Do American TV Shows Go On for Too Long? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Do American TV Shows Go On for Too Long?

Comment Editor Kat Smith delves into the world of never-ending American TV shows, arguing that enough is enough

We’ve all been hooked on an American TV show: The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, 13 Reasons Why… the list goes on and on.

I remember the start of all my binge-watching sessions of these shows - I was ridiculously hooked, needing to know what happened to my favourite characters and waiting to have all of my questions answered. The initial intrigue of The Walking Dead became a laborious cycle of Rick and his ever-changing squad finding a place to stay, realising it’s unsafe, moving on to another place. It’s safe to say, my excitement turned to boredom and I just couldn’t watching it anymore. Something about having lots of commitments and more stress makes you a lot more savage in choosing the programmes you spend time watching.

Although 13 Reasons Why as a stand-alone series is very minimal in comparison, the promise of a second season is pointless. The story follows the lead-up to a teenage girl’s suicide and ends in us knowing all of the reasons why. It was powerful, shocking and sad. A second series would cushion the impact it had on myself and so many other viewers – it’s okay to have questions and for them to be left unanswered. Anyone who’s seen Lost is probably still confused, seven years on.

Pretty Little Liars is my biggest disappointment when it comes to US TV: the beginning question of “who is A?” left 14-year-old me researching, theorising and obsessing over the show. Then it became: “Who are the other As?”, “Who is Red Coat” and “Who is ‘Uber A’?” It was, quite frankly, ridiculous and I didn’t make it past season 4 (though I did watch the ending, I have to admit).

How can we squeeze even more money out of a storyline that should’ve ended three years ago?
The fundamental problem with many US TV shows is that they are just so long, without providing the storylines to justify the endless amount of seasons they broadcast. They capture an audience and get addicted to the success – what twist can we provide next? What will shock people? How can we squeeze even more money out of a storyline that should’ve ended three years ago?

Of course, networks need to make money out of the programmes they broadcast but when it passes into that being the sole drive, it’s obvious. It compromises the integrity of the storyline and diminishes the quality of the entire viewing experience. They don’t take long enough in-between seasons to leave us wanting more or for them to create a collection of episodes better than the last.

And then there’s the problem of getting that all-important ending. How do you end a TV show like Lost or The Walking Dead when they’ve been going on for years? It’s a pretty big task and TV shows that outstay their welcome do the story they are telling and their fans a huge disservice, as the ending often falls short of hopes and expectations.

Creator of Pretty Little Liars, Marlene King, had intended for the show to run for 5 seasons and once she’d been told to do two more years of storylines, she had to find yet another person to crawl out of woodworks to be a villain. PLL had exhausted all of the options - *spoiler alert (not that you should watch it anyway)* another evil twin? Not very creative. The amount of seasons should be defined by the story, not the opposite.

Although, it must be noted it’s not just in the US. I can’t help but feel that the ‘tradition’ of Doctor Who on BBC has become a painfully drawn out affair, so I can’t just bash American shows. Just because something has always been there and started out ridiculously successful, it doesn’t mean it’s meant to last forever… my childhood memory of watching DW every weekend with my family is now tainted by the poor storylines, budget monsters and cringeworthy scripts.

I commend the creators of Game of Thrones to acknowledge that, while it’s possibly the biggest TV show on the planet, it needs to end while people like it. Although a big part of me would want it to last forever, it would lose its appeal if it fell into the mundane repetition that the likes of TWD and PLL have.

In 2016, HBO confirmed that Game of Thrones will end as Season 8 comes to a close. Programming president of HBO said that the showrunners have a “very specific plan about the number of seasons they want to do” which gives me joy that the final season of GOT will be neither aimless nor diluted by unnecessary episodes. I will re-watch Game of Thrones when it ends whereas I can’t bring myself to watch new, fresh episodes of The Walking Dead. I really think that says a lot.

I’m hoping that the showrunners and networks that are broadcasting these shows soon realise that quality over quantity is not a myth.

Current Deputy Editor, confused philosophy student and pitta enthusiast (@katlouiise)


27th November 2017 at 9:30 am

Images from

TVNZ, AMC and The Hollywood Reporter