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By Coty Rexford

Is the 20+ Episode Model Still Acceptable?

Historically, new television shows premiering in the fall have been scheduled for 20+ episodes. Is this model still working? Or is it destroying what we know as network TV (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX)? While a few more recent shows have shifted to a lower episode count model, a majority of them are still in the 20+ range.

For example, the two most-watched new shoes of the 2016-2017 season were This is Us and Bull. This is Us clocked in at 18 episodes – which is still a lot to sit through – and Bull finished out the season with 23 episodes. That is a lot of episodes to watch for one show.

Why it doesn't work

When the season is that long, it is almost impossible to ensure every episode is a major plot point. So the writers are forced to create filler episodes. These episodes don't necessarily make any difference to the storyline of the season. And to us, the audience, that is annoying. Not only are they a waste of time, but they also take away from good episodes of other shows that don't have filler episodes (e.g., every show on FX). With the exploding amount of television programs available, these filler episodes just make watching television cumbersome.

The 13-episode model, though, works! A great example is "Game of Thrones," which generally has 10-13 episodes per season. The reduced number of episodes means that every single episode is vital to the overall storyline. You cannot miss an episode because if you do, you will miss important plot points. Many other wildly successful shows follow this model, including "Sons of Anarchy" and "Legion."

Why it works

Money talks. That simple statement means a lot in the entertainment industry. The fact of the matter is that the more episodes a show makes, the more money the channel makes. It sucks for those who do not like this model, but it's true. More episodes equal more advertisements. More advertisements equals more money for the networks. It all boils down to money. That's why the instant a studio realizes their "great new show" isn't making them money, it gets the axe. No matter who likes it or who wants more (looking at you, "Firefly").

Now when I say thrive, I mean the whole narrative works with this model. For example, crime dramas, such as "Law and Order: SVU," "Bones," and every "C.S.I." ever made. Another great example is medical dramas, such as "Greys Anatomy," "E.R." and "Chicago Med." For these shows, the 20+ episode model works. Each episode has its own storyline, and at the end of each one, the story of that episode is wrapped up in a little bow. For these shows, that many episodes are actually enjoyable because they don't have to worry about a giant arc to take care of throughout the season.


Overall, I don't like the 20+ model for most shows. The only exception to that rule is crime and medical dramas. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE television, and I definitely appreciate all the shows that actually try to get off the ground. But I don't want to be bogged down with unnecessary episodes that don't drive the plot or add any character development. I will just have to wait and see how the future of television evolves. Until then, I will sit on my couch biding my time through the less enjoyable episodes.

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