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TV RANT: Shows That Premiere WAAAAAAAY Too Late in the TV Season

My apologies for the formatting.  Not sure why the paragraphs are messed up making it harder to read!  Tried fixing but it didn’t work.

I don’t know about you but I have a shit load of TV shows that I try to watch.   My husband makes fun of me constantly about the amount of shows on our DVRs.  Remember I have three (yes you read that right…THREE)  DVRs.  Every single DVR right now is at 60% full or more.  Part of the problem is being so busy that I haven’t been able to keep up.  But the other problem is that it seems like every other week, ANOTHER show is premiering.  Seriously, what the hell?  It’s impossible to keep up with all these shows.  It’s already hard enough because almost every channel out there has original programming ’round the calendar.  And it wasn’t that big of a deal when AMC, HBO, Showtime, F/X, Bravo, TBS, TNT, etc premiered shows April – July because that was when the TV season was winding down and they only had shows that typically had runs of 10-12 episodes.   Plus it’s nice to have new programming for the summer.  But when the networks start jumping in on the fun (and moving your current shows all over the place) it gets to be too much.

Take a look at the list of shows that have premiered since mid January:

  • The River
  • The Firm
  • Smash
  • Alcatraz
  • Are You There Chelsea
  • Betty White’s Off Their Rockers
  • The Finder
  • GCB
  • Scandal
  • Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt 23
  • Best Friends Forever
  • Bent
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • I Hate My Teenage Daughter
  • Remodeled
  • Rob
  • Work It
  • Touch
  • Missing
  • Awake
  • NYC 22
That’s 21 shows!!!!!   And guys, that’s just the network shows.  I didn’t even put in shows like House of Lies, Luck, Girls, Veep, etc.  Not to mention, all the returning mid-season shows like Cougar Town, 30 Rock, Breaking In, Survivor, The Voice, American Idol.   It goes on and on.  But look at that list!!!   And anything in bold premiered in the last 2 weeks!  It’s ridiculous.
First of all, it’s too many shows.  I understand having shows ready to go in case other shows fail but guess what?  There were plenty of shows that failed but these shows still premiered late.  On ABC, Charlie’s Angels, Pan Am, Work It, and Man Up were all canceled.  Charlie’s Angels lasted 3 or 4 episodes.  Same with Man Up.  Work It lasted two.  Pan Am was slightly longer but still pulled from the schedule only to have episode burn off later.  So why couldn’t Scandal, GCB, Missing, or Apt 23 premiere sooner?   NBC canceled Free Agents after 3 episodes.  So where was Bent or BFF?  I don’t get it.  Why order that many shows to pilot if you are just going to premiere them in a dead month and then burn them off when the ratings suck?  Oh, and not promote them.  Why?
Secondly, people are too entrenched in what they are already watching or too far behind on their DVRs to try something new this late.  I’m both.  If it wasn’t for this blog, there are so many shows I would blow off because I already have too many shows to watch and I’m so far behind on many of them, I have no time to catch up let alone start a new series.
It’s really unfair to the cast, the crew, the creators, and the TV viewers.  Scandal is a good show.  Bent is a solid comedy.  Detroit 1-8-7 was an awesome show.  The Chicago Code was a fantastic show.  But you know what?  No one watched them.  Why?  Because they premiered too late and there was no promotion to help get the shows off the ground.  To put it very simply, they were set up for failure.  So TV audiences are missing out on great shows because the networks don’t know how to schedule.
We are in a “throw it against the wall and let’s see what sticks” environment.  While I don’t believe what I am about to say is the case, it does APPEAR that the networks aren’t putting a great deal of thought into their shows’ schedule after the major fall premieres.   I believe the networks put forth huge efforts to make sure their fall schedules are strong and successful. Sometimes they win.  Lots of times they lose.  But they put, what they believe, is their best foot forward.  After that, whatever happens, happens and whatever is left over, we’ll deal with it then.  That’s how it seems.  How else do you explain shows premiering in this quantity this late into the season.  These aren’t summer shows.  These were promoted as mid-season shows.  When exactly do the networks think mid-season begins?  Because I can tell you right now, it isn’t April.
March, April, and May are no man’s land…dead zones…for new premiering shows.  They are too late for mid-season and too early for summer.  February should be the latest they premiere for mid-season.  If you miss that, then June for summer programming it is.  Now there are always exception to the rules, but it should only be the exception, not the norm.  And as each TV season progresses, it seems to be getting worse and worse.
So what’s the solution?  It seems simple to me but if it were that simple, you would think someone would be doing it.   My first suggestion (with all of my vast years of TV programming experience) would be to limit the shows ordered to pilot.  Once the networks have determined what will premiere in the fall and what will premiere mid-season (by no later than the second week in Feb) then you create your back up plan…2 comedies, 2 dramas with maybe a game show or reality show just in case.  Now this can change depending on your network. A network like CBS which is more drama focused, maybe you have 3 dramas in the works.  Plus, CBS likes to give their shows full seasons regardless of ratings (see A Gifted Man and $*%# My Dad Says.)  So CBS isn’t likely to pull as much as trigger happy NBC.  So maybe CBS only needs 1 drama and 1 comedy.  It all depends on the schedule.  NBC on the other hand has been so bad for so long, they need more shows just in case.  But when something fails, then bump a pilot up.  Why have reruns of Grimm when Awake could have premiered?
Suggestion number two, is tighten up the schedule to fit more shows.  We’ve all bitched about it.  I know I have.  What is she talking about?   Bitched about what?  About when our shows go on hiatus for weeks at a time!!   First, don’t premiere shows the last week in Sept or first week of Oct.  Premiere your fall schedule right after Labor Day weekend (and not before!)   Then, run your shows solid through the week before Thanksgiving and have a mid-season break through the holidays.  Then come back the first or second week in January and run through March/April.   Then, if you have left over shows, no one will be upset if they premiere in April or May because the major TV season will be complete and people will have time to watch something new!   Unfortunately, the problem with that is May Sweeps.  You miss that time period by moving things up.  But there are two ways to handle that: move sweeps to April (if the NFL can remove kickoffs from the game of football….Bruce I want your thoughts on that genius idea….then Sweeps can be moved to April) or start the fall season later (the end of Sept/beg of Oct) end at the same time (mid Nov) and then come back mid Jan and run through early May.  It just makes for a really short early part of the season, but it gets you to May Sweeps.  I don’t like the latter idea but if Sweeps are that important, you have to make it work.
Lastly, if you don’t need it this season, can you move it to next season?   If a show like Bent or Scandal really wasn’t necessary this year, why can’t you keep in the bank until next fall?   Just have a smaller pilot season if you know those shows are moving to next season.  I’m not sure if this is more expensive due to locking up cast and crew without really using them for an extended period of time.   My thinking behind this is, if you don’t think a show like Bent is good enough to risk putting on the regular fall or mid-season schedule, then why order the show to pilot and why pick it up for 9 or 13 episodes?  I have to imagine it’s more expensive to have shows waiting in the wings for spots on the schedule and then burning them off vs. not having something to fill the pipeline and running repeats of another show.  I don’t know the answer to that.  But really that’s what this all comes down to….money.
I believe the way it works is the networks sell advertising on futures.  Meaning, they do their up front presentation to the major advertisers and show them their fall and mid-season line-ups.  They forecast what ratings will be and the advertisers make their decisions based on the strength of schedules and price.  In some cases, the advertisers make out by paying for ad space based off a 2.3 rating when a show ends up getting a 3.7 rating.  In other cases, they lose when they pay for space based off the 2.3 rating and the show gets 1.1 and eventually gets canceled.  Now your ads are running during reruns of 30 Rock.   Not good.  And it’s already tough enough for advertisers when DVRs, iPads, Netflix, Hulu, and Computers make watching shows so much easier (and without all those pain in the ass commercials!!!)   So I empathize with the position the networks are in.  But something still needs to change.
Network TV is in a difficult position right now.  Between mediocre to bad shows being developed, to having to compete with the cable channels that have more freedom and flexibility with content, to other ways to view programming, to the pressure of driving more revenue, network executives are scrambling to create successful line-ups and find more ways to reach viewers, live.  It’s not easy, I get that.   But, there still has to be a way to fix these over-programmed TV seasons.  There are talks of not relying so heavily on Nielsen’s (which have boxes in a few thousand homes vs. the millions of people who watch TV) and finding a way to better capture what people are really watching.  There are studies that show the ratings we see on our favorite sites aren’t really capturing all the people truly watching a particular show.  So what will networks and advertisers use in the future?  It’s yet to be determined.  But it’s a good sign to see that industry people are starting to realize that as technology advances, the ways in which we view TV shows are ever-changing and that using archaic methods to make major decisions about programming that affect people’s livelihoods, needs to be adapted and altered.  If that happens, the way TV programming is managed currently is sure to change for the better.  At least, one would hope.
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in General, Sound Off, TV Rant

 

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To Be or Not To Be Canceled…Why TV Networks Should Operate Like Pro Sports Teams

We have about 12-16 weeks left (about 10 episodes for those shows will full orders for the year) in the 2010-2011 network broadcast season.   One thing is certain, I think it is harder and harder for shows to get on the air and stay on the air long-term.  Think about it.  It used to be that a new show had an entire season to see if it could make it.  In some cases, it even got a few seasons to see what it could do.  When you hear Murphy Brown, LA Law, Cheers, Hill Street Blues…what do you think?  These were classic shows that people loved, they won lots of awards and accolades, and people still watch them on syndicated channels or DVDs today.  Yet if every single one of these shows, were broadcast today, NONE of them would have seen a 2nd season and some probably wouldn’t have lasted to mid-season.   Think about Cheers.  Cheers was dead last in the ratings when it premiered in 1982.  It would have been canceled after 3 episodes today.   Maybe it would have lasted until mid-season with burn offs on Saturday.    And before you ask, yes, we are talking about the same Cheers that ran for ELEVEN SEASONS and spun off one of the most successful sitcoms ever, Frasier, which ran another ELEVEN SEASONS on its own.  In its first TWO seasons, Cheers wasn’t in the top 30 TV shows and as I mentioned in its first season was dead last.  It didn’t crack the top 30 until season 3 (tied for #12 with Hotel.)  But starting with season 4, it was in the top 5 shows for the next SEVEN seasons with it being #1 during the 1990-1991 season.  In its final season, the 1992-1993 season, it was #8.  When I look at that, I am blown away.  The saying “timing is everything” couldn’t be more true when it comes to TV.  Could you imagine a TV history that didn’t include Cheers?  If Cheers premiered today to those ratings, you wouldn’t be talking about Cheers as one of the best sitcoms of all time with some of the most quotable characters ever.  Could you imagine TV history without Frasier?  If Cheers never got off the ground, Frasier never would have happened.  Now keep in mind, when I say “those ratings” I don’t mean the actual ratings because they can’t be compared to today’s ratings.  A #1 show back in the 70s and 80s would pull in a 30-32 rating.  Today the #1 show pulls in around 16-17 (which wouldn’t have put it in the top 30-40 shows in the 70s and 80s.)  I mean the ranking of where the show falls vs. its competitors.  Now I am not one of those pining of the old days type of people but it does make you think.  How many shows that have been canceled over the last 10 years could have been the next Cheers if it was given a chance?

Not only do shows have to worry about bringing in the ratings for the advertisers to keep revenues flowing at the networks, as well as the shows they compete with in their respective time slots, but there is one more area that they have to worry about…shows on their own network.  The more successful a network is with its shows, the harder it is to stay on that network.  On the flip side, the more credence your show gets because it is on said successful network, the more viewers your show will likely get.  It’s a quite a conundrum.  Break it down by network.   CBS is far and away the best network in both total viewers and ratings in the all important adults 18-49 advertiser category.  ABC is 2nd in total viewers but 4th in ratings (guess ABC is skewing really young or really old.)  NBC is 3rd in total viewers and ratings.   Fox is 4th in total viewers and 2nd in ratings (thank you American Idol.)  And the CW is a distant 5th in everything.  CBS, NBC, and the CW are up this year in ratings.  The CW programming this year is really strong (for CW standards) and isn’t surprising since it has such a small base with which to grow.  NBC really had nowhere to go but up.  If I am not mistaken, the Winter Olympics were last year in February so that could impact NBC in the later part of this season.  CBS is CBS but could see some big declines in the next few weeks because they had the Super Bowl last year.  Fox is down but could rebound with Super Bowl this year.  ABC is down and I’m not sure why, to be honest.  I am going to assume it’s a weak broadcast season.

So what does all this mean?  It means awesome shows like Blue Bloods and The Good Wife on CBS may not make it to next season because all the other CBS shows are doing so well yet NBC can’t keep a drama on the air to save its life.  In terms of hour-long dramas, CBS has only canceled one show this year (Medium) while only one other show appears to be headed for cancellation (The Defenders.)  NBC has canceled 2 shows (Outlaw and Undercovers) while 3 shows appear headed for cancellation (The Cape, The Event, and Chase.)  ABC has canceled 2 shows so far (The Whole Truth and My Generation) while 3 shows appear headed for cancellation (V, No Ordinary Family, Detroit 1-8-7.)  Both NBC and ABC will seem to have 5 open drama spots where CBS will only have 2.  And here is the part that confuses me, CBS NEEDS to cancel more shows so that they can premiere new shows next season, that could be the next CSI or Grey’s Anatomy (in terms of ratings not content.)  WHY?  If you have shows that are working, why dump them?  Because something MAY be better?  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not under the delusion that the networks care about good programming for the viewer.   They care about good programming for the viewer only if it gets them the ratings needed to drive up costs to the advertisers, to increase revenues.  This is a business and the bottom line is, money drives everything.  But there has to be a better way so the viewer doesn’t lose quality programming.

You sports fans out there can appreciate the next analogy.  Why can’t we have a free agency/trade period in TV like pro sports teams?   Hear me out for a minute.  What if a show like Blue Bloods, which has a solid, loyal audience, is a great show but isn’t big enough to out-do the other shows on the network.  CBS would have a dilemma.  Blue Bloods is a solid procedural and they like it creatively and don’t want to walk away from it but would like to take a chance on a new show that could bring in a larger audience.   CBS could “trade” it to another network and get something in return.  Just like a football team with one too many linebackers and there isn’t room for him on the team.  He’s fantastic, just not better than what they have.  So they trade him to another team to get something they need in return.  In this case, I’m not suggesting networks trade a 1 hour drama for 1/2 sitcom and some advertisers to be named later.  But there could be a win-win solution.  NBC’s dramas have really been tanking and they have been struggling in this category since ER went off the air.  What if CBS traded Blue Bloods to NBC and in return, CBS would get a % of their advertising revenue during that show.  It’s a win for NBC because they are getting a proven show with a loyal audience that they can hopefully build on (something they have been struggling with for many years now.)  It could remove competition for them with one of their other shows in the same time slot, L&O SVU (which you could argue has the same type of audience) and could be moved to set up a “2 hours of Justice” night with Blue Bloods at 9pm and SVU at 10pm.  Ok so we’d have to work on the tag line, but you get the idea.  Then CBS would get a % of the ad revenue from that show.  It’s still better revenue than NBC was getting from a show like The Cape or The Event that they are losing.   So even giving 5-7% to CBS, the 93-95% they are left with is still better than 100% with The Cape because they could charge a higher premium due to the ratings.  CBS gets that 5-7% for as long as the show runs and are basically getting ad revenue for nothing.  And the viewers of Blue Blood don’t have to see their show go off the air….unless NBC finds a way to kill it which is completely possible.   Maybe there is even a bonus package in place for CBS if the show lasts for 10+ seasons.  I love this solution!!!!!   Now, am I over simplifying a situation that is probably more complicated than it sounds, probably.  But why not try it?  Give a few seasons to see if it could work.  Doesn’t it benefit ALL the networks to keep the best programming on the air possible to keep the viewers coming back to drive those ad sales up?  I think the viewers would appreciate it and so would the cable and satellite companies.   The cable and satellite companies would love it because there would be more of a need to record shows with so much good programming on the air, that it would drive the need for DVRs up and people would be buying more so they can not miss their favorite shows!  The more quality products out there, the more revenue that naturally comes in to all parties involved.   Plus it makes people a lot less angry at the networks for pulling their favorite shows.  I am still pissed at FOX for pulling Reunion off the air before we found out who murdered Sam!!!

I am a business person but the TV industry is not my area of expertise.  Ask me anything about the alcohol beverage industry and I could give you a sound business plan.  I am just someone who love TV and loves GOOD TV.  I hate seeing good shows getting canceled and talented casts and excellent writers and crews be out of work because you have to make room for something that MIGHT be better.  I think another part of why networks are so quick to dump shows is because they have SO many shows in waiting.  Why not have 2 dramas, 2 comedies, and a reality show ready to go if something doesn’t work.  And if something doesn’t after giving it a fair chance, you dump it and go with the backup plan.  But if it works, then hold off the back up plans for next season or dump the back up plan.  Wouldn’t it have to be cheaper to get rid of a pilot than a whole show that’s been on the air already?  Again, I know I am over-simplifying this but since I’m not an expert, just someone who wants to see the best shows on TV, I’m throwing ideas out there.    It’s just, the idea of Blue Bloods or The Good Wife going off the air because CBS needs to get rid of 2 more hours of drama to make room for stuff next season that may or may not work, is mind-boggling to me.  Yet, NBC probably won’t have anything near the level of these two shows coming to its network next year.  I don’t know that with 100% certainty.  But based on their recent history, it isn’t likely.

I guess my main point for writing this is that I think the networks are currently setting themselves up for failure, more times than not.  It used to be that you had a show and it had 22-24 episodes to see what it could do with some back ups if it really stunk.  Now you have fall season shows, mid-season shows, summer season shows, and replacement shows for fall and mid-season.  It’s too many!  No wonder shows are pulled after 3-5 showings.  You have so many waiting in the wings that if it isn’t clicking immediately, it’s gone and the next one is coming in.  And I understand that with the advent of cable shows taking over, networks can’t afford to be patient.  It’s really not fair to compare cable to network because there is so much more you are permitted to do with cable that you can’t with network TV.  But like it or not, fair or not, they compete for viewers.  And with people becoming more and more busy and their time becoming more valuable, they are going to go where there is quality.   So what is a network to do?

If you were in charge, what would you do?  How would you make it so good shows don’t disappear to never see what they could achieve?  How can we make sure that we don’t miss an opportunity on the next great show?   How do we make sure “Cheers” gets its chance?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in ABC, AMC, Canceled Shows, CBS, CW, FOX, HBO, NBC, Showtime, Sound Off, TBS, TNT, USA

 

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Sound Off: Sitcoms with Questionable “Main” Characters

Are you like me in that I just don’t care about Ted’s search for the kids’ mother anymore on “How I Met Your Mother?”    I thought so.  And you know what, I think that’s a good thing.   You know why?   It’s a testament to the writing and casting teams.   To me the show has become about the lives of these 5 friends in NYC that I have grown to care about not about who Ted ends up marrying.  The best character on the show and, in my opinion, one of the best TV sitcom characters in TV history is Barney Stinson. Neil Patrick Harris is legen…wait for it…dary.  There hasn’t been one week where Barney hasn’t said something that made me laugh out loud.   And some of it is his delivery more than the line itself.  Robin and Marshmellow and Lily Pad (Marshall and Lily) also have their moments when they shine.  But together, the chemistry is palpable.  You can tell these 5 actors really enjoy working with one another and it transfers to my TV each week.  Ted is the weak link and that’s ok because everyone else is so strong.   If Ted gets married or doesn’t, I don’t care.  But I do care about the lives of these best friends and watching the different ways they will entertain me every week.

I think this happens with shows from time to time.  The “main” character of the show becomes secondary or non-existent in importance due to the great ensemble cast.  Here are some examples of shows that fall in the category:

  1. Seinfeld: I was never a Jerry Seinfeld fan.  I didn’t find his standup funny nor his character on his TV show.   But the rest of the cast (especially George and Elaine) made that show what it was.  Jerry became the Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for the show…he needed to be there to make the other parts flourish and stand out, but he wasn’t the focus nor should he have been.   That show became one of the best comedies of all time despite the fact that the main character wasn’t funny at all.
  2. Cougartown: jumping to a recent show, the show centers around Jules (Courteney Cox) and her family and friends.   I for one love the family and friends (especially Bobby and Ellie) but Jules is just kind of there.  She has her moments but she isn’t nearly as funny as the rest of the cast.   I like Jules’ character and I like her in the softer more serious parts of the show…like this past week during the Halloween episode with her and her dad (the amazing Dr Kelso from Scrubs, Ken Jennings) on the bench outside Grayson’s bar.  That is where Jules shines and is incredibly relatable.  But it’s a sitcom so it needs to be about the funny.  The rest of the cast brings that, Jules just doesn’t.
  3. Frasier: I don’t agree with this one because I found Frasier to be very funny and integral to the show.    But many of my friends and people I have talked to about Frasier said he was so annoying and the worst part of the show.  Now I will say that Niles, Daphne, Martin, and Roz were hilarious and stronger characters than Frasier, but I still thought that Frasier added wonderful comedic timing and his facial expressions to highlight just how he was feeling was priceless.   To me, watching Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce work off each other was like watching a Masters Comedic Acting Class.  They were brilliant together.  But other people found Frasier to be boring, over the top, and agitating.  And at times, I could kind of see how people would come to that conclusion.
  4. Roseanne: I may get a lot of people who don’t like this being on the list and I know it was a popular show but I thought Roseanne was the WORST lead sitcom character.  She is another one like Jerry Seinfeld where I just don’t think she is funny.  At least Seinfeld isn’t a jerk though.  I don’t have any problems with him personally, but Roseanne, on top of not being funny, was just a loud mouth jerk.  It’s hard to root for characters like that.   But I also thought she was the least funny on her show.  Jackie was the best character and Dan, Becky, and Darlene made me laugh more than Roseanne did.  Overall, I didn’t like the show Roseanne, but her supporting cast was great.   She was terrible.
  5. Everybody Loves Raymond: Another “comic” I don’t find funny at all.  Ray Romano, ugh.  Another popular show that ran for 10 seasons!!  But I just couldn’t watch because of him.   He was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  But Debra, Marie and Frank were hilarious.  Marie and Debra’s dynamic was terrific.  Robert was ok.  I could take his character in VERY small doses.  The Barones were perfectly cast (except for Ray) and the strong ensemble is what made ELR run as long as it did.

So what do you think?  I’m sure some agree and some disagree with the list above but I would be curious to hear your thoughts on which shows have some of the weakest “leads” but amazing “supporting” casts to make the show a success.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in CBS, Sound Off

 

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