Challenge: Shows that Deserved More than Four Seasons

Zardnaar

Legend
Doctor Who (new who, specifically). Having entirely different doctors, companions, show runners, etc kept things fresh. Had they only done four seasons I would have missed out on so many good seasons and episodes.

Stargate. I'm pretty sure Anubis isn't even introduced until season 4 or 5. Before that Apophis is the big bad. According to IMDB the highest rated episode was the season 7 finale and the show regularly had episode scores in the mid 7s to low 8s.

SG1 peaked around season 3-7 ymmv.

Atlantis was canceled to soon and was still going strong in its 5th season.

British panel shows/Taskmaster. Taskmaster is up to Season 14

Top Gear peaked around 6-10.

Survivor. It's golden age was season 15-20. Last great season was 37.
 

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Do you know the story of seasons 4 and 5?
I think it's safe to say that everyone who knows what a Babylon 5 is knows this story at this point.
Blackadder could easily have managed a few more seasons (although since each season was only 6 episodes, as usual for BBC comedies, maybe it doesn't count?)
Yeah, I don't know how to categorize some of the Britcoms. Vicar of Dibley, for instance, had 16 shows over 3 series, and then 4 more shows after that (plus the Covid shorts, but those came much later).
Because most shows don't even deserve four US Seasons, IMHO. I think four UK seasons is normally okay to tell most stories

I'm focusing of shows that tell stories, as I don't think the OP was thinking about comedy panel shows or quizzes. I'm also more interested in fantasy shows which inspire RPGs than various cop/hospital/school dramas based on real life.
If we pare down the population of shows to a specific sub-genre, I'm sure many of them will have different answers regarding when they likely start to go stale (cop dramas, being very formulaic, probably last long in that there isn't supposed to be much variation between episodes over a short period of time, although I guess you could argue that's a case of 'they don't go stale as quickly because they start out stale'). Regardless, even for RPG-inspiring fantasy shows, I don't think I'd say all shows are specifically to tell a story. Some (ex: the 'Monster of the week' genre) are in no small part there for the episodic interactions. The X-files, for instance, was never about the grand conspiracy (something the showrunners acknowledge was invented after the fact), and honestly the shows that focused on it tended to be the weakest. Shows like that do usually go stale (X-files, Supernatural, and Stargate did over time), but not because they didn't resolve a specific story.

Soaps, hospital and cop drama's run and run as the writers have plenty of source material with it being based on real life. Fantasy stuff like Buffy, Star Trek, etc. have a harder time for the writers to come up with stuff original and engaging, so can go stale after a few seasons. These fantasy dramas are also the ones that tend to blend the serial with episodic nature, so once they have done the serial plot they seem to reach a logical conclusion. Battlestar Gallactica for example, the crew had an overall goal, once the Cylon problem was resolved story was going to be over and how long can you drag that story out before people get bored of waiting for a resolution.
Star Trek (TNG) is a good example -- they could have continued TNG on after season 7, but didn't because they were launching a new network and didn't want to compete with their own show. It wasn't because the tales of Picard and Data and Word had gone stale or the writers stopped coming up with original and engaging ideas. Most of the writers went on to write for Voyager and DS9, and most of the scripts (minus the Dominion-specific ones for DS9 or the odd one that only works with a specific character) would be interchangeable between shows.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
This is so left field for me. First time I've come across this type of criticism levelled at Seinfeld and Cheers (I have not yet delved into CYE). I'm curious, do you have the same opinion on Frasier?
I didnt really do Frasier start to finish; so I cant say. Part of the longevity I suppose is built into situation comedies, likely a reason I dont typically enjoy them. However, it seems destined for sit-coms to venture into outlandish places to try and capture that meme based fan service. I find these shows nearly intolerable at that point. Not unique to Seinfeld and/or Cheers. That said, I dont think these types of shows need to encompass a consistently good story, that's not necessarily their purpose, so I don't hold them to the same standard as modern serials.
 

For a show that had one of the best pilot episodes ever, you're not kidding. TWD hit a snag when the producers decided to get rid of the showrunner Frank Darabont in 2011 over disagreement on where the series should go. AMC wanted the series to be 20% cheaper but wanted twice as many episodes and Darabont disagreed so they fired him. If you want to now why the 2nd season consisted of them sitting around a barn talking about their feelings, well, there you go. Darabont ended up suing, and in 2021 both he and the agency representing him got AMC to a gree to a $200,000,000 settlement. It just seems so odd that AMC was gung-ho about the budget back in 2011 when it was such a popular and well liked show, but there you go.

One of the factors behind the budget cut, if I recall correctly, was Mad Men's sucking up a ton of money at AMC at the time.

I think the quality of TWD would have been much more even Darabont on the wheel. But the show certainly went on too long. When Lincoln left they should have just ended it there. But it expecially didn't make sense later in the series when Michonne abandons her two children to go look for Rick.

That was a problem with latter Walking Dead. A lot of character decisions were made to move the plot forward, and often didn't feel consistent or natural to the characters themselves.

Do soap operas even have seasons? British ones are on continuously.

To use Emmerdale as an example, it started in 1972 and so far has had 9,617 episodes (which works out at over 3 per week). Days of Our Lives (which I've never seen) apparently started in 1965 and has had over 14,000 episodes.

American ones do, complete with season finales. And each season has more episodes than a lot of TV shows do in their entirety.

Blackadder could easily have managed a few more seasons (although since each season was only 6 episodes, as usual for BBC comedies, maybe it doesn't count?) I don't know if they felt the dramatic ending to season 4 couldn't be bettered, or if they couldn't think of a time period after WW1 that interested them (or any time period, if they were okay with going back in time). Or maybe they'd had enough and wanted to do other things?

It's hard to argue against the poignancy of Blackadder season 4's ending.
 
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If you've read enough of my posts, you know this about me- I hate Bards. Truly, truly despise them.

But you probably also know that of the many lamentations I have, there is a special and dark place in my heart that I reserve for a little show called Dexter. Like everything that the network Showtime has ever done, Dexter was a show that was very good, for a period of time, and then ... just ... kept ... going ... to the point where it became so bad that it was easy to forget that it was pretty good for a while. And, of course, this happens to almost every show- there's a reason that people talk about "Jumping the Shark." With TV shows, you either get cancelled early and live on in your fans' memories as what could have been, or live so long that you overstay your welcome.

With that in mind, I started to think- as we seem to be nearing, if not the end, the beginning of the end of Peak TV, perhaps it is time to think about the length of those shows. Because the more I think about it, the more I begin to realize that there are often perverse incentives that cause us to kill the things that we love- the fans want more of the things that they love. The studios want to make more money. The actors like the steady gig (and the increasing paychecks that come with time). There are a lot of incentives to keep churning out more of something that is successful, and yet ... more often than not, it's best to have less of something. In fact, I would argue that if you look back at shows, the maximum limit of most shows is, and should be four seasons. Period.

So here's my thesis- All Shows Should End at Four Seasons. If you can't get it done in four, then there are no more. Or, to quote the great philosopher Moses Malone, Fo', Fo', Fo'.

Let's develop this a little. Now, I'm not saying that there haven't been any good shows, ever, that have lasted more than four seasons. I am also not saying that there aren't decent episodes toward the end of a show's run. Instead, I am making a more banal point- every show, for the most part, can accomplish its goal in four seasons or less. Shows will suffer from dragging it out- and most have. With the exception of the greatest shows ever- the telenovelas- there is no needs to run more than four seasons.

In order to ascertain whether this is true, I started by looking at some of my previous lists of best shows and seeing how they measure up!

Top 10 Shows.
Three of the top ten are already four seasons are less. Of the remainder, it just goes to show how hard sustained excellence truly is; even in the top 10 shows ever (and the honorable mentions) there are seasons and episodes that are, arguably, "fat."

Top 10 Comedy.
Again, a surprising amount of great (and subversive) comedy clocks in at four seasons or less. The Good Place, Review, Arrested Development (there was no fifth season!)- all four or less. And many great comedies, such as Community, often suffered from drawing out additional episodes.

I understand the desire to revisit characters, and how a great TV show is like a comfortable sweater that you enjoy wearing long after is has become ratty and torn. But over and over again, we see that additional seasons do not necessarily improve a show. Sure, there might be shows that don't get their sea legs until three seasons in (cough TNG cough), and there might be shows that have seven reasonably solid seasons (while they weren't all equal, all seven seasons of Mad Men were decent, although I could argue for cutting everything after 4).


It's a provocative thesis, and I expect it to be. For every Fleabag, there's The Americans (six seasons, almost all perfect). So what do you think-

What Television Show is your best argument for going more than Four Seasons?
I'll be honest.

It seems, superficially, like you picked four just to be difficult/controversial, because if you'd said five, which is barely different, suddenly there'd be vastly less argument and less to discuss. The idea that five seasons is the best number for a show has been around for 20+ years.

Also the number of seasons is kind of meaningless. How do we compare a British show which does 6 episodes/season with a US network show that does 16-22 episodes/season?

But let's ignore the problem re: episodes vs seasons, and I think it's easy to show you're wrong re: four seasons specifically because almost no shows match that. Very few good shows have four good seasons, then suddenly go downhill. The only two I can immediately think of are:

1) Dexter, which you already mentioned - and the "bad" seasons of Dexter? They were still better than 90% of TV at the time. I'm sorry but they were. They weren't as good as the John Lithgow peak.

2) Babylon 5, which was designed as a 5-season arc, and would have been a better show if it was 5 seasons, but got forced into 4, before them randomly allowing a 5th, after they'd ruined things.

And your top 10? It actually argues against your point. For example:

1) Halt and Catch Fire - one of the best shows ever made. But the 4th season was clearly massively and unnecessarily compressed and I believe we know from the showrunners that they wanted to do 5 but were told 4 was it whilst writing S4. And let's be real - if they'd had 5, maybe Halt and Catch Fire would get at least a fraction of the respect it deserves, instead of being constantly overlooked, and undermined by a weaker final season which was weaker largely by dint of having to rush through the '90s.

(Also god what 11 out of 10 show that was.)

2) Mad Men - Obviously wouldn't have been better if they cut off at S4 or tried to compress it into fewer seasons.

3) Breaking Bad - Same.

4) The Sopranos - Same.

I could go on but I gotta go - will be back later - point is though, your own list thoroughly disproves the "4 seasons" idea. 5 seasons is massively more supportable. I can think of far more good shows killed to early than good shows left to go on too long until they collapsed, too (confirmation bias I'm sure but that applies equally to everyone). I mean, hell, TNG didn't even really get good-good until S3/4 at the earliest. Maybe there are only 4 seasons of good episodes in TNG, I could see that, but that's just not how things work.

Shows which are going to go bad tend to go bad either immediately, or in S2, as well, not in S4/5.

EDIT - I'd also add there are different structures to shows - the whole idea of limiting the seasons really only applies strongly to narrative shows, as opposed to reality TV, gameshows, talent shows, talk shows, documentaries, and so on.
 
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I would have liked to see The Expanse continue as it still has barely touched on what's on the planets on the far side of the gate, but I think that changed the nature of the show as well as it became less about the Mars/Belter/Earth dynamic.
The Mars / Belter / Earth dynamic was what I liked about the Expanse books; I stopped reading them when the action moved to the other side of the Gate.

The TV show is on my "to watch" list but I think I've only got seasons 1 to 4 (got the DVDs as a birthday present).
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
The Mars / Belter / Earth dynamic was what I liked about the Expanse books; I stopped reading them when the action moved to the other side of the Gate.

The TV show is on my "to watch" list but I think I've only got seasons 1 to 4 (got the DVDs as a birthday present).
Thats perfect, as seasons 5 and 6 are not great.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
1) Dexter, which you already mentioned - and the "bad" seasons of Dexter? They were still better than 90% of TV at the time. I'm sorry but they were. They weren't as good as the John Lithgow peak.
This. Season 5 was still very very good, and I honestly enjoyed a lot of what was going on in Season 6. Season 7 is when the show actually went off the rails.
 

Survivor. It's golden age was season 15-20. Last great season was 37.
I'd say it's golden age was actually Australian Survivor, which was immediately better than the best US Survivor, and which peaked in an All Stars season (I'm not sure if it's still running). UK Survivor was utter trash and I think lasted two seasons.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I'd say it's golden age was actually Australian Survivor, which was immediately better than the best US Survivor, and which peaked in an All Stars season (I'm not sure if it's still running). UK Survivor was utter trash and I think lasted two seasons.

Australian Outback was peak Survivor in terms of viewership.
 

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