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While many cable and streaming series have produced shorter seasons for quite some time, network television frequently holds on to the longer, 22-episode format. While this can give shows more of an opportunity to get into nitty gritty details and for stories to develop, it often also means there are more filler episodes in a given season. One new comedy, The Good Place, isn't actually dealing with that traditional format, however. When asked why The Good Place will only have thirteen episodes during its first season, creator Mike Schur had the following to say:
When I pitched the show to NBC, I felt pretty strongly it was kind of a big swing, and everything was gonna be really heavily serialized... It isn't a 'you can do as many of these as you want' kind of a show. It has to be tightly plotted. And it's much harder to do that over 22 or 24 episodes, versus 13 or so.
The fact that you can create a tighter series with fewer episodes is an idea that many of us already understand or should have an easy time wrapping our heads around. What's more interesting about Mike Schur's comments to TV Line is that NBC was totally fine with the shift. While it's common to only order 13 episodes at the start of a series, usually by now the networks have bumped up the episode orders of the more popular freshman shows to 18 or even 22 episodes (shows in later seasons usually get an extended order at the start of the season). In The Good Place's case, that was never in the plan, and that's pretty uncommon for a network show.
Of course, Mike Schur has a pretty good track record with NBC. He was a writer and a producer for Saturday Night Live which led into a career working as a writer and producer on sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Recreation. (He also produces Brooklyn Nine-Nine for Fox, among other shows.) If he thinks a show is going to be better with fewer episodes, it makes sense that NBC would give the show creator some leeway.
Having the shorter seasons doesn't just work in terms of the plot, however. Mike Schur went on to point out that the traditional network schedule of between 22 and 24 episodes can be extremely trying to shoot. We've heard the likes of Julianna Margulies and others who have headed up trying network shows talk about the grueling schedule of network TV before, and this shortened schedule gives the actors time to take breaks or do other things. Everyone was reportedly on the same page about the breaks.
Doing that for a long time gets kind of exhausting. So everybody in every direction wanted the same thing.
Of course, since NBC has already aired the main bulk of Season 1 episodes of The Good Place, when the show returns at midseason, it will only have four episodes left to air. You can catch the episodes when the show returns to the schedule on Thursday, January 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET. To find out when the rest of your favorite shows are returning, take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule.