Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TV sucks in technicolor

I watched a rerun of The Daily Show last night. In its regular timeslot. It brings me to one conclusion: television sucks.

I like The Daily Show. It doesn’t suck, on its own. But taken as a whole, TV sucks.

I know I’m not the first to complain about TV reruns, and I know that many people like them. How else to explain the success of stations like TBS or Peachtree, which show nothing but old shows?

But when you’re watching a program for new material, it’s hard not to notice that we’re not getting as much new material as we used to.

Yes, the seasons are shorter. The networks are cheating us.

When I was a kid, the “new” TV season would last from September to May every year. Then, a season came to be a half a year. That meant 26 weeks. Okay, we could watch every episode twice. Or maybe, watch the shows that were in the same time slots as the shows we watched during the first half of the season.

Then, 24 came out. You remember that: each weekly episode was one hour long, so the season was a full day. Poor Jack never slept. But that meant that the season was only 24 weeks long. When did that change happen? Before or after the debut of 24? I don’t know.

But at any rate, it meant the seasons were shorter. Who suffered? TV audiences.
Networks also started experimenting with half-season programs, cancelling duds halfway through the regular season and replacing them with something new, but again, only 12 or 13 episodes before they went into reruns. Yes, that’s right: a year of programming was then down to three months.

The hit Irish-produced nighttime soap, The Tudors, has a first season that’s 10 episodes long.

Then, in 2006, the networks screwed us over again. Remember how Lost was the most anticipated returning show? Well, ABC decided to interrupt the flow of the serial for over two months with a hiatus, filling the time slot with an experimental new show—which apparently flopped, because I haven’t seen anything like it return. I can understand the approach, but it’s disrespectful to the audience.

The TV season is worst around Christmas. Regular programming is suspended or preempted for more than a month in advance of the holiday. My favourite programs get replaced by lame “specials” until after the New Year.

And this year, Easter was almost as bad, just, thankfully, shorter.

The writers’ strike in Hollywood this year only made things worse. Any strike is a failure of management—just like failing to procure any raw material. But even though the strike has been over for more than a month, the schedules aren’t back to normal. New episodes of shows like The Office and My Name is Earl only started this week, the last of March. Saturday Night Live was a rerun on March 22—of an episode two weeks old!

And last night, March 25, was a rerun of an episode of The Daily Show that I watched last week.

And those that argue that TV programming is free, remember, we the consumers are paying through the advertising. We buy the products that get advertised. And then there’s cable fees, some of which go to the networks and channels to buy programming.
So no, it’s not free.

We’re being ripped off by TV.

What a waste of a medium.