Do Cable Shows Take Too Much Time Off Between Seasons?

Defiance's vague season 2 marketing

Defiance’s vague season 2 marketing

In the past 5-10 years, cable networks have changed the playing field for how a tv season works.  A show no longer needs to premiere in the fall, or consist of 22 episodes like on major networks.  A cable show can premiere literally any time of the year, and generally consists of 10-13 episode seasons.  Shorter seasons lead to tighter story arcs, not having to throw in filler episodes to meet such a large episode order.  This makes serialized shows much more enjoyable, not having to deal with episodes  that do not progress the overall arc of the season at all.

Recently, Syfy has been building up it’s advertising campaign for season 2 of Defiance, which premieres on Thursday, 6-19.  When I started seeing advertisements for this, I couldn’t even remember when the previous season ended.  Looking it up, season 1’s finale was on 7-08-13, 11 months ago!  This really surprised me.  First off, in my head, shows still generally end in the spring, then start up again 3-4 months later in the fall.

Secondly, Defiance was kind of a mediocre show.  I cannot for the life of me remember the names of any characters, or how season 1 ended at all.  With such a large amount of time between seasons, and not really being invested in the show to the point that I don’t remember anything about it, I wonder if Syfy waited too long to launch season 2 to keep my interest.  Nicole even wrote a piece last year where she stated she didn’t know if she was still watching the show because she was playing the game, or still playing the game because she was watching the show.

Realizing how long it has been between seasons for Defiance got me curious of how long other cable shows take off in between seasons.  I picked three other cable shows that I enjoy, and looked up how much time they took off between their last seasons.  Here’s what I found:

Mad Men: Season 6 ended 6-23-13, season 7 started 4-13-14 (9.75 months between seasons)

Justified: Season 4 ended 4-02-13, season 5 started 1-17-14 (9.5 months)

Franklin and Bash (aka, Saved By The Bell: The Lawyer Years): Season 3 ended 8-14-13, season 4 starts 8-20-14 (just over a full YEAR!)

So, it appears pretty common that shows with shorter seasons take longer breaks in between seasons.  It makes sense to a certain degree.  Shows with 10-13 episodes don’t take extended mid-season breaks like traditional network tv shows.  Also, if they only took a few months off in between seasons, you would be going through 2+ seasons a year at that pace.

I guess the difference between the three examples listed above and Defiance is that I really enjoy those three shows.  When I see an advertisement for a new season of any of these shows, I think “Cool, new season is starting soon!”  Defiance, on the other hand, I found very mediocre, like I stated above.

Thinking this out as I was writing this, what it  comes down to is these shows with shorter seasons need to EARN the right to take so much time off between seasons by producing high quality entertainment.  The way it usually works, if a show doesn’t earn this right, it gets canceled.  While I do not believe that Defiance really earned the right, I think Syfy invested a ridiculous amount of money into it, having both a tv show with multiple races of aliens as well as a multi-platform MMO tie-in video game.  Nicole posted a little bit back that the game was going from a subscription-based plan to a free to play style.  I could be wrong (not being an MMO gamer), but that type of decision seems like they don’t have much faith in Defiance either, and are trying to keep people playing and watching by any means possible.

So, Defiance is truly an exception to the way things usually work.  If people don’t watch a show, it won’t get another season.  With such an ambitious project of a tv show with an MMO companion to each season, I feel like Syfy has kind of backed themselves into a corner here, and are trying really hard to get some return on their investment.

If they wouldn’t have waited almost a full year to launch another season of the show, I probably wouldn’t have throught twice about it, and just continued watching.  Since it has been so long, and I found the show not very memorable, now I’m really questioning whether to give it my time anymore.  What do you all think?

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