Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Word out of Variety is that CBS has cancelled its post-nuclear war drama Jericho. I found Jericho, for the most part, enjoyable, when it wasn't trying to be the post-holocaust 24. My wife tired of the FBI/CIA stuff real quick. Like Invasion last year, it had a number of interesting characters and a strong central plot moving it forward, but I was already tiring of the "New Bern is going to get us" arc and seeing how the series ended, it looks like the producers were too. Still, considering how truly awful most shows on the "big four" are, it's sad to see shows like Jericho and Raines not make it.

Jericho did well early in the season, but never gained back its viewers after it went on hiatus. This is something that is happening more and more often, it seems, where shows take a break and lose the viewers. It looks like NBC is attempting to address it some (with a second Heroes show to be shown when it is on hiatus), but the real answer is to increase the season for shows that show momentum or are bona fide hits.

Over on the DC History Yahoo group we were discussing the Maverick TV show after a bunch of Maverick comic covers were shown. In the late 50s and early 1960s, Maverick's seasons were 39 episodes long, which is one of the reasons they had so many Mavericks in it. These days 23 or 24 episodes seems to be the norm for a hit show, and some shows, like LOST, are lucky to spit out 18. With the competition for viewers tougher than ever, the networks need to seriously look at extending the seasons of shows any way they can.

If a weekly show were to take three months off for the summer, that would be 39 episodes. If you extended the off-season a month, and took off a couple of weeks around Christmas you could get by with 33 episodes. If the show is a hit or could be made into one, it would be worth it. The networks have gotten by with less and less original programming each season now for decades, and I think that is one of the factors in the erosion of viewers. Why stick around for a repeat or a cobbled together "season update" show, when you can got to cable or DVD or VOD and see something new.

Would there be difficulties in doing nine or ten more episodes a year of a hit show? Sure, but NBC used to be the master of this kind of thing. They used to have a show on called The Name of the Game, which was an hour and a half long and to get through a whole season of shows, they had three stars, each a reporter for a different magazine run by the same publisher. So, though it was the same show each week, the star of the show rotated and some of the cast moved from star to star to add continuity to the series. Later they did The Bold Ones and The NBC Mystery Movie, both series that rotated shows in and out. The Mystery Movie had Columbo, McMillian and Wife and McCloud. They even did this with comedies with 90 Bristol Court which had three series about people who all lived in the same apartment complex.

My point is there are imaginative ways to make this work, ways that have worked in the past. If the networks want to keep their viewers, they need to stop giving them a reason to look elsewhere for weekly entertainment. The chopped up seasons they now have, do exactly that.

No comments: