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Inconsistent Episode Lengths

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In traditional media, stories published on a regular basis tend to have a very consistent length — TV series note  are usually 22 or 44 minutes, comic books are 32 pages, newspaper comics have a certain number of panels, etc. At most, TV shows may gain an extra minute or two by shortening the credits or skipping the theme tune. If an episode is too short, it can be expanded with a B plot, too long, it's shortened or cut into two. This is naturally due to the limitations of the media it's published in — a series being broadcast or physically printed can't go over into the space meant for other works. For other media, a consistent amount of content is expected if the audience is paying the same price each month.

However, with the advent of direct streaming and internet publication, each issue or episode can easily be a different length without much inconvenience. Much more common in New Media such as Web Video series — non-traditional content creators are much less likely to stick to fixed lengths when tackling a subject, instead taking as much or little time as they think the subject needs or deserves. Some bigger productions have been slower to catch on than others, but it's increasingly common to see series with variable episode lengths from mainstream creators.

Varying installment lengths have always been standard for series which are published as a series of individual works, such as most book or theatrical film series, although this trope could still apply if the differences are unusually significant (such as a 100-page book and a 500-page book in the same series).

This is a common trait of Web Video Series, as those are usually independently made and thus under less/no constraints.

Compare Extra-Long Episode (a one-time format break) and Irregular Series (published on an irregular basis). Some regular-length shows may have special short episodes or omake published online as well, which is Bonus Material. See Infinite Canvas for a similar concept with comics.

Note that for series, the length either needs to be inconsistent across the board (e.g. Black Mirror) or each season follows a different format (e.g. Special) - series with several seasons that have the first/last season follow a different format would be Early-Installment Weirdness or Later-Installment Weirdness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Garden of Sinners anime is a series of 7 movies — 8 with the bonus film — narrating a continuous story and ranging in length from 45 minutes (episode 4) to 2 hours (episode 7). This mainly has to do with their source material, a Light Novel whose chapters varied wildly in their word count.
  • This can be quite common in OAVs. The original OAVs of El-Hazard had episodes 2-6 (of 7) of roughly comparable length to an standard length TV series, but both the first and last episodes were double length. And that's a relatively tame example compared to some others.
  • Deliberately exploited in the case of Excel♡Saga where the last episode was designed to run longer than its allotted broadcast slot as an excuse to keep it as a home video release where it could fill it full of sex and toilet humour that wouldn't normally be allowed to be shown on TV.
  • Almost all the episodes of the original Bubblegum Crisis OAVs were of completely different lengths, ranging from 26 minutes (Episode 3) to 52 minutes (episode 8) with only episodes 6 & 7 having the same run time (49 minutes each).

    Comic Strips 
  • When Calvin and Hobbes started out, the Sunday strips had to follow a standard layout that allowed individual newspapers to rearrange the panels to fit either a full page, half a page or a quarter of a page. Cartoonist Bill Watterson found this format restricting, and after his sabbatical he negotiated to have a freeform Sunday layout. These new strips had as many or as few panels as was required for whatever story Watterson wanted to draw, anywhere from twenty small square panels to one Splash Page taking up the entire page and anything in between; newspapers would be forced to run the whole thing, or not at all. Downplayed, as they still had to fit in the same amount of physical space each week.

    Fan Works 
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: The episodes of the audio series have very inconsistent runtimes. Episodes 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 are in the 18-26 minute range. Episodes 4, 5, 8, and 9 are in the 37-50 minute range. And that's just in the first season alone. Season 3 has one episode that's only around 20 minutes long ("Mortal Precipes Part 4") and another episode that's runs for 1 hour and 50 minutes ("Libra Nos").
  • Glitchtale: The first episode of the series is barely five minutes long, and they kept growing in length until the season 1 finale, which is 16 minutes. Season 2 episodes move in a range of 20 to 40 minutes.
  • Underverse: The first animation was barely a couple of minutes long, followed by other shorts of similar length before being incorporated into the first episode, which lasts about 20 minutes. The rest episodes of Underverse have a 20+ minutes length (though not uniform), and the extras (interludes and Xtra Scenes) all over the place in terms of length. Same goes for the prequel series Xtale, with episode lengths that range from a couple of minutes to half an hour.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Being an anthology series, Black Mirror has episodes of varying lengths, from 41 minutes at the shortest to 89 minutes at the longest.
  • Columbo: Episodes can be anywhere from 70 to 98 minutes depending on the complexity of the plot.
  • Doctor Who: Due in part to being such a Long Runner, the standard episode length has changed several times. Depending on the season, the standard length could be 25, 45, or 50 minutes. Beyond this, there are several episodes which deviate from the "standard", ranging from as short as 18 minutes to as long as 90 minutes. Additionally, the classic era grouped episodes into multi-part serials, with each serial ranging from 2 to 12 episodes, although 4 and 6 episode serials were the most common. The shortest full story is only 25 minutes, while the longest is over 5 hours.
  • Encantadia episodes can be anywhere from 22 to 35 minutes long. This applies to both the 2005 original and the 2016 revival.
  • The running time of most Game of Thrones episodes are usually 50 minutes. The season finales tend to be much longer at 60 minutes. But after the seventh and eighth seasons were shortened to 8 and 6 episodes respectively, the length varieed from 60 to 80 minutes, with Season 8's "The Long Night" being the longest episode in the entire series.
    • House of the Dragon: The average episode of Season 1 is 60 minutes long. The second episode is 54 minutes long and episode 5 and 8 are 68 minutes long.
  • The Mandalorian: The episodes last as long as it takes to tell the story, ranging from 25 to 47 minutes. The short episodes in the middle are mostly adventure-of-the-week, while the plot-heavy episodes are longer.
  • Maniac (2018): The mini-series is split into ten chapters, with episodes of varying lengths; the longest runs to forty-four minutes, and the shortest just twenty-three. The show's creator explained that he liked the idea of the velocity of shorter episodes with the potential of longer ones if needed.
  • Special's first season had episodes that were 15 minutes in length, but the second and final season has 30-minute-long episodes.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: The episodes can last anywhere between 40 minutes and an hour.
  • Ultraman Mebius Gaiden, a spinoff of Ultraman Mebius, have all three of its episodes with different runtimes. The first episode, a prequel titled Hikari Saga, consists of three 15-minute segments chronicling a part of Ultraman Hikari's journey, which is followed by Armoured Darkness, a 27-minute episode taking place after the series, before concluding with a third and final episode set years later, Ghost Rebirth, a 50-minute finale.
  • WandaVision: The episodes range from around 20 minutes to around 40 minutes — the shorter episodes are styled as a faux half-hour sitcom, while the more dramatic later episodes are longer.

  • The Magnus Archives: Each standard episode includes a short prose story in the form of a "statement", typically about some luckless person who has a brush with the supernatural. Most episodes also include a "main plot" segment, being the story of the archivists and their ongoing investigations into the statements. The episodes generally last 20-25 minutes, but can be as short as 16 or as long as 36, depending on how much plot there is.

    Video Games 
  • Friday Night Funkin': The levels are as long as the songs they feature, which can be anywhere from a minute twenty to a minute forty in length, and there are even a few outliers beyond that.

  • Sluggy Freelance started in 1997, and initially aped the look and dimensions of newspaper published comics. However as the years went by it occasionally started making longer comics, or single large panels. The standard Sluggy Freelance comic now seems to be a double row, but the creator uses other formats on a regular basis to fit the story.

    Web Animation 
  • Every episode of Broken Saints is longer than the one that came before it, and may be accompanied by multiple acts, usually including a POV shift; this culminates in a 5-act finale that takes up 1.5 hours of the series' 10-hour runtime.
  • Episodes of Camp Camp were originally around ten minutes long, but as the series progressed it wasn't uncommon for the episodes to hit the twenty minute mark.
  • Ollie & Scoops doesn't seem to care how long the episodes can be. The longest episode so far is "Warm Cream" (18 minutes, 4 seconds), while the shortest episode so far is "Funny Face" (4 minutes, 47 seconds). "Episode 4" clocks in at 1 minute, 53 seconds, but is just an animated music video set to an original song, so it's debatable if that counts as an actual episode even if it is labeled as such.
  • ENA: The three episodes that make up its first part all vary in length, coinciding with their focus on more detailed plots. "Auction Day'' is 2 minutes, "Extinction Party" lasts over 5 minutes, while "Temptation Stairway" is over 17.
  • Red vs. Blue barely went over 8 minutes until season 2 ended on a 13 minute episode. Season 3 was varied, with 8 of the 19 episodes below 6 minutes, and the peak being an Extra-Long Episode lasting 16 minutes to mark the series' 50th. Seasons 4 and 5 were on the short side again, until the Series Fauxnale that closed the original arc on the latter lasting 17 minutes. Seasons 6 to 13 were all over the place, from simple episodes not reaching 5 minutes to plot-heavy ones breaking 10. Season 14, being an anthology, was the most varied, including the first episode to break 20 minutes. Season 15 was so long (21 episodes ranging from 8 to 15 minutes) that the showrunner decided to not prolong himself in the following, with fewer episodes and compensating for it by breaking 20 minutes in the finale, a formula his successors repeated in the 17th season that closed the arc.
  • RWBY: Early volumes had episodes being anywhere from four minutes to half-an-hour before settling into a 12-25 minute range for Volume 3. As the show's budget improved, later volumes have settled into a 15-20 minute length, with episodes being a little shorter or longer only occasionally.
  • Sonic for Hire originally had episode lengths that ranged from 2-3 minutes long, with the Season 7 finale being the longest at the time with over 5 minutes. When the series was revived for an eighth season, the episode lengths were extended slightly to 3-4 minutes. Season 9, however, extended the lengths further, now ranging between 4-8 minutes long.
  • Spooky Month: The original "It's spooky month" was around a minute forty in length and solely focused on Skid and Pump doing various spooky things in the short time frame. "The Stars", "Unwanted Guest", and "Deadly Smiles" are a little over six, ten, and twenty one minutes, respectively, and feature actual plots woven in with Skid and Pump's shenanigans and even a few perspective switches.

    Web Videos 
  • The Cinema Snob is usually on the 15 to 30 minute mark, with exceptions on the short side being from his early years or subjects without much plot (music videos and porn parodies), and on the long side being ones that give too much material (War Room and Saving Christmas), Milestone Celebration ones that warrant being multi-part, extra-long subjects (It (1990), World War III, 'Salem's Lot and The Stand (1994)), multiple works being covered (series like Candyman or an episode with both Carrie (1976) and its copycat Jennifer), and starting in 2020 there are "198* in film" lasting hours and hours with the Snob watching and discussing trailers of the movies of said year.
  • For years, Game Grumps episodes were traditionally around ten minutes long, maybe fifteen at the longest. However, a few episodes (usually one-offs) went longer than that, such as their playthrough of Endless Ocean and the first episode of its sequel, both of which lasted about an hour (though the latter became a series comprised of standard short episodes). Starting around 2019, episodes, even ongoing series episodes, became much longer, traditionally a half hour but sometimes closer to 45 minutes.
  • The Nostalgia Critic episodes have gotten longer with age. Older episodes are usually about 10-30 minutes long, but post-cancellation episodes usually range from 20 minutes to a half-hour. Editorials tend to be shorter than that, but clipless episodes and other intensive reviews can go as long as 45 minutes or even an hour at the latest. Compare Critic's old review of the Nicktoons and SNICK blocks, which are about 15-20 minutes, and the modern reviews of the Fox Kids and Toonami blocks, which fall within 45-60 minutes.
  • The episode lengths of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series vary wildly. In the first season, episodes ranged from between 4-8 minutes long; the longest episode of the season was "Turn Around, Bright Eyes", which clocked in at 9 minutes and 54 seconds. As creator LittleKuriboh's editing and voice acting skills improved, in addition to his growing prominence as a content creator, episode lengths were able to increase from anywhere between 9 to 30 minutes long.

    Western Animation 
  • Love, Death & Robots: As an Animated Anthology series, episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes long and are mostly adaptations of short stories by various writers.
  • Episodes of Beetlejuice during its ABC run bounced between a full half-hour cartoon and two ten-minute cartoons. The sole show that differed was show seven of season two, which was made up of three seven-minute cartoons ("Uncle B.J.'s Roadhouse," "Scarecrow," "The Son Dad Never Had").
  • On season two of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the new episodes were shortened a couple of minutes to make room for CBS's "In the Know" (later "In the News") interstitials. To accommodate this, season one episodes were edited to trim two minutes.