The mini-season is a wonderful trend in television right now. Rather than stretching out a single season of television to 20 or 24 episodes, networks are producing mini-seasons (6-10 episodes) and half seasons (12 or 13 episodes) more regularly, and we’re loving it.
Shortened seasons, like that which we’ve seen with True Detective, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, and the first season of The Walking Dead, are fantastic because the plotlines demand to be better constructed in order to fit the time restraint. Mini-seasons need to fit the same amount of action and plot into a shorter period of time, which ups the stakes of a show and makes it more gripping — and more popular.
In contrast, just look at the final season of How I Met Your Mother: it was commissioned for a full 24-episode season. Since the story has only followed a single weekend, many of the episodes don’t advance the plot or develop the characters, so they have been criticized as useless filler. Fans who have tuned into the show for nearly a decade don’t want their time wasted and have been angry at the series for doing just that.
Currently, all premium and regular cable networks allow their television series to run anywhere from 6-16 episodes — AMC seasons typically run for 16 episodes, but they’re split into 8-episode arcs. Although there are other factors in play (like the capability of cable networks to feature more sex and violence), shorter seasons are a large reason cable shows are more successful at the moment.
TV viewers would rather watch a shorter season that’s just as complex and interesting with the same level of character development than invest twice as much time in a show that meanders away from the plot. In a mini-season there’s more drama, more action, and more bang for your buck! (We weren’t business majors, but that still sounds like a better deal.)
Since mini-seasons have proved to successful on networks like AMC, HBO, Starz, and FX, will basic networks take a page out of their book? We’re not sure, but they certainly should.