EVAN: The idiot box, the boob tube, the . . . television receiver . . . TV’s a pretty important part of our culture, and even as I write this the flatscreen is on, showing the Rockets pretty soundly beating the Spurs-
There are also certain ways that things are done, which is apparent as anything else given the upcoming Super Bowl and the so-called “Ad Blitz”. What we’re here to do is explain how we’d do things, were we the ones running the show.
GORDON: Since you brought up commercials, that’s probably a good place to start.
How about declaring a law that the same commercial cannot be shown twice in the same hour?
EVAN: I like it, but I think we need to stipulate. Does this mean that we could still get five or six different GEICO commercials within the same hour?
GORDON: Hm- since we’re fantasizing, I wanna say no- it’s one commercial per company per hour, and if Geico tries to violate it, their entire marketing team will be forced to walk through the streets wearing dunce caps of shame, and every child shall be allowed to throw rotten fruit at them (no face shots)
EVAN: You know that face shots are the slam dunks of the rotten-fruit-throwing game, man. Yeah, basketball is still on.
And with that being specified, I’m one hundred percent behind it, if only because it would give other smaller companies access to ad time. The big businesses would still get prime time hours, but we’re getting some variation.
GORDON: Okay, so lets talk time slots and ratings here.
EVAN: Ah, I thought you were talking Nielsen ratings and that sort of thing, which I’ve heard are not great, frankly. Kind of an outdated system.
So when can we run the harder stuff? You’re right about there being some toplessness on late night Canadian TV, even without cable, and I think that’s probably alright. I mean, these are time slots when there are [presumably, of course] no children watching.
GORDON: Hm. I want to say that you ought to be able to show on TV more or less whatever you want, provided it doesn’t infringe upon anyone’s rights. I guess my only desire would be for their to be fair warning. We have that on TV now, for the most part- the whole “D for ‘Drama”, “L for Language”, etc.
I wouldn’t mind it being a bit more elaborate, but for the most part, I think the argument that “you gotta protect the kids” is both outdated and just plain wrong on every level.
EVAN: I feel like the same logic dictates that we should have Playboys and other such publications in public libraries. I mean, we may not just see eye to eye on this, and we may have to add a poll under here so that people can agree with me and show you how wrong you are.
GORDON: Uh-huh. We can mark this one down for a future debate.
EVAN: Anyway, now that we’ve put a pin in that topic let’s talk about how we handle shows here in North America. The average sitcom season around here is in the 24 episode range, whereas over in the UK we’re looking at more like four to six per series.
Full disclosure, I just watched a guy castrate a pony.
GORDON: This is because the English are sad alcoholics and…
…you just watched what?
EVAN: A guy castrate a pony. He’s about to castrate a donkey now.
GORDON: This is… some kind of Torontonian pastime?
EVAN: It’s Nat Geo Wild. I dunno, man. It’s on TV, my comments are relevant.
GORDON: Anyways- the British. 6 episode seasons. I can only imagine it’s petty vengeance for having lost their empire.
Seriously, there’s no reason why we can’t have quantity and quality
EVAN: So what would be an ideal season/series length for you, then? Honestly, with the way North American shows handle things I feel like we end up getting quite a bit of filler.
The less episode there are the more pressure there is to make sure it’s all good, and not just most of it.
GORDON: Let’s see- we’ve got 52 weeks to a year- we’ll call it 48 though, for holidays and whatnot. That comes down to 12 episodes per quarter, which would give us effectively two sets of 24 episode seasons.
Which I think is both right and natural (why on earth can’t we get TV in the summer? Angry recluses like myself don’t just go away in the warm months…).
EVAN: I think the thing you’re absolutely not taking into account is filming. Not only that, but 48 episodes a year is going to be incredibly rough for the actors, writers rooms, directors, I could go on-
GORDON: I don’t mean 48 episodes per year- I mean 24 to a season, but there wouldn’t be some huge gap in between. The time slots would stay open as if there were 48, only they’d be split up between two shows per slot, depending on the season.
EVAN: So when would they be filming?
GORDON: Whenever the other show is on-
EVAN: That’s the clarification we needed. So you’re proposing a specific type of programming-
Maybe something like how I believe the Walking Dead spin-off was supposed to go- the spin-off airing during the original’s off season.
EVAN: So how many shows could this possibly work for, though?
GORDON: Could you clarify what you mean? Are you asking “how many shows can handle that kind of system”? Cuz I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for any of ’em.
EVAN: I think it works great for, say, The Walking Dead, I guess [I have opinions about that whole thing]. I’d say it works far less well for most sitcoms, seeing as I assume they’d have to be tied together somehow?
GORDON: They could, but it’s not necessary. All I mean is that a show like Martian Wars would run at the 10:00 pm time slot for 24 episodes for Fall and Winter, and rather than showing re-runs during the summer, Heavy Metal Documentaries would be shown in that same time slot for the spring and summer.
It just means that there’s not a dead period in the middle of the year when no new material is coming out.
EVAN: I think a period of at least one to three weeks would probably be good between, which is to say that I’d advocate a shorter summer for television.
Going from a season finale one week to a pilot next week may be a little much, and you could fill up the time with specials or something, reruns, I dunno. Some sort of palate cleanser.
GORDON: We’ll probably have to agree to disagree on the feasibility/desirability of all that- I want to jump back and talk about the Neilsen ratings, which you brought up earlier.
Would you mind explaining that for our readers who might not know?
EVAN: They basically record how many people are watching certain shows or whatever, and in the TV game programming lives or dies by it.
GORDON: The obvious criticism is that the families who are given these systems aren’t representative of the majority of the population- especially as more and more people turn to the internet for their TV shows.
EVAN: I’d just find a way to fold in the number of viewers on Hulu, CBS.com, etc. You’ve mentioned before that we don’t all have time to watch live TV, and these are certainly great options.
Once you’ve accounted for your online viewership you’ll start to get a more complete picture of who’s watching shows, and maybe even who is watching episodes a second or third time.
GORDON: Definitely true.
And readers this, like your favorite TV series, must inevitably come to an end (unless your favorite shows are run by Fox, in which case they’ll be dragged out for all eternity). Be sure to leave suggestions for next week’s topic are always welcome-
EVAN: I wanted to end this with some kind of PSA telling you that you should watch more TV but a) I wouldn’t feel right doing that and b) I’m pretty positive I’d be preaching to the choir. Thanks for tuning in, as always.