Enough is enough: what's the perfect number of series?

Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing...

multiple writers
17th May 2022
Image Credit: IMDb

This may seem like the opposite of a problem for some viewers, but when is enough enough for a TV show? Fans normally can't get enough of their favourite show, but sometimes it is better to end early than to watch your favourite show die a slow and painful death (rest in peace, Supernatural (2005-2020)). It may seem like a non-committal answer, but the perfect number of series is the exact number of series first planned.

I should perhaps explain myself better.

A TV show is at its best when it is carefully thought out and it contains just the right number of episodes and series. Derry Girls (2018-2022) is one such show: the TV show has become a phenomenon people are obsessed with, and yet it ends with series 3, as always planned. A coming-of-age story hardly makes sense after the protagonists grow up, does it?

Image Credit: Derry Girls, IMDb

Things go wrong when fans can't get enough and broadcasting studios realise they have a cash cow on their hands. Another reason TV shows get unnecessarily extended is that at the end of the day, people love to meddle. Sometimes it is just best to leave well alone, for fear of ruining something that is good.

There are some TV shows at risk of being ruined for me.

Good Omens (2019-2022) is one. The Amazon Prime show took the world by storm with the tale of Armageddon, witches and an angel and their demon. The series is easily rewatchable and based on the book by the late Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. But series 2 has no precedent, aside from conversations between the two authors. This series will have shakier foundations given the lack of a book from which to copy and paste most of its script from. What happens to a castle built on sand? It sinks.

Image Credit: Good Omens, IMDb

Also in the works is a TV series named Lazarus, which follows on from the BBC TV shows Life on Mars (2006-7) and Ashes to Ashes (2008-10). The shows follow two police detectives, Sam Tyler (John Simm) and Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), as they wake up back in time after each having an accident. Both TV shows compliment each other beautifully, and their tale was told. A satisfying ending, designed from the start, was presented. But now we are being given Lazarus, set after a rather conclusive ending. What story can be told?

Ultimately, what drives a show may also be its downfall: its fanbase and funders. We can have too much of a good thing. Best to stick to the original plan, methinks.

Emily Kelso

How long is a piece of string? Trying to figure out the perfect length of a show is inherently dependent on the story being told. But while the quality of the show may influence the length, it goes both ways. Figuring out the cooking time for the perfect show is important.

A plan is great. If the entire story behind a show has been planned for three seasons, stick to those three seasons. No less, no more. This is a problem that so many shows have encountered. After that hit first season, there is a desperate attempt to keep that lighting in the bottle and it usually fails. The story and world developed in that first season are usually built to last that season with only a few faint tethers to pull on for the next season. It makes sense, a satisfying story is important when there is the risk of not getting a follow-up. Dragging the tale out is a recipe for disaster, and blindly moving the story forward is extremely obvious.

Image Credit: Breaking Bad, IMDb

Shows like Breaking Bad have an overarching idea and a key theme and development that continues across seasons, making it a cohesive and entertaining watch. The only exception could be anthology shows like American Horror Story with each season following different characters, but even then, the key themes are retained.

Arguably, the answer I just gave is a bit of a cop-out. I should probably give a definitive answer as to what the perfect length of a show is, right? Fine. 

Image Credit: American Horror Story, IMDb

As content continues to bombard us from multiple sources, it is becoming harder and harder to follow multiple shows across several seasons, hence why I think the best length for a season is just one. A cohesive and comprehensive story is so much more entertaining and satisfying than season after season of cliffhangers and overtly complex plots and casts. It also wildly appeals to my lazy nature.

George Bell

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