Friday, July 17, 2009

Questions You Never Asked: When Did TV Shows Shrink?

Here’s a topic I don’t believe I’ve ever seen discussed in any meaningful way.

Over the years, TV shows “shrank”!

Observing DVD running times of shows from my prime viewing period of the Sixties, an hour-long show ran about an average of 50:00 to 52:00.

This would cover the period of Perry Mason, Outer Limits, Lost in Space, Star Trek TOS, Wild Wild West, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, etc.

There are two “modern” hour-long shows that I collect on DVD – Lost and Heroes. Their running times average 40:00 to 42:00. I’ll assume that is the modern standard.

We’ve lost about Ten Minutes per hour show, and (I’d guess) a corresponding drop-off for half-hour shows. I’m curious as to when that happened.

I suspect it was slow and gradual… a minute here, two minutes there, until ten minutes were excised. I further suspect it happened over the seventies and eighties, but those periods are not well represented in my collection.

Further, did a series actually shrink over its run? I would assume so, if it straddled the periods in question. Ironside ran from 1967 thru 1975. I wonder if the later episodes are shorter than the earlier episodes. Hawaii Five-O might be an even better test case, given the length of its run (1968-1980).

This is why, on the RARE OCCSAION that you ACTUALLY SEE an older show these days, it is always edited – and never aired uncut. I’m curious as to how we went about losing those ten minutes.

I posed this to an online forum, and received a wide range of theories including: Deregulation of the FCC – or back when programs had “specific sponsors”, the ads for other products were limited to give the primary sponsor the most indelible impression with the audience – to just plain old, garden variety corporate greed. But, no clear and winning direction emerged.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome… and, if you see those missing ten minutes (times the number of shows per season!) of LOST or HEROES, please let me know – they might make great DVD extras!


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Joe Torcivia said...

Hey, Jeff:

Thanks for reading and commenting on my Blog.

To your request, my Blog is a very personal endeavor and, as a rule, I don’t explicitly promote the efforts of others – preferring to let my affectionate comments on any given subject do that for me.

Several close personal friends have also have Blogs – and they are daily stops for me. I tend to comment on their sites often… and show my appreciation for what they do in that manner.

So, hopefully, you will understand why I will not publish a link. But, your comment remains, and folks can take that and visit, should they desire.

So, uh… how DO you feel about the shrinking of TV shows?


Rodan said...


I think it is a combination of factors. Most TV writers today can't come up with a good fresh story like during the earlier days or TV. Plus, shows are no pressured for the commercial ad time. THey lobby for more ait-time per hour and get. Writers then get thier money and do less writing.

That it; I'm big on thoughts; lousy on writing.

Rodan said...

My previous attempt was rushed & horrid. Sorry.

There are not as many good writers today it seems. There was a period, as you stated, when pushing commercials was important enough to whittle down the entertainment content for more ads. That lost time has never been added back to shows. Thank God, HBO, a fovorite channel of mine, is not riddled with traditional ads.

I'm big on thoughts; lousy on writing

I watched all those 60's shows live and loved them. I now watch Irwin Allen shows on HULU and I have Wild, Wild, West on my NetFlix queue.

Joe Torcivia said...

Rodan writes:

“I'm big on thoughts; lousy on writing”

Not at all! You make some very good points – and, as my experience on the HTF Forum indicates, there is no one answer to this question. And, the more persons who participate, the more answers there seem to be. I expect the same situation to prevail here.

The shows of the sixties were great in a way television will never be again. And I am, unashamedly, a big fan of Irwin Allen. Glad you’re enjoying that stuff now! Indeed, one of the things I like most about LOST is that it puts a contemporary spin on Irwin Allen’s decades-old bag of tricks.

Stranded castaways, intrepid kid, “less than trustworthy guy” as part of the group – who can redeem himself when the chips are down. Hidden civilizations. Time travel galore. Characters are seemingly “saved” but have to “go back” for some greater purpose… It’s all there to enjoy all over again!

…AND LOST manages to do all that in TEN FEWER MINUTES than Irwin Allen did – and still make it work magnificently!