Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Old Series Never Die, They Just Fade Into Schedule Filler

Tonight you can watch the first ep of ''City of Men'' on the Sundance Channel. This Brazilian import is a strong indicator of things to come.

The number of channels continues to increase fast. Faster than the talent pool for professionally-produced US TV series. The result? Cable channels have to fill programming gaps, and their best bet is to purchase the rights to foreign-produced series that already aired. That's the reason why you can watch imported anime on Cartoon Network and ABC Family. That's the reason why you can watch imported Aussie shows, like "Kath & Kim" and "McLeod's Daughters." That's the reason why you'll see be able to watch the imported Finnish series, "The Dudesons," on Spike TV this summer.

This practice of repurposing TV series is not new. Since Fox hit the primetime airwaves almost 20 years ago (April 5, 1987), the following series aired on US primetime network TV after airing elsewhere (cable, foreign nets):
  • 104 airings on Fox in 1988-90: "It's Garry Shandling's Show" (Showtime, 1986)
  • 46 airings on Fox in 1994-96: "Tales from the Crypt" (HBO, 1989)
  • 19 airings on Fox in 1995: "Dream On" (HBO, 1990)
  • 18 airings on ABC in 2002, 2004: "Monk" (USA, 2002)
  • 11 airings on UPN in 2001: "Celebrity Deathmatch" (MTV, 1998)
  • 10 airings on NBC in 2003-04: "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (Bravo, 2003)
  • 8 airings on NBC in 2002: "Forensic Files" (Court TV, 2000)
  • 3 airings on NBC in 1998: "Stressed Eric" (BBC2 - UK, 1998)
  • 2 airings on UPN in 1999: "Power Play" (CTV - Canada, 1988)
"Stressed Eric" was a little ahead of its time. Despite being removed from the airwaves after three eps, it averaged 4.5 million households per show. An awful audience for a network at the time, but a pretty good audience for a cable channel today.

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