Is three enough?

I’m getting worried. As you may (or may not) know, I do a “third-episode verdict” thing here. The general argument is that a pilot episode is always unrepresentative of a series, since it has a bigger budget, the format is still a bit fluid, characters might change or get recast and so on. So shows can often become completely different once they start their runs. Usually, though, the third episode is enough to see if the show is going to be worth sticking with.

Or so I thought. But now all the big new US shows are serials. They all have running themes. And they’ve all either got good or dropped off from around the fourth or fifth episode: Heroes, Jericho, Battlestar Galactica, even Men in Trees, apparently, although I’ve stopped watching, of course. Robin Hood, depending on whom you talk to, either got really good (a regular got killed) or really bad (Robin fires pies over Nottingham Castle’s walls) during the fourth episode.

What do you think? Should I change the system to “fifth-episode verdict”? It’ll be next to useless for British shows (“Here’s a show you should have been watching. You can catch the last episode next week”). There’ll be some delayed gratification. And it means I’m going to have to sit through possibly two additional episodes of rubbish for each new show, something I’m not exactly looking forward to if they’re all like Brothers and Sisters. But I’ll fall on that sword for you guys if you want me to.