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October 7, 2015

The long hiatus is killing second-year shows, and some older ones

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 5th 2008 9:39AM
ChuckYou know the one I'm talking about. After the writers strike ended last year in February, most of the networks made the interesting decision to just go ahead and shelve most of their freshmen series for the season, even if they'd picked up their "back nine" orders. Instead, they thought they'd launch the shows to big fanfare this fall, almost as if they were new again. Unfortunately, it looks like this plan backfired on them tremendously.

Across the board, those sophomore series that went on hiatus for more than six months are way down in the ratings. Apparently, absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder when it comes to the television landscape. It makes the instant gratification generation forget you existed. And stop caring.

Dirty Sexy Money, Chuck, Life and Lipstick Jungle are all off over a million viewers from their last season averages while Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles bled more than two million viewers. In the three million club, or near it, are Pushing Daisies and Private Practice. Even established shows like Heroes, which took a long break, are down as well. Of course, in the case of Heroes, it doesn't help that last year's mini-season was widely panned, and rightly so.

The contrast is that the shows that did come back post-strike, like The Big Bang Theory and Gossip Girl, are rebounding nicely in their second years. Now, I'd like to say that it's simply a matter of the cream rising to the top, but that's just not fair to some of those other shows. As much as I hate prime-time dramas of the rich and fabulous, I found myself bizarrely sucked into the decadent world of the Darlings last year on Dirty Sexy Money, even though it only had a ten episode run. I'm more than capable of remembering what happened December 5, 2007 when last it aired. And I thought the show came back just as strong as ever. So what happened to a million people who loved it last year?

Sarah Connor and Heroes are vastly improved from their runs last year, and yet where are those viewers? Are people just watching less TV, which has been the long-running question the past several seasons, or just less network TV?

I'm not from the "internet, iPhone, texting" generation. I'm from a time that when you were a kid and you moved away, and saying goodbye to your friends meant really saying goodbye. Not, "I'll text you later" or "I'll IM you," because we didn't have cell phones or computers or any of that stuff. The world was much more isolated, so we "got together" in the collective world of our television shows.

Or maybe they're all watching TV online these days. I certainly stream nearly as much TV as I do catching it on my tube. And I watch just about 100% of my programming via my DVR. So is it just another sign of the changing landscape of television viewing habits, or another nail in the coffin of the networks? With ratings declines year after year one has to wonder if there will come a time when traditional free TV will call it a night and pack it in.

Did you watch any of these shows last year and then drop them? Why? Is it because you found other shows to love and just moved on? Lost interest? Forgot about them? Got a boyfriend/girlfriend? Started working in television and stopped watching it?

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When the strike happened I found other shows to watch on TV on other channels than the networks (USA, TNT, TBS, A&E, Discovery, Aminal Planet, Sci-Fi) got into those shows and was reluctant to leave. I catch the few network shows I will still watch online. The networks did it to themselves. They had shows with episodes in the bag when the strike happened they could have aired them. Jericho comes to mind. Instead they waited for the strike to be over and then aired them. By then it was too late they lost viewers to "cable" channels (btw I have satellite).

October 10 2008 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
M. Reddick

Chuck and The Sarah Conner Chronicles are on the busiest TV day of the week, against one another, football and a raft of other shows. I watch Chuck on-line and the Sarah Conner Chronicles on air. I love Pushing Daisies, but I am not too attached to the shows that follow it. I think that the rollout of the shows have been ragged and after last years Moonlight debacle, I find myself only semi-committed to any of the current TV shows. There is too much of more of the same thing on TV--police proceedurals and reality TV. The writers strike caused me to seek out alternatives to TV and thus far, I am content with the alternatives.

October 08 2008 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched Terminator, Pushing Daisies, Life, Lipstick Jungle and Heroes. I watch almost all my shows via my DVR as well. I actually didn't watch Heroes until the writer's strike. There was nothing on so I rented Heroes. Got sucked in over the summer. Love it. I love Pushing Daisies and Life too. Terminator, I'm having a bit of trouble getting back in to. There are 3 in my DVR right now. Lipstick Jungle was also a show I picked up over the summer, watching the reruns online. I really like that one. I love Life as well. I'm not one of the people these shows lost. In fact, on Heroes and Lipstick Jungle, I'm a new viewer. But, they are all DVR'd. Is there no way to track that?

October 07 2008 at 4:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The thing is, a lot of people don't have DVR. And there IS so much going on on Monday night. Now, I've stayed faithful to all my shows from last year. But when you have Chuck facing off against Gossip Girl AND Terminator: SCC, AND Dancing With the Stars, AND The Big Bang Theory, you just can't expect it to dominate the ratings. Too many great shows air at the same time as each other, leaving DVR-less viewers to have to choose one to watch on tv and the rest on Hulu the next day. It isn't easy, believe me.

October 07 2008 at 12:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No i watch the "sarah connor" but its just bad timing. Fox rearranged the timing of all its shows for that piece of trash Fringe. I watch it online because Mondays are days I have scheduling problems.

October 06 2008 at 5:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only show I watch live on television anymore is the Amazing Race. Everything else is online or on dvd. It would be unfortunate if shows I like get canceled because more people are getting content that way, but we can all blame short-sighted network executives if that happens. It would also be great if networks would embrace torrents to distribute their programming. They're missing out on a lot of revenue by making their means of distribution more annoying than quickly downloading a torrent.

October 06 2008 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have to be honest, I'm getting bored with watching Network TV live. I watch my cable shows IN Demand, on my own schedule and I Netflix TV shows so I don't have to sit through the commercials. The Networks should realize that people went on with their lives and established new routines during the strike.

October 06 2008 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm still watching all the same shows I watched last year including many on your list. However, I'm not a Neilsen family so who cares what I'm watching but me. I've never been a Neilsen family nor do I know anyone who has been one. I'm beginning to wonder if there are any such families or if this is just some big scam!

October 06 2008 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What about paying for shows? It's not fair that DVR's don't count for viewership, so why won't they let us purchase shows maybe with a season membership and then we get to watch the show in HD all season long commercial free? I'd gladly pay to keep Sarah Conner, Heroes and Reaper on the air. Hell, I'd pay just to keep one more reality show off the air...

October 06 2008 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian Winkeler

Speaking a former Nielsen family member - a household can only be tracked for 5 years. So the numbers from this season include families who weren't in the sample last year, and they don't include the families who are no longer in the system.

I don't pretend to understand how the numbers system works, but the way I see it, from experience, is that there's probably a good chance that the new families who've joined the system in 2008 are watching less of these shows. Once I was out of the sample in 2004, I felt fairly certain that whoever took my place was more likely to watch Survivor, CSI and American Idol than the shows that I made sure were counted on my boxes (Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared, Futurama, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, etc).

October 06 2008 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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