By Paula Hendrickson
Ever notice how many repeats air throughout the month of December? With the November ratings sweeps period behind them, and the holidays fast approaching, it’s as if the major broadcast networks have given up on programming entirely.
Programming executives probably assume people don’t watch much TV in December, assuming we’re all on vacation, spending all day Christmas shopping or attending glamorous holiday parties. Maybe that’s what they do, but for most of us, December is pretty much a business-as-usual month up until about Dec. 23. For a lot of people, December is a time of year when families gather and might want to spend an evening curled up watching TV and sipping cocoa.
Dig a bit deeper, and it seems the main reason people stop tuning into network programming is because their favorite shows are all on hiatus. Several cable channels earn their highest ratings of the year by airing original holiday-themed made-for-TV movies, so somebody’s watching TV in December.
Taking a couple weeks off is one thing, but some series are taking fairly lengthy breaks. (Thankfully, none will be as long as Breaking Bad’s final “mid-season” break, which began in September; the few remaining new episodes won’t return until summer 2013.)
The mid-season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead airs Sunday, Dec. 2, and who isn’t looking forward to the inevitable clash between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and The Governor (David Morrissey) and the (possibly violent) reunion of the Dixon brothers, Darryl (Norman Reedus) and Merle (Michael Rooker)? Waiting until February to learn how things turn out will agonize fans.
But fans of NBC’s (only) new hit, Revolution, will have an even longer wait. Its fall finale aired Monday, Nov. 26, but new episodes won’t return until March. That’s a really long time for viewers to maintain interest in the fates of Miles (Billy Burke), Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and the rest. It is hoped NBC will repeat most — or better yet, all — of the initial 10 episodes next spring to help prime the audience for its return.
Taking lengthy breaks is risky, especially for serialized dramas like The Walking Dead and Revolution. While The Walking Dead has had a couple seasons to build a loyal audience, Revolution has only aired 10 episodes. While it’s more than held its own against its 9 p.m. (Central) competitors, Castle and Hawaii 5-0, will it be able to maintain the same momentum after such a long hiatus?
Castle and Hawaii 5-0 have season-wide story arcs, but are actually episodic shows. You can miss an episode or two and pick right back up. That’s not so easy with Revolution. It’s a good show, so I hope viewers don’t forget it during its absence.
December might be a good time to plan a mini-marathon or two, either watching old episodes of favorite shows you’ve recorded or by catching up by watching them On Demand.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2012, issue