Written by TV


Is stripping a good idea?
I mean the television scheduling practice of course. Tonight on ITV1, the first episode of a new series of Above Suspicion is starting. It’s a three-parter really, with episodes each night from Monday to Wednesday. Over on BBC2, they’re beginning a run of Nurse Jackie, the dark comedy from US cable network Showtime (also home of series like Weeds, Dexter and Californication) starring Edie Falco of Sopranos fame. That’s also airing nightly at 10pm Monday to Friday for the first week. From next Monday it drops back to a weekly series, but given that there are only 12 episodes in total, that’s half the series gone in 8 days.
Are these good scheduling ideas?
In recent times, ITV1 has shown Collision over five nights, following the lead of BBC1 which has shown series like Criminal Justice, Five Days and Torchwood in a similarly stripped manner.
Obviously some soaps air daily, with shows like Emmerdale, Hollyoaks, Neighbours and Home and Away showing at the same time and place each weeknight. But they’re different. It’s a rare soap that you can’t easily miss a few episodes of and happily pick up with the minimum of fuss.
But I’m not sure that even a multi-layered whodunnit (or whydunnit) works that well. While the TV station certainly makes the series an “event”, can we all ensure that we’ll be available to watch five nights of the week? Most people, even in these recessionary times, have other things to do at least once a week.
Of course with PVRs we can record epsiodes we miss, and do the “box-set” style catchup thing at the weekend. Indeed Sky Two recently re-aired the last complete series of 24 and Lost over single days in such a “boxset” manner. But those were stunts – with few viewers likely to be watching 24 solidly for 24 hours. Both series had previously aired (multiple times) in a weekly format.
One busy weekend might mean, if you were worried about continuity, that you could end up with six episodes of Nurse Jackie to catch up on. Not having seen Nurse Jackie, I don’t know, but I’d have thought that a comedy would do better spread out over several weeks from the start.
We all remember the way BBC2 has treated excellent comedies like Seinfeld and Larry Sanders in the past, and more recently Arrested Development. I suppose we should thank our lucky stars that it’s not going out in the post-Newsnight slot.
Perhaps BBC2 is just worried that they’ve got another Defying Gravity on their hands? This space-set soap, a Canadian-US-BBC co-production got canned in the States, and even BBC2 had to quietly bump it into late night where it was scheduled so erratically that at one point a new episode was showing late at night on BBC2 clashing with a previously episode being signed over on BBC1. And I see that Heroes is back on BBC2 next Saturday – so far without any publicity at all. It seems to be airing a triple episode at least in the first week. That does mean that we’ll catch up with America pretty quickly if that continues, but on the other hand you wonder how much belief schedulers have in the series.
Sometimes, less is more…