Hour-Long Shows That Should Be a Half-Hour


Bill Brioux and Alex Epstein have both independently made the same point about Being Erica: it would work better as a half-hour. Every episode, even including the pilot with all the setup and exposition, seems a little padded, so that theory makes some sense. On the other hand, if it were a half-hour, it would almost certainly be doing worse than it is: half-hour “dramedies” almost always bomb, because they’re not funny enough to be sitcoms and not long enough to develop a good serious story. (The Wonder Years, yes; but despite the nostalgia factor, that had enough hard jokes to qualify as a sitcom and hold its own among shows with laugh tracks.) When Judd Apatow sliced Freaks and Geeks in half, set it in college and called it Undeclared, he didn’t come up with a show that was any more of a hit than Freaks, just one that (while a good show) had less emotional impact. And let’s not even speak of the disaster that ensued when Fox tried to show a half-hour version of Ally McBeal. A show like Erica, with not enough substance for an hour and not enough laughs for a half-hour, almost seems like it needs a 45-minute slot. Since this is not possible or desirable, they’ll be better off trying to fill the hour more productively. As conceived, it’s still essentially an hour show, just one that still needs work.

I find it hard to think of an hour show that really, truly seemed like a half-hour show waiting to get out. Wait, I thought of one, though it’s over a decade old: when Disney made a TV version of its movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (starring Peter Scolari in the Rick Moranis part), it actually wasn’t a bad fantasy-comedy at all — but it was an hour long, and because of all the plot complications and twists necessary to fit the show into an hour format, it wasn’t nearly as much fun as it should have been. But that was an out-and-out wacky comedy; most hour-long shows are not.


Hour-Long Shows That Should Be a Half-Hour

  1. In this context, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on Law & Order, a show which I had heard was specifically designed so that it could be chopped into two half hour shows if needed.

    • Well, half-hour dramas can work, and some dramas need to be half an hour (The Twilight Zone went to an hour for one season, and it didn’t work at all). I don’t know if it would have worked for Law and Order, since a lot of the show’s appeal comes from the cop half being fused together with the lawyer half — but in any case, the broadcast networks don’t do half-hour dramas any more, so it’s almost pointless to consider whether a show would have worked better as a half-hour drama: it would never have gotten on the air in that form.

  2. The Office worked perfectly back when NBC was shoving super-sized episodes down people’s throats, but the one hour episodes tend to go beyond whatever saturation point there is for an individual episode.

  3. Beachcombers, Danger Bay, Littlest Hobo, M*A*S*H (after season two) – all were half hour “not funny enough to be” dramedies.
    I’ve been viewing a 150 episode DVD set of U.S. ‘pure’ detective shows of the ’50s. And most of these were also half hour shows.

  4. After seeing the trailers in the lead up to the premier it was just a forgone conclusion that it was a half-hour comedy. The thing that surprised me about the show was that it was an hour long.

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