When I was younger, TV shows with less than three seasons were unheard of. Nowadays, it seems to be the norm. Ten years ago, about 25% of TV shows were canceled after one season. Today, that number certainly feels higher.
First seasons are no longer the first step of a long-term commitment. They are bait thrown out to see if anyone will bite. Not enough watch hours? Didn’t get the right reviews? Axe it! A better investment will come along. Ironically, it is this very behavior that makes people like me less likely to watch in the first place. I often wait until I hear a show is actually renewed before I dive in. I can’t be the only one.
TV shows have always been plagued by bad writing, source material conflicts, and character departures, but these problems can be fixed, and plenty of shows have in the past — but they can rarely be fixed in one season. Add these issues to a heavily scrutinized budget and hopes of pandering to an ever-flitting market, however, and a show that’s here to stay becomes the exception rather than the norm.
That’s why The Rings of Power is refreshing: Amazon committed to make at least five seasons. They also spent over $450 million of their minimum total $1 billion budget on just the first. Where House of the Dragon‘s first season, the Game of Thrones successor that came out around the same time, started with a very high rating on IMDb, then slowly went down over time, The Rings of Power started lower but has been growing in popularity ever since. For one, a co-showrunner left on the day of its release, for the other, two young, unknown writers are already working on its season five finale. Imagine the breathing room! The relief of knowing, “Yes, we have time.”
We’re not a movie studio trying to recoup a million-dollar investment, but we, too, often flit around more than we should. Posting on LinkedIn for 30 days didn’t work? Too bad, let’s try something else! No one wants your first batch of homemade blueberry muffins? Alright, maybe baking was never in your cards. No! Don’t give up so easily! Give yourself time. Commit to another season.
It must seem laughable to someone like Gandhi, who devoted his entire life to a single cause, but for me, focusing on one goal each year already improved a lot. There’s so much you can accomplish that you could never do in three, six, sometimes even nine months. Of course the extra 90 days make a difference! How could they not when every day counts? And you know what? If you’re not happy with December’s ending, you can start the next season on January 1st. Why not follow up? Aim a little higher, practice a little more, and perhaps this year, you’ll hit your mark.
Life is not a TV show, and even those are better when their makers commit. In the real world, however, canceling after one season almost never works — because good things take time, and there’s only so much you can achieve in a few episodes.
Bet on yourself. Order more seasons of the projects and relationships you care about. If you work on them long enough, I’m sure the ratings will catch up.