Hit TV shows and great TV shows used to be predictable in at least one way: you knew when they would be on. Not anymore.
I don’t mean their time slots; I mean the month they get aired. To be clear, I’m not talking about reviving the 20th century network model, where shows would start a new season in September or October, and then run weekly, with occasional reruns, until roughly May. A few shows still do this, like Scandal and The Big Bang Theory. Those of us who love TV hardly expect a large percentage of our favorite shows to schedule themselves around the school year. Actually, we like it that a great new show might come out of nowhere at any time, as when Stranger Things dropped on Netflix last summer.
No, I was hoping for, and thought I could have, something else: TV seasons beginning during the same month in 2017 that they did in 2016. Of course, it’s not exactly a new phenomenon for shows to postpone a season. The Sopranos arguably pioneered punting a season for a year or so. Larry David, who really doesn’t need to work (thanks to Seinfeld reruns, he has more money than many countries), has taken this practice to another level by postponing the newest installments of Curb Your Enthusiasm by six years.
But most TV showrunners aren’t as wealthy as Larry David. Certainly, their crews aren’t made of money. And yet in the case of at least ten or twelve of America’s best shows, we’re waiting, waiting, waiting on episodes. I guess I can understand that Tina Fey and Vince Gilligan have enough money not to worry about mortgage payments, but what about all their employees? Can the grips and gaffers afford to have their main source of income pushed back a few months?
And why now? Why had shows like House of Cards and Homeland been reliably released at a certain point in the year for the last four or five years, but got bumped this time around? In case you’re wondering, a non-authoritative list of some of 2017’s Late Shows:
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Master of None
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Now, I realize Game of Thrones had an excuse. Winter finally came! It’s not like they hadn’t warned us. To film in winter, this season got pushed back three months. Maybe all these postponements speak to a “Game of Thrones effect,” where everyone moves when the big dragon moves. Were the seasons finished long ago, and the networks/studios postponed the shows for scheduling reasons?
I feel it’s just as likely that people in Hollywood postponed their workloads because of worrying about, or working against, Donald Trump. Because if there’s one thing this century has taught us, from left and right, it’s that we can’t mess with the feels. Better to turn a TV schedule upside-down than hurt the feelings of the creatives.
Perhaps the many tardy shows have something to do with increased competition from Netflix and Amazon, who have hit Hollywood like a hurricane in the last five years. Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos at Netflix have been notorious for cozying up to creatives and letting them do what they want. Half of the shows on my non-exhaustive list air on Netflix. Perhaps Sarandos is so thrilled to have this much talent answering to him that he gives them a longer leash, essentially telling creatives like Kevin Spacey and Aziz Ansari and Kevin Feige (Feige runs Marvel Studios): hey, take your time, whatever.
Perhaps. But what about the other half of the list? Are they just keeping up with Netflix? Or keeping down? Do they realize that when their routine becomes un-routine, it puts them in the same category as DIY shows and tedious reality shows on networks like USA and Discovery? Shouldn’t they want to avoid that?
Imagine if sports did this. Oh, we’re moving the NBA Finals into September. Or award shows. Hey, this year the Oscars will be in July. When an event matters, an event remains annual. These shows are eroding their “event” status.
I’m not talking about every show. Even on Netflix, The Get Down and Orange is the New Black seem to be on time. Outside of Netflix, Veep and The Americans remained on their normal schedule.
I mean, it’s only TV. I’ll live. But I don’t like it. This trend of delay-delay-delay increases the amount of laissez-faire post-modernism in the culture: nothing can be trusted, everything is as good as everything else, chaos is the only constant. Alternatively, in a world where populism is supposedly on the rise, these capricious schedules feel a bit like the revenge of the one percent. I certainly know of no fans of a TV show who want new episodes to be postponed.
That brings me to another issue: I seem to be the only one who’s noticed the way this trend went into overdrive this year. I know you know the sites/sources that make their money from updating you about your favorite TV shows. Where’s their outrage? Why haven’t I read any article like the one you’re reading on Vulture, Buzzfeed, The A.V. Club, Mashable, or the like? Have they just forgotten what a regular schedule looks like? Or are they bought and paid for by the TV networks? And if so, what good are they?
I believe it was Sting who once sang, and I’m slightly paraphrasing, “I want my, I want my, I want my previously scheduled TV.”