Friday, July 11, 2008

TV Rant

Here is a little rant of mine in regards to the way television is run. I'm sure it's odd coming from someone who doesn't even own a TV, but whenever I see stupidity I have to say something. Also, the comments are very general, so obviously they can be nitpicked in regards to individual shows. I am simply commenting on the trends I have seen.

With that in mind, someone please tell me why this past decade or so, TV execs have been running around like their heads have been regrown with pixie dust? At first, I liked the way the cable companies were shifting their television seasons. Due to a more year round audience and the increased prominence of cable TV, summer reruns were being replaced with new content. In fact, because of the cable viewer model, it seemed as though TV was heading toward a true three season television cycle. A big improvement over the fall, spring, summer rerun schedule I grew up with.

The cable companies came out with 12 and 13 episode seasons, and I wasn't a big fan at first. I mean, that's a short season and an eight month break between seasons is a long time, however a season aired week to week without any real interruption and I came to feel it was a fair trade off for the near year round new content.

This new model also struck me to be ideal for DVD sales. A year of viewing would run as follows: four months on TV, a six month wait in anticipation, hit the masses with DVD sets 6 to 8 weeks before the next season, tempt them with deleted scenes, maybe a preview of the upcoming season and everyone's charged up and ready to go.

For a while, I even thought this model, once the networks picked it up, might actually lead to fewer cancellations for new shows. My foolish reasoning assumed that a 13 episode season was not as big of a commitment as a full 22 episode season, so execs could let a series play out in hopes of drawing in a larger audience to see if the show caught on. If not, viewers and creators could be reasonably happy that at least they got to finish out the season.

Unfortunately, even though the cable channels seemed to be doing well with this model the networks couldn't seem to get it. I swear cancellations on the networks are announced sooner every year, though I feel this is more likely due to their antiquated system of counting their viewership. Which prevents them from making informed decisions and they wind up canceling shows based on inaccurate numbers. Nevertheless, the networks, rather than picking up this same model, tried to make a hybrid with their old model. They ended up airing fewer midseason reruns, thus increasing the time between the fall and spring schedule from 8 to 10 weeks to 16 to 17 weeks, while at the same time preventing people without DVRs from having the opportunity to catch up any episodes they missed.

Very quickly, people began complaining about watching 8-10 episodes, waiting four months on a mid season cliffhanger and if the show wasn't canceled, then they get the last 10-12 episodes. I don't blame viewers for getting annoyed.

Then we get the next evolution of problems, namely, most of the cable channels are owned by the networks. So rather than trying to fix the networks scheduling model, they start fiddling with the cable channel's model.

And what happens?

They start splitting up cable TV shows seasons. You end up with crap like, Battlestar Sopranos where they wait to present the last season, then it gets delayed, then we have a writer's strike to delay it longer, and then just to really rub salt in the wound, they split the last season into two parts, where the second part gets played next year.

I remember way back in the days when they called maneuvers like that something else: Season five.

A lot of cable shows are still having success with the short 13 episode seasons. I still can't figure out why the networks haven't jumped on this with a little more passion. I can see why they're reluctant to change. If you have a successful show, you want that 22 episode season. But the truth of the matter is most shows can't pull off that 22 episode season. They end up giving you those really awful filler episodes that don't progress the story and just leave you unsatisfied and annoyed. A 13 episode season is just so much tighter in its presentation, and hell, if you need to, throw in a few two parters and make it a 16 episode season.

Of course, I am neglecting two things: Reality TV and those crappy half hour sitcoms I stopped watching as a teenager because I grew up. Both of those are nothing but fluff from start to finish. There's no rule that says they can't have two 11 or 12 episode seasons a year. Hell, It's worked for Survivor and may even be enough to convince the TV execs that this new model isn't quite so scary.

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