With so much written about the abundance of original television programs spread across the broadcast platforms, it is no wonder this new television season does not feel all that special. There is just something missing.
Naturally, the immediate finger of blame points to the caliber of the new crop of programming. We have certainly seen better years. But rather than nitpick about the network newbies (a revival of "The Muppets," really?), here are 10 suggestions to improve the situation.
Let’s start with premiere week on the broadcast networks, which is like walking through a crowded mall on Black Friday in search of the best bargains. Instead of cluttering the airwaves with the majority of the new and returning programs in a one week period (normally the third week of September), a slower rollout would give each individual series a better chance to attract an audience. And it would extend the original programming offerings throughout the season. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox should take a page from the cable nets and digital streamers and spread the wealth (or the rubbish, perhaps). The CW is wisely taking a slower approach.
Cable, of course, has a different set of rules with original entries programmed at any time during the year. And new seasons of this fall of dramas like "The Walking Dead" on AMC, "American Horror Story: Hotel" and "Fargo" on FX, and "Homeland" and "The Affair" on Showtime are proof that these cable nets are trying to program more on a year-round basis. But the emphasis still remains in the summer when the broadcast competition is less severe, and cable needs to be more aggressive in the traditional (September to May) time frame.
It is also time for some of these cable networks (and PBS, for that matter), to expand out of their comfort zones. While "Downton Abbey" and the other original PBS drama offerings add an aura of quality to Sunday, for example, there are six other nights of the week (Saturday included — keep reading) that need attention.
Cable, PBS and the digital streamers should also consider producing more episodes of these original series per season. Less is more…I understand that concept. But when you are personally addicted to a scripted drama like "Bates Motel" on A&E or a scripted dramedy like "Transparent" on Amazon (Stanley and Helen Roper’s former neighbor, Jeffrey Tambor, has certainly come a long way), 10 episodes per season are just not enough. We want more.
"Bates Motel," meanwhile, is one of the many TV series that just do not get the critical acclaim they deserve. There are just so many Emmys to go around; I get it. And you certainly cannot blame the members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for bestowing this year’s two greatest honors on HBO’s "Game of Thrones" and "Veep." But ignoring the performances of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore of "Bates Motel" (not to mention FX’s "Sons of Anarchy" and NBC’s "Parenthood" all those years, and so many others) is just plain frustrating.
I also wish one of the broadcasters, network or cable, would have the guts to program aggressively on Saturday. While Hallmark Channel has created a comfortable niche for itself with original movies and scripted dramas like "Cedar Cove" and "When Calls the Heart," there has to be more than repeats, leftovers, college football and the variety of useless entries spread across the sea of broadcasters.
Do I need to remind these outlets of those golden days of yesterday where the network viewing options included … deep breath … "The Jackie Gleason Show," "Mission: Impossible," "All in the Family," "MASH," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Golden Girls"? And, yes … "The Love Boat" on ABC set sail here, too!
Unless someone makes an attempt, the scenario on Saturday will not change.
The above network shows share another thing in common other than just airing on Saturday: They all knew when it was time to officially leave. But not every show goes out in style, with two in particular at present — daytime talker "The View" on ABC and "Fashion Police" on E! — in dire need of an exit. Personally, I lost count of exactly who is now sitting in those "View" hosting chairs. I bet you have, too. And "Fashion Police" without Joan Rivers is an absolute abomination.
Additionally, if only the clan that Rivers loved to poke fun at, the Kardashians, would take a break, E! might even be worth watching. (Note to Caitlyn Jenner: That includes you, too.)
Another long-in-the-tooth series that also should have ended by now is Fox’s "American Idol," which will officially conclude this spring. With interest waning for years, one way to give this once-pivotal singing competition the attention it deserves would be to get the original three judges — Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson — back in the hosting chairs. Sometimes you should go home again.
Finally, the broadcasters might benefit if they recognized the value of viewers of all ages. The youth of today will become the empty-nesters of tomorrow, and these are the people who often have money to spend. With age often comes spending power, and ignoring anyone over age 50 is a missed opportunity.