Ask Amber: Episode orders, The Returned and more

ABC Media

Hi Amber, how do networks or producers determine the number of episodes of a particular show each season? I know cable shows like Breaking Bad or Mad Men generally do shorter, eight or 12 episode seasons but I always thought network shows ran longer 24 or 30 episode seasons. I was disappointed to find out that last week was the season finale of my favourite new show How to Get Away with Murder. The season finale??? In February??? The show JUST came back from a two month hiatus. What happened to September-May seasons with a few-week break in the middle for Christmas? Thanks – Mike

Amber: I feel you. I know a lot of people were shocked that HTGAWM was only 15 episodes, four of which aired after that dreadful hiatus. Here’s a question for you though–do you think the show would have been as strong if they extended that story over seven more episodes in order to bring it the standard 22? Or would you rather 15 stronger, less drawn out installments? That’s the question producers and networks ask themselves when they’re making these series. A large part of it has to do with the cable order you just mentioned; networks no longer dominate the airwaves with crime-of-the-week procedurals and so they have to compete. But when they made the switched to higher concept, serialized dramas, they found that people began to tune out when there was a large gap between new episodes.

Now, with the advent of binge-viewing, Netflix, Amazon and the like, networks have an even harder go of it. They need to produce buzz-worthy television that packs a punch with each episode AND attracts the same type of A-list celebs (like Viola Davis) that cable was. How do you do that? By promising a shorter episode order. But you don’t want to get rid of the procedural all together, right? So that’s why we’e starting to see more of a balance.

Hi Amber, what’s up with that show The Returned. Any good? – Jas

Amber: Sure is. Well… if you’re into dark, supernatural dramas with more questions than answers it sure is. In case you haven’t heard the series is an English version of Les Revenants, which aired in French on Sundance with subtitles. It focuses on a group of students who were tragically killed, but then magically come back to life four years later without skipping a beat. Sort of like Resurrection, but better because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be overly ambitious. Anyhow it starts Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on A&E, so definitely check it out for yourself and please let me know what you think. Coincidentally it leads into the third season of Bates Motel, which should also be nice and dark. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing…

When is The Amazing Race Canada coming back? – Ted

Amber: No date yet, but I’d guess sometime this summer. That’s when the last two have aired at least. Plus, it’s when the American versions are off the air, meaning there’s no double-up fatigue (I still think that was So You Think You Can Dance Canada‘s downfall, because it was better than the U.S. version). Anyhow, if you’re thinking of applying–like I was–it’s too late. Casting is now closed. Here’s hoping for Season 4.


That’s all for this week. Have a TV question of your own? Email and check out Ask Amber every Monday.