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May sweeps mean too many reruns

Courtesy photo
Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J of "NCIS: Los Angeles" team up with Scott Caan (right) and Daniel Dae Kim (not pictured) in a "Hawaii Five-0" crossover episode at 10 p.m. Monday. Then, Caan and Kim will appear on "NCIS: Los Angeles" at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In March, when I wrote about DVR marathons, I noted that a "Hawaii Five-0" marathon in January had rekindled my interest in the show. Perhaps "rekindled" was too mild a word, though. Once I got back into it, I got back into it with a vengeance.

That's why the past two months have been very frustrating. That show, more than any other I watch, has had a bad case of the runs -- reruns, that is. In those two months, there have been only two new episodes. It finally returns with a streak of new episodes starting Monday, but it's a short streak: just three episodes.

The reason for the endless repeats is because the show needs to end in May, during the biggest of Neilsen's four sweeps months. (The others are February, July and November). Those are when the company monitors TV viewership more heavily than usual, and I wish they would go away. In fact, I wish the TV season, as the networks define it (fall to spring), would go away.

Since Sweeps outcomes are used for scheduling and advertising decisions, I know that wish won't be granted, but even if they stay as they are, there's no reason the networks couldn't embrace a more cable-minded attitude toward season structuring and still work within Sweeps' confines.

Cable shows work one of two ways: they air a season straight through or they split it into two parts (usually summer and winter). Either way, when the season's on, it's rerun-free.

With a smidge of change -- shortening a season's length from 22 episodes to 20 -- networks could easily create a year-round calendar that still fits finales in during Sweeps months.

For instance, start a show in September and, allowing for a brief break for the glut of Christmas specials, finish during February sweeps. Start a new show in March, end during July sweeps. Start in January, end in May. Start in July, end in November.

Yes, this is an oversimplification. It doesn't take into account the overlap that would occur in some months, live sports events and the fact that the networks don't have (or won't spend) that much money on the increased number of shows this format would allow. The point is that, with some forethought, networks could adapt their schedules to minimize reruns.

This isn't just good for viewers; it's good for them. When viewers tune in to find rerun after rerun, it's a turnoff, and some will tune out. I know I have. And if I weren't a TV columnist who keeps track of return dates, I probably wouldn't tune back in either, because I would have given up checking for new episodes.

In a time when the way we watch TV is changing and more options exist to draw eyeballs away from traditional viewing, networks need to get their heads out of the sand and look for ways to adapt. This is one of them.

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Series premieres: "Don't Be Tardy for the Wedding," 9 p.m. Thursday, Bravo (Real Housewife Kim Zolciak's nuptials); "7 Days of Sex," 10 p.m. Thursday, Lifetime (couples reheat their relationships); "The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet," 11 p.m. Thursday, Lifetime (celebrity interviews); "Flipped Off," 10 p.m. Saturday, A&E (real estate makeovers); "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding," 10 p.m. Sunday, TLC (bridal show); "Motorcity," 9 p.m. Monday, Disney XD (cartoon set in futuristic Detroit where cars are banned); "Money from Strangers," 10:30 p.m. Monday, MTV (pranking game show).

Season finales: "The Good Wife," 9 p.m. Sunday, CBS; "Breakout Kings," 9 p.m. Sunday, A&E; "Khloe & Lamar," 10 p.m., and "Ice Loves Coco," 10:30 p.m. Sunday, E!; "Last Man Standing," 8 p.m. Tuesday, ABC; "The Biggest Loser," 8 p.m. Tuesday, NBC; "Top Shot," 10 p.m. Tuesday, History; "Million Dollar Listing New York," 10 p.m. Wednesday, Bravo.

Specials: "TV Land Awards," 9 p.m. Sunday, TV Land; "Uprising: Hip Hop & the LA Riots," 9 p.m. Tuesday, VH1 (documentary); "Jesse Owens: American Experience," 8 p.m. Tuesday, PBS (profile).

Of note: "30 Rock" goes live, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, NBC; "Two and a Half Men" has Kathy Bates playing Charlie's ghost, 9 p.m. Monday, CBS; "Hawaii Five-O"/"NCIS: Los Angeles" crossover, 10 p.m. Monday and 9 p.m. Tuesday, CBS.

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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