Better Call Saul, Russian Doll, Barry and the Long TV Hiatus

ItSeason 5 Finale of Saul deserves betterThe conflict between antihero Saul Goodman, a lawyer and Kim Wexler, a colleague who is now his wife, has profound implications on their lives in Mexico. The episode, which returns April 18th on AMC, begins just hours after the two-year break. In the hall, the dessert remnants congeal on a cart. Although it may sound frustrating, waiting so long for your ice creams to melt can make you forget all the anxiety that it represents. Recalling your favorite shows can be fun, just like getting to know a friend. It’s customary to gripe about long hiatuses between seasons, but the truth is: I like when a show gives me time to miss it.

Largely because of pandemic-related production shutdowns, the effects of which are still rippling through release schedules, this spring will see the return of many beloved shows that haven’t aired in years. This spring will also see the return of many beloved shows that haven’t aired in years. Saul, April will bring the first new episodes since 2019 of Netflix’s Russian doll, a trippy love letter to New York City starring Natasha Lyonne, and HBO’s Emmy-winning Barryin which Bill Hader plays the lonely actor who is bitten by the acting bug. A family-friendly sci-fi thriller Stranger ThingsThe first episode of the second season, which consists of two parts, will air over Memorial Day weekend. It’s been three years since Glover was last absent. And Donald Glover’s AtlantaThe show had been on air almost 4 years before its debut in March.

But hiatus creep didn’t originate with COVID. Ever since premium cable and streaming decoupled American TV schedules from advertising calendars, those platforms have had the freedom to function more like publicly funded overseas networks such as the BBC—where cult-classic sitcom Absolutely Fabulous could run for three seasons in the early ’90s, take five years off, return for two more seasons, and then resurface again in 2011 for a trilogy of 20th-anniversary specials. Increasingly ambitious TV productions, shot in multiple countries and with elaborate special effects (like Apple’s FoundationAdditional time is required for creating a season.

Such elasticity in scheduling can be great for creators, the most distinguished of whom might now make a new season of their show whenever—and no sooner than—inspiration strikes. Larry David allowed six years to pass between seasons 8 and 9. Curb Your Enthusiasm. For high-concept series such as Atlanta Russian DollThis is a charade between reality, surrealism and history. It would be driven by wild ideas about identity, time, history and the future and could not survive if there was an urge to churn.

In this day of endless content, many TV fans will instinctively demand more shows. This is to ensure that they are immersed in the televisual world of their choice. But it’s not like we’re in danger of running out of things to watch, now that TV produces some 500 scripted series annually. If our favorite shows never took a year off, we’d have that much less time to explore the dozens of new ones that pop up each week. It’s possible that awards will become more predictable than they used to be when broadcast networks controlled the nominations. Modern FamilyFive years running, the Emmys awarded top comedy honours to Theo Platt.

What’s good for creators is also good for viewers, at least when it comes to auteurist shows like the ones returning this spring. Instead of racing to catch up with the latest plot points, we can enjoy long seasons. What’s more satisfying than an endless stream of mediocre entertainment is a story that holds our attention even when it’s off the air. Ice cream is gone. Is it worth the investment we made in Kim and Saul. But not much.

This is the TIME April 25, 2022 issue.

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