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Five-Year Plan

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After an American TV series has completed five seasons, usually about 100 episodes, it can be sold for syndication. This makes the five-year point an important milestone for TV series. Which means it often becomes a milestone for the characters too, with some crucial event scheduled for five years in the future. The TV business being what it is, the shows are often cancelled before the milestone is reached. Of course, five years is a nice round number so not all mentions of it may be related to syndication. Even the title comes from the Soviet Union's economic Five-Year Plans, which presumably didn't have anything to do with TV.

Contrast The Chris Carter Effect, in which a series gradually begins to appear to be made up as it goes along.


Live-Action TV

  • Babylon 5, which was planned in a five-year arc for exactly this reason.
  • J. Michael Straczynski's followup Crusade definitely had a five-year plan, with Gary Cole and friends searching the universe for the cure to a plague that was put in the atmosphere of the Earth that was intended to run several seasons, then have a conspiracy arc for the remainder of the series. Executive Meddling, however, resulted in just half a season before the show was canceled.
  • In the remake of Bionic Woman, Jaime's body will reject the upgrades in five years, with lethal consequences.
  • In Dollhouse, the Actives are meant to be released with their original personalities after five years.
  • In a subtle example, Smallville has Clark Kent saying it'll take him about five years to adjust to being an alien. It could be coincidence — except the creators said that "100 episodes" would sound funny. It ended up taking ten.
  • In Cupid, the title character must unite 100 couples before being released from Earth.
  • Averted in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Judgement Day is only four years in the future when it could easily have been five.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series had its original "five-year mission", announced at the start of every show. Of course, it never got that far. It entered into syndication anyway.
  • Brimstone had 113 damned souls for Zeke to hunt down. It was canceled after a half-season, so things didn't really work out as planned.
  • In Disney Presents The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage Black Jack (a ghost) and his live partner have to save 100 souls in order to compensate for the evils they have done. Since only 7 episodes got aired, I guess they're both roasting in Hell right about now. Unusually for an episodic show, every episode ended with a tally showing the viewer how many lives the duo had left to save. Some episodes had them saving multiple lives, in others they didn't get any. It probably would have taken them about 5 years worth of episodes to get to 100... if the show hadn't been canned.
  • There's Supernatural, which was planned as a five-season arc from the very beginning; watching those five seasons makes this pretty clear. Because of this, when it continued for a sixth season it started off weaker, adopting episode patterns a bit more like the first season had because there was no major story arc yet. Within a couple seasons, though, it picks up speed, and many fans believe the eight season to be one of the best in the series. In fact, series creator Eric Kripke has admitted that he didn't have a five year plan when the pilot was picked up. The five year plan was developed during season 2 and even then he admits that somethings (such as the Croatoan virus) fit so well it gave the illusion that they'd been planned all along when they had not.
  • Odyssey 5 started with the crew of a space shuttle seeing the Earth getting destroyed, and then getting swept back in time five years to try and stop it.
  • The title character in One Hundred Deeds For Eddie Mc Dowd was turned into a dog (who sounded first like Oz and then like Wayne Arnold) as punishment for his bullying ways, and he had to do 100 good deeds before he could turn back into a boy. Each episode consisted of one good deed - unfortunately, Eddie was only able to get to 40 good deeds before the show was cancelled.
  • The title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer died (again) at the end of her 5th season (in a potential series finale, before the show was picked up by UPN). They originally decided to blow up Sunnydale, but then realized it would be too expensive to do at that point. They used that one later on for the real finale of the series.
  • The Merlin writers have often stated that they have a five year plan, and stuck with it, though spinoffs or movies could still happen.
  • Farscape was supposed to have a five-year plan, but got canceled last-minute right as the fourth season was wrapping up, leaving the final episode on a huge cliffhanger. Fortunately they were able to produce a two-part miniseries finale not long after, but it represents an abbreviated version of what the fifth season was intended to be.
  • Person of Interest has been stated to be one by the creators.
  • Arrow had flashbacks from five years before the first episode, they advanced one year each year like the main story and these flashbacks also lasted for five years connecting the last flashback to the first scene of the series.

Video Games

  • Anno 2070 quotes this as a mission title and references this trope as the actual, workable plan quickly falls apart at the hands of a corrupt executive. Incidentally, Anno 2070 also happens to be the fifth entry in the Anno series.

Western Animation

  • South Park had an episode that revolved around pro- and anti-war activists coming to violent protests, while the boys attempted to write a report about what the Founding Fathers would have thought about the Iraq War (simultaneously being pulled by people on either side)... that is resolved in a giant musical number, ending in for the war, against the war, WHO CARES? ONE HUNDRED EPISOOOODES!
  • The Planet Express crew celebrated their 100th delivery right around the time Futurama entered into broadcast syndication.