Posts Tagged Television

Are We Doing TV Wrong?

I don’t watch Breaking Bad. I saw the pilot episode, I loved the pilot episode, but for the first two seasons of the show I didn’t have AMC on my cable package, and by the time I did it made more sense to wait for it to all wrap up so I wouldn’t have to deal with the most infamous feature of the show.

The waits.

The long long looooong waits.

Breaking Bad debuted on January 20, 2008. It’s 62nd and final episode will air on September 29, 2013. That’s 2,079 days between debut and finale, or an average wait of 34 days per episode. It aired in fits and starts, running in seven, thirteen, or eight episode chunks, with fans waiting as long as 399 days between seasons three and four.

Compare that to The X-Files. 202 episodes over 3,173 days, an average wait for 15.8 days per episode. One off season was even bridged by a movie. If Chris Carter and company had given us those 202 episodes at the same rate as Breaking Bad, the series finale would have aired sometime in November of 2012. Deep Space Nine would have run until 2009. Lost would still be running until 2015, Fringe until 2017.

It’s perhaps not fair to compare cable and network television here. Cable runs by different rules. Shorter seasons, longer off seasons, it’s the expectation. However, Breaking Bad is still an outlier. Thus far fans of The Walking Dead have waited 26 days per episode, and Mad Men fans have waited 28 days per new episode. Dexter, also ending soon, 27 days.

All of these cable dates tend to float right around a magic number. On average the fan of these major cable series have waited one month per episode. Which leads me to wonder: what if a series aired one episode a month? Reliably. Every month. No off-season. From episode one until the series finale. It means that fans would have to wait for every episode, but would never put up with waits of over one year, which both Breaking Bad and Mad Men have put their fans through.

It probably wouldn’t work with production schedules, but I’m curious about this from a theoretical point of view. Would you watch a show that gave you one hour of content, reliably, the same time every month?  Perhaps as a two hour block paired with the previous month’s episode. Perhaps a cable network that provided a genre per night of the week. Four dramas rotating on Mondays, four SFF shows rotating on Wednesdays. Is monthly television inherently more arbitrary than weekly television, especially when many cable shows are doing it on average already? Is that run of 13 straight weeks worth the long wait between seasons? Would plotlines be harder to follow? Would it be harder to get into a new series this way?

I don’t necessarily have answers for these, though I’m curious about opinions.

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If I Ran Television

There’s a lot of mission creep on various television networks.  Largely the networks that have some grounding in documentary television.  Discovery, Science, History, all of these are being taken over by programming that belongs…frankly elsewhere.  So here’s my proposal:

First we need two more networks.  First would be called PPA, standing for Picking, Pawning, and Auctioning.  This would be the new home of American Pickers, Picker Sisters, Pawn Stars, Cajun Pawn Stars, Oddities, Auction Hunters, Auction Kings, Pawn Kings, American Pawn Oddities, Polynesian Pawn Stars, Auction Kings, Pawn Pickers, and Auction Pawners.  I’m sure any of these titles not currently in production will be by the end of the year.  The second new network would be called WTF, and would focus on shows that look at small subcultures within the United States that really have nothing to do with History.  Swamp Loggers, Axe Men, Axe Loggers, Swamp People, Axe People, Gold Rush, Swamp Rush, Log Rushers, and the show with Larry The Cable Guy.

I’m alright with these shows existing.  I’d probably watch a lot of PPA, and WTF is necessary for providing The Soup with enough material every week.

Ancient Aliens should move from History to a network whose mission statement it matches.  Syfy.  Or, perhaps, we need a new network called BS (Believing Stuff) which would be the home of Ancient Aliens, Ghost Hunters, and the new Yeti show on Animal Planet.  Firefly should also be on Syfy, not Science, ideally with marathon showings at least once a month and new episodes filmed during breaks in Castle filming.  An Idiot Abroad, fantastic television, should be on Travel.  I’m okay with all three shows being on television, even Ancient Aliens, a show I have a lot of fun being angry at.  Just not on the channels currently showing them.

All of these moves would allow channels to get back to their focus.  Discovery could be more about nature and documentaries, Science could be more about, uh, science, and History could be more about Nazis.

I look forward to these changes being made.  Anyone wishing to pay me for these ideas is more than welcome to do so.


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