TV Shows Are Too Short And It’s Because Of Movies

By Christopher Isaac | Updated


It has become a pretty common complaint among audiences that modern TV shows are becoming way too short per season. Shows used to have around 30 episodes per season but now it’s perfectly normal to see shows with episode counts in the single digits. Modern shows have bigger budgets than ever, but in trying to replicate the top notch special effects and big name actors that movies do, TV show seasons barely even get a chance to build an audience before they are over.

The Mandalorian And The Last of Us

pedro pascal

The Mandalorian and The Last of Us are perfect examples of this. Both star Pedro Pascal, who is becoming an increasingly bigger actor in movies, appearing in major films like Wonder Woman 1984 and the upcoming Gladiator II. With his fame increasing, his pay for roles is also no doubt increasing. So it is likely no coincidence that both The Mandalorian and The Last of Us are TV shows on the short side, with less than 10 episodes per season.

Having a major name like Pascal involved is likely a big chunk of the budget for both shows, which would mean less episodes.

An Undesirable Tradeoff

On the one hand, it’s great that TV shows can look as good as they do and attract as much talent as they do. On the other hand, it makes it hard to get excited to follow along with a TV show as it is airing knowing it will have such short seasons. And the breaks between seasons are getting longer too.

The Last of Us season one wrapped up in 2023 with nine episodes, and season two still won’t be here until 2025…with it rumored to have just seven episodes.

Quality Over Quantity Can Be A Bad Thing

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Many will argue that it is quality over quantity and that it is just the tradeoffs of prestige television. But in many cases, it turns out the showrunners did initially plan to have longer seasons, but running over budget made them truncate things. Season one of The Last of Us was originally supposed to have 10 episodes but had to cut one to stay on budget.

So TV shows are actually losing elements of their stories to have the prestige atmosphere and it is causing them to run short.

Perhaps this is a lesson about the advantages of what movies can do versus TV shows. It makes sense for movies to have huge budgets, the best special effects, and the most big name actors because a movie can only be so long for one sitting. But if TV shows keep trying to match that vibe, how much more short are they going to get?

Is it going to become the norm for shows to be less than five episodes per season?

The Sopranos Got It Right

It felt like the sweet spot was in the early days of HBO when seasons were between 10 and 20 episodes long. The Sopranos had almost 13 episodes a season all the way through and is regarded as one of the most well-crafted TV shows ever made. What good is having everything be top of the line in a show if there is barely any time for the audience to enjoy it?

If TV shows continue to be short and lose more episodes, they will essentially become made-for-TV movies anyway.

Audiences Want More Episodes

Maybe it is time for more shows to find talent outside of A-listers and to go for plots that won’t require heavy CGI for spaceships and dragons so that money can go towards more episodes. There has to be a better balance for TV show length than shows that are so short that they are already done with their season after a month. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to enjoy a TV show season that actually lasted a season on the calendar again?