The Ritual Of Renewing TV Shows Is Obsolete

The Animation Guild blog has been reporting over the last few weeks and months as the various McFarlane shows on FOX waited for the venerable “renewal” notice. They finally came this past week with everyone returning in the autumn. The only thing that made me think about all of this is that the process for renewing a show is hopelessly obsolete.

Why do studios and networks wait for a certain date before “announcing” whether a show is coming back or not? Oh yes, they have to decide whether to continue a show or not, but there seems to be this almost perverted ritual where networks come forward to say what the story is. Of course good shows get renewed a the drop of a hat and bad shows get the axe immediately. However, it’s the shows on the bubble that get run through the wringer.

Having said all that, this process will soon disappear. Online viewing has much better metrics than traditional broadcast or cable metrics and once it is firmly established, it will be much easier to gauge audience sizes. Indeed, networks may find that just because a show gets low numbers on first broadcast, it may have substantial numbers viewing it after the fact. Why on earth FOX and the rest aren’t using Hulu to its full advantage for this kind of stuff is beyond me

If viewer numbers hold up fairly well in the off-season, then surely a show should continue, right?

To go a step further, why even have “seasons” at all? Sometime in the foreseeable future, that concept will also disappear. Hopefully then, orders will be continuous with no need to have crews get shuffled around to save costs.

All in the future though, unfortunately.

3 Comments on “The Ritual Of Renewing TV Shows Is Obsolete

  1. What you’re proposing, where the shows are in production continuously until it’s no longer popular, is more or less how it’s done in Japan. Anime is often produced continuously until it’s no longer profitable. Often times a show will have new episodes airing throughout the year (so one season = 52 episodes)

    “Sazae San” in a particularly extreme example. The show began in 1969 and is still in production today, 43 years later. Alot of the voice actors are still the same, and even some of the writers as well. It has the distinction of being the only TV cartoon EVER to still be painted on cels (yes, no digital).

    • In case you’re wondering, “Sazae” has about 2,000 half-hours in the can. However, absolutely NONE is available in home video. This was at the request of the creator, Machiko Hasegawa, who didn’t want people comparing newer episodes to the older ones, so she forbade the release of any episodes on any home video format.

      Essentially, any episodes that aired before the VCR era are extremely hard to find because most of them only aired once and never again. That said, on the 35th and 40th anniversary specials, they did dig out really old episodes as a surprise.

      Hasegawa died in 1992, BTW, but they’re keeping her words.

    • Wow, I didn’t know that. I’m not sure such a model would work very well in the US right now. It will eventually, but until people get over the idea of seasons, I’m guessing we’ll be stuck with them for now. That will change though, as more and more content is created online, where seasons just don’t exist.

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