Sunday, September 16, 2012

2011-12 TV wrap-up and 2012-13 preview: It mostly all sucks, and CBS still tries its best to keep viewers from viewing "The Good Wife"


Are The Good Wife's Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) trying to figure out how to get their overseers at CBS to stop working so hard to prevent fans of the network's best show -- not to mention people who would be grabbed by it if they got the hang of it -- from watching?

by Ken

The things I do for you, dear readers. Today I actually watched the last 25 minutes or so of the dreadful Jets-Steelers game, just for the purpose of seeing when exactly the telecast would end and CBS's pushed-back Sunday-night schedule would begin.

As you surely know already, the NFL has pushed its "late"-game start time back from 4:15pm ET to 4:25pm, and CBS has responded by pushing its Sunday-night schedule back from 7 to 7:30 ET. (Fox, the other network affected by NFL late-game starts, has been starting its Sunday-night schedule at 7:30 for some time.)

So tonight I endured that unendurable stretch of Jets-Steelers to confirm just what I suspected: that the 10-minute pushback is totally useless for my purposes. Even in combination with the elimination of any kind of postgame coverage -- except for postgame commercials -- CBS couldn't get 60 Minutes on the air till 7:37.

Now I don't give a damn about the football games. Can people still be watching these dreadful spectacles? Are fans really not noticing that the drawn-out games have become increasingly unendurable? And I'm not blaming the commercial-time inflation. Sure, this is a known (and knowing) drain on viewers' patience, but the generally unspoken reality is that what happens between the commercials has become even more unwatchable. And for me this is just as true of the supposed nail-biters as of a dog like today's Jets-Steelers mess. The only real question in any game seems to me the collective amount by which the lives of the players on the field, not to mention the quality of those lives, has been shortened by the day's orgy of physical punishment. And that won't be known till years and decades afterward, at which point hardly any viewers will be paying attention.

For that matter, I don't give a damn about 60 Minutes either. I can't believe people are still watching that either. A broadcast that once prided itself on punching holes in the status quo has become one of its most ardent defenders. Can anyone care about what's left?

What I do care about is the pushback of the rest of the CBS Sunday-night schedule. And the one thing I care about, as we count down to the start of the fall TV season, is being able to catch the start of The Good Wife, which is close to the only thing on CBS I care about. (Okay, I'm a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, and have managed to continue watching How I Met Your Mother even as it has increasingly run out of steam. And I got through a season of Two Broke Girls, despite the high annoyance level of most of the episodes.)

So let's recap. The NFL think it has solved its late-game start-time problem: that viewers of the early games frequently get their game lopped off because contractually local stations have to switch to the late games of double-headers when they start. Now if they can't get those early games over by 4:25 . . . well, I won't finish that thought. I'm not entirely persuaded that they can. But again, that's not the game-end time which concerns me.

I have a feeling that the CBS programming people are frustrated by the ratings of The Good Wife, feeling that more viewers should care about it. I'm not talkikng about tricking people into watching the show; I'm talking about making sure that all the viewers who would enjoy the show if they got a feel for what it's doing ever find out what' it's doing. But does no one a the network grasp the punishment inflicted on the show by placing it on the Sunday-night schedule? You have to really, really care about the show to put up with what you have to put up with just to be able to watch the show, whether in real time or via DVR.

In the wake of the football-pushback story, I found a blogger who like me was mostly concerned about the impact on DVR-ability of The Good Wife. She (I think it was a she; I couldn't refind the post) pointed out that pushing The Good Wife into a 9:30-to-10:30 slot would complicate the lives of many viewers suffering a DVR jam-up on Sunday nights, since it will make it impossible for most DVR owners to record more than one other show in the 9pm slot.

This struck me as in interesting point. What with NPR's Masterpiece and assorted cable offerings that tend to be squeezed into Sunday nights, there really is a DVR jam-up. But there are ways around that, making use of cable repeats and On Demand. However, when the CBS schedule is pushed back 7 minutes, the only solution I've found to avoid missing the last 7 minutes of The Good Wife is to manually schedule a 90-minute recording from 9:30 to 11.

In other words, I'm exactly where I've been since The Good Wife was moved to Sunday night. The powers-that-be are doing everything in their power to keep me from watching, but I'll be damned if I let them stop me!


I've written hardly anything about the season past because there didn't seem to me much to write about. And sorry, but I haven't been able to force myself to study the fall schedules as I know I should have. My strategy of recent seasons has been to trust blindly that the new shows can't all be as dreadful as they sound. So once again I'll trust that word of mouth will reach me in time to clue me in if I've been missing anything. If you've got any tips, I'm listening.

I can say that I'm looking forward to the new season of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, which begins tonight. Otherwise, even my cable-show interest has been waning. Oh, on AMC I thought the new Mad Men season was fine and the new Breaking Bad half-season ditto. Better still, Lifetime's Army Wives has an outstanding season, but they seemed to be saying the promos that the final episode of the season was the final episode -- though I can't find any actual announcement to that effect, and the season certainly ended with a heckuva cliffhanger.

What alarmed me was the extend to which I found myself thinking that I didn't really need to watch new episodes of onetime USA Network standards like Burn Notice and Royal Pains and Covert Affairs and Suits and even, perhaps most surprisingly, White Collar. At TNT there's still some life in Rizzoli and Isles, based entirely on the strength of the cast and the interest of the characters, and unfortunately less and less on the quality of the writing. I'm relieved that The Closer has been put out of my misery. (The recycling into Major Crimes is a mixed blessing. It's a relief not to have to endure all that awful stuff Kyra Sedgwick has been doing, but without her, does anyone want to keep watching that bunch?)

I don't know, maybe I'm just old and grumpy. The one bright side I can see is that maybe my Sunday nights won't be so jammed up and I'll have an easier time catching The Good Wife.

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At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Lee said...


I'm a new convert to The Good Wife.

Some thoughts in no particular order of importance.

I know squat about programming but Sunday night seems to be for serious adult programming.

I have FIOS With endless space I don't understand how and why content providers are stingy with what goes on Demand.

The New Normal...
I expected more but Ellen Barkin is hysterical.

I dropped HBO but I was hooked on Boardwalk Empire. I don't understand why Jimmy was killed off.

Have you watched Web Therapy? I love it :)

At 3:52 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Hi, Lee --

Sorry, I'm just getting to the comment. Thanks as always for weighing in.

Boy, there sure is something about Sunday night in the TV programmers' minds!

I actually had the first few seconds of THE NEW NORMAL ON and then I panicked, remembering how much I hate GLEE.

I'm not sure I miss Jimmy much on BOARDWALK EMPIRE, but I would also like to know more about the decision to excise him and his wife. Probably I should do some scrounging around the Net tubes for some dope. One result, though, as we see in last night's season premiere, is that it has elevated Gretchen Mol as his scary-hot mom to new prominence as she brainwashes her grandson into believing that she's his mother. Eerie stuff.

That said, it was an amazingly gruesome episode, from the get-go. Whew! (And in the Chicago segments young Al Capone is building up grievances that haven't begun to explode yet.)



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