Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter and Patrick J. Adams as Mike Ross in USA Network's Suits

Will Netflix Learn the Right Lessons From ‘Suits’ Success? It’s Unlikely

Legal drama Suits, which originally aired on the USA Network, has proven to be a massive win for Netflix. As reported by Deadline, the show spent “12 weeks in the number one spot on the Nielsen streaming charts, beating [Netflix Original] Ozark’s record.” As a result, Netflix is understandably excited to acquire more licensed shows, hoping they will bring the leading streaming service the same sort of overwhelming success.

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The question is, what has made Netflix subscribers so excited to watch—and possibly rewatch—the series to such an extent? What is it about Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), and the fictional corporate law firm for which they conduct their somewhat shady business that draws in so many viewers? Is it Meghan Markle’s powerful presence? Is it Louis Litt’s (Rick Hoffman) character development, or is it the ultimate slow-burn romance between Harvey and Sarah Rafferty’s Donna? I too have watched the entirety of Suits, and I can tell you that all these things and more made it an undeniably addicting and compelling show. I believe there’s something more going on here, though—and Netflix should take note.

Suits ran for eight seasons over eight years, producing a grand total of 134 episodes. That kind of run allows viewers to not only immerse themselves in Suits‘ corporate world over a substantial length of time, but also allows us to connect with the characters on a nowadays unprecedented scale. Harvey, Louis, Mike, Rachel, Donna, and Gina Torres’ Jessica Pearson grow and change in ways that the audience can relate to, that feel genuine, and—most importantly—plausible as a result of such an extensive run. We actually get to know these characters. They become real people for us. Can we truly say the same of Netflix’s original creations with their shorter episode runs? I’m not so sure.

The main problem is that we get much less time with Netflix’s characters despite their shows taking much longer to produce. Suits released 134 episodes in eight years. Other shows that Netflix has frequently touted as their most (re)watched programs are licensed properties like Friends and The Office. Friends ran for 10 seasons in a 10-year period and produced 236 episodes in total. The Office ran for nine seasons in an eight-year period and released over 185 episodes.

With all these network shows, we were treated to our favorite characters each and every year, with only a few months to wait between seasons. The Office and Friends on average produced more than 20 episodes per season, while most of Suits‘ seasons produced 16. While it’s easy to say that you can’t compare sitcoms like Friends to dramas like Netflix’s Stranger Things or Bridgerton, both of which have brought the streaming giant immense success, there’s something to be said for getting more episodes in a much shorter amount of time.

How often have we felt the need to rewatch the previous season of a Netflix show before the next one airs because we watched it in its entirety in one day? And how difficult is it to remember the nuances of a series we last saw two or even three years ago? How often have we lamented the fact that there are only eight episodes in a season? Remember when Netflix shows had 13-episode seasons? Neither do I. The most prominent ones that did, such as Marvel’s Netflix shows, are now only available on Disney+.

The question is, will Netflix analyze Suits‘ success the same way? Will they finally learn that audiences are willing to spend countless hours watching their favorite characters on screen? Will they understand that shows that produce more than 10 episodes can be fun and fulfilling without overflowing with “filler?” Will they come to accept that spending more than two years producing eight episodes can make the audience feel like they’ve been cheated when older shows like Suits, Scandal, Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the original Charmed, Community, Dawson’s Creek, the Arrowverse shows, and Gilmore Girls can, in the long-run, provide audiences with so much more?

It’s unlikely. Netflix spends a fortune on shows that have eight episodes or even less, only to cancel them before they’ve had a chance to shine. None of the network shows I’ve mentioned in this piece will have found the same kind of overwhelming success in their first seasons as some of Netflix’s Originals, like One Piece or Wednesday, have done. But there is definitely something to be said for more episodes, more character development, less time between seasons, and, perhaps, weekly episode drops. Hopefully Netflix—and the other major streaming platforms—will come to realize that sooner, rather than later.

(featured image: USA Network)


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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.