Network vs Cable TV: Dawn of Quality Shows


Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Sherlock Holmes…what do they all have in common? They’re great shows! But let’s face it, they have it a bit easier compared to Network TV shows (Gotham, Agents of Shield, etc.) since their seasons are much shorter. Less episodes = focused stories. Does this mean Network Television is doomed as more and more TV shows are following the easier and better short-seasoned route?

“No. Trailer looked excellent. Think comparisons between us & a Netflix show are lazy and uninteresting.” Stephen Amell responding to all the fans comparing Arrow to Daredevil on April 2015 through his Twitter account. Is he right? Is it unfair to compare Network TV shows that have cheaper budgets and more episodes per season (20-23) to Premium/Niche TV shows with bigger budgets and less episodes (10-12 episodes…that’s basically half!) per season? Yes and no. Like almost everything in life, it isn’t black and white.


Did you watch the season 2 finale of The Flash? Come on Barry!?

Yes – it is a bit unfair to compare Network TV shows to premium/niche TV shows. First of all, shows like Game of Thrones have bigger budgets. A Game of Thrones average episode budget is $6 million compared to a CW TV show like Supernatural has a budget of approximately $1 million per episode. Therefore, Game of Thrones spends around $60 million per season, with less episodes, compared to Supernatural spending $23 million with more episodes. With math like that, it’s really like comparing apples to hamburgers. I mean, obviously with more money you get better special effects and better action sequences.


How cool are dragons?

More money = better quality looking television. But let’s not forget that these bigger budgeted TV shows also have things easier because they have ridiculously shorter seasons! BBC’s Sherlock Holmes produces 3-4 episodes per season! Shorter seasons means a more concise, focused, and better story. Each and every single episode is about the main story arc and stopping the big bag guy/catastrophe that’s going to happen. With 20-23 episodes, you’re going to get boring/pointless filler episodes and the season starts to lose steam halfway through the year.

Oliver Queen aka Stephen Amell is right then? Nope. Although the odds are definitely stacked against Network TV shows, it doesn’t mean they can’t produce just as good or even better seasons than premium TV shows. Sometimes you can produce a killer season even with 20-23 episodes. Arrow season 2 is one of the best seasons of a TV show ever. The main story arc was so exciting and intense. Season two even  had mini-arcs that were just as entertaining as the main plot. I can even say that Arrow season 2 is better than Daredevil season 2. However, I do understand that it is difficult to replicate this type of quality every single year. So is there any other way for Network TV shows to keep up with Sherlock Holmes and Orange is the New Black? Yes! Gotham figured it out!


Where is season 4?!

Yes I know, Gotham isn’t the best or even that great of a TV show. The acting is super cheesy and the inconsistent time period is really weird (they have cell phones but they dress up like it’s the 1960’s?). However, despite all these flaws this cheesy TV show has successfully found a way for all Network TV shows to produce high-quality, entertaining, and story-driven seasons! What’s the secret? Gotham season two had two main story arcs. *SPOILER WARNING* The first half of the season focused on a new player in Gotham City, Theo Galavant. Every episode focused on his background, history, and big evil scheme and quickly escalated to an exciting and climatic ending by the 10th or 11th episode. The 2nd half of the season focused on Hugo Strange and all the bizarre and illegal experiments he was conducting at Arkham Aslyum. Again, almost every episode focused on Hugo Strange. Although there were two main arcs this season, our protagonists: Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne still had personal themes for the entire season so there was still a good sense of a beginning and end to season. Finally, the two separate main story arcs still intertwined, providing the season with a good sense of continuity.


So bad that it’s good

So what can we take away from Gotham: Season 2? There’s no need to drag ONE main story arc through 23 long episodes. Unless the filler episodes are comical and refreshing, it’s just a way of viewers’ time! Divide the season into 2 or even 3 parts to have focused and better quality story arcs. Sorry Stephen, it isn’t lazy or uninteresting to compare Arrow to Daredevil. Arrow Season 2 > Daredevil Season 2. And tell March Guggenheim to watch Gotham so he can learn a thing or two about multiple story arcs in a season.

Until next time, nerd out.



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