Shorter and Shorter TV Shows Getting Attention

by Paul William Tenny

A one-hour show isn't an hour long if you count only the fictionalized content and ignore the commercials. We stopped counting the credits after they started crushing them down to half their normal height (this happening well after they scrolled them so fast that they couldn't be read anyway) so they could show advertisements for the channels other programming.

But we didn't complain.
We have to deal with quarter-screen in-show advertisements that usually happen right when the show you're trying to watch right now comes back from yet another commercial (most shows now have five breaks instead of four.) First they were just little pictures in the bottom right-hand corner, then they went all the way across the screen. Soon they became animated video, and lately, they've got sound that completely disrupts whatever it is you're trying to watch.

But we didn't complain.

Shows keep getting shorter and shorter though, and maybe it is long past time we start complaining in earnest. As someone who pays attention to this kind of stuff, I already knew about this trend. For those who aren't aware, it isn't you imagination that shows seem shorter and shorter every year.

At the time "ER" premiered -- before George Clooney was an Oscar-winning movie star or O.J. Simpson had been tried for murder -- an average episode ran roughly 47 minutes and 30 seconds. As the NBC medical drama scrubs up for this month's 14th-season premiere, each installment is allotted just over 43 minutes.

Still tastes great, perhaps, but about 10% less filling, too.

Witness the incredible shrinking primetime series, a phenomenon evident only with the perspective of standing back far enough to discern what the slicing to slim down programs has wrought -- potentially to the detriment of scripted fare, especially half-hour sitcoms actually afforded roughly 21 minutes to tell a story.

Lewis Black ranted about this very problem during the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night, and while a number of people complained, I'll bet you those weenies are the same people that complain and cry over the stuff Lewis was talking about - they just don't like being ranted to.

It's bad enough for dramas, but this crap is literally destroying sitcoms.

"When you go from 27 minutes to 21, and you're trying to establish character and tell a story, it's really difficult," Littlefield said. "It's particularly tough for the half-hour side. There's no time to breathe."

They want to talk about who is destroying television, well we can all agree piracy is a problem, but the audience isn't the one destroying television. The networks are.


    Related posts:

    Leave a comment

    View more stories by visiting the archives.

    Media Pundit categories