Ah the original series documenting Naruto's escapades before the two year timeskip. Predominantly, Naruto uses short filler arcs lasting up to a maximum of five episodes as well as the odd standalone comedy episode (for example the episode where Naruto tries to see what lies beneath Kakashi's mask). However, what this series is infamous for is lumping over 90% of its anime-only content together in one solid 85-episode run after the Sasuke Retrieval arc. This series essentially does the same thing that Bleach is currently doing and simply delays the timeskip by showing Naruto on a series of short missions before he heads off on his training with Jiraiya.
The one good thing about this approach is that, in bunching the filler together in one solid block, it's very easy to skip. As soon as the main action finishes and you see Naruto getting sent off on some mundane assignment, you can happily run for your (curry of) life and move straight on to Shippuuden should you so desire. However, as easy as that may be, it doesn't change the fact that for the best part of TWO YEARS, Naruto pissed off its fanbase with bland filler, something that even Bleach with it's long-ass anime-only plotlines hasn't attempted - yet.
Unlike its predecessor, Naruto Shippuuden, treats filler in a manner more akin to Bleach in that it tends to err more towards longer filler arcs - though each one averages out at a little over half the length of the latter's. To Shippuuden's credit, while each arc individually annoys the viewer by interrupting the awesome plotline (seriously, well done Kishimoto on a jaw-dropping narrative), the anime-only content at least works around the central story. Instead of just coming up with some lame plotline set in the Tea Country or whatever, Shippuuden offers up a semi-lame story depicting a narrative-relevant sidestory - such as showing the capture of the "Three Tails". While this still can't fully excuse the padding, it's nice that they actually attempt to do something more meaningful with their extra content and the result isn't completely horrific.
All this being said, the most recent block of filler (the one after the cumulation of the Pain arc) has deviated somewhat from this and has become more a collection of standalone episodes depicting the "Tales of Days Past". This is sadly where the quality really plummets down the toilet. While some of the episodes - such as those showing Iruka's past and Kakashi becoming the leader of Team 7 actually prove quite interesting, it doesn't take long for the "comedy" episodes to rear their ugly, deformed heads. With gems such as Naruto chasing around a ninja ostrich and Sasuke fighting a giant cat to complete his "paw encyclopedia", it's a wonder that the viewer doesn't end up completely comatose after five minutes.
|Yeah, I think we were all about as impressed with that as you were, Kotetsu.|
It remains to be seen how the filler situation in Shippuuden will continue. I can, however, say with some confidence that if the crappy "comedy" episodes stick around, then any vague good that the earlier plot-relevant filler arcs did, will soon be overshadowed by the poor quality fluff currently halting the main narrative's progression.
|Uhh... Thanks Gai, but you can keep them. And take the fluffy filler with you.|