Uncle John knows pretty much everything—and if he doesn’t, he heads his massive research library, or puts one of his many associates on the case. So go ahead: In the comments below, ask Uncle John anything. (And if we answer your question sometime, we’ll send you a free book!)
Why are British TV seasons so short?
First off, in the United Kingdom, the British Broadcasting Corporation and its viewers don’t call the annual collection of a long-running TV program’s episodes a “season.” They call it a series. Confusingly, a TV show can also be called a series, meaning that a successful series in England can run for many series. (Also in English TV, news anchors are called newsreaders and game show hosts are presenters.)
But the one quirky fact everybody knows about British TV is that their seasons—sorry, series—are painfully short. There you are, getting really into some costume drama set during an outbreak of cholera or some hilarious comedy featuring men in wigs and dresses and boom, six episodes in and it’s over. Contrast this to an American network TV show which churns out 22 or so episodes a year, or a cable series that makes 12. How do the English get away with making just six?
It’s because the American TV system and the British TV system are very different, which is partly due to how TV writers are treated. American TV is made by committee. Producers run the show (literally), buying TV show concepts and pilot scripts from writers, and then turning them into huge productions with big writing staffs. If a show has a dozen writers (and most American sitcoms do), then spreading out two dozen episodes among them all is a reasonable workload.
British TV provides more autonomy to its writers. One or two writers pitch their ideas to the BBC, and if they get the green light, they go and write every episode of their show. (The state-run BBC makes hundreds of shows, and small writing staffs help keep budgets down.) For just one or two individuals to come up with six shows, and quickly, is hard work. After that, they need a break.