BLOG The Waiting Game

I’ve often talked about US TV before – writing for this site it’s hard not to – but in the past it’s been about shows themselves rather than the scheduling. I have touched upon knowing that a show has been cancelled before it’s finished airing over here, or even knowing a show has been cancelled before we’ve seen a single episode on this side of the Atlantic. Today I want to talk about how quickly we get shows after the US airs them.

Long ago, before the internet, we used to get TV shows in season-long runs. We didn’t know as much about them. We didn’t worry about being spoiled. We certainly weren’t concerned with how quickly we got a show after the US had seen it. We weren’t tempted by reviews of shows from the US turning up on the websites we visit. We just tuned in at the same time each week and watched.

The choice of watching US and Canadian TV in the UK is a double-edged sword. Some shows air here hot on the heels of their US premieres. Some shows we don’t see until months later. Both have good and bad points.

With shows that air within a week of US the problem is the constant breaks and hiatuses. Yeah, we get the show as soon as possible, but we also have to endure the vagaries of the US network scheduling. I recently reviewed the first season of Beauty And The Beast which necessitated me watching it at the US pace and the show disappeared for weeks on end several times throughout its run. It was gone for almost three months over Christmas and for two or three weeks at several other points during its 22-episode run. This also happens with shows we get over here if they air too closely to their US air dates. I remember Fringe, Eureka and Arrow also coming and going.

US TV show scheduling has always baffled me. I know they have certain times of year when ratings are monitored, and there are breaks for sporting events, but having shows go AWOL for weeks or even months on end and bringing them back on different days or at different times seems counterproductive. It sometimes feels like they want people to have trouble following a series.

At the other end of the spectrum are shows like Supernatural , which airs over here on Sky Living; the channel tends to wait until the show has completed its run in the US and then show the whole season in one go. Which is great for viewers who like an uninterrupted run, but the drawback is that in the meantime, spoilers become more and more difficult to avoid. Take season eight of Supernatural ; its season finale recently aired in the US and we haven’t even seen the season premiere over here (it’s due to start in July). I myself was spoiled on events in season seven by one of the cast on Twitter months after the event they referred to had aired over there, but months before it had aired here. People are generally good about spoilers but sometimes they happen. The recently aired Person of Interest was available on DVD/Blu-ray in shops before it had finished airing on Channel 5.

So, my question is a simple one. What do you prefer? Do you like to get episodes of shows you like as soon as possible and are quite happy to take the occasional break? Or do you like it when UK channels wait for the whole thing and show it in one go?

Steven Ellis