Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Networks Say Goodbye To Reruns -- "Jericho" Will Get Lost, Too

What you're seeing today is a realization by the major networks that reruns just aren't going to cut it anymore. They need to develop a whole new gameplan. People WANT to catch shows they missed -- but they'll do it via on-demand, iTunes, network websites, their own DVRs, etc. Filling up a third of the season isn't going to work anymore -- and not just for serialized dramas. Network television is changing dramatically. When FOX can dominate even though its big hits don't begin airing til January (ie. "24" and "American Idol") everyone else needs to change too.

CBS has just announced that "Jericho" is going to take a break, rather than run a bunch of repeats. Just like "Lost," it's going to air a cliffhanger finale -- for "Jericho" on Nov. 29 and then come back with a recap episode on Valentine's Day and an all-new episode on February 21. Hey, SciFi does it with "Battlestar: Galactica" by splitting up its season with many months in between and I don't squawk about that. HBO doesn't even bother making up full seasons -- they only make 12 episodes at a time of "Deadwood, " "The Wire," "The Sopranos," et al.

I guess major networks -- with their much bigger resources -- just have to meet higher standards. The FOX model is the way to go. And guess what? That means a LOT more TV shows. If "Lost" only airs original episodes, you're going to need another show to fill that slot whether it's half in the fall and half in the spring or all at once. I just happen to think that running them all together in the spring (or fall) will work better.

And not every show needs to be 22 episodes long. "Kidnapped" would have been a much smarter bet if it was limited to 12 episodes a season. A kidnapping that had a beginning, middle and end in 12 episodes without any repeats would have been much more attractive to new viewers. Plus, teasing out a plot for that to 22 episodes just meant you had to make some ludicrous twists and turns creatively. Shorter seasons for shows where it fits. No reruns. Every episode available online with commercials or on iTunes right after it airs. TV has never changed so much so fast.


George Robinson said...

Or you could do it like the Beeb. The BBC shows that my wife and I tend to favor -- okay, the cop shows, let's be honest -- are about 90 minutes long and are made in a season of four or five episodes. I can't see how an actor can make a living doing a four-episode season, but the Beeb seems to have a stock company reminiscent of the Warner Brothers backlot.

Michael in New York said...

Well, the Beeb is an entirely different beast. I think launching a primetime show on a major network with only six episodes just doesn't work for them. It's already done on cable, of course, where Battlestar: Galactica (a good show, by the way) was launched with a six episode miniseries, HBO does 12 episodes, other channels do TV movies, four hour two-night specials, six episode and 12 episode launches as well. But for the big four, having a show be a summer series of only run during one half of the regular season (either fall or spring) seems the smart way to go. And British actors don't make money doing tv. That's why they have to run between movies and tv and theater and radio (and write books on the side) -- just to make ends meet.