Y’know, we’ve seen the trend toward an at least semi-official “winter break”for television shows developing and evolving for a while now, but it seems to have really taken on shape this year. In a way it really reminds me of the antediluvian years when I was growing up and we only had the major networks to choose from and no DVRs – or even VCRs – we could use to catch programs that we missed, and certainly before video on demand or Netflix or other internet services that put virtually whatever you want to watch at your fingertips. Instead, the choice was to watch a particular show when it was on or miss it. It was that simple.
Yeah, times were tough.
One thing we did have going for us, though was that television airings were basically broken into two “seasons” . The first was the fall season, which would bring all of the new shows and new episodes of shows, which would then run – unless they were cancelled and replaced – for generally 22-24 episodes, dependably, every week, except for certain times when they might be pre-empted for a holiday special or something like that.
Then would come the summer or re-run season, when the networks would, as the nick-name implies, re-run the shows that had run throughout the fall and winter. This, of course, had benefits for both the network and the viewer. The networks benefited because they didn’t have to develop and pay for new shows to fill those time slots, and the viewers benefited because we had had a chance to finally watch those shows that we had passed on the first time around.
Anyway, obviously nowadays when viewers do have the opportunity and ability to pretty much watch what they want when they want, that kind of scheduling won’t work. Viewers today want something new all the time, and aside from shows that appear in syndicated strips (i.e. “Friends” or “Two and a Half Men” that run in the evening after the local news or whenever on various local channels) the re-running of shows – especially in such a formalized manner has largely become a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, for awhile, that led to a certain amount of chaos and confusion, as the networks (and now I’m including not only the “majors”, but also those basic cable channels and even pay-cable networks such as HBO that provide original programming) scrambled to figure out how to deal with this new demand.
Which brings us to the trend I mentioned at the top – the winter or mid-season break. As I said, it seems like this trend has been developing over the past few years, but this year especially it seems to have taken on a real shape. What we seem to be seeing is shows running for a half-season in the fall – airing generally 12 or 13 episodes through the end of November or first of December, then returning to the air with more new shows in January or February, with either re-runs or replacement shows running during the holiday season.
Of course, the biggest problem with this is knowing when a particular show will be returning. Fortunately, The Hollywood Reporter has compiled and put out a handy guide to just exactly when returning and new shows are expected to premiere, and you can find it here.
No it’s not as much fun as those old TV Guide preview issues that would be incredibly thick and provide pictures and descriptions of what to expect from the new and returning shows, but it does do the job of giving you a chance to anticipate and make sure you don’t miss any episodes of your favorite shows.
Or, of course, you can just wait for them to show up on your DVR, since you, like I have set it up to automatically record the new shows anyway. But what’s the fun in that?