How many episodes it takes to make a TV season?

TV seasons are getting too short for my taste. Let’s look at the number of episodes of some of my favorite recent series:

  • Sherlock: 03
  • Silicon Valley: 06
  • True Detective: 08
  • Mad Men: 07 (“half season”)
  • Game of Thrones: 10
  • Doctor Who: 12
  • Community: 13

Of course, quality is more important than quantity, but there should be a minimum quantum of content to make it worthwhile waiting another year for a new season. (Of course, waiting less than a year or more for a new season would be nice too…)

This was openly discussed about Game of Thrones: the 10 episode count is a budget restriction, not a creative one…

Additionally, too few episodes can hamper the quality as there is no “room” to flesh out meaty stories. The outer episodes have special tasks to fill: 01 introduces characters; 02 deepens the plots; the penultimate is a big climax; the last has to solve/not solve a lot  of questions etc. So the real meat of the story, the unexpected stuff and real development is to be found in the middle of the series.

More episodes also can encourage a bit more of risk taking: there is more opportunity to try more things, and more time to correct mistakes. Otherwise, with a limited total running time, there is a real risk that everything gets too calculated and precious. (“Let’s see how much symbolism we can cram in the next five minutes”).

A lot of work goes into preparing a season, why waste in so few episodes?

Current TV sometimes feels too lean: all bones and muscle. A minimum of fat can be nice, useful and healthy…

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