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BBC sitcom episode count compared to American sitcoms

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BBC sitcom episode count compared to American sitcoms

Postby Sporkin » Wed, 16 Jul 2014 9:30 pm

I've just been watching seasons of BBC sitcoms and some American ones, one thing struck me is that almost all BBC sitcoms have very few episodes per season, whereas the American ones usually run into the teens.

Anyone noticed that?
Last edited by Sporkin on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby brian_singapore » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 7:23 am

I've always appreciated british TV series for making the number of episodes required to tell the story rather then forcibly extending tv series until they are old and stale.

Much older series (or at least the ones that migrated over to NA) tended to be very variable in number of episodes. Not so much over the last decade. But then maybe moving to England exposed me to everything so the usual is (shorter) fixed episode lengths for every season.

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Postby GSM8 » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 9:48 am

Many of the BBC series (e.g. older ones like Yes Minister/PM) seem to contain complex/subtle humor, possibly taking longer to write than the more slapstick American ones (including the timeless classic Seinfeld to an extent). But another reason could be the production quotas that BBC programs are apparently subject to (restricting high viewership programs like Top Gear), unlike in the US where open bid slots allow them to "milk" the more popular ones

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Postby Sporkin » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:31 am

I've always wondered whether the staleness or the point where entertainment value diminishes is due to over exposure or a decline in quality.

For most of the US sitcoms I've watched, i felt that the quality usually decline after the 4th season. One exception to me was Frasier, found that most watchable even till the last season

brian_singapore wrote:I've always appreciated british TV series for making the number of episodes required to tell the story rather then forcibly extending tv series until they are old and stale.

Much older series (or at least the ones that migrated over to NA) tended to be very variable in number of episodes. Not so much over the last decade. But then maybe moving to England exposed me to everything so the usual is (shorter) fixed episode lengths for every season.

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Postby Sporkin » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:57 am

The Yes Minister/PM series is fantastic. I find the recent sitcoms from the US a bit too bite sized and in your face for my liking, maybe something to do with the diminishing attention spans of their target audience.

I did not know that BBC has production quotas, is the purpose to even out the playing field so lesser known writer's series still get air time?

GSM8 wrote:Many of the BBC series (e.g. older ones like Yes Minister/PM) seem to contain complex/subtle humor, possibly taking longer to write than the more slapstick American ones (including the timeless classic Seinfeld to an extent). But another reason could be the production quotas that BBC programs are apparently subject to (restricting high viewership programs like Top Gear), unlike in the US where open bid slots allow them to "milk" the more popular ones

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Re: BBC sitcom episode count compared to American sitcoms

Postby JR8 » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:18 am

Sporkin wrote:I've just been watching seasons of BBC sitcoms and some American ones, one thing struck me is that almost all BBC sitcoms have very few episodes per season, whereas the American ones usually run into the teens.
Anyone noticed that?


Maybe there is a parallel between British and American humour?

BBC series (Monty Python, the Kumars, The Young Ones, Little Britain, etc*100) tend to be short-lived as the originality of the idea burns out. And the audience keep on wanting novelty, surprises, and originality.

American comedy seems more institutionalised, with little to a British eye that is controversial or cutting edge. Seinfeld? I remember the first time I watched it (it happened to be on, on a TV in the gym) and I was amazed that a show that's run so long was just so NOT funny, absolutely anodyne. Scripted, cue'd up, 'here comes the joke, the unfunny joke, *that was the joke*, ha hahaha [canned laughter]!! - just not funny ! How can this man have become so rich off this... !?

Little Britain was funny for a while, not least as it was brutally honest and pretty tawdry, and quite shocking at times (which was fun)*. They made a version of LB for US TV and it flopped IMMEDIATELY, pulled after about 4 episodes IIRC. Naked gay men in a locker room discussing dick length vs race and circumcision !? OMTG too risque by half for the puritanical US audience !

'Mericans like cosy comfort, predictability, no risk of offence, (TV with a white picket fence around it?) and best of all something they can say 'You know I've been watching this for 25 years' --- as to an 'Merican 25 years is like a couple of centuries to we Europeans :wink: :cool: :P [bite me]


* My parents refused to watch it as they found it offensive. That's kinda the point! lol. British comedy often rides like a surfer right down the very narrow line between what's currently funny and what's potentially highly offensive. That in itself IS why it can be so funny (at least to us), as it's a balancing act, unfolding before you. US humour is still paddling around in the shallows summoning up the courage, hoping to offend nobody as everyone in the US is from some minority/'victim group' or other and we can't be doing with offending ANY of them right, and meanwhile coining it big-time, as that's where the money is for them.

Just my 2.5c ;)

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Postby GSM8 » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:38 am

Sporkin wrote:I did not know that BBC has production quotas, is the purpose to even out the playing field so lesser known writer's series still get air time?

I am not sure, actually. Jeremy Clarkson mentioned it on Top Gear a couple of times, but perhaps it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt coming from whom it did"

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Re: BBC sitcom episode count compared to American sitcoms

Postby GSM8 » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:46 am

JR8 wrote:OMTG too risque by half for the puritanical US audience !

'Mericans like cosy comfort, predictability, no risk of offence, (TV with a white picket fence around it?)

American TV is most certainly sanitized compared to BBC. US version of Top Gear humor is so utterly lame compared to the original BBC series with Clarkson/Hammond/May

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Postby PNGMK » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 1:49 pm

It's something to do with the production year calendar/summer break in NA and length of the show.

American TV = roughly 16 episodes across the a two year calendar (with a summer break) of 22 playable minutes.

i.e.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Th ... y_episodes

UK TV - 6 to 8 episodes twice a year (with a break in between) of about 52 ore more playable minutes.

i.e. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Top_Gear_episodes

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Postby JR8 » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 5:29 pm

^ Interesting PNG, I'd never considered it that way.

Maybe another reason why some UK comedy 'lives fast dies young', it gets made in smaller chunks, and doesn't get the critical mass to continue from one 'season', or year, to the next. In fact the concept of TV seasons, is an American thing to me, IMHO.

It's funny (ha) the UK series that just burn out, and you reeeaalllly wish there had have been more. The Young Ones was a case in point. On when I was a uni student, fresh, different, irreverent, crazy, hilarious [poof!], over.

Fawlty Towers [John Cleese etc] was very similar. Insanely popular [poof!] > finished. It is unbelievable, in retrospect, that a series of that historic stature, and reputation, ran to a mere 12 episodes - incredible!

'In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was named the best British television series of all time.'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fawlty_towers

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Postby PNGMK » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 9:53 pm

JR8 wrote:^ Interesting PNG, I'd never considered it that way.

Maybe another reason why some UK comedy 'lives fast dies young', it gets made in smaller chunks, and doesn't get the critical mass to continue from one 'season', or year, to the next. In fact the concept of TV seasons, is an American thing to me, IMHO.

It's funny (ha) the UK series that just burn out, and you reeeaalllly wish there had have been more. The Young Ones was a case in point. On when I was a uni student, fresh, different, irreverent, crazy, hilarious [poof!], over.

Fawlty Towers [John Cleese etc] was very similar. Insanely popular [poof!] > finished. It is unbelievable, in retrospect, that a series of that historic stature, and reputation, ran to a mere 12 episodes - incredible!

'In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was named the best British television series of all time.'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fawlty_towers


I think Fawlty Towers stumbled because of a fall out between Cleese and Connie Booth (Polly - in real life his wife). I agree it's hard to believe it was only two seasons as well. Booth and Cleese divorced between the seasons in fact.

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Postby PNGMK » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 9:58 pm

I noticed the last season (4) of Louie he ran two episodes back to back - he basically had a UK style season. Much more enjoyable.

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Postby Hannieroo » Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:38 pm

We like maximum bang for our buck, no canned laughter and for a show to finish whilst it's still good. US The Office, I'm looking at you. And friends. Like anyone cared.

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Postby BedokAmerican » Fri, 18 Jul 2014 6:06 am

One of my favorite American sitcoms is "Big Bang Theory," which does 22-24 episodes per season. Season 8 starts in September. I haven't watched much British comedy but will sometimes watch BBC news.

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Postby Brah » Fri, 18 Jul 2014 9:11 am

GSM8 wrote:Many of the BBC series (e.g. older ones like Yes Minister/PM) seem to contain complex/subtle humor, possibly taking longer to write than the more slapstick American ones (including the timeless classic Seinfeld to an extent).

Seems that tired old Brit humour = sarcastic wit vs. US humor = slapstick old generalization chestnut is still alive and well.

How many times has that one been dredged out over the years.....
Last edited by Brah on Fri, 18 Jul 2014 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.


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