07 January 2007

"It smelt like a Sunday show to me..."

After the CBB show on Friday night, we watched the latest US-import on Channel 4, "Ugly Betty". Fiona was very taken with it, and I enjoyed it too, but it led me to thinking about the hype that has surrounded this and other US imports recently, and the black arts of TV scheduling.
It strikes me that very often TV schedulers don't really understand the viewing habits of the British public, which is odd as it was their forebears who created them. We are used to hour-long drama series lasting six or seven weeks, as they had done since the beginning of widespread TV in this country. Only in the last five years have these started to swell to 12 or 13 episodes (which are more useful numbers for overseas sales). Half-hour sitcoms are slightly different, as they don't usually require as much concentration, so the longer US-sized 22-26 week series have been successful for some time.
US drama, and now comedy-drama, is slightly different. The fruits of HBO, and now the major networks, often run to the same lengths. That makes a quarter of a year of The Sopranos, CSI, Desperate Housewives, Six Feet Under and the like. I get a definite sense of fatigue after about 8 or 9 weeks of these kind of shows, and the audience figures show that I am not alone in being tempted to bail out as the plots slow down and for several weeks the major plots don't seem to advance much.
Our schedulers seem to panic at this point and the shows are relegated to more out of the way slots, to make way for the new "next big thing". So, Ugly Betty, I am sure, will do well in it's highly publicised slot for a few weeks (possibly helped by being sandwiched between CBB), but I would be willing to put money that it won't end it's season in the same slot as it begun because once those ratings start to slide the schedulers will start to panic.
Far better, I feel to schedule a long-runner in a long-runner's slot (9 or 10pm on a weekday or 9pm on a Sunday) and let the audience stabilse more quickly.
P.S. These are the kind of arrogant opinions on subjects I really know nothing about that Fiona hates, so I will use the blog to vent my righteous opinions rather that subject her to further barrages of hot air....perhaps.


Anonymous said...

Is this not the same as your opinion on long films - perhaps for the rest of us who have a normal attention span the longer series are just giving us more of what we want. You can never get too much of CSI

CCB said...

Oh, NOW you want to talk about this?

CSI for you is a different matter because of the amount you love it.

It is not the same as my opinion on long films, films are generally too long. This may form the basis of another posting. This argument is that the audience who Ugly Betty is aimed at - the young (who all TV advertising is basically aimed at) - may be available on Fridays at 9.30 now (start of the new year, partied out, no cash coming in) but will not be in 4 or 5 weeks time, and the schedulers will panic.

Anonymous said...

Ah I see your point, but that would be the case whatever the schedule - at least this way they may get people hooked by then getting a few more viewers than if they had a new series on - it is the best of a bad situation?