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British TV is Better than American TV

March 27, 2013

With rare exceptions, British TV shows rarely go through the intense, stressful, nail biting, edge of your seat process to see whether or not shows will be renewed or cancelled, even while they’re still on the air.  And they are all the better for it.  It is mainly because the British TV schedule is vastly different from ours. 

The American network TV structure plans for a September-May season, with approximately 22 episodes.  The show starts airing after they’ve filmed about 8 or so of them, so by the time the show starts airing, they haven’t finished writing the end of the season, and sometimes (obviously) haven’t even thought about how the season will end.

The British system is significantly different, in that there are no regular “seasons”.  They write the entire series of usually 6-13 episodes before they even start filming, and don’t air any of them until the series has finished filming and editing, so that they know the entire arc before it airs.


How many shows have you been following where halfway through the season, around episode 12 or so, you realize that the writers had NO IDEA where they were heading, and so now characters are completely contradicting themselves?

Cable TV in the US is heading in the right direction this way.  Shows like Game of Thrones, Burn Notice, Psych, Mad Men, Weeds, and Dexter (among others) follow the same plan, filming everything before the show begins to air, so the arc is complete.  But they still follow the American TV need to keep a series going, even when it really should end.  British TV shows end when they have come to a natural ending place (Doctor Who, notwithstanding), but American TV shows have this greed – I mean need – to continue forever.  For example, CSI was just renewed for Season 14.  14.  Do we really need another season of CSI?  The answer is clearly “yes”, as people still love the show, but it’s rare for British TV shows to have that kind of longevity, so they rarely get old.

Of course, this is all said as a TV consumer.  Once I get to be a series regular on a hit TV show, I want that sucker to stay on the air til I’m 80.  Cuz I like working.  So, the actor in me has no problem with this, but the consumer in me thinks that American TV should start to follow the British TV model just a bit more.  What they’re doing works.


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  1. Kim permalink

    And this is why I watch anime. Anime series (mostly) END. with good, wrapped up endings.

  2. This is so true! I got out of the anime game a while back, but I may have to do a post about Cowboy Bebop, cause it’s one of the best.

  3. I completely agree about writers not knowing where they are going and end up making the characters contradict themselves. Hence Zack’s departure from Bones. The way his character had been built up was as a completely logical human, almost to the point of being a sociopath, but with a heart of gold and too smart to be conned by anyone. I won’t say what happens since I don’t know who reads your blog, but I’ll just say it was contradictory and out of character. Long story short, I agree with you!

    • You are so right about Bones! Zack’s choices at the end of season 3 made no sense, but was rather dramatic. The plus side is the gaggle of squinterns that have followed. Especially Mr. Nigel-Murray. He’s my favorite!

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