If only network execs sank with their ships
Television might answer to Darwin and evolve its decision making
After I wrote this, and failed to tape the first episode of Star Trek Discovery (or tried to tape it, but didn’t bother to watch since the show started late and my box didn’t record the final twenty minutes), I looked for the show at CBS’s on demand channel.
No problem, we’ll just buy the series on iTunes.
I couldn’t find it.
Only when I browsed through several stories online did I discover that you can only watch the show with the CBS All Ac
I’m writing this at 7:30 pm CST, watching CBS to see the premiere of its 2017 season flag ship, Star Trek: Discovery. Seven minutes in the show is performing exactly as I expected. I’m watching 60 Minutes. I don’t know how long I’ll have to watch 60 Minutes before Discovery finally broadcasts. In my experience it could be in ten minutes or another hour.
Which is why my wife and I quit watching CBS on Sunday nights several years ago. Period. We waited until the seasons released on Netflix. In the meantime, CBS’s advertisers lost us as their audience. CBS hasn’t accepted the fact that people DVR programming and DVRs start recording at the scheduled time, not when the program broadcasts.
This means we have to record another program, stop in the middle of the episode and play another recording, inevitably missing the two minutes that provide the information we need to understand the story. Two weeks in a row we still missed the ending to The Good Wife because they broadcast seventy minutes late. That’s when we said “to hell with it.”
Why can’t CBS start it’s Sunday night programs when scheduled? Anyone who knows CBS Sundays knows why, but it’s still worth explaining. Let me do it in the context of Discovery:
Why can’t CBS start it’s Sunday night programs when scheduled? Anyone who knows CBS Sundays knows why.
It must have seemed a brilliant scheduling strategy: Launch Discovery immediately following their old standby 60 Minutes, carrying the audience for one into the other. And why do we know our biggest audience is watching 60 Minutes? Because that audience carried over from NFL football. The Sunday afternoon late game.
That observation, while sounding so brilliant in a planning meeting which no one wants to attend, also reveals the fundamental flaws, the tectonic cracks underneath the plan. The audience for 60 Minutes skews towards retirement age. Folks sixty or older like Carol and me. Who should be the target audience for Discovery? Young sci fi nerds. The people who haven’t outgrown cosplay (the ones who know what it is).
Nonsense, CBS executives say. Our target is baby boomers who grew up with Star Trek. They’re all seniors, stuck in retirement homes and likely to be wheeled to their rooms by 9 pm. We need to broadcast Discovery before they don their jammies and drool cups.
Being a boomer, I’m skeptical. I watched three Star Trek episodes a day, at least one of the stoned, in college. By the time Deep Space Nine arrived I was past it. My wife and I watched six episodes, agreed, “Seen this episode in the first two series” and never watched again.
I watched three Star Trek episodes a day, at least one of the stoned, in college. By the time Deep Space Nine arrived I was past it.
It’s 7:45 and Mike Wallace is talking. Or someone who looks like him from the picture-in-picture window. We switched to the Redskins/Raiders game.
Which brings us to the crack about to split the plate. A football game scheduled to begin at 3:30 never ends by 6:30. And that’s not planning for overtime.  After the Heidi game in 1968, CBS became the laughing stock of TV critics. They switched away from a two touchdown rally in the last minute to Heidi, which CBS broadcast to open the family Thanksgiving season.
After the Heidi game in 1968, CBS became the laughing stock of TV critics. They switched away from a two touchdown rally in the last minute to Heidi, which CBS broadcast to open the family Thanksgiving season.
Since then it’s TV shows be damned, even though we can watch the rest of the game on our iPhones while the TV show, which we can’t watch unless we DVR it (which is a pain since the shows never start on time) or wait until on demand rebroadcast the next day when we can’t fast forward through commercials.
TV shows be damned even if they’re the premiere of CBS’s biggest budget show and they couldn’t attract viewers if the President promised to grope Sara Huckabee Sanders in prime time.
This means they’ve sabotaged the Enterprise, or whatever ship navigates the episodes, in dry dock. Drilled a wormhole through the deck set. There is no compelling reason for me to screw with my cable box to make sure I get the episode, and, worse, advertisers don’t pay to appear on a show we watch on demand.
How good will Discovery be? I won’t know until it plays on Netflix. If it makes it past football season. Too bad the network executives behind the decision won’t get axed with the show. A little Darwinian pressure might give us a better slate of programs.
It’s 7:51 CST: I see a commercial for Star Wars 7 with Daisy Ridley in the desert. Oh, excuse me, that’s not Daisy Ridley, it’s Michelle Yeoh. Star Trek Discovery has finally begun more than 20 minutes late.
It’s 7:51 CST: I see a commercial for Star Wars 7 with Daisy Ridley in the desert. Why a commercial for Star Wars 7? Oh, excuse me, that’s not Daisy Ridley, it’s Michelle Yeoh. The show has finally begun. But the Redskins are leading Oakland 7 to nothing and Carol, who loves the Redskins so much she doesn’t care about their name even though she’s Cherokee, is not about to switch now. So suck it Discovery.
I don’t think we’ll be alone.
Update July 24, 2019
The real joke was, we would never see another episode of Discovery unless we subscribed to CBS All Access. I could, if I wanted, subscribe, watch every episode when the season ended, and cancel. Like I once did with HBO and the final season of True Blood. Only we kept HBO, and rarely watch, but Carol likes Bill Maher (perhaps she sees him as the successful me she wanted to marry) so we never cancelled.
Not falling for that again.
They released Discovery on Apple TV (formerly iTunes) but at $39.99, now $34.99. It’s not on Netflix because All Access has contracts with Apple TV and Amazon Prime (who charges $4 an episode). So, until Apple comes down to $9.99 or Prime adds it to their Prime Membership viewing list, I will have to watch my old Michelle Yeoh dvds. Heroic Trio and Wing Chun remain classics.
A slight exaggeration. I’m a writer and one of the ways I trained myself was studying how plot lines are established. Ninety nine times out of ten, I can paint the story arc within the first five minutes. My wife and I even have a game: “Who can guess the next line of dialogue exactly.”
 CBS calls this the Murder She Wrote strategy.
Fox knows this. They plan for it. They know The Simpsons starts at seven. I’ve never taped an episode that didn’t start on time.
Featuring a Lamonica to Smith 43 yard touchdown pass and a TD return off a fumble recovery on kickoff to ice the game for Oakland 43–32 over Namath and the Jets. In CBS’ defense, they decided to delay the Heidi broadcast but viewers panicked and flooded the switchboard with calls asking if they were really going to stop the game. The switchboard was so busy handling outside calls, network executives couldn’t reach the broadcast booth to tell them to stay on the game.
So it’s your own damn fault, America. Had you just stayed in your seats and watched the game you’d’ve seen it to the end.
In the last three seasons, the number of new network shows that looked interesting enough for Carol and I to even watch an episode dwindled from 16 to eight and five this fall. The number of cable series we watch has tripled.