Agent Carter premiered on ABC earlier this week with two hours of 1940s lady ass-kicking. It was a pretty good start that benefited immensely from a character that we had already been introduced to and the lack of time to screw around. ABC is running 8 episodes of Agent Carter. The pedal needs to be floored.

The quick start really hammers home television’s need for compression. We’ve seen that less is more with the HBO model of shows, as well as some of the gold that AMC and FX have churned out over the years. 20+ episodes is a LOT of television, especially for hour-long programs. It’s always better to have a tightly-focused thrill ride than a wide ranging, rambling jaunt.

Most shows have to resort to aimless filler episodes. They’re typically side quests that have little to do with the main plot. Arrow has made good use of this, giving us their Suicide Squad episode, but overall it’s just too much. Agents of SHIELD stretches its plot as far as it can. I have to imagine it would be a better show with a tight 13-episode storyline. I’m not sure you can say the same for Gotham, but I’m fairly certain we would have never had to deal with the damn Balloonman.

Even the best shows are prone to filler storylines. You know you cringe when Betty pops up on Mad Men. The ratings juggernaut Walking Dead knows how to tread water with the best of them (let’s see what the Governor’s up to when he’s not shooting his own people in the head!). It’s actually one of the key advantages to most BBC programming.

Often, BBC shows only air a few episodes. Sherlock and Black Mirror have 3-episode seasons. Their run times vary, typically going around an hour and a half. There’s just as much show as there needs to be. Having rigid television schedules hurts the creative process. It’s a necessary evil so long as shows are airing in the traditional broadcast model. However, networks grow increasingly less relevant with each passing day, and would be wise to adopt more flexible policies.

The downside is that no show is going to turn down 20+ episodes. It might hurt and bloat their stories, but it’s giving the show’s cast and crew more work. Networks want to bring viewers back. Still, the trend is pointing towards shorter and tighter seasons. It might have seemed like a slight when Agent Carter was initially given 8 episodes, but it’s using that to its advantage. It’s incredibly sure of what type of show it is and what it wants to do.

 

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  • As a former broadcasting student, I really got a kick out of the fake Captain America radio show that was used in the 2nd episode.
  • I might be in love with Hayley Atwell.
  • It was a nice touch having Howard Stark handle the congressional wringer just like his son Tony did in Iron Man 2. It’s funny, Iron Man 2 is often considered the worst Marvel studios film, but here it is being referenced not once, but twice in one series. Whiplash’s pops appears, no birds to be found.
  • James Urbaniak! I love it when Dr. Venture pops up in stuff.
  • I always welcome the presence of Shea Whigham, who played Sheriff Eli Thompson on Boardwalk Empire. Nice to not see him playing the brother character this time around (as he also does in Silver Linings Playbook).