Episode Lengths

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A while back, I talked about how much I liked Bloodline but had no intention of watching any season beyond the first. The show suffered from what many shows do: The slow burn. Broadcast shows have a formula. I don’t know the details, but I think 30-miunute shows are about 20 minutes of content, and 60-minute shows are about 40 minutes of content. The rest of the time is for commercials placed at specific points in the story. There are good reasons for that, but it creates an artistic problem. While episodes may be part of a larger story, each episode must be self-contained in the sense that a particular segment of the story must be told over the course of that episode. The result is that the writers sometimes must fill shorter story segments with meaningless filler.

With content that was created for streaming, the reasons for those traditional episode lengths and commercial placements aren’t strictly required. They make sense if you want to someday sell the material to a broadcast network, but if they aren’t required, then they should be ignored for the sake of the art. How valuable is syndication of you can’t get people to watch even the first season? I grow tired of it even though I’m an old guy and am used to it.

Look at the result where the artists don’t care about these restrictions. The Mandalorian does a lot of things right, so it’d probably be a success anyway, but creativity takes precedence. Any given episode needs a particular subplot told and action sequence shown. It does so, and then the credits roll. If that means the episode is appropriately 20 minutes long, that’s how long it goes. If that means the episode is appropriately 40 minutes long, that’s how long it goes. No one gets bored because there isn’t any useless filler added. Everything you see matters.

I hope that originally streamed content takes this same approach. If so, I expect the quality of the writing would inevitably improve. Of course, some writers are better than others, so this is just one factor in keeping my attention, but there’s a logic to this one.

I’m not an industry insider. I merely know what I like.

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