Hour-Long Shows That Should Be a Half-Hour

Bill Brioux and Alex Epstein have both independently made the same point about Being Erica: it would work better as a half-hour. Every episode, even including the pilot with all the setup and exposition, seems a little padded, so that theory makes some sense. On the other hand, if it were a half-hour, it would almost certainly be doing worse than it is: half-hour “dramedies” almost always bomb, because they’re not funny enough to be sitcoms and not long enough to develop a good serious story. (The Wonder Years, yes; but despite the nostalgia factor, that had enough hard jokes to qualify as a sitcom and hold its own among shows with laugh tracks.) When Judd Apatow sliced Freaks and Geeks in half, set it in college and called it Undeclared, he didn’t come up with a show that was any more of a hit than Freaks, just one that (while a good show) had less emotional impact. And let’s not even speak of the disaster that ensued when Fox tried to show a half-hour version of Ally McBeal. A show like Erica, with not enough substance for an hour and not enough laughs for a half-hour, almost seems like it needs a 45-minute slot. Since this is not possible or desirable, they’ll be better off trying to fill the hour more productively. As conceived, it’s still essentially an hour show, just one that still needs work.

I find it hard to think of an hour show that really, truly seemed like a half-hour show waiting to get out. Wait, I thought of one, though it’s over a decade old: when Disney made a TV version of its movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (starring Peter Scolari in the Rick Moranis part), it actually wasn’t a bad fantasy-comedy at all — but it was an hour long, and because of all the plot complications and twists necessary to fit the show into an hour format, it wasn’t nearly as much fun as it should have been. But that was an out-and-out wacky comedy; most hour-long shows are not.

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