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 TV Bites with Neena Louise
Mini-Me TV
by Neena Louise


I've noticed a most intriguing television trend in early 2006: a new mini-season. I, for one, am delighted. Could it possibly be that network executives are finally getting a clue and realizing that saving up new episodes for February and May sweeps won't fly in this 200-channel-cable-satellite-TiVo-Internet world - especially when their audiences have severe rerun fatigue come January? No, this could not possibly be, given that networks have repeatedly proven they don't give a hoot about their audiences. So what gives?

If you ask the networks...well, they'll ignore you, but if you poke around, Fox seems to have started this trend last season with fresh (and popular) January programming. ABC, CBS, NBC and a host of cable channels - convinced not by viewers' pleas for something fresh, but by huge Fox ratings - got a clue and are now scrambling to compete. As a result, "mid-season" (originally termed "second season") means just that: mid-season. Not "dumping ground for bad television near the end of the season".

While some of the offerings do, indeed, look like the typical mid-season garbage, much does not. Most shows returned with new episodes in January, rather than the usual "save them for February Sweeps" (though Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy cheated with "retrospective" episodes and called them new). 24 and American Idol premiered in January. Implausible ratings hit Dancing with the Stars returned in January as did the plausible ratings dud The Bachelor (In Paris! With a bachelor doctor!). Amazing Race returns in February (thankfully, with its tried-and-true format of two-person teams traveling the world). New shows such as Crumbs, Courting Alex and Book of Daniel do not appear do be the typical mid-season crap, either (though time will tell). And with the Olympics preempting programming in February, there will be no need to "save up" episodes for Sweeps and put us into rerun hell yet again. I find this all most refreshing.

I can only hope that, come June, the networks realize that people do, indeed, watch television in the summer, and that we will be treated to a fresh Summer Season. I don't know why the networks don't just divide the traditional September-June television season into several mini-seasons (September-December, January-May, June-August), offering new programming all year, rather than trying to stretch a measly 21 first-run episodes out over a nine-month time period. If there was always fresh programming to choose from - regardless of what month it is - people would actually watch (duh). But of course, this is too simple an idea for the networks to grasp. People don't watch TV in the summer! People only want to watch baseball in the fall! No one wants to watch TV at all at Christmastime! People only watch TV in November, February and May! Puh-leeze.

I've always said that a television season - if it must have a start and end - should start in May and end in February. The Powers that Be seem to be getting closer to the time period that I firmly believe would garner the biggest audiences - and keep them.

 
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