I’ve been having one particular conversation for a while now, and it popped up again this week. It has to do with the networks moving beloved shows to Friday, as Fox is planning to do with Bones later on in the season, and CBS is doing with Hawaii Five-0.
Mostly, what I hear is a lot of conjecture and flat-out wrong information passed off as fact. (Why this surprises me, I don’t know.)
True story: I don’t claim to be an expert on TV. And yet I get a little nuts when people cheerfully twist the truth into pretzels. More so when they have the power to do some significant damage with what they say.
So here are some random things that logic, if nothing else, says are myths, followed by some things that, again. logic says might actually be true.
First myth: Paranoid conspiracy theories aside, networks do not move a show to Friday night in order to kill it. How do I know this? Because they don’t need to.
They can cancel a show anytime they want. If it’s not making a profit for them, they don’t have to go on wasting money by making more episodes they can air on Friday night. I can’t imagine a network executive saying, ‘let’s waste millions of dollars making more episodes of this show we want to die!’ Not when they can simply bring the ax down. Boom! Show’s canceled. Yes, networks will occasionally ‘burn off’ episodes they filmed before canceling a show, but generally, everyone is aware of that – no conspiracy necessary.
Second myth: Nobody watches TV on Friday night. You know…I know Nobody. He/she’s my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, my best friend, my coworker, and, for that matter, me. I am the nobody who watches TV on Friday! Yay, me!
Forgive the sarcasm (I have a degree in it, you know) but my point is that while, yes, I know people who go out on Friday night (and have been known to do so myself) I don’t know anyone in real life who goes out every single Friday night. (I do know one person online who does, and I’m sure she’s not alone in that. But my point is it’s not everyone.)
Furthermore? People going out on Friday night isn’t new. I suspect that some of the young(er) people I talk to think that Friday night as a go-out night began with them, that back in the dark ages of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, everyone was home on Friday night. Yeah, I hate to break it to them, but …not true.
When I was in high school and college, Friday night was dinner and movie night, while Saturday was club night (for those interested in clubbing, at least.) Every Friday? Well, no, but not on a much different pattern than now, I’d say. So when ABC had its TGIF line up in the late 80’s/early 90’s? And Fox had The X-Files on that night? And people watched? It wasn’t because there was nothing else to do. Honest.
That said, it’s undeniably true that not as many people watch TV on the weekend. But apparently – and yes, I’m trusting a network executive on this – Friday night is the night people watch stuff that’s recorded on their DVR from earlier in the week.
It’s a chicken-and-egg puzzle. Do people not watch network TV on Friday nights because there’s nothing on worth watching? Or is there nothing on worth watching because somewhere along the line, audiences came to view Friday night as the ‘death slot’ night, and networks stopped programming for it?
If they’re watching their DVRs, why wouldn’t they watch Bones or Hawaii 5-0?
Why is it unreasonable for Fox and CBS to want to schedule things on Friday night for those people to watch?
There’s no reason at all that I can think of…unless some so-called fans of such shows convince people not to watch. I keep seeing rants by a few bitter fans saying the networks are moving the shows to kill them. Essentially, they’re having temper tantrums, where they think if they say those things often enough, the networks will give them what they want and move their show back to the slot they want for it.
They won’t. I’m pretty sure network executives are even less responsive to temper tantrums by viewers than are showrunners, who (fortunately) don’t base plotlines on hysterical fits.
So if network executives aren’t listening when a fan sulkily says something on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr about the network trying to kill a show, who is?
Other viewers. Not just die-hard fans, but casual viewers – the same ones, who, more often than not, keep a show on the air. The ones who are most likely to interpret ‘death slot’ as ‘The network’s getting ready to cancel the show, so why watch?’
Fox has made it as clear that instead of sending Bones to Friday night to die, they’re hoping the show’s loyal audience will give them a win on Friday night. And here’s the single most important thing about Friday night, from my perspective: a win on Friday night doesn’t have to be as many viewers as a win on other nights. So if a good chunk of the Bones fandom shows up to watch on Friday night (or continues to watch via DVR)…Fox will consider that a success.
And if the show gives them a win on Friday night, why wouldn’t they want to keep that going for another year?
See how the logic there works?
I’ve loved every season of Bones, but felt season eight to be one of the best. I’ve loved the episodes of season nine I’ve seen so far, and think the numbers they’re pulling in show there’s still plenty of interest in the show. And there’s not been one hint that the people associated with the show are tired of it.
Given that, there’s no reason for the show not to give Fox that Friday night win, and Fox not respond with a season ten.
Unless those fans succeed in convincing casual viewers there’s no point in watching.
There’s every reason to watch, and if people don’t, if and when it moves to Friday night…I won’t blame the Fox executives, but rather every so-called fan who’s called Friday night a death slot.
Support your shows, folks. Focus on what you like about them – not when they’re airing.