Old rules don't mean much to broadcasters
FILE - This Nov. 10, 2012 file photo shows actor Denis Leary at "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To Cure Parkinson's" Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research benefit in New York. Leary wrote and produced the series "Sirens," one of the first original comedy series coming to USA Network. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, file)
NEW YORK (AP) — The most striking thing about the broadcast TV networks announcing their new fall schedules this past week was how little that actually meant.
Television schedules seem more like sketches these days. Even the networks admit their prime-time plans for September will be different by January, even more so a few months later. That's not even taking into account the inevitable failures among the 56 new series ordered into production by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW.
Broadcasters are more frequently embracing the cable TV idea of limited run series, of taking favorites off the air for a time instead of showing reruns, and of not treating summer as an afterthought.
"We're not constrained by the traditional broadcast schedule anymore," Kevin Reilly, Fox entertainment chairman, proclaimed in a presentation to advertisers.
Television has typically started its new season in late September, a calendar that was set to coincide with the time auto manufacturers rolled out a shiny new line of cars, and wanted something shiny and new on TV to advertise them on. That's the time most new shows appeared, offering a feast for fans and, lately, for digital video recorders.
This publicity image released by The CW shows Aimee Teegarden as Emery, center, and Matt Lanter as Roman in the pilot episode of the new series "Starcrossed," airing this fall on the CW. (AP Photo/The CW, Skip Bolen)
Not quite half of the new shows — 27 of them — will be on the schedules when a new season starts this September. There are scheduled premiere dates, mostly in mid-winter, for many of the rest. Others have only a vague promise that they will appear, sometime, somewhere. Rebuilding NBC ordered 17 new shows, but only six will be on opening week.
Even established programs are left in limbo. NBC's cult favorite "Community" was renewed, with no hint of when it will be on. Same thing for CBS' comedy "Mike & Molly," even with a 22-episode order. The CW will wrap up its "Nikita" series with six episodes, but no one knows when.
Fox's Reilly unveiled a fall schedule, a late fall schedule and a winter schedule, with chips moving all around. It's about as complicated as a pro football playbook.
Fox has also resurrected the idea of miniseries, which will begin next year with a short-run return of Keifer Sutherland and "24," and continuing with producer M. Night Shyamalan's "Wayward Pines."
The idea is to attract top talent that might not otherwise want to commit to a long season slog. Matt Dillon has already signed on for "Wayward Pines." The approach has worked for cable networks, where "seasons" are generally shorter and creators don't have to worry about their shows being abruptly canceled.