television consistency

I was supposed to watch the latest episode of Surface on NBC tonight. Its one of three shows that I still actually make it a point to set time out of my schedule to watch, or at least it was until this evening. You see, tonight NBC decided that instead of sticking to their regularly scheduled programming, they’d play approximately eight hundred episodes of Medium…probably because it was allegedly “scarier” and fit with the whole Halloween theme or something. There went my evening!

Maybe it sounds silly to make a big deal out of this, but they did it to me last week with The Office, too, and even the week before with something else. These studios are so damn trigger-happy for anything that’ll boost ratings that they have no qualms about presenting the proverbial middle finger to those who’ve already commited themselves to watching their programming – it’s always more, more, more. Last season I don’t think I watched a single show live – I downloaded pretty much everything off of bittorrent and watched at my leisure, which I think I have a right to do because I still pay my cable bill every month – and right now I’m seriously considering jumping back on that bandwagon. I can watch an hour-long episode in 40 minutes, sans commercials, and once I’ve downloaded the thing, I don’t have to worry that one of the networks might decide to stir things up a bit and replay CSI: Your Mom’s House instead one random week because it draws a larger audience than my show does.

How hard is it to just keep a freaking schedule, anyways? You know that there’s going to be X number of weeks in a season, so you make X number of shows – not X-5 number of shows and we’ll fill in the rest later. In their eyes it all revolves around what will make the most money, and sadly it doesn’t matter that the rest of us have been dying for some sea serpent action since last week – just please the advertisers and keep those bonus checks coming…forget about the actual content. And people other than me no doubt get mad about it, but what are we supposed to do? Anyone who’s created content online – webcomics, animators, writers, and even bloggers – has known the wrath of the ugly fan letter who wants to know why you haven’t posted anything this week yet. In their eyes, they’ve dedicated a part of themselves to keeping up with your stuff and you’re not showing them any respect at all by not being professional about the delivery of your content. Sure, some of it is just done for fun and claim that they’ve no right to complain, but that’s really just a chicken-shit way of saying that you don’t care about my fans. Mama always said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right…”

Leo LaPorte and the former crew of TechTV took a severe beating from fans early on with their new podcast This Week in Tech because they couldn’t stay consistent with the distribution – sometimes it’d be out Sunday night (as scheduled), sometimes as late as Tuesday or Wednesday. And fortunately for us, that group is professional enough to realize that they had to get their act in gear because it was hurting their audience … a day or two delay may not seem like a big deal to you when you’ve got a million different projects going on, but it does mean a lot to the kid who stayed up three hours past his bedtime to hear your latest episode, only to go to bed empty-handed. Maybe he’ll come back tomorrow to check again, maybe not. This fan tonight was really itching for some science fiction, but next week I’ve already got plans for Monday night and NBC is certainly not going to be on the agenda…

I know money is important and all – it’s the reason that most people do what they do on a day to day basis – but honestly in this day and age, with that kind of attitude it only makes those whose hearts truly are in it shine all the more. There’s a reason that the funny pages haven’t been funny in years, yet most of us flip through a folder of webcomic bookmarks every morning, and just as IPTV expands and more people have the ability to create their own tv shows, I think that network television might very go the way of the funny pages as well. It’s too bad, too, because there’s still a chunk of change in it if they wanted to play their cards right, but then again, that’s just not part of their regularly scheduled programming, now is it?

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