‘NCIS,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ & More Shows That Benefited From Shorter Seasons

Grey's Anatomy Ellen Pompeo Meredith NCIS Mark Harmon Gibbs
ABC; Bill Inoshita/CBS

The past two TV seasons were affected by the pandemic in more ways than just offscreen (with production shutdowns and adjustments to availability and what scenes could and could not be filmed). They also, in some cases, featured fewer episodes of some of our favorite shows. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For example, when it came to medical dramas that incorporated COVID-19 (like Grey’s Anatomy), it might allow the shows to distance next season slightly from it with most of the pandemic (except for long-term effects) left in the past. For procedurals, it resulted in tighter storylines and less time spent chasing after a suspect (like on Law & Order: Organized Crime). And for one kiss that was seasons in the making, it might have meant fewer episodes to finally see that happen.

Scroll down as we take a look at the shows that benefited from shorter seasons in 2020-2021 based on the current storylines.

Ellen Pompeo Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Meredith COVID Beach

Grey's Anatomy

Rather than the usual 24-25 episodes (since Season 5), Grey’s only aired 17 this year — and it turned out to be for the best because of the heavy COVID storyline that dominated almost all of it. We didn’t need another seven or eight episodes of that and the eight-month jump in the finale allowed the ABC medical drama to start moving past it in the right way.

Law & Order Organized Crime Richard Wheatley Elliot Stabler Coffee
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Law & Order: Organized Crime

Due to COVID-related production shutdowns, the Christopher Meloni-led Law & Order: SVU spinoff only aired eight episodes (instead of 13) in its first season, which allowed for a tighter storyline and for Stabler to perhaps get a win against mobster Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott) in a shorter period of time than he might have otherwise since locking him up definitely was a season-ending move.

NCIS Mark Harmon Gibbs Season 18
Bill Inoshita/CBS


It really showed in the second half of the season that NCIS benefitted from having 16 episodes (instead of the usual 24) simply because of the way Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) storyline played out. There’s only so long that he can be suspended indefinitely without it going on too long, and if that had still first happened in Episode 10, that would have been an additional eight episodes of him not leading the team.

NCIS LA Season 12 Finale Hetty Linda Hunt Return

NCIS: Los Angeles

In some ways, we could have really used a few more episodes of NCIS: LA (especially if it meant playing out Russian spy Katya, played by Eve Harlow, targeting Anna, played by Bar Paly). But in other ways, it worked quite well, especially due to Linda Hunt‘s availability because of the pandemic. There’s only so long that it could have gone on without telling us exactly what Hetty’s up to.

New Amsterdam Max Helen Season 1 Finale Walk Home
Zach Dilgard/NBC

New Amsterdam

The NBC medical drama is another instance where a pandemic-related storyline — as well as Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) trying to fix everything — is a factor in shorter being better. Plus, that kiss between Max and Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) was definitely a finale-ending moment. Imagine having to wait 22 episodes for it instead of 14!

SEAL Team Bravo Season 4 Finale
Cliff Lipson/CBS


With all the shake-ups on Bravo Team and Ray’s (Neil Brown Jr.) captivity, we can’t help but worry what additional pain 22 episodes (instead of the 16 we got) might have brought. (Really, we’re thinking of Ray. He was tortured enough.) And in some ways, the shorter season prepared us for what we’ll be getting with the move over to Paramount+ next year (the first four episodes will air on CBS).