Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Seasonal TV Fatigue

I remember when the advent of Autumn presaged a new season of TV programmes.  The most important season in the TV calendar, in fact.  With the Autumn season covering the run up to Christmas, traditionally the time of stellar viewing figures, the TV channels always thought it important to schedule their top series and debut their strongest new offerings in Autumn, in the hope of building loyal viewing audiences.  Now, however, Autumn seems to herald nothing more than the annual return of Strictly Come Dancing, (which I have never watched and have no intention of watching).  As far as the run up to Christmas is concerned, for some it doesn't seem to exist: today Sony's True Movies channel transformed into the Sony Christmas Movie channel until New Year, showing nothing but festive themed films - all of them crap.  I know that it does this every year, bt I'm sure that it usually waits until at least late October before doing so.  Back in the day, TV seasons were clearly defined, with Autumn the most important, followed by the Winter season, kicking off after New Year, which included fewer debuts, but still had a strong slate of returning favourites to cheer us through the dark days of January and February.  Come the Spring season, more repeats would start to creep in, diluting the new programming, with only shows they weren't sure about debuting.  Summer, of course, was always threadbare, dominated by cheap sports coverage taking up hour after hour of prime time, more and more repeats, second rate imported shows and if anything debuted during Summer, it meant that the channel had decided that it was a stinker.

Things began to change when the BBC, in particular, realised that not everybody spent their Summers outside, enjoying all that sunshine we never got in the UK and that not everybody wanted to watch sports all Summer, either.  Of course, the increasing costs of sports events rights probably helped change their minds, too.  Anyway, they started to experiment with debuting new series in the Summer which weren't crap and, surprise, surprise, found that there was an audience for them.  Other channels followed suit and, gradually, Summer began to look like any other TV season.  Over time, the channels started distributing their output more evenly across the seasons, although Autumn seemed to retain its primacy.  But other developments eroded the old seasonal orthodoxy: soap operas, increasingly providing regular audiences, started to be shown all year round, with no Summer break, while, in recent times, new digital channels have tended to pay scant attention to the seasons, or religious festivals for that matter, running heir schedules without regard for the time of year.  Moreover, streaming services have released their programming all year round, with a similar disregard for seasons.  Add to that the advent of the terrestrial channels catch up services and the whole concept of seasonal programme has, by and large, fallen by the wayside.  Which is a pity - Autumn was always something to look forward to, especially when I was a kid, with the expectation of all that exciting new programming.  But, like Christmas, it seems to have lost its special status in TV terms.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the availability of half decent programming all year round, but, out of habit, I always expect things to move up a gear in Autumn and can't help feel somewhat disappointed when it doesn't happen.

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