The hit Fox show Sleepy Hollow will be airing its two-hour season one finale tonight. This will be their 12th and 13th episode, a shorter season which is rare for network television. However, it is a trend that Sleepy Hollow may start popularizing.
The supernatural drama has been a hit for Fox Network, drawing in 10.1 million viewers in its debut. As any television show can attest, viewership has dropped throughout the season but not by a large percentage – the last episode, The Vessel, garnered an impressive 6.4 million viewers.
Fox Network’s experiment with 13-episodes for Sleepy Hollow is paying dividends creatively. The network is prone to experimenting how they air their programs, most prominently 24 and how from season four onwards, they premiered the show in early January and aired consecutive episodes until May without any hiatus. Fox experimented with the shortened season with The Following , which aired only 15 episodes last year. Kevin Reilly, the president of Fox Entertainment, told the New York Post that he expects this will not be the last one to have a shortened season.
Fox follows TNT, whose programs like Perception, 14 episodes, and Falling Skies, 10 episodes, have begun a growing trend of shorter seasons among network TV. Sleepy Hollow, with its large fan base, will only popularize this trend. The finale does seem abrupt due to the familiarization of the 22-episode arc; however, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
It would take roughly 5-6 months to film a 13-episode season, as opposed to 8-9 months to film a 22-episode season. Less months works well for all of the crew, especially the actors, who get more time to rest their creative minds. However, there is sacrifice in terms of less money being made from actors to caterers to CEOs.
For many viewers, shortened seasons helps keep a program feel fresh. Often times 22 episodes can feel like a drag, with filler written in from week to week to fulfill the episode count. This can interrupt with the plot line, which could sometimes feel less self-contained. In the case of Sleepy Hollow, every episode focused on driving the plot forward without any extraneous “monster of the week” episodes, which many supernatural shows tend to be guilty of. To put into perspective, Sleepy Hollow has a seven season arc and if it does make it to its planned ending that will be a total of 91 episodes as opposed to 154 episodes, skimming, in the process, a lot of fat.
Elwood Reid, a broadcast show writer tells The New York Post that fatigue sets in with 22 episodes because viewers are seeing a lot of repetition. However, it is up to the networks to decide how long a season will go. The thought process, not surprisingly, is that more episodes means more money. In the earlier days, 39 weeks of a show used to be the standard, which was later reduced to the 22 episodes we see today due to costs.
The 2-hour special season finale of Sleepy Hollow, popularizing the shorter season trend, will air tonight at 8 pm on Fox. To summarize what to expect, star Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod Crane, teases that the episode will be “a big one and no one is really spared. Wait until you see the final act of the finale. It’s relentless in punishing everyone.”
By Kollin Lore