I’m a couple of months late to this party, but this past weekend saw me finally get round to watching Reboot — the Hulu comedy poking fun at the TV industry. I also finished the entire show in a single day because, to my annoyance, the first season is a mere eight episodes long.
To put that into numbers, including credits, the show is 3 hours and 46 minutes long. For reference the Snyder Cut is 4 hours and 2 minutes long, as is Return of the King’s Extended Edition (its theatrical cut is 3 hours 20 minutes long).
That’s a long way of saying Reboot is not a very long show, and that’s kind of a problem for me. There seems to be a lack of big 30-minute comedies going on right now, and the ones that are on the air seem to have ditched the usual 20+ episode season in favor of a much shorter run.
A new era of shorter seasons sits in stark contrast
Think about the comedy shows currently on the air. How many of them have more than a dozen episodes per season? (Editor's note: only Abbott Elementary, which will go 22 episodes in season 2, comes to mind). Sure you have your long-running animated shows doing their usual thing, and live-action shows that have long-overstayed their welcome. The ones that started back when longer seasons were still the norm, and follow the axiom of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The same can’t be said for a lot of the newer stuff. It seems as though a lot of this happened as streaming gained popularity over traditional broadcast TV. Streaming-exclusive shows have always had fewer episodes, something I’ve never had much issue with in the past.
Hour-long dramas, especially the ones with heavily serialized storylines, can easily benefit from concise storytelling without unnecessary filler getting in the way. Meanwhile, sitcoms seem to have copied this idea, even if they don’t always need it. After all your classic TV sitcom is supposed to be easy casual viewing, and it’s pretty much all filler.
Imagine if this had always been the way things worked
Take Seinfeld, for instance. By its own admission the show is about nothing, and there's almost never any resolution to the problems its cast faces. They just jump from one absurd situation to the next. It doesn’t matter how much you get, it’s still just as enjoyable.
And since a first season may sometimes be the only season, imagine if Seinfeld arrived, and then ended after just eight episodes, you’d be pretty disappointed with how little you actually got. That’s how I’m feeling now that I’ve finished off Reboot. Whose second season is not guaranteed.
I genuinely enjoyed the show too. Reboot is the kind of referential self-deprecating comedy that I really enjoy. It's a TV show poking fun at the television industry, and Hollywood’s ongoing love affair with resurrecting and rebooting every franchise imaginable. Particularly with executives trying to cash in on classic shows that have found new audiences in the streaming age — in this case a fictional long-canceled sitcom called Step Right Up.
Crucially the show doesn’t dive too deep into absurdity, something the likes of The Office did. It’s shocking that anyone at Dunder Mifflin could get any work done with all the shenanigans going on throughout the day. The set of Step Right Up isn’t like that, with the cast and crew maintaining more than a modicum of professionalism and pride in their work. But funny things still happen, especially as the old timers and incoming talent butt heads over what is and isn’t acceptable.
Yes, sometimes less is more
Of course not all shows can jump into an old-fashioned season order right away, even before the shortened seasons commissioned by streaming companies. The Office is a particularly notable example, since its first season was only six episodes long. The same is true of Parks and Recreation, and that was probably for the best since both shows didn’t really hit their stride until much later on.
Can you imagine a full 22 episodes of the David Brent-esque Michael Scott? Not even David Brent himself managed to last that long, and it’s likely that The Office wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as it did.
Other notable shows that found success under similar circumstances include Veep, Breaking Bad and the ongoing How I Met Your Father — which is jumping from a 10-episode first season to 20 episodes in season two. Even Seinfeld, that gold-standard of TV comedy, only had five episodes in its first season.
After all, TV shows cost a lot to make, and if it bombs right away you’re left with a commitment for a bunch of episodes nobody is going to watch. Testing the waters with half a dozen episodes is a much less risky strategy — even though it’s frustrating for people like me.
Shouldn't Hulu want longer shows?
As noted above, Reboot season 2 is not guaranteed right now, but I’m hoping it follows that same pattern. Heck even if it’s not twenty-something episodes, getting into double digits would be a win. Even if it’s six hours of viewing material instead of four.
Plus, next time I’ll be ready to watch episodes as they drop — and not binge-watch them all a couple of months after they originally aired. That only exacerbated the problem of running out of episodes to watch, and the 30-minute runtime didn’t do me any favors.
A longer season — which also doesn't seem like something I can expect, many shows stick with the same length year over year — isn't just good for me. More episodes of Reboot means people would ostensibly spend more time watching Hulu, and less time thinking about canceling.
At least by tuning in weekly I’ll be stretching the viewing experience out over several weeks. I’ll probably still be upset when it’s over, just as I am with the criminally short seasons of What We Do In The Shadows, but at least it won’t be gone faster than a pair of limited edition sneakers.