The months of September to May are a TV fan’s dream. The
return of old favorites, coupled with new series hoping to make
their mark, make for a new and exciting evening of viewing each
night. Once the dog days of summer hit, and reruns show up in
droves on the major networks, the anticipation of what’s on
the tube disappears. Luckily, that may soon change.

Laura Wong

Recently, the FOX network, home to such classic programming as
“Man vs. Beast” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious
Fiancé,” announced that they will now start showing
new episodes and series all year-round, straying away from the
traditional September-to-May format. Due to the fact that their
coverage of the World Series prevents their television season from
starting until November, FOX was leaning this way anyway, but now
they have made it official. NBC has also decided to break from the
norm, saying they will start their new season of programs at the
end of August, obviously hoping to capitalize on the large audience
the Olympic Games produce.

Whatever the reason may be, the real winners out of all of this
are the viewers. Soon, instead of being subjected to “Tru
Calling” reruns every week, audiences can now look forward to
new and innovative programming that the networks wouldn’t
normally take a chance on during the ultra-competitive fall season.
Sure, some of these shows will be utterly horrible, but at least
they’re new and a refreshing change from that “King of
the Hill” repeat you’ve seen far-too-many times.

There’s also the chance that the networks might strike
gold with one of these summer endeavors. It’s happened many
times in the past. Back in 2000, the British game show “Who
Wants to be a Millionaire?” made its American debut on ABC
and soon grew into a “phenomenon.” It quite possibly
saved a desperate network and went on to monstrous, albeit
short-lived, success.

FOX also has had its share of summer hits, going all the way
back to the second season of “Beverly Hills 90210.” In
fact, the whole “American Idol” spectacle began during
this time. More recently has been “The O.C.” which
found a niche with the teenage crowd and has now become one of
FOX’s biggest hits. All these programs have showed that they
are not just one-trick ponies and they can actually hang with the
big boys of the fall season.

It’s surprising that the networks haven’t expanded
on this idea before. Summer is the ideal season to reach a large
amount of viewers. With no school in session, the chances of
reaching the homework-free student population increases and, since
most of the major sports are in the off-season, many people will be
searching for something entertaining to watch. Plus, the networks
could keep their core audiences from switching over to cable, which
has experimented in the past during the summer and has found it to
be worthwhile, most notably “The Wire” on FX and the
HBO hit “Six Feet Under.” The cost to produce these new
series may be high, but one “Survivor”-like hit will
make the money well spent.

CBS and ABC haven’t said much about adopting this new
programming format, but once they see the benefits of the change,
they should follow suit. CBS is the highest-rated network in the
country, and has already found huge summer success with
“Survivor” and moderate success with other reality
shows such as “The Amazing Race.” ABC always has
“Millionaire” to refer to, and they are always looking
to regain their past prowess.

The formula is simple. With year-round programming, the networks
get their audiences back, and the audiences get a break from the
boring reruns that dominate the summer months. If the networks
churn out new shows, the people at home are going to watch them at
least once. That’s just how it works. As for liking them
… that’s a whole other story altogether.

 

Doug has TiVoed the Super Bowl and watched the half-time show
37 times. If you want to discuss Janet Jackson’s nipple,
e-mail him at
“mailto:dwernert@umich.edu”>dwernert@umich.edu.

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