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Why do American TV shows randomly break in the middle of a series?


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Old 05-12-2011, 09:55
TechDudeGeorge
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Why do loads of American TV shows randomly go off-air for weeks/months at a time in the middle of a series. It seems so often and annoying.

Like South park, aired early in the year. Few months of with no warning, then randomly comes back later in the year.

Modern Family, been on since September. Just noticed it disappeared from my Sky+ Recording and now it's gone.

Now, I just checked tonight's schedule and even Two And A Half Men is doing it. I don't know why, but I just checked up and that has gone too. Next episode has been delayed. I'm curious as to why?
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Old 05-12-2011, 10:25
MoreTears
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Why do loads of American TV shows randomly go off-air for weeks/months at a time in the middle of a series. It seems so often and annoying.

Like South park, aired early in the year. Few months of with no warning, then randomly comes back later in the year.

Modern Family, been on since September. Just noticed it disappeared from my Sky+ Recording and now it's gone.

Now, I just checked tonight's schedule and even Two And A Half Men is doing it. I don't know why, but I just checked up and that has gone too. Next episode has been delayed. I'm curious as to why?
The idea that a "series" is supposed to run in consecutive weeks, uninterrupted, is a British idea and Americans simply don't share it. I don't know why some Brits can't wrap their minds around the concept that things are done differently in another country. But to answer your question more specifically, America has something called the "TV season" (something that does not exist in Britain), and they like it to start in late September and end around the end of May. That is about 39 weeks. Since a full season of a US network show is about 22 to 24 episodes, the only way that a show is going to start at the beginning of the season and end at the end of the season is if there are breaks in the run of new episodes. It is just mathematics.
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Old 05-12-2011, 11:36
ellie1997
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I feel your pain, just realised The Walking Dead is about to break until February, and by all accounts the last season of Breaking Bad will air in 2 parts as well.

Frustrating, but as MoreTears says it's just how the US networks work.
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:04
Corwin
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I feel your pain, just realised The Walking Dead is about to break until February, and by all accounts the last season of Breaking Bad will air in 2 parts as well.

Frustrating, but as MoreTears says it's just how the US networks work.
Which I think is somewhat unusual. Maybe I'm wrong but AFAIK the shorter (10-13 episodes) Cable shows tend to get shown all in one block.
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:31
PJ68
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its actually more to do with how long a 22 episode series takes to film. this is why series run from september to may. cable series tend to be shorter and as they are subscription channel, don't rely on advertising so viewing figures aren't as much of an issue so they can show them whenever they want. viewing figures are much higher autumn and winder so most non-cable shows start then
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:39
MoreTears
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its actually more to do with how long a 22 episode series takes to film.
No, because it would be easy enough to just begin filming sooner. The whole point of WHEN they do the filming is the September to May window for broadcast. You are thinking in terms of the tail wagging the dog.

It is different for cable channels simply because the "TV season" is only a network thing. The TV season started at the dawn of TV in America, and Americans expect the bulk of their TV to be delivered September to May the way it has been delivered for decades. The cable channels exist outside that system because they didn't even exist until comparatively recently and their original purpose was to do what the networks didn't do --- like show new programming in summer.
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:51
NoEntry2k
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I didnít know Two and Half Men was taking a break on Comedy Central! I donít think they said it was the last episode for a while last week.

The most annoying thing for me is trying to find out and remembering when programmes return so that I donít miss any.
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:56
mickmars
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The idea that a "series" is supposed to run in consecutive weeks, uninterrupted, is a British idea and Americans simply don't share it. I don't know why some Brits can't wrap their minds around the concept that things are done differently in another country. But to answer your question more specifically, America has something called the "TV season" (something that does not exist in Britain), and they like it to start in late September and end around the end of May. That is about 39 weeks. Since a full season of a US network show is about 22 to 24 episodes, the only way that a show is going to start at the beginning of the season and end at the end of the season is if there are breaks in the run of new episodes. It is just mathematics.
You may have explained the USA television system,but that doesn't make it right.
The USA viewers are the very least important people in the TV chain and they don't even bother to hide it.
Also,the notion that recent repeat episodes can be randomly dropped in to a shows current run is ridiculous,but it has become the norm in the USA.
US TV is going to ruin itself eventually,it pre sells shows to other countries and if the national ratings are poor,it just cancels the shows with almost immediate effect,often leaving the rest of the world with a few episodes of a new show that has no proper full season or story resolution.
If this continues, other countries will start to refuse to buy shows from the USA until they are guaranteed a full season
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Old 05-12-2011, 13:18
MoreTears
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You may have explained the USA television system,but that doesn't make it right.
It isn't an an answer to an algebra problem. Right and wrong doesn't come into it. It is what is customary in a different country than yours. You might as well complain about Americans driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

The USA viewers are the very least important people in the TV chain and they don't even bother to hide it.
Irrelevant. The networks care about the advertisers rather than the viewers, true enough, but the advertisers care about when the viewers want to watch TV. And there is no research data that shows Americans wanting their shows starting later than the autumn or ending earlier than May. People like what they are used to, which is why Brits complain about the American breaks. YOU aren't used to them so they bother you. Americans are not bothered.

Also,the notion that recent repeat episodes can be randomly dropped in to a shows current run is ridiculous,but it has become the norm in the USA.
It has been the norm for my whole life, and I am 42. Again, Americans don't have a problem with it.

US TV is going to ruin itself eventually,it pre sells shows to other countries and if the national ratings are poor,it just cancels the shows with almost immediate effect,often leaving the rest of the world with a few episodes of a new show that has no proper full season or story resolution. If this continues, other countries will start to refuse to buy shows from the USA until they are guaranteed a full season
The US has been doing what you describe for decades, but there has been no decrease at all in the world demand for US shows. You are imagining a threat to the US TV producers that has proved to not exist. Other countries may not like the Americans abruptly canceling shows, but they accept it, and just keep going back to buy new US shows.
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Old 05-12-2011, 13:51
los.kav
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Don't foget, as well, a few years ago the English stations like Sky One would have waited until AFTER the American mid-season break to start showing the series, because it was cheaper to buy the episodes that way. When the internet started to take off, people could catch up with their shows by visiting spoiler sites that would show clips and full episodes, plus have a scene-by-scene catch up you could read. This was impacting viewing figures: some people would miss episodes because they already knew what was going to happen. And when the global economy rose, they could spend the money buying the episodes straight away, airing the same week they were first aired in the States. It usually took a day for the catch-up sites to post all the information, so people stopped using them as much and just waited for the new episode to air in the UK.
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Old 05-12-2011, 14:45
TechDudeGeorge
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I didnít know Two and Half Men was taking a break on Comedy Central! I donít think they said it was the last episode for a while last week.

The most annoying thing for me is trying to find out and remembering when programmes return so that I donít miss any.
Well they must have skipped a show or something. Because it disappeared from my planner. It just bugs me having to re-set it if they miss a weeks episode.
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Old 05-12-2011, 15:08
Metal Mickey
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The actual answer, especially for the networks, is "cash flow". For successful series that cost millions of dollars per episode, they can't wait until all 22-24 are in the can before they start showing them and realising the advertising revenue. By showing them sometimes only weeks after filming, they're able to always keep slightly ahead of the ball, but build in these hiatuses to give the stars/crew vacations, and/or space to slot in a movie.

Also, lest we forget, for debuting series, by not making a whole series in advance, the networks have the option of cancelling if the ratings aren't up to scratch, with as few episodes as possible in the can...

As already mentioned, cable is different, both in not relying on advertising income, and also in generally having shorter seasons, though I'm unaware of how & when this paradigm was arrived at.
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Old 05-12-2011, 15:16
luke75b
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You may have explained the USA television system,but that doesn't make it right.
The USA viewers are the very least important people in the TV chain and they don't even bother to hide it.
Also,the notion that recent repeat episodes can be randomly dropped in to a shows current run is ridiculous,but it has become the norm in the USA.
US TV is going to ruin itself eventually,it pre sells shows to other countries and if the national ratings are poor,it just cancels the shows with almost immediate effect,often leaving the rest of the world with a few episodes of a new show that has no proper full season or story resolution.
If this continues, other countries will start to refuse to buy shows from the USA until they are guaranteed a full season
The bit in bold--it's actually becoming less common for shows which don't repeat well--shows that are more serial in nature (for instance Lost was shown in consecutive fashion in its final years). However for sitcoms and police procedurals which repeat better, it's still the case where you'll get a few new episodes and then a few repeats--since shows went to 26 and then 22 episode seasons, it's just the way it's been in the USA. And the repeats often get ratings only slightly lower than original airings.

And even if an American show gets canceled somewhat abruptly, it's 13 episodes or whatever are still more than say the 8 total episodes of something like Outcasts which didn't get a second series.
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Old 05-12-2011, 15:39
DLS1
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Why do loads of American TV shows randomly go off-air for weeks/months at a time in the middle of a series. It seems so often and annoying.

Like South park, aired early in the year. Few months of with no warning, then randomly comes back later in the year.

Modern Family, been on since September. Just noticed it disappeared from my Sky+ Recording and now it's gone.

Now, I just checked tonight's schedule and even Two And A Half Men is doing it. I don't know why, but I just checked up and that has gone too. Next episode has been delayed. I'm curious as to why?
It isn't random at all. Having grown up in the US, I'm used to it. It's the mid-season break and it's happened every year for decades. The Holiday/Christmas season begins on Thanksgiving night and lasts until the Superbowl. The networks realize they'll have fewer viewers over the festive period due to family gatherings, office parties etc., so they put lots of Christmas specials on. It also gives them time to advertise mid-season replacements for shows that tanked (ie Charlie's Angels this year). It's just how it is. Summer's mostly the same for series TV from May/June 'til September all the shows go on hiatus and all you see are repeats during that time because of Summer vacations, actors use the window to make films, or just have a break themselves. It's how network TV has always worked in the US. People in the US do complain about it, but only very little.
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Old 05-12-2011, 16:26
theonlyweeman
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Another reason, is due to with coverage of live sports events. Fox drops nearly it's entire line up for three weeks to cover the Major League Baseball post season. Ratings droped on CBS so much that they aired repeats for the last match of the world series, because they knew that new episodes would be obliterated and people may stop watching shows which are heavily serialised.
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Old 05-12-2011, 16:46
Stansfield
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Never use to notice it, until they started showing the shows, days after they Air in the US.

I remember when ER Started in January on Ch4, and didn't have a break....same with most US shows, we got them months after airing over the Pond.
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:07
ellie1997
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Which I think is somewhat unusual. Maybe I'm wrong but AFAIK the shorter (10-13 episodes) Cable shows tend to get shown all in one block.
Maybe. The Episode "Pretty Much Dead Already" was episode 7 and aired 27th November. Episode 8, "Nebraska" then airs on February 12th.
Season 1 was only 6 episodes in total so looks like they are having a bit of a play around with the format?
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:16
Jaycee Dove
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It was always much better to start airing US shows in January in the UK....because:

1: You got no breaks - a straight Jan to May run.

2: You caught up with the US schedule and were showing the series finale episodes close to US transmission.

3: Failed US series were known about before they aired in the UK so appropriate scheduling was possible and not the farce where Radio Times devotes a cover to a US series starting here that whilst only weeks on air in the US was already a dead duck (ie Pan Am).

However, it was UK viewer impatience that forced the end of this longstanding successful way to air US programming.

People would not wait a few weeks and wanted episodes NOW often well aware that these on/off breaks would result - with attendant likelihood of series links disappearing over the weeks or months inbetween.

UK TV had it right with the post Christmas screenings. UK viewers demanded the change.

You reap what you sow.
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:17
VirginMediaPhil
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Yes I dislike this as well, the whole taking breaks thing. We may have less episodes in a series on UK shows but at least we get to see them all week by week, and have good programming on Christmas Day.
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:18
mickmars
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It isn't an an answer to an algebra problem. Right and wrong doesn't come into it. It is what is customary in a different country than yours. You might as well complain about Americans driving on the "wrong" side of the road.



Irrelevant. The networks care about the advertisers rather than the viewers, true enough, but the advertisers care about when the viewers want to watch TV. And there is no research data that shows Americans wanting their shows starting later than the autumn or ending earlier than May. People like what they are used to, which is why Brits complain about the American breaks. YOU aren't used to them so they bother you. Americans are not bothered.



It has been the norm for my whole life, and I am 42. Again, Americans don't have a problem with it.



The US has been doing what you describe for decades, but there has been no decrease at all in the world demand for US shows. You are imagining a threat to the US TV producers that has proved to not exist. Other countries may not like the Americans abruptly canceling shows, but they accept it, and just keep going back to buy new US shows.
So we have established that you cant accept any criticism of the way USA networks operate.

Lets look at something like the new 2011 Charlies Angels - presold and hyped to to other countries - then abruptly cancelled after after 7 episodes were made - and this is becoming more common every year
Do you really think that this business pattern will encourage foreign sales in the long term?

Also I see you live in Vancouver - I'm genuinely interested in your views on Canadian tv as well,if you want to share them.
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:20
mickmars
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It was always much better to start airing US shows in January in the UK....because:

1: You got no breaks - a straight Jan to May run.

2: You caught up with the US schedule and were showing the series finale episodes close to US transmission.

3: Failed US series were known about before they aired in the UK so appropriate scheduling was possible and not the farce where Radio Times devotes a cover to a US series starting here that whilst only weeks on air in the US was already a dead duck (ie Pan Am).

However, it was UK viewer impatience that forced the end of this longstanding successful way to air US programming.

People would not wait a few weeks and wanted episodes NOW often well aware that these on/off breaks would result - with attendant likelihood of series links disappearing over the weeks or months inbetween.

UK TV had it right with the post Christmas screenings. UK viewers demanded the change.

You reap what you sow.
I agree with this in many ways,competition from UK buyers has ended up with a lot of egg on faces programming
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:23
derek500
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I didnít know Two and Half Men was taking a break on Comedy Central! I donít think they said it was the last episode for a while last week.

The most annoying thing for me is trying to find out and remembering when programmes return so that I donít miss any.
Put the series on link on your Sky+. It will pick up returns of shows after weeks of no episodes.

Also, the MySky website has a reminder service and they'll send you an email when shows return.
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:43
luke75b
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I'm not really sure what people expect? Until foreign markets are willing to pay a substantial share of the production costs of American productions, they're going to be at the mercy of the US market and broadcast schedules. Ultimately money talks--hence why the latest series of Torchwood was broadcast in the USA first.

And if you are curious of the odds of an American show getting the axe, you can always check the tvbythenumbers website--they do a pretty accurate cancellation watch (though they list Pan Am as canceled which ABC continues to deny--presumably in case their midseason shows suck and their pilots for next season are weak).
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Old 05-12-2011, 17:51
CJClarke
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Modern Family, been on since September. Just noticed it disappeared from my Sky+ Recording and now it's gone.
There's actually a new episode of Modern Family on Sky1 this Friday at 8pm, for some reason the series link hasn't picked it up though. That'll probably be the last episode until January though.
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Old 05-12-2011, 18:24
PlatinumSteve
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Lets look at something like the new 2011 Charlies Angels - presold and hyped to to other countries - then abruptly cancelled after after 7 episodes were made - and this is becoming more common every year
Do you really think that this business pattern will encourage foreign sales in the long term?
Is there any evidence that other country's were sold more than the original 7 episodes upfront? I can imagine the distributors have the contracts worded so that foreign broadcasters know that a full season is contingent on the network airing meeting certain goals the commissioning network have set for the show, so if they decide to cancel it that ends the run.

Have you ever seen a news story about how Sky is so angry that ABC or CBS canceled a show because they got gypped out of paying for an entire season, and then the network canceled it? That would work as good evidence that broadcasters are not happy with the way the networks work. But as of now it doesn't seem like there is any evidence that foreign broadcasters are becoming upset with US productions.
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