Sunday, May 15, 2011

See Me in September

    It's that time of year again, when all of my favorite television shows have their season finales. All my favorite "regular season" shows, at least. 
    When I was a kid (back when dinosaurs had studio contracts), many TV programs had 52 new episodes a year. The years passed and 26 new episodes became standard, with the season beginning in September, taking breaks for various holidays, and ending in May. Reruns and summer "replacement" shows took over for June, July and August. These replacement shows were often pilots for new shows the networks were iffy about, but a few exceptions were long-running summer programs we looked forward to year after year.
    These days, through the magic of cable networks, more and more programs run a mere 13 episodes a year and there are three seasons. As if it isn't bad enough waiting all summer for my favorite shows to return, I now have to wait 39 weeks for some of the best.
    One really irritating trend, lately, is the constant season interruptus where three new episodes are followed by weeks of repeats then two or three new episodes and another set of repeats and so on. The reason for this seems to be fear--the networks are afraid to compete with sports events, award shows and special events on other networks. It may seem to make sense to avoid lower ratings by not going up against these other programs, but in the long run, I think, networks are likely to lose viewers with these tactics. If they want me to plan my week around their programs, they have to make them available with some consistency. In college I used to schedule my evening classes so I wouldn't miss Hill Street Blues on Thursday nights (even though I had a VCR). Nowadays, I can't even plan on my favorite show being consistently on the same night of the week, the way they keep moving around. My DVR only let's me record two programs at once and I have to watch one of them while it's recording (or, horror of horrors, do something else for and hour). Recently, six shows I watch moved to the same Friday night time slot, meaning I had to give up several shows (and hope for reruns).
    What I hate most are the cliffhanger season finales. If they just tie the last episode up in a neat little bow, that's fine--I can look forward to opening the package in the fall (or the new year) and finding something new--but waiting months to find out what happened just pisses me off. On CSI Miami, one character has been shot and one is in the trunk of a sinking car. On CSI Crime Scene Investigation, the lead may or may not be going away for murder. On CSI New York, the lead character may be leaving the lab. That's just plain annoying.
    Fortunately, the summer season is about to begin. The Closer will be back on--no cliffhanger there. Rizzoli & Isles will be back--they did leave me hanging. The Glades is coming back--the only cliffhanger there was whether they'd be back at all. Psych should be back soon--the suspense there is "when."
    At least I only have to wait a month between the current season ending and the new season starting up. Next fall I'll have another round of finales and then another new season will begin. Kind of a vicious cycle this TV viewing.
--Stephen P. 

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