Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s Ringer may have been cancelled back in May, but it was one of the hot topics at the CW’s press tour.
Reflecting on the decision to cancel the twisty thriller, CW president Mark Pedowitz said that the show’s “fans are still writing me, they want it [back] desperately”, but noted the show’s low ratings were compounded by disappointing results on DVR and social media — two ‘emerging’ platforms which can and have made the difference for other serialized shows:
“It was a combination of the complexity of the stories. It was not performing as well as we hoped it to on the digital/online station and the social media station.”
However, rather than being deterred by complex stories, Pedowitz is approaching the challenge a little differently:
“One of the things you learn about the level of these serialized shows is less may be more. Twenty-two [episodes] might have been too many. So if there’s a consideration to redo it, we’d probably go anywhere from six to 13.”
In other words: cable season. In many respects I do think this is the way forward for many serialized network shows. For the more heavily-serialized shows like Ringer, it could mean tighter story with less breaks (a factor that often kills momentum and viewer retention). For the less fully serialized offerings, shorter seasons should mean less room/pressure for standalone episodes that do nothing or little to develop the main story/characters, thus keeping the story focused and progressive.
On the other hand, it’s interesting to look at the likes of Alcatraz, Awake and Terra Nova — all cancelled last season with around 13 episodes and perhaps could have done with more to potentially find maturity and grow viewership (a point recently touched on by TN‘s Jason O’Mara).
On the other other hand, it’s probably no coincidence that they all saved their best for last. They might have struggled doing 22, particularly in a network environment. With only 13 they had too much ‘filler’, so can you imagine 22? (that more episodes could come in another shortened season).
In conclusion, there are cases for and against any scenario, but I think it also depends on how much ‘serialized freedom’ the network is prepared to allow the creators to tell the story within a certain frame of episodes, not to mention the financial implications of 22 vs 13 (or what have you).
Generally speaking, shorter seasons are certainly worth pursuing, particularly if the episodes are highly-focused and not watered down.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what the networks do over the next couple of seasons. I think the one to watch this season is Fringe — 13 episodes, final season, serialized freedom. Let’s see what happens.