We spoke about long form storytelling in the sense of it being a seven season structure. Seven seasons to tell your story, and then you’re done.
But what happens when you go beyond season seven? Plenty of shows do it. What then?
When you go past season 7, the whole seven season cycle starts over again.
Season 8, is just a new season 1.
You’ll deal with all the attributes of season 1 again:
- Establish Old Identities vs. New Identities
- Establish Character Roles
- New Circumstances/Location
- Fresh Start
- Old Circumstances/Location
- World Change
Then, as you move forward:
- Season 9 is a new season 2.
- Season 10 is a new season 3.
- Season 11 is a new season 4.
- Season 12 is a new season 5.
- Season 13 is a new season 6.
- Season 14 is a new season 7.
If you’re getting crazy and you go past season 14, then the cycle repeats again. Season 15 would be a new season 1, etc etc etc…
So what exactly do we mean by “a new season 1?”
We mean that you’re going to take a look at all of the things a normal season 1 does, and do those things again here in season 8. But notice, what you’re establishing in this season 8, should be done in stark contrast to what’s come before – in the season 1-7 cycle of the show.
If season 8 is truly a new season 1, then you’ll have to have a world change, a fresh start, a new world, etc. And this new world should be markedly different from the world of seasons 1-7. As different from them as season 1 was from the “old world” that existed before the show started.
So season 8 is in a strange position.
It is, essentially, two things at once:
- A separation/negative/deviation season, when looked at in the context of the show from season 1 onward.
- A connection/positive/origin season when seen in the context of the new cycle of the show being established (seasons 8-14).
This season serves two masters.
In a perfect world, every season 8 you see would play out this structure and serve as a new season 1.
But the world is rarely perfect, so you’re gonna see a bunch of shows that do something a bit different.
Typically, when a season 8 isn’t a new season 1, then showrunners make it a generic separation/negative/deviation season.
They’re continuing to pulse the seasons between connection/positive/origin and separation/negative/deviation in an effort to keep the narrative alive.
They treat their season 8 like a new, different, version of season 2, 4, or 6. In place of any specific traits for their season 8 (identity, new world, old world, core conflict, etc.), they just do thematically relevant stuff that would fit in any season 2, 4, or 6.
Is this a great idea? No.
By definition it makes for a pretty generic season. There’s no real change or development. The narrative is now spinning its wheels, pumping out a new season without building toward anything.
Let’s look at some examples:
House, season 8!
At the end of season 7, we saw House drive his car into Cuddy’s living room. Season 8 picks up with House in jail. Foreman gets him out on conditional release and back working at the hospital. Foreman’s actually taken over Cuddy’s position as Dean of Medicine, because she’s split town. Back at the hospital now, House is starting over – putting together a new team. Including new characters Park and Adams, and reuniting with Chase and Taub.
So there’s “separation” – in that Cuddy is gone and House has empty seats to fill on his new team. There’s “negative” – in that House is heartbroken and on probation, one screw-up away from going back to jail. And there’s “deviation” – in that these circumstances deviate from previous seasons.
With all of these things in play, it’s definitely a new era. And it should be. The season 6/7 era is over, so it’s time for a new one.
This is not a new story. It’s not a new season 1. Notice, we’re not starting over. House is still doing his differential diagnosis work at the same hospital with a cobbled together team. The world and location haven’t changed. The core conflict hasn’t changed. We did some character swapping but those who’ve stayed have pretty much the same identities as they did before. Things have changed (in an “era” sort of way) but this is definitely not a new season 1. They’re just squeakin’ out one more year before taking their bow. Squeakin’ out one more season.
Let’s take a look at another example:
Smallville ran for 10 seasons. They did treat season 8 as a new season 1.
We’ve got the new world/location: Clark moved from his home town of Smallville, to working and spending most of his time in Metropolis.
We’ve got the new core conflict: Clark spent the first seven seasons hiding his alien origins and his abilities. In season 8, the core conflict is now all about using those powers, but actively hiding his identity as “The Blur.”
- “Will they discover that Clark is an alien with super powers?”
- “Will they discover Clark Kent is the super powered ‘Blur?'”
It’s a subtle change, but significant.
Our characters get a roster change: Lex, Lionel, Martha, and Kara are all out (for the most part). Oliver Queen, Tess Mercer, and Davis Bloome (aka Doomsday) are all in.
And we’ve also got new identities for those characters stickin’ around:
Clark is now a reporter at the Daily Planet and masquerading as “The Blur.” When we see Lana Lang again she’s used Lex’s Prometheus technology to gain super-powers. She’s a hero of her own now.
Not everyone gets a new identity, but thematically, the season has plenty of focus on this (new) season 1 “identity” idea.
Structurally, Smallville’s season 8 is really solid.
So when building your season 8, go for a whole new season 1.
Start a whole new cycle of your show. You can squeeze out another mediocre year if you want, but really, that’s the bland, boring, way to go.
If you’re gonna go for season 8, really go for season 8. Do it right.