kind of like it. Give the writers and producers enough episodes to put together a compelling plot arc. Wrap it up in those episodes. If it finds and audience, renew it for a another season. Maybe it's 21 episodes. Or maybe less. And commit to running that. Give the creators a chance to build something great. After the run is over, make extra money on Netflix and DVD sales.
A lot of shows have started that way. Buffy was a mid-season replacement with a 13 episode first season. The Battlestar Galactica reboot started with a mini series and then had seasons of varying length after that.
With the pressure for shows to perform immediately and networks pulling the plug on shows quickly, maybe having shorter initial seasons will help these programs gain their footing and leave fans satisfied that they've seen an entire story arc.