My wife and I have been watching the new Netflix series Sense8 recently, and it’s pretty good. The issue is that, at 12 episodes and only one real story arc, pretty good is about as good as it can be.
I felt the same way about the Netflix series Bloodline, which was a cool neo-noir family saga set in the Florida Keys. It, like Sense8, had a really good cast, directors with a great eye, and a strong singular story. Also, like Sense8, the first season had too many episodes (13).
I could tell that there were really good, possibly great, 6-8 episode long seasons fighting to get out of these 12-13 episode batches. Kind of like a liter of high quality whiskey diluted with three liters of cola – mixed with too much syrup – from the speed rack.
Netflix shows like Orange Is The New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Daredevil can handle 12 episode seasons because they are, for lack of a better term, more episodic. Each episode can stand on its own in the whole, even while maintaining a season-long primary story arc.
Shows like Bloodline and Sense8 are essentially movies given more room to breathe, which I think is awesome in theory. It’s also why Netflix should stop feeling married to the 12-13 episode count, and maybe take some pointers from other networks.
BBC only rolls out three episodes for a season of Sherlock, and HBO only gave True Detective 8 episodes in its first season. I love me some Sherlock, and True Detective was one of the best things I saw last year. However, I doubt I’d feel the same about either if they fattened up the order count to 13 episodes while still trying to tell the same kind of story.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy all these shows and more. I’m just making a suggestion to tighten things up a bit and let these shows be as good as they possibly can be. Network television shows suffer a lot because they need to pump out 22 episodes a year to satisfy their advertisers. Basic Cable shows sometimes strain to get to 12 for the same reason.
When you have no such concerns, you should feel free to produce the exact number of episodes it takes to tell your story at maximum efficiency. I imagine Netflix will figure that out eventually.