Living in the land of bulk, American TV series want to go mega. Seven seasons, at 22 episodes a year, will do fine.
But British TV comes in all sizes. The latest example is Back to Life, the splendid little Showtime series. It debuts at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Nov. 10 (five weeks later than originally scheduled) and its first season has only six half-hour episodes.
That’s three hours total. The whole series is an hour shorter than “Cleopatra,” even 39 minutes shorter than “Heaven’s Gate.” In that time, we get drama, comedy and a big finish.
Credit that to Daisy Haggard, who created the show and stars as Miri, who was convicted of murder as a teen-ager. After 18 years in prison, she’s returned to the seaside village where she grew up … and where even her parents are wary of her.
Certainly, there are flaws here. The parents’ sub-plot is lame; the court case is only believable if she had the worst lawyer in human history.
Still, Haggard gives us a warm portrait of an everyday person in an extraordinary situation. She finds rich amounts of humor … then gives us a frenetic finale that would leave us satisfied, even if this is the only season.
Such brevity is often the case for British shows. Many have six- or 10-episode seasons … a habit now being copied by some cable and streaming people in the U.S.
In this case, the producers are Harry and Jack Williams, who know the turf. Their Fleabag has had only two six-episode seasons, with no plans for a third. The second season won six Emmys, including best comedy series. Comedy, apparently, doesn’t have to come in bulk.