Why Goliath Should Be One Season Only

Amy and I watched the Amazon series Goliath last month. It was deeply awesome. Deeply deeply awesome. We also watched The Night Manager which we loved almost as much. And, at the end of each, I said to Amy, “They should end this now and not do a Season 2.”

Goliath captured my attention more.It had amazing character development. Bill Bob Thornton, who I’ve always liked, was at his best, William Hurt was excruciatingly delicious, Nina Arianda made me root for her every time she said something, and Molly Parker had mastery over the role of ruthless, hateful, and utterly self-centered, manipulative lawyer.  The filming, while against the standard LA backdrop, was rich and unique. There were many tense moments that just kind of hung on for an extra few beats, which I loved.  Each of the eight episodes had at least one unexpected twist and turn. The backstory was complex and finally all came together in the last episode, which was magnificent.

I thought the climactic moments were breathtaking. In the back of our minds we knew we were watching the last episode. And then the screen went black and it was over.

I expect it’s easy for Hollywood to crank out a Season 2. Take the complex characters, subtract a few, add a few new ones, put in a new current story, continue to unfold pieces of the backstory, and keep going. Hollywood knows how to do this.

But wouldn’t it be special if this was it? Just one season. An eight hour movie, instead of an annual TV show.

I have no idea what the economics of the movie business is, especially with all the new Amazon, Netflix, Showtime, AMC, SyFy, and HBO series. But I am intrigued with what feels like a new type of show – the six to eight hour movie. It’s a little too long to watch in one setting but you can watch it over a three to five day period. It becomes immersive without taking over everything. It doesn’t drag you out week by week with mildly unsatisfying endpoints. And it doesn’t end up being a 13 hour bingfest, which can be done (ala House of Cards) but doesn’t stay with you (or at least stay with me) as much.

I let this idea sit for a few weeks (I wrote the headline for this post three weeks ago after we finished Goliath.) When I saw it this morning, it still felt right to me. I wonder if, as the tech to deliver content continues to evolve, we will start seeing the one season / 6-8 hour show that ends at a peak moment, rather than is cancelled because it sucks.

Also published on Medium.

  • TamiMForman

    I felt the same way about Jessica Jones but Netflix is going to do another season of that. OTOH, I’ve loved The Americans, but also love that they’ve announced that they are only doing two more seasons so it doesn’t just peter out into suck land.

    BTW, if you love Billy Bob Thornton, check out Our Brand is Crisis. It stars Sandra Bullock as a washed-up political strategist who gets recruited to help a presidential candidate in Bolivia. Billy Bob plays her rival. It’s GREAT.

    • We loved Our Brand is Crisis. It’s unfortunately too real.

  • We just finished Goliath, too. Awesome. I love how Billy Bob Thornton’s character is smarter than the rest of them put together but lives in a crappy little apartment, his office is a bar, his best friend is a stray dog and his team is a group of snaggle tooth misfits… but they get the job done. A little bit like a startup! 🙂

  • Joe Stech

    I’m one of those people who laments that the TV show “Firefly” was only one season, but I sometimes wonder if would still have become such a fixture in the popular consciousness if it had been more than one season. It seems like the shows that stick around are the ones that were never allowed to degrade — the ones that were cancelled in their prime.

    • Yes on Firefly. I was sad when it was only one season. But after the movie came out, I was happy it was only one season.

  • aaron

    The economics work as long as people aren’t greedy. but that won’t ever be the case in the american entertainment biz. i’d say the English system where their seasons are short and shows don’t last more than a few seasons, has it pretty right tho.

    • Re: “The economics work as long as people aren’t greedy. but that won’t ever be the case in the american entertainment biz” – that’s a tough hurdle to cross!

      • aaron

        perfect case-in-point is the sequels/remakes syndrome plaguing the movie industry edit: altho i don’t believe this to be only an american industry issue. laziness, path least resistance, profits corrupt.

  • The economics of TV is why later seasons are never as good. An intricate, complex plot gets you emotionally invested in the characters. Once you are emotionally invested, you are interested enough to watch a soap opera with those characters. Good writing that would close story arcs is dismissed. Unreasonable story arcs that never end mean more seasons, more watchers, etc.

  • sdso234

    In TV industry, first seasons are typically sold at a deficit to the network. Subsequent seasons narrow the deficit, but don’t eliminate it. The returns come after the TV run, in which the series is sold to non-US markets and other distribution channels (like other cable networks, or netflix).

    Right now, you have lots of buyers interested in subscriber acquisition, and competing for content that can be featured in ads/PR. These buyers are willing to pay “irrational” sums for these series (i.e. – $ that don’t make sense based on near term or direct economics that are attributable to the specific show).

    I suspect as the frenzy settles down, we may see other models, where limited series are sold at a loss, but then the producers make additional economics if/when viewership (or some other metric) hits a particular threshold. Will be interesting to see.

    • Fascinating insights. Thanks for sharing that. I had no idea how it worked, but explains a great deal.

  • Ben

    I couldn’t agree more. Not about Goliath in particular (haven’t seen it), but there are tons of shows I’ve stopped watching after the first couple seasons because it was obvious they were just going downhill.

    I wouldn’t call it an entirely new concept, though, what we’re asking for is really just miniseries.