Total Illogicality: American TV Scheduling: New (And NOT Improved)

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
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American network TV scheduling used to be an entirely logical proposition (the “old” form of scheduling) with new seasons starting in September and ending in May or June. Reruns of that season then ran throughout the summer, with the last show being the last show of the former season. Thus, anyone who had missed an episode during the regular season could catch a rerun during the summer or refresh one’s memory by catching the rerun of the cliffhanger season ending and so be ready for the new season to start. That was how I left American TV: nicely predictable, nicely logical.

Then, I moved to Asia for a number of years (working in Japan, and Korea) and, when I finally returned stateside, I discovered to my horror that any concept of scheduling logic had simply been tossed out the proverbial window. There is no logic to it (i.e., “new” is not always “better”). For over a decade now, there has been no way to predict  TV schedules–your only option is to constantly search channels and the Internet for the latest scheduling news (a haphazard proposition at best). New series (and new seasons) still (more or less) start in the “fall,” but that’s about as far as it goes: the new season show start dates can run anywhere from September through October depending on the network–some even start their new season or show in April, or even in the middle of the summer (e.g., Covert Affairs, Royal Pains, etc., on USA). The winter season break for most networks supposedly starts in mid-December and allegedly picks up again in early January–oh, but then again, some mid-season show breaks (e.g., Once Upon a Time) now extend until the following February or even March–oh, and except that, in January, sometimes you’ll get three “new” episodes of a show and then (totally unexpected) a rerun or two for some unknown reason for one or two weeks (e.g., NCIS, NCIS L.A., Person of Interest on CBS). Some channels (SyFy comes immediately to mind), enter their mid-season or season hiatus without even bothering to inform the audience as to when their favorite shows will be returning—or even; for that matter, IF they will be returning (e.g., Firefly, Eureka, Warehouse 13, Being Human, Continuum, etc.); you just have to wait around to find out; and, in some cases with SyFy that wait could last over 6 months (e.g., Sanctuary, Haven, Eureka, etc.). SyFy channel’s “logic” in particular seems to rest simply in drawing audiences into a show and then cancelling it (just when things are getting particularly interesting) in order to make room, apparently, for adding more C-grade horror movies (Sharktopus, Mansquito, Sharknado, etc., ad nauseam), WWW wrestling nights, and syfy “reality shows.” I have written to SyFy asking for explanations of their programming philosophy and explained why it disturbs me (SyFy has completely lost sight of its original branding genre), however, they ignore my messages (and, it appears, they ignore many others as well). So, I ignore them in return and have cancelled my subscription to the SyFy channel (not that I am missing much). I see posts online on the order of “Does anyone think this network will eventually fail…?” and the like.

With such vagueness and uncertainty in network scheduling, it’s no wonder if audiences wander and, by the time a given show’s return is finally announced (and assuming you happen to catch the announcement), no one is watching anything on that channel anymore (or gives a shit about the particular show any longer since their interest in the overly long interim has been caught up by some other show on another network).

I have done numerous searches trying to find some explanation of how the American TV scheduling system (if, in fact, it actually is a system) is supposed to work and what reasons are given as to why the former highly logical programming schedule was trashed; however, my searches have failed to turn up any justifiable explanation (any explanation at all, for that matter). And so, I still do not know what happened, or why (i.e., what advantages could this current scheduling mishmash possibly provide?). There is no sense to any of it, except, perhaps, that of providing actors a little more free time?

Who can explain this to me?  I invite you to enlighten me!

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