Some would say that a mini-series satisfies this request, but that's not really where I'm going with this. I don't really want a mini-series, per se, complete with all the trappings of North & South or one of the Sidney Sheldon series. Rather, just make it like a regular television show, but with the understanding that it's over after one season. Viewers would almost certainly be drawn to the idea of a finite run for a show, especially shows like Heroes or even Lost (admittedly to a lesser degree), where it's almost certain that the show would have benefited creatively from having fewer seasons. In the case of Heroes, the show had an excellent first season, only to be ruined in subsequent seasons, as it became clear that the show had no plot direction after season one.
In a world where reality television is dominating the landscape, it would seem to make economic and entertainment sense for networks to develop show concepts that can be fully explored, opened and closed, within a single season. How many times have we seen shows start off very well, only to peter out as the creative juices dry up? Heroes is only the most recent glaring example of that phenomenon.
Another show that comes to mind as probably falling victim to the idea that it had nowhere to take its story was Flash Forward. That show seemed to have an interesting premise behind it, and seemed to capture the imagination of many from the start. But it soon became apparent that the writers didn't know exactly how to let the story unfold, and perhaps realized that there was no way to keep the show going beyond a single season. But in the process of trying to stretch things, they wrote the show into oblivion. Now it's gone, but perhaps, it would have survived as a planned single season event.
One of the best features of Kiefer Sutherland's highly successful 24 series was that each season was largely independent of the preceding seasons. Although the story was told in chronological order, only small pieces of preceding seasons carried forward, and the elements were rarely strong enough to affect a new viewer's understanding of the plot. As a result, 24 enjoyed a constant influx and refreshing of its viewers, with some coming on for seasons and others leaving for seasons, only to return later on, not feeling like they really missed anything. Given the success of 24 in that regard, it's a bit surprising that more shows do not follow that format.
In order to compete with reality television series, whose plotlines and dramatic effects are a product of creative editing after filming has stopped, network executives would be wise to simplify the formula. There is no longer a need to spend millions on the perfect cast in trying to recreate Seinfeld or Friends or Dallas in the modern era. Instead, simply put together tighter, faster-paced scripts, that can be told completely and satisfyingly in a single season. Then let the show end without remorse, and move on to the next single season venture.