As a television critic, or even as someone who consumes a lot of television content during the Peak TV era, there is one thing that many of us absolutely loathe. When I opened by my HBO streaming account last week to turn on their new series Gentleman Jack, for instance, the first thing I looked at was the runtime: 59 minutes and 58 seconds. I started the first episode on a Tuesday. Days later, and I still hadn’t finished. Moreover, last weekend, as I was trying to decide which new streaming series to watch first — the second season of YouTube’s Cobra Kai or the first season of Netflix’s Chambers — and I made the decision not based on which series I was most excited to see, but which series had the shortest runtime. It wasn’t even close. I started at 11 p.m., and was through the first five episodes of Cobra Kai in a little more than five hours.
Series with short episodes are the best. As a viewer, we get all the satisfaction of finishing an entire season of television in a fraction of the time. It was why I was so bummed that Netflix cancelled both One Day at a Time (13 half-hour episodes) and Santa Clarita Diet (ten half hour episodes) — they were seasons I could finish in a night or two. Meanwhile, Orange is the New Black (12 one-hour episodes) will run for seven seasons interminable seasons.
It’s part of what is so refreshing about Netflix’s Black Summer, especially relative to nine seasons of The Walking Dead (9 seasons, 16 one-hour episodes each season): It’s fast-paced, intense and short. There are only 8 half-hour episodes, meaning the entire first season of Black Summer clocks in at under four hours. That’s an entire season of television that only takes an hour longer to watch than Avengers: Endgame. It’s brisk, not to mention bloody, action-packed, and bleak.
While critics usually won’t tout it in their reviews, viewers definitely are singling out the brief runtime as an additional reason to watch Netflix’s Black Summer.
The short runtime is certainly not the reason, but it’s definitely one of the reasons to check out Black Summer. And the nice thing about it is, it’s so short that by the time viewers get fully invested, the season is already half over.