I consider myself a pretty big fan of the TV sitcom. From Full House to Parks and Rec to Abbott Elementary, I find comfort in the comedic timings of a fictional world. Creating a “found family” dynamic in sometimes unusual ways is a great way to get me to watch a show.
However, over the years with the rise of streaming television, these sitcoms have shorter and shorter episode counts. While older TV shows would have almost a full year's worth of programming and 20 episodes in a season, many sitcoms now are lucky to get to 15 episodes.
For dramatic TV shows or mini-series, there’s nothing wrong with a shorter season. Although we love to spend as much time with our favorite characters as possible, sometimes it is best for the story if there is a contained arc, with no room for “filler episodes.”
However, for comedies, many people’s favorite episodes are the filler episodes. The episodes where nothing really moves the plot along, but you learn more about the characters. It’s a mundane world, but these episodes find the beauty in the small things in life — the things we relate to the most.
But with shorter seasons and fewer episodes, there’s less time to learn about these characters and enjoy the world they are living in. I don’t necessarily watch sitcoms because I love the plot or storylines; I watch them because I love the characters.
Although this is not necessarily a sitcom, Avatar: The Last Airbender has one of my favorite filler episodes: “Tales From Ba Sing Se.” It’s an episode that follows certain characters or certain relationships throughout a day in their lives. It’s a seemingly simple episode but introduces certain elements of the characters you would never have known otherwise. The episode only solidified my love for the show and the characters in it.
While longer seasons were more common on cable stations such as NBC or ABC, streaming services usually do not go past 10 episodes for a sitcom season. It’s hard to grow to love these characters when the only time we spend with them is during chaotic and transformative moments in their lives. It’s fine to have shorter first and last seasons, but the middle has to be longer, or sitcoms as we know may find themselves to be but a distant memory.
Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but I love sitcoms! Thankfully, executives seem to be getting the message, as new sitcoms such as Abbott Elementary (although still a cable show), received a longer second season, which is typical of a normal sitcom.
And while I am all for innovative television and testing new things out, don’t break something that doesn’t need to be fixed. I want to enjoy a sitcom about the modern world I am living in, but I just want to be able to enjoy it for longer than 10 episodes.