Could TV Eventually Move to a One-Season Format?
Over the past five or so years, anthology television has become a big part of the current TV landscape. The limited series has taken on a life of its own. With more and more shows being released each year, the sheer amount of content can be overwhelming. There are so many options and so little time. So, are we getting to a point where one-season television is going to become more of the norm than the standard seasonal shows?
More and more actors and directors are beginning to catch on. Directors, such as Patty Jenkins, Martin Scorsese, and David Fincher, have recently dabbled in scripted television. Directors are liking the idea of having a longer form to tell stories, with television seemly allowing creators more freedom to do what they want than feature films nowadays. Inside of a two-hour movie, they can let the story breath within an 8-10 episode formate. It also makes sense why film actors would be interested in being in a television series if it’s only a season long. Getting an actor to star in 8-10 episodes of a season is more reasonable than 60 episodes over a six-year period. This is shown with Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman in the first season of Fargo, Chris Pine in I Am the Night, and Jonah Hill and Emma Stone in Maniac to just name a few.
Another reason for this shift is the large increase in quality of television over the last twenty years. Television was often looked at as inferior to films, however, that is no longer the case. Thanks to shows like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Wire because they have proven that it is no longer the inferior form of films, but its own thing. Game of Thrones almost feels like the last true stress test for television, making an incredibly high-budget show with the scope and scale of a true epic theatre.
Many stories might actually benefit from only being one season, rather than dragging it out for years. The first season of True Detective was a huge success both critically and commercially, and many claimed it was one of the greatest seasons of television. It was announced early on in the show’s lifespan that it was going to be an anthology series. Trying to top season one was not an easy task, but they attempted to do it a year later with season two. Season two wasn’t a bad season of television, but it was nowhere as good as the first season. The need for HBO to rush out a second season so fast was because of the current formality of television that shows have to have the next season ready on deck, even if the show doesn’t feel like it needs to continue. Removing those barriers and just allowing a show to be a singular thing would have helped True Detective‘s overall legacy.
As I hinted above, there is a lot of freaking television out today. It’s incredibly overwhelming, especially for adults who have to work, have kids, etc. Often times when I tell somebody they need to see a certain show, they ask how many seasons it is. When I tell them the number, I often get an eye roll or a sigh. The amount of content that is getting released is making people too inundated with choices. Having too much content is not a bad thing, but at a certain point, it can be a hindrance on the consumer. Sometimes I feel like a machine— watching one show, then immediately moving on to the next, and so on. You have to keep on moving because if you don’t, you’re going to fall further and further behind.
At the end of all this, I’m not saying that I think traditional seasonal television should end because I love multi-season shows. By looking at the current television landscape and trying to see where things might be headed, I can’t help but wonder if one-season shows might become more of the norm going forward. With the vast amount of content being released, who has time to watch a seven-season show? Would somebody rather watch one seven-season show, or seven different shows equaling up to the same length? Well, the amount of content rapidly being released, it might be closer to the later.