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The loss of the 22 episode format

The streaming revolution has changed the way shows are watched and released. But have we thought about how it has impacted storytelling in the television format? Up until the reign of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming gods TV shows aired 22 episodes a season, this format used to be standard now it’s a rarity. The amount of series that insist on being an “8 hour movie” making for a slow climax are rising. Not to say they are all poorly paced, I think there are some stories that benefit immensely from this new format but regardless there is room for both.

As someone who has been binge watching shows from the 90s to early 2000's. I am extremely familiar with the 22 episode format. But I've also grown up in the prime of streaming seeing the episode count 

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on seasons go down year by year and I have found to prefer 22 episodes. I’ve been seeing the format that championed television for so many years come close to extinction, and I’m not the only one; twitter user @wrathsemilia had a viral tweet this past December saying “tv shows going from 22-25 episodes to 18 to 13 to 10 to 8 episodes was the worst thing to happen to the television industry. I am begging yall to bring back REAL tv shows that ran almost all year long and had well developed storylines, characters, friendships and romance.” and 157 thousand people liked this tweet in agreement. 

What was so wonderful about shows that had 22 or even 13 episodes was the filler episodes! The episodes that don’t have to spend every second focusing on the main big bad of the season but got to put the main characters in unique situations that the new 10-8 episode format of shows doesn't have room for. This format also had the time to truly flesh out characters making viewers feel more connected and involved in a show. Although the current shorter series trend allows for a higher budget per episode, meaning bigger stars as main characters, and higher quality special effects as @wrathsemilia mentioned, 22 episodes allowed for well developed storylines. Another twitter user stated "What I love about the 22 episode format is that it gives us more of a journey, a chance to explore the show's world and its characters". With only 8 episodes regardless of stars or budget you can not achieve the same relationship with the audience that the 22 episode format was able to achieve. 

The amount of storytelling that gets to be explored in a classic 22 episode show is the key (in my opinion) to longevity. More and more Netflix and streaming only shows are getting canceled after only a season or two. Some of the best shows get canceled because of the limited time they get to share the story. And at least back in the day they had at least 22 to 44 episodes to revisit after cancellation .

I’m not here to say the original season format for shows was perfect because it wasn’t, some filler episodes sucked, and you have more chances of falling into a freak of the week style show but even with its cons the pros of: more overall time to tell a story, flesh out well rounded characters and detailed plots beats todays limited 8 episode shows that have proven to at times be the downfall of a series taking off. But to each their own, which do you prefer? 

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