Sunday, May 4, 2008

On the Sixth Day

With yet another week lacking a new "Saturday Night Live," I decided to take a look around the networks' Saturday primetime schedule, only to make a shattering discovery:

There is no network Saturday primetime schedule.

Oh, they're still broadcasting Saturdays between 8PM and 11PM Eastern; they're just not trying very hard. Last night ABC ran The Chronicles of Narnia for the entirety of its primetime block, clearly drumming up eyeballs for the theatrical release of the sequel two weeks from now. Speaking of eyeballs, CBS gave us a "CSI: Miami" rerun -- so Dave was happy -- and a new (!) "48 Hours" two-hour special about divorce. It's all sunshine and lollipops from them.

NBC offered a couple of "Law and Order" reruns because they were starting to pile up in storage, as well as a repeat of this week's "Medium." Fox and CW didn't bother to show up, turning the programming block over to local affiliates, which in my neck of the woods means "Cops" and "King of Queens" repeats.

Not exactly the most vibrant night of American television ever unveiled.

It didn't used to be like this. Once upon a time, Saturdays were as alive with bigtime network shows as any night of the week. Yes, even Thursday.

Saturdays once meant legendary hits like "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," (they were back-to-back in a phenomenally cheesy two-hour run on ABC) "Dallas," "Diff'rent Strokes," "Golden Girls," "Green Acres," "Petticoat Junction," and the stellar all-time great CBS line-up of "All in the Family," "M*A*S*H", "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," and "The Carole Burnett Show." It's a wonder anyone ever left the house on a weekend.

But times change. And network viewership is down across the board with Saturday particularly impacted, so it's all repeats, crass self-promotion and stuff on the cheap now. It's been that way for awhile.

But if I were a network executive -- which I am most emphatically not -- and I had a show on my schedule that was critically acclaimed with a solid but small fan base, I would consider moving it to Saturday and seeing how it fared with zero competition. You'd have to be patient, because people now aren't used to finding any first-run programming of note on Saturdays, and network execs aren't known for their patience, but given a little time, I bet you could easily have yourself a show that was winning the night. Declare victory and then watch all the other networks come crawling back to the weekend for a taste of the Saturday pie.

It might have saved "Jericho." Again.

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