David E. Kelley decries commercials

David E. Kelley has come out swinging against the amount of commercials in broadcast television. The Boston Legal boss says commercial interruptions come too frequently and are making it difficult to both create drama and build character. He hinted that he might consider moving to cable television.

"If the commercial encroachment becomes worse, it's probably something that we'll all consider," Kelley said Tuesday to the Television Critics Association.

Kelley has been responsible for the phenomenal hits Ally McBeal, The Practice, and the current Boston Legal. He asserted that when he did LA Law in the mid-'80s, the show took up 48 minutes of the hour, with 12 minutes devoted to commercials. Now, he says, Boston Legal runs only 41 minutes, with a whopping 19 minutes of commercials.

Kelley was about to say more, but his speech was cut short by an ad for foot powder.

Comments (23)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Commercial networks **** anyway.
Reply
Flag
They wouldn't need so many commercials if they didn't have to pay for the salaries of him and his anorexic actresses.... Maybe Kelley should take a pay cut if he's so concerned with too many commercials cutting into his "art".
Reply
Flag
I agree ads should be banned within the program, they should only be shown between programs!!
Reply
Flag
I hate commercials. Usually I tape the show and then fast forward through them. He could do what shows like Desperate Housewives does... include the product in the show. Have someone standing in the bathroom with a bottle of toothpaste on the sink, pepsi in the fridge, chips in the cupard.
Reply
Flag
I would love television without so many commercials but how would the shows get their money? I just can't see it happening. As it is, we watch more commercials than show. I just see it getting worse.
Reply
Flag
He's right about the amount of commercials during television shows, but cable isn't any better and he'd better keep in mind that not all his viewers have cable. He's more likely to lose audience than gain anything.
Reply
Flag
Storepatter, perhaps you have never seen an American show. There's money to be made in TV, but a lot of it goes straight into production, which should be immediately obvious on viewing. I like British TV, but the production values really aren't as good, and it's not like you aren't paying for it.

That being said, I do think it's ridiculous how short shows are getting. 48 is about right, as it allows for three 3-minute breaks. 45 minutes is sort of reasonable, but 41 is right out. The only way things will change is if Kelley and other profitable creators make good on his threat to move to cable, though. As long as viewers don't notice (I admit it, I can't tell just by watching), they won't complain.
Reply
Flag
So true - when you look at shows on DVD, they started getting shorter. Hour long shows in the 1980s and even early 1990s ranged from 45-49 minutes (some 1970s hit 50). Now they are a maximum of 41.

Half hour shows were 25-28 (I Love Lucy) and have slowly moved lower to 21 minutes.

It's absurd, scary, and insulting to the creators.
Reply
Flag
When I rented some (original) Outer Limits DVDs, the episodes were 52 minutes long - only 8 minutes of commercials per hour! We've stopped watching broadcast television completely - by the time the commercial break ends, we can barely remember what program we're watching, let along the plot. The more commercial breaks, and the longer they are, the LESS likely people are to watch them. First video tapes, now Tivo and downloaded episodes on the net. People are sending a message, but apparently the network execs listen about as well as we listen to the ads.
Reply
Flag
Amen
Reply
Flag
I think more content creators need to speak out against the ever increasing amount of commercials in programs. In the 70's, there was about 50 minutes of content in a hour long block, then it was about 45 minutes, now some shows barely hit the 40 minute mark, and some shows, like daytime dramas, only have about 35 minutes of actual content. It's getting out of hand. Not to mention the barrage of lower thirds, and in some cases, sponsored lower thirds (I've caught WB doing this during episodes of Everwood last season). I applaud David E. Kelley for speaking out.
Reply
Flag
When the Emmy nominations came out HBO led the pack and lots of people questioned if it was fair for networks to compete with cable. There's a sign right there. The best shows should be on the networks. The have the widest opprtunity for audience reception. And HBO doesn't do commercials. Clear cut signs and you can tell the Sex and the City and The Sopranos wouldn't work on network TV. Not because they have "explicit material," Law & Order: SVU and Alias and Veronica Mars and daytime soaps have "explicit material." It's because without the quality the shows wouldn't rock the way they do, and if those shows were on the networks the quality would get cut out in favor of another 30 second spot. If I'm taping one of my favorite series I know that I can easily stick 8 episodes of a "one hour" show on one tape (SLP/EP) and maybe still leave a few commercials in. I kinda wish they would have commericals only in the middle and at the end. Two big blocks of non-quality advertisements. On the other hand I know that most shows are organized in 4 acts (sometimes with a teaser) and with good reason. Sometimes we need that commercial break to deal and in shows like Lost sometimes we need that commercial break to speculate. But we don't need 5 minutes. We need to die down back to the classic 3 minute break. I hope the "creators" threaten to go cable. I don't want more commercials. I want my tags back. I wanna watch Friends in snydication and not see scenes sped up or only half of the opening credits. I want honesty and good drama and comedy from my television networks. I don't want to see them trim out character development for another 30 second spot. I don't want to see creators thinking about being anywhere but the channels you have to don't have to pay for. And I don't want more commercials. Put a Cole ad in the back of the set and get on with it.
More+
Reply
Flag
Here in France we don't have hour time slots like in US. Some programs are at a definite time (News at 8:00 PM on the two main networks), but for the rest, you can have shows starting at 06:35 AM or 11:20 PM. When american TV series are shown, they don't last one hour, most of the time 50 minutes with 1 commercial break only (5 minutes long) during the episode (and no break on public TV). French shows are 52 minutes long (or 90 minutes, but that's another story), and, for the moment, length is not affected by commercial considerations. But recent declarations of the director of the main channel, stating is job was to to offer programs able to prepare the viewers' mind to integrate easily commercials is clearly a menace for future productions. (Sorry for the poor translation)
Reply
Flag
I some some people are posting nonsense like you couldn't have TV without commercials. This is of course total crap, many countries have tv without commercials. The British BBC is totally without commercials.
And lets not forget, that most of the people in US tv make sick obscene amounts of money. If they just cut their sick greed by 90% they would still get more than 99% of the country, and programs and tv would be much much cheaper to make.
Reply
Flag
Almost every episode of the original Star Trek clocks in near the 50 minute mark. By the time Star Trek: TNG rolled around, they were approximately 45 minutes apiece. Over the past season, I've seen some shows coming in, including credits, at 39. And don't even get me started on what happens in syndication. My MacGyver episodes from syndication for seasons 1 and 2 were about 4-5 minutes shorter than the episodes on the DVDs.

When Enterprise was cancelled, the producers stated how many hours of Trek had been produced. The figure didn't jive with the calculations I came up with based on the DVD sets and my Enterprise episodes. It turned out they must have been counting the commercials in order to reach the figure they did. *That* is where it gets dirty. Call a spade a spade, and be honest. You're producing a 40 minute show, or a 45 minute show. But it's not a one hour show if 20 minutes is comprised of commercials. And I hated when Stargate SG-1 recently did an "hour and a half" episode (CSI Miami has done this too) when it was really closer to 65 minutes or thereabout. What's really disturbing to me is that many show executives have no compunctions about lying and trying to deceieve people about it, and I think the average person honestly falls for it. I always make a point of either muting commercials, reading through them, or leaving the room.
More+
Reply
Flag
YES!!! DO IT! DO IT! Kelley go Cable!!! Leave behind ABC, CBS & Fox for their recent mistreatments.
Reply
Flag
Finally, someone with a bit of power speaks up. Commercials ****!
Reply
Flag
While the networks do need commercials to make money, they certainly do not need as many as are on today. They just want to increase their profit margin on the shows and eventually it will catch up with them...
Reply
Flag
When I was in Europe last summer I was taken back by the lack of commercial. Alias is over in 42min, Friends in 22min, its weird. I think in the States there are to many but without commercials it makes it hard to channel surf.
Reply
Flag
Of course networks need commercials but it's ridiculous how shows are becoming shorter and shorter due to an increase in commercial breaks. I noticed this while taping my fave shows, they used to be 44-45 minutes long and now some shows are actually only 40 minutes long. Pretty soon hour-long dramas will become half-hour dramas and sitcoms will be 10 minutes long.
Reply
Flag
Of course he's right, but, TV without commercials?, I don't think so...
Reply
Flag
He is right, but sadly TV would not exist if it weren’t for commercials. Unless they resort to... I can’t believe I’m going to say this...Telethons.
Reply
Flag
This comment is brought you by BOOM! Tough-actin Tinactin.
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook