Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
 

DS Forums

 
 

Why are British series so short?


Reply
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 04-07-2011, 06:17
The Revolution
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 938

What I mean is, why are there so few episodes in a series. Take for example, Luther. I haven't seen the first series, but I've been watching the second series, yet it's only got 4 episodes.

Another example, Spooks. It usually used have 10 episodes a series. Then 8 and now the up coming series will have only just 6 episodes.

Yet when you look at the Americans dramas, it goes well into double figures. They'll have 18 episodes or 24 episodes in a season.

Am I the only one frustrated by this?
The Revolution is offline   Reply With Quote
Please sign in or register to remove this advertisement.
Old 04-07-2011, 06:34
thedarklord
Inactive Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Birmingham, UK
Posts: 1,582
I'm just as frustrated. The problem is that American networks have much bigger budgets to spend on more episodes than us. Plus there seems to be more of an apetite in the States for serial dramas than here, we're more into soaps and reality shows than the Americans even and that's saying something.
thedarklord is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 08:10
hardylane
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Manchester
Posts: 2,910
Because the nice and simple method of programme-making is now no longer acceptable. Everything has to be cinematic. Shot on expensive equipment, full of special effects and scored with music for every last bloody second of the show. Making programmes is now MUCH more expensive than it used to be, so they can't afford it.

Witness Torchwood. Quality BBC series farmed out to the States and essentially rebranded for their market.
hardylane is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 08:27
demoknite
Forum Member
 
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 43
What I mean is, why are there so few episodes in a series. Take for example, Luther. I haven't seen the first series, but I've been watching the second series, yet it's only got 4 episodes.

Another example, Spooks. It usually used have 10 episodes a series. Then 8 and now the up coming series will have only just 6 episodes.

Yet when you look at the Americans dramas, it goes well into double figures. They'll have 18 episodes or 24 episodes in a season.

Am I the only one frustrated by this?
In America, an hour show is actually 38 minutes of content.
demoknite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 09:06
Haruhion
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Luton
Posts: 1,752
In America, an hour show is actually 38 minutes of content.
While I watch House, I see between 43 and 49 minutes of content. The same range for Psych.
Haruhion is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 10:52
demoknite
Forum Member
 
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 43
While I watch House, I see between 43 and 49 minutes of content. The same range for Psych.
I was being facetious but the most popular shows like Lost and Glee do come in at the lower range of 40 minutes which is giving near 20 minutes of ads. A 30 minute sitcom is 18-20 minutes which is set up, ad, punch line, ad, recap or setup for next episode, ad. So 8 episodes of an ad free Miranda or My Family equals 16 episodes of your favorite American sitcom.
demoknite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 11:19
goodkarma84
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: London
Posts: 3,698
it just the way production works in the states, they use teams of writers and prefer quantity over quality, why else would there be three programs called CSI:
goodkarma84 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 11:27
sugapunk
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 929
I don't mind the difference. I think it means we get a bit more variety in our TV schedules, whereas in the states it's the same thing on every week. After all, we get the best of both worlds. I get to enjoy our mini-series like Exile, Shadow Line, Luther etc but also ongoing imports like House.

BBC drama seems to have improved dramatically recently (Candy Girls aside!), I hope series like the above is the sign of things to come.
sugapunk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 11:31
petely
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 2,592
What I mean is, why are there so few episodes in a series. Take for example, Luther. I haven't seen the first series, but I've been watching the second series, yet it's only got 4 episodes. ?
Yes, it's a stupid and short-sighted policy. There are two sorts of cost involved in making a TV series: there's the cost of producing each episode - wages, hiring facilities, makeup etc. - and there's the one-off costs of creating it in the first place, such as selling the idea, creating the sets, promoting the new series and maybe some more.
When you have lots of episodes the one-off costs get amortised (spread) over all the episodes so the cost per episode is lower. When you only have three episodes e.g. two programmes on BBC2 tonight, then those one-off costs are borne by the small number of episodes, so in the minds of accountants each episode is more expensive - so they can't afford to make so many.

What needs to happen is for the BBC (as they are really the only major commissioner and maker of programmes in britain) to get away from the fat-cat and overstaffed working practices and get back to cheap, quick, plentiful programming. Then they can pressure their suppliers to do the same.
Maybe then we'll get channels that show fewer repeats and make original programming the norm, again.
petely is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 11:57
MoreTears
Forum Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 6,423
So 8 episodes of an ad free Miranda or My Family equals 16 episodes of your favorite American sitcom.
your math doesn't ad up. BBC sitcoms are 29 minutes. US network comedies are 21-22 minutes. And of course one doesn't get just 16 episodes of an American sitcom. It is 22 to 24 episodes per season.
MoreTears is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 12:01
MoreTears
Forum Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 6,423
... and prefer quantity over quality...
No, what they do is quite properly snicker at the idea that one can't have BOTH.
MoreTears is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 12:07
Ethel_Fred
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 26,900
UK population - 60 million
US population - 300 million
UK series length - 4-13 episodes
US series length - 20-26 episodes

Do the maths.
Ethel_Fred is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 12:13
petely
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 2,592
You're making some very peculiar assumptions there!
petely is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 12:23
Killary45
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,461
UK TV prime time series are either very short or extremely long.

While I agree that it is a shame that British high quality dramas are often produced in very short runs, we should not forget the soaps and semi-soaps that run non-stop for decades. I am open to correction but as far as I know no prime time drama in the US runs all the year round, or several times a week.

Perhaps if British viewers did not have such an appetite for continuing drama series there would be more budget, and bigger audiences, for longer runs of higher production value drama.
Killary45 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 12:56
goodkarma84
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: London
Posts: 3,698
No, what they do is quite properly snicker at the idea that one can't have BOTH.
of course you can but its rare and i like us tv but even shows that i like tend to follow a system for each show and its not a sign of quality.

plus as i stated we get shows like coupling written by one guy if i recall correctly against say friends when has a room full of writers. i like both but its one of the reasons behind fewer eps.

hell in the states they will quite happily axe something after 2 or 3 shows, while at least even if something is awful, we usually get a full series.
goodkarma84 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 13:02
alternate
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 7,893
While many UK series are a little short, a lot of American ones really outstay their welcome. 10 episodes would be about right for me.
alternate is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 13:02
degsyhufc
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Up North
Posts: 50,416
Luther and Torchwood are special circumstances though aren't they.
The second "series" of Luther was supposed to be 2 two hours specials but they turned it into 4 1 hour episodes for whatever reason.
and Torchwood had two full series then the third series was a 5 episode special showing 1 ep each night in a week.

Doctor Who was cut down/split due to budget (it has been reported).
degsyhufc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 13:03
adziee
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Manc Born.. In Cardiff
Posts: 788
Waterloo Road has about 22 episodes doesn't it?
adziee is offline Follow this poster on Twitter   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 13:08
spaintv
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 5,628
Its not just with british TV!

Most fiction outside the US will be more or less the same length as the standard British series. This is mainly down to costs, with most nations having a smaller population etc and the industry being smaller.

The UK output reflects that of the rest of the Euro nations- a handful of continuios running series (Like Eastenders, Casualty etc), followed by euro length serials (6-13 episodes) and then TV Movies and mini series (2-3 eps).
spaintv is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 13:13
davey_wavey
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 22,445
While many UK series are a little short, a lot of American ones really outstay their welcome. 10 episodes would be about right for me.
I agree with you. 10 - 13 episodes for a series would be ideal for me. I loved it when Spooks had 10 episodes per series... it's a shame that we're only getting six episodes this year
davey_wavey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 13:16
MoreTears
Forum Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 6,423
of course you can but its rare and i like us tv but even shows that i like tend to follow a system for each show and its not a sign of quality.
Would the US shows that are crappy be any better if six episodes were made per season instead of twenty-two? I think the answer is no. And I'm sure we could talk about a US show we both agree is good and look at a full season of episodes and say, "This episode and that one weren't up to par, so they could have done without those episodes and made the season better," but who is to say that if the network had ordered fewer episodes it would have been only episodes that didn't turn out too well that wouldn't have been made? It could just as easily be the best episodes that never got made, as the producers don't necessarily know in advance what will "work" and what won't.

plus as i stated we get shows like coupling written by one guy if i recall correctly against say friends when has a room full of writers. i like both but its one of the reasons behind fewer eps.
But the "one writer" thing is just one way in which limited money comes into play. A full writing staff for one show costs money the British channels don't want to allocate for such a purpose. Money is the real reason British series are short, and getting shorter.

hell in the states they will quite happily axe something after 2 or 3 shows, while at least even if something is awful, we usually get a full series.
Well, that is certainly something I don't like, but fortunately it is a practice confined to the networks. The US cable channels don't do that. But is also illustrates my point about money. The US networks have so much money to spend on programming they won't hesitate to waste episodes they spent millions on by not even bothering to air them.
MoreTears is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 14:05
WLB
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 948
Im not so sure that cost of the show is the only issue why american series are longer than ours.

If you compare the budget of BBC1 to say NBC, once you take out exchange rate differences and the gerenal higher amount actors get paid in the US then there really isnt that much difference in budgets.

You also have to remember going back a couple of years ago, and all ITV dramas started off with 8 to 12 episodes. Then the british tv channels seemed to be going for longer series, Peak Practice at 26 episodes, Heartbeat etc. There seemed to be this belief that in a multi channel age a channel could only succeed if it had a few, long shows that defined the network. the suddenly this just changed.

I would say its a combination of...

-American tv having sweeps periods, and a 34 week tv season, with a summer period where its only recently that networks have programmed anything other than repeats in.
-In the UK the BBC, due to the licence fee, has to offer alternatives to the commercial networks, meaning quite a strong summer schedule (Could you see one of teh american networks having their top rated drama on in July? like BBC1 and New Tricks) . To some extent this forces ITV to spend more on the off periods than it would otherwise (and yes i know ITV still spend most of there money in the autumn/winter,). It also means that there is still more viewers in the summer in the UK than in US.

- Launching a new tv series in the United states is cut throat, and due to the tv seasons, most programmes premier in September, January or April, and the whole network tv market place is geared to that. With all the other networks doing the same you have to spend alot on just advertising a new show, are you really going spend out on a multi million pound billboard, press and tv campaign for a show that will only last two or threee episodes, not really.
-Though alot of new shows start in September, we have a more all year, staggered approach. So its very unsual that BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4 will all be launching new programmes at the same time, in the same slot. So this just makes it cheaper to launch a programme, and as such its not such a massive loss if it doesnt succeed.

- The USA has to accept alot more repeats. A successful programme will have roughly 22 episodes but will be a mixture of repeats and new episodes bewteen september and may, and then all repeats betwee the end of may to mid september. Now to some extent local sports will bulk this out a bit, as will mid season replacements. However, the big successful shows will be shown nearly all year around.
- In the UK this just wouldnt be accepted. Look at what happened when Sky tried this a couple of years back. We have just got used to an uninterrupted run of programmes. Add to this having to schedule more in the summer, and you have a budget that has to stretch a lot further.

- The US doesnt have prime time soaps, or dramas like casualty that are on all year rounds.
- The UK does have quite a few hours of year round dramas and soaps, so if you then had long drama series and long sit com series, the schedule becomes very stale very quickly. (Just say you had a tuesday night schedule of 7:00 The One Show, 7:30 EastEnders, 8:00 Holby City, 9:00 New tricks for 24 episodes mixed in with repeats - the schedule would start to tire very quickly). I think this also causes a situation where dramas that are on for long periods tend to be seem as inferior to shorter run dramas.

-We dont have nights in the week where no one bothers to programme new programmes on. No american networks bother to launch new programmes on Saturday nights, its just repeats on all sides, and a few news magazines. By mid season, Fridays tend to become the same.

- Because of the high costs of launching a new show/ cut throat competition/ probability of success, a popular shows production company/ stars can hold a network to ransom eg Friends $10m an episode, er $13m, W&G $8m, and the impact is very expensive shows. In the UK as its not such a big loss if a comedy or drama doesnt come back there isnt as much programme cost inflation. The nearest you have in the UK is probably Simon Cowell and the X-factor, outside of that there really isnt that many.
WLB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 14:48
Shinny04
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Sutton, Surrey
Posts: 577
Waterloo Road has about 22 episodes doesn't it?
20 actually, but its treated as a soap opera. Really, they do the American thing and cut the series so they show 10 episodes for a period of time, then show the other 10 at a later date. Don't ask me why they do that, they've normally filmed everything before so there's no need to have a break inbetween.
Shinny04 is offline Follow this poster on Twitter   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 15:27
rivethead
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 688
Sometimes I'm quite happy with shorter series. Often you'll find American shows (except perhaps sitcoms, which really don't have a "season arc") have a lot of "filler" episodes that really don't drive the storyline forward, whereas shorter series are generally packed with story threads since they have much less time to tell it.
rivethead is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2011, 15:36
Jaycee Dove
Forum Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 14,038
The main advantage is that shorter runs allow a show to be aired to a conclusion. In the USA if a series flops it might not get past episode 3! It will just get yanked mid flow. Indeed we in the UK have seen the conclusions (as in last one filmed) to some quickly axed US series that never aired over there or aired months after the rest as filler.

Here, it is very rare for a drama to get pulled before it all airs however poor its ratings. The short run assures we get to see the last one made that will likely at least have some sort of conclusion.

If we followed the American model we would soon get upset when a show you liked had to be axed half way through its longer run because the channel could not carry on for months with dire ratings.

Though we do have longer runs...New Tricks starting tonight is 10 episodes....Law and Order:UK starting Sunday has 13 (though here we tend to split these into two shorter runs for scheduling reasons but they air as 13 ep seasons elsewhere)
Jaycee Dove is offline   Reply With Quote
 
Reply



Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 
Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 02:12.