|Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) & creator Mike Kelley|
It was announced yesterday that creator of ABC's/E4's soap-y drama 'Revenge' would be leaving the show in its entirety. Mike Kelley's series starring Emily VanCamp and Madeline Stowe debuted in the US in September 2011 and is currently in its second season. The creator is set to finish post-production duties on the show shortly before he departs, which is expected to be next month.
The announcement surprised me mainly because I've never heard of a creator stepping down from a show this early on. 'Revenge' became a sleeper hit with its debut, gaining just over 10 million viewers on its first ever showing. The audience viewership stayed strong, as did its critical reception for the next 21 episodes in the season. However, its audience has depleted somewhat in the show's sophmore year, with only 5.49 million people tuning into its most recent episode, "Masquerade", on Sunday 31st March. The move is, as I said shocking to me, but what irritated me about Kelley leaving his beloved show behind was the supposed reason.
Kelley had allegedly lobbied for 'Revenge' to carry a shortened 3rd season, possibly to stand at 13 episodes, to abandon unnecessary story arcs and twists that ultimately aren't necessary to the shows main story. ABC opted against the idea, most probably because they would be losing out on thousands, maybe even millions of dollars of ad-revenue from only having 13 episodes in one series (although there isn't an official figure for how much 'Revenge' "charges", in October 2012 a 30 second ad cost a little over $150,000 according to this chart from ad-age).
What ABC doesn't seem to understand is that a short season is exactly what the show needs at this point. At the end of season 1 we were left with a cliffhanger that 18 episodes later - still hasn't been fully seen to, and while the second series is good (at a stretch), it's been carried on for much longer then it probably should've been. The show is known for its ridiculously dramatic soap opera-like twists and turns; people from the past showing up unexpectedly, fake deaths, surprise pregnancies and the like, while also trying to maintain a very dark, crime related story at its core. The marriage of the two genres of soap and crime is what's brought the show into the forefront from its inception, but with its intricate and tricky sub-plots which are quickly getting more difficult to follow, viewership is declining. A concise season of much fewer episodes would allow less "waffle" in the show, and let the main story work perfectly without the interruption of pointless side arcs and guest characters.
Network television needs to put shorter seasons into practise. It happens here and there and shows such as 'The Following', (the first season of) 'Scandal' and NBC's 'Hannibal' are proof that it can actually work effectively. Plus all you have to do is look at the most celebrated TV shows of the 21st century so far: 'Breaking Bad', 'Mad Men', 'The Walking Dead', 'Game of Thrones', 'Luther', 'Downton Abbey' and 'The Wire'. How many episodes have they all had per season?
Not as many as Revenge.
You can read a review of Revenge Season 1 here.