I'll Say It: TV is Too Long
I went hard on the italics in this one
Between all the Marvel shows that should have been movies, Stranger Things S4, that absurdly long wedding episode in Bridgerton, and Jeff Bezos’s Lord of the Rings: 2-day shipping edition, I am fighting for my life here.
I’m just going to come out and say what needs to be said. No single TV episode needs to be longer than 30 minutes. 45 minutes is pushing it. A whole entire hour is now widely accepted - embraced even. But that is too long! At that point you’ve watched half a movie!
Somewhere in the migration from aired television to the era of streaming services and continually forgetting our login credentials, we’ve lost sight of the fact that TV is supposed to be a short form, serial medium.
These episodes that are ninety minutes long?? Two hours?? Now you’re just making fun of me. Did your editors go on strike? Did they all go on vacation at the same time?
To be clear, this isn’t me saying that TV in the past is better than TV is now. Please remember that I don’t know what dial-up internet is so I’m certainly not in a position to be passing judgment on the basis of things like wisdom or experience.
In fact, the TV that I remember from the pre-streaming era was afflicted with something even worse than absurd episode lengths - absurd series lengths. I think we can all remember the dark ages: i.e. 25-episode seasons combined with no job security or plan for the overall arc of the series, causing writers to resort to giving their main characters amnesia approximately every two weeks from seasons 5 to 57, until their show is finally axed and everyone can breathe a little bit. But I would argue that whole thing was just an earlier iteration of the TV Is Too Long phenomenon.
As a final note I will just add four exceptions to the 30-minute rule:
It’s a nonfiction, documentary series about a serious and important subject (this includes Bake Off)
It’s a limited miniseries adaptation of a 19th century novel thick enough to be a murder weapon
You’re sick and need a distraction, so the absurd length of streaming TV becomes a feature and not a bug