Just what is a TV season?

It’s fall time! The leaves are beginning to change color and commence to litter our yards. The humidity is finally dissipating here in the Southeastern United States. Most school districts are halfway through their first semesters here in North Georgia. In fact some districts already embarked on a “fall break” before it was officially fall. You folks up there in Michigan, eat your hearts out, you barely started your new school year. Professional and college football are well under way. Again, hate to pick on Michigan, but I believe Ohio State is going to decimate you all again this fall. OK, I know nothing about college football, but I am an Ohio native and I get behind Ohio State even though I did not attend that fine institution. Well, I do have to declare that Michigan does have a pretty campus, but that doesn’t win football games. OK, I had to get that one in there. Anyway, guess what: The new official traditional network television seasons just started. Have you noticed that the new fall TV season is upon us? It used to be a big deal “back in the day.” Yes, there have been plenty of promotional rollouts for returning TV series and even new ones like Madam Secretary, but things have changed over the past 20 years and more intensely over the past decade.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see how much the TV landscape has changed. The lines have been getting blurred on what a “television season” is these days. That is why it’s necessary to point out that the traditional American television networks that have been around since the medium began, are starting their new television seasons. Typically TV networks such as NBC, CBS and ABC premiere their new batch of series of maybe 20-25 new episodes spanning from September to the near the end May of the following calendar year. Thus, we have the new 2014-15 traditional television network season. It’s not only a batch of 20-25 new episodes of new and returning situation comedies, dramas and reality series, there are plenty of specials and mini-series in the mix. Autumn has always been the best time to start the new television seasons when most of America is back from vacations and in school or work. This is the best time for advertisers such as automobile manufacturers to push their products on the public during these new episodes when most folks’ eyeballs might notice their hot new products or become interesting in clearing out the current year’s inventory.
With the onslaught of basic “cable” television networks such as American Movie Classics (AMC), 21 Century Fox’s FX and premium channels including HBO and Showtime, “televisions seasons” appear throughout the calendar year. That’s a fine mess that these outlets have gotten all of us into with their original-produced series. It used to be that many of these networks would carry the traditional networks’ older fare, popular feature films or “cablecast” an occasional special like comedy stand-up presentations, rock concerts or documentaries. Something funny happened during the 1990s. Originally-produced series began popping up like The Sopranos. These networks not only changed the face of the “television season,” they transformed them with high-quality scripts with few or even no limits as to what the writers and producers created. Also, their “seasons” have been shorter - anywhere from as few as six episodes to 15.
Traditional television networks answered back like ABC upping the ante with dramatic cop series NYPD Blue and more recently, the “West Wing on steroids”Scandal. Which brings us to a new player in the field of television, Netflix. The ABC-produced series’ first three season has been available through the online streaming service. Netflix made it possible for people like me to “binge watch” this program before its fourth season commenced. My daughter provided pointers on this whole “binge-watching-thing.” Netflix also produces its own series including another political thriller, with the rather dark Kevin Spacey vehicleHouse of Cards, a series based on the British-produced program with the same title. Lilyhammerand Orange is the New Black only enhance Netflix’s original library as well as offbeat documentaries and a few feature films. Netflix has been revolutionary with its on-demand streaming service which has challenged traditional networks, “cable,” and even Redbox, the disc-rental kiosk service. About three to four years ago, Redbox was on the cutting edge for its convenience. Now it’s being challenged. If Redbox wishes to compete, perhaps they need to produce original content like Amazon has been doing lately with Red Oaks.
Still, there are the traditional networks that seem to depend a bit more on their reality series including The Voice, The Amazing Race, American Idol, Survivor and more. They’re all competing with basic cable’s reality programs including the Real Housewives incarnations on Bravo and Duck Dynasty on the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) network. Basic cable’s reality shows’ seasons are all over the calendar map like FX’s The Bridge as well as the premium channels’ current series including HBO’s True DetectiveLooking, Veep and The Leftovers. With all of that said, the traditional networks have also been all over the calendar year with their own seasons for shows like the CBS-TV summer series Under the Dome.
As I’m getting caught up on Scandal, I’m looking forward to other traditional network shows including The Blacklist, but I confess that I’m looking more forward to the premium channels’ Veep and somehow get a chance to see Showtime’s Ray Donovan. So, are you puzzled as to what constitutes a “television season?” It’s confusing these days.


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