Do we have to limit TV show seasons to eight to ten episodes to ensure quality content?

Conventional wisdom would say yes. Too many times, the shows of our youth, with their burgeoning episode counts of 30-40 episodes per season were laced with boring filler episodes and that ultimate eye roller, the dreaded Clip Show.

Writers are only able to handle about ten episodes a season before they are completely overwhelmed, we believe. We all carry a mental image of two or three harried individuals behind a shady door labeled “Writers Room.” Do we want them to work around the clock? No, so inevitably we’ll end up with a clip show if we ask for more than eight episodes.

So we settled.

Eight episodes of quality content, don’t overwhelm the writers. Work-life balance. Everybody wins.

I thought that too until I started watching Asian content almost exclusively in 2021.

Suddenly I was exposed to modern Korean Dramas of sixteen to eighteen episodes in length, with each episode running an hour to an hour and a half in length.

That was a lot of content. And not a clip show in sight.

Modern Chinese TV shows are sometimes 40-50 episodes of thirty to forty-five minutes each. Seasons are made up of cohesive, plot-driven storylines. Characters are given room to breathe and grow. Audiences learn character motivations and are given time to savor those sweet, sweet plot twists.

So how are Asian productions able to create shows with more than eight episodes without having to resort to the fillers and clips shows we’ve come to believe are inevitable?

Writing is handled differently. Stories are written far in advance of filming by contract or freelance writers.

Writers create content for seasons of shows that won’t be produced for years. These stories give a direction to the whole production. It makes the end result feel as if you have watched an entire novel or manga run, on screen. Screenwriters and assistant screenwriters are hired to adapt that story to screen. With so much content to work with, with that clear direction from the onset, there is no need to resort to fillers and clip shows because there’s a plan in place before going into production.

The choice between eight quality episodes and thirty to forty boring episodes with a few gems sprinkled in, is a false dichotomy. It’s been created by an industry loath to pay enough writers to create the content necessary to sustain an entire full-length television season.

So, what can be done if fans want longer seasons of *good* content from their favorite shows?

Encourage companies to contract with writers well in advance of production to create engaging stories with strong character growth. Allow plenty of time for the creative process.

How much of a difference would that make? It’s the difference between Game of Thrones season 1, based off a novel full of rich plot and personality and the last season, hurriedly written for the screen, devoid of any logic or sense.

Source material for any show needs time. Good writing takes time. And companies need to be willing to pay creators for that content. Yes, even given the risk that it will never be produced. That’s what audiences are funding when we pay our subscriptions fees.

Then once that source material is ready, hire enough writers to skillfully adapt that to screen.

Lastly, pay writers what they are worth. More than anything, skilled writing is the backbone of any production. These are craftspeople who create the characters and stories that touch our hearts, and they deserve to be paid for that work.