Will COVID end 22 episode seasons?

Hollywood is still knee-deep in a production shutdown, with daytime drama looking like the first to regroup, aided by the same actors on the same sets.

This contrasts with most primetime dramas which use multiple actors and locations.

So how will production change once LA ramps up, and as it contends with a lengthy interim period that could be triggered by suspension?

New York magazine-owned Vulture suggests TV overall will become smaller, with few multi-episode story lines or sprawling location shoots.

It also speculates on a number of changes from reduced seasons, the loss of extras , more dialogue / less action and even fewer cliffhangers.

The 22-episode season is history.
On cable and streaming services, seasons of as few as six and no more than 13 episodes have long been standard, and even on networks, the definition of a “full season” order has been edging down toward 18 or 19. But there have been holdouts: During the 2018–19 season, for instance, the three shows in NBC’s Chicago franchise produced 22 hour-long episodes apiece, and CBS’s NCIS and its two spin-offs produced 24 hour-long episodes each. That’s almost certainly over. Longer production schedules for each episode will mean that money needs to be saved somewhere. Reducing the episode count is an easy, probably necessary, solution.

The end of the extra.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for contemporary dramas set in cities to re-create Black Lives Matter protests; any scene into which 20 to 50 extras would formerly have been packed in close proximity (a classroom, a staff meeting, a theater, a restaurant) will have to be rethought. In movies, the possibilities for digital fakery are endless if there’s enough money, will, and time (cue the army of bloodthirsty orcs!). But TV production needs to be efficient, and attempts to manufacture digital crowds could easily grind the gears to a halt. One technologically less demanding solution is to green-screen in a background full of extras from an already filmed episode; it won’t look nearly as good as either the real thing or body-by-body digital fakery would, but a decline in visual polish may be a concession that viewers and producers are willing to make in exchange for keeping new product flowing.

You can read more here.


  1. harrypotter1994

    If Chicago, L&O SVU and Greys etc move to shorter seasons, I’m assuming the networks won’t produce new content to fill those extra slots instead just showing more repeats which is a shame.

  2. Certainly be reduced next year but surely long term it is cheaper for networks to run 22 episodes of one series than two shows having 11 each, plus syndication remains important so the desire for 100 or so episodes in total.

  3. carolemorrissey

    September, their fall, is when pilots come out & returning shows come back. Will be interesting to see how many shows won’t be coming back in September over there. I would be quite happy for shows not to have 22 episodes. Some shows like Grey’s even have had 24 or 25 episodes. If they know in advance they can tie everything up & plan how the season will pan out.

  4. Who cares how many episodes they have made so long as Australian viewers get to see the shows without any delay!
    Nine are the worst – sitting on shows for years!
    Come on Nine put the 19 episodes of Chicago Med series 5 on!!!
    We are sick of repeat after repeat of old movies, big bang and RBT

    • carolemorrissey

      Yes it’s annoying especially since there were lot’s of crossover episodes with Fire which had already aired on 7 last year. It’s ridiculous that the same network didn’t get the rights to Fire, PD, Med & Justice here with the amount of crossovers they do instead of one being on 7, 2 on 9 & 1 on Foxtel. Not to mention SVU which is on 10 & has also had crossover episodes. The crossover episodes are here there & everywhere. 9 never aired season 3 of the Following. What happened to that show?

  5. TasTVcameraman

    Looking a Nashville again now and that had lots of episodes per season. I think that shorter seasons could make for sharper storyline and maybe not drawn out just to fill in the time.

  6. mateo_mathieu

    I love nothing more than watching 22-episode seasons especially if they’re mindless and trashy such as Dynasty, but I’ll take quality over quantity any day of the week. This is also a great opportunity for actors to explore their acting skills with different characters.

  7. Dont give our networks any ideas lol. They cant even air the 22 episodes within a 3 month window of it airing in the USA. Fast tracked was a yesterday idea. 13 episodes will mean they will store it and air them at the worse time. Blacklist on Seven is one airing them at 11.30pm.

    • TasTVcameraman

      Yes I stopped watching Seven because of that, and I am finding it on Primevideo now, so I am watching the series now, at my preferred time.

    • harrypotter1994

      7 ended up showing triple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on 7Flix. This change would mean they might reduce to only showing one episode a week.

  8. I don’t think it’ll be bad to see the end of 22 episode seasons. We’ve seen in recent years that shorter runs per season leads to tighter storytelling and less filler.

    I can think of many shows now off air that had 22+ episode runs that would have benefited from shorter seasons.

    • It’s hard to believe nowadays that we used to have shows that would routinely do 40 episode seasons – All Saints, Blue Heelers, etc.

    • I think it depends on the show. I quite like the Hawaii Five-O or Chicago model of villain or medical condition / fire (s) of the week along with an over arching story arc that goes for a number of weeks or longer. I lost interest in the Flash and Arrow a few years ago where they had what seemed like a 22 week story chasing the same villain around. It got monotonous and as far as i am concerned all the Flash and Arrow characters died on the island when Justin Voight blew it up and i haven’t watched any of the Arrowverse since.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.