Saturday, January 20, 2007

Prison Break / Heroes - Jan. 20, 2007

Monday; Fox, Global
Monday; NBC, Global

Back to business.

Shuffling the deck

Networks have been doing a lot of tinkering with their schedules this season. In the end, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

By Eric Kohanik

Although most of us are still mired in the depths of winter, Hollywood is already focusing on next fall.

Mid-January usually marks the beginning of pilot season, when American networks actually start assembling the new programming they hope will become part of their schedules next fall and winter. Pilot season stretches all the way to May, when the networks unveil their fall lineups to advertisers at splashy presentations in New York City. Between now and then, the TV world will be a flurry of activity, deal-making and, of course, schedule-shuffling.

The big American nets have already been shuffling the deck pretty frequently this season as they scramble to dump programming misfires and try to find saviours that will keep viewers coming back.

In October and November, a slew of serialized dramas, both newcomers and returning shows, went on hiatus. In some cases, it was meant to keep viewers on the hook until the hot shows come back. In other cases, the move was simply designed to get rid of really bad shows before they do even more damage.

In any case, those serialized dramas are now starting to trickle back onto schedules. Fox brings new episodes of Prison Break back to the tube on Monday, picking up the elongated story of Michael (Wentworth Miller), Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), T-Bag (Robert Knepper) and the rest of those prison fugitives where things left off at the end of November.

NBC, meanwhile, has steadily been teasing viewers with reruns of Heroes over the past month in order to whet the appetites of that show’s loyal fans. The network finally stops messing with those folks this week and brings the rookie fantasy drama back with new episodes on Monday night as well.

There’s plenty of other shuffling going on. A lot of networks seem to have so few good shows that they end up filling gaps in their lineups by running the same episode of their hit shows twice. ABC has been following that practice on Fridays almost all season long, rerunning instalments of its Thursday gems – Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy and Men in Trees – on Fridays in an attempt to plug the holes in what continues to be a leaky primetime schedule.

Network programmers at Fox, meanwhile, are trying out Brad Garrett’s struggling new comedy series, ’Til Death, on Sunday this week, in hopes that the network’s high Sunday viewership (thanks to The Simpsons and company) might get viewers to return and check the sitcom out in its regular slot on Thursdays. In fact, Fox will be trying that double-pump tactic again next week, too.

Sometimes, though, there really is no amount of schedule tinkering that will actually fool viewers into believing that a bad show is actually good.

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