TV Season in Review: Breaks Are Bad, Gore Is Good, a Reality Check and More Lessons Learned

As schedules for the 2013-14 TV season were unveiled this month, it became evident that the networks had gotten at least one message: Oft-interrupted TV seasons do no one any favors. Thus, CBS and Fox are dipping their toes in the water with “limited” series runs. But what other lessons can we learn from the season gone by?

RELATED | Fall TV Schedule Moves in Review: The Savvy, the Shocking and the Snoozeworthy

Did reality-TV’s titans get a much-needed reality check? Will there ever be a happy ending for whatever show airs after Modern Family? Have the Bravermans of Parenthood emerged as NBC’s secret weapon? Does gore score? Can small-screen heroes be super again?

RELATED | Your Complete Fall TV Grid: What’s on When? And Versus What?

Here, TVLine tenders 19 takeaways from the 2012-13 season – some of which please us, but also a few that pain us to put to (virtual) paper.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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71 Comments
  1. The hiatuses for some shows are really puzzling. If the Writer’s Strike from a few years ago taught us anything, it is that a BIG BREAK in scheduling can do horrible things for a show. And if 24 was ever going to teach us anything beyond Superman actually being Jack Bauer, it is that an uninterrupted run is really that much more thrilling.

    I used to watch Revolution when it first started airing, and a few of us would keep up with it. And then it took that break. And it came back. Except we completely forgot about it by then, and we forgot what we had left off at and NONE of us have caught up with the show since. I’m still wondering if I should do that or just move on at this point.

    Complete momentum killer.

    • the girl says:

      Revolution’s break, in my opinion, made it the best scheduled show of the year. I much prefer getting 12 uninterrupted episodes in the fall, taking a break, then getting 12 more uninterrupted episodes in the spring, versus that foolishness ABC pulled this winter/spring. Grey’s, Revenge, Scandal, Once, etc. aired one new episode followed by two weeks of repeats, over and over again for three (four?) months. That was frustrating and ridiculous. ABC is easily my favorite channel of the big four, but they need to adopt a new strategy.

      • Esaul says:

        I actually disagree. The hiatus is what’s killing Revolution. While an uninterrupted run is definitely more ideal, taking a lengthy hiatus of three/four months alienates viewers who simply want more. The Following aired their first season uninterrupted and had fifteen episodes. Breaks are necessary to allow shows to fit within the season, but the generic season is over, and Revolution is still on. They should’ve launched a new show behind The Voice’s spring cycle instead of hurting the prospects of two shows (Revolution and Hannibal). While this season is generally better for NBC, they still have so much to learn.

        • Teag says:

          Unfortunately that’s what’s killing Revolution. People just cannot simply be patient, they’re idiots.

          • cookie says:

            I totally agree with you. I was so into Revolution then the big break. I now plan to watch 5 episodes this weekend to catch up. Before I couldn’t wait for it.

          • I don’t know if it has anything to do with short attention spans (which is definitely a problem) or the fact that Revolution is, at its core, kind of serialized. It’s got this immensely complicated backplot and it has a lot of stuff happening at the forefront, with a lot of complex characters (well, mostly complex characters). That’s what drew me in to the show in the first place.

            But when it left the airwaves for four months, I honestly found myself drifting to other programming – at first, it was to fill the void, and then they just became mainstays. And when Revolution restarted, I may have been aware of it but it just never… grabbed me as “Must Watch TV” again. Maybe I didn’t see enough promos, for all I know. All I know is, I just wish the break was shorter than FOUR months. It just felt much longer. I’m sure the show is still fascinating and great, and I’d like to catch up, but those months took a lot out of it. It’s an intrinsic thing, can’t be explained properly.

        • the girl says:

          Personally I think people didn’t want more as much as they thought they did. I was so excited when Revolution came back. I didn’t miss an episode, and I didn’t forget it was coming back. Revolution didn’t make the impact on the viewers that they’d hoped for. That’s not the fault of the break, that’s the show.

      • Teag says:

        I agree with what you said. Hate scheduling like Grey’s, Revenge etc

    • Jason says:

      Yes, because The Walking Dead does horrible using a split season format…

  2. Scott says:

    I don’t think its the breaks themselves that matter. Its the insistence on 22 episode series when there isn’t enough story to carry that many episodes. And to a lesser degree the making of episodes at the last minute so that too much money isn’t tied up if a show fails. I’ve rather have shorter seasons with quality storylines with minimal filler.

    • johnhelvete says:

      Saw a comment elsewhere that if the networks insist on doing 22 episodes a season of a show like Revenge, than they should do two separate story lines. The fall storyline would be resolved, but the writers could do a cliffhanger, and than do a second story line in the spring. Divide the season in half, or perhaps 12 episodes in the fall and 10 in the spring. My understanding is that is what Scandal did for season 2.

      • Lambsilencer says:

        Yes, “Scandal” sort of did it, but more out of necessity. The show was renewed only for a 13-episode season two last May. So they decided to make episode 13 a quasi-finale, providing a bit of closure by answering a few important questions, just in case the show wouldn’t get a back nine pickup. But it did, so they “re-started the engine” after episode 13.

      • Alia says:

        That’s what Teen Wolf is doing. It’s got a 24-ep season for the first time this year, and the PTB are splitting it into halves to keep the storylines from getting stale.

    • Esaul says:

      That’s a double-edge sword. What if they can do quality episodes throughout the whole season but the hiatus is truly killing it? Sometimes less is better. Chicago Fire, NCIS, and Scandal all had solid seasons. I didn’t find myself complaining at all. Revenge probably could’ve done with less episodes honestly. For Revolution, it really is the hiatus that’s killing the show. Up until November it stayed around 2.9/3.0 rating. Since it came back it hasn’t managed to get above a 2.6. Either all the episodes since the show’s return are bad quality, or people stopped watching because it was off air for three/four months.

    • sara says:

      Pretty much. Once Upon a Time managed for the first season but then couldn’t settle on any story in Season 2 and just ended up a total mess because their 22 episode planning was SO bad. They need to just do shorter seasons

  3. Paul Cox says:

    Broadcast networks aren’t entirely devoid of good television at this point, but I really only hang around them for about 25% of my viewing these days. They can make their sitcoms as broad or as narrow as they like, or their dramas as conceptually heavy or light as they like, and they still can’t compete with the tone and delivery of much of what cable is offering. I’d much prefer a shorter season, 10-13 episodes, if EVERY episode was integral and “can’t miss”.

    • the girl says:

      I agree with this. I think it’s weird people talk about forgetting about Revolution over a three month break when shows like Sons of Anarchy, True Blood, American Horror Story, etc. only air 12 episodes once a year and then are on hiatus for *nine months*. People don’t forget to watch those shows… unless it’s not a must-see for you. If you forgot about Revolution, it’s because it didn’t make an impression upon you, not because of the break.

      • Paul says:

        “If you forgot about Revolution, it’s because it didn’t make an impression upon you, not because of the break.”

        BINGO!

        • lyn says:

          Basically true. This is shallow, but I equate the loss of interest and enthusiasm with what happens when a guy goes into the service. He expects his girl to wait, but by the time he comes home after basic, she’s moved on. Not because he’s lacking, just out of sight out of mind.

      • Esaul says:

        I actually disagree with this statement. If that were the case, people would’ve quit watching BEFORE the break. The numbers show a consistently strong first half of the season. Obviously the viewers were there watching the program. Why stick around for ten episodes if it wouldn’t be memorable? If they handled the hiatus better, I bet the ratings wouldn’t have suffered as much. Cable networks have the perks of airing shows they own during another’s break, shows in syndication as well as movies to help the respective network as well to fill the void of those lengthy breaks. Broadcast hasn’t really touched this concept yet. I’m a loyal fan of USA shows. I’m dying for more Suits, but Psych is filling that void. If Revolution is on break, what’s on NBC to fill that void? Deception? Glad that did well. Oh wait. And what launched Deception? The Biggest Loser. Great choice. The Biggest Loser stayed around a 2 rating, which doesn’t give much room for Deception to do well with that kind of a lead in. Meanwhile, with the 10 PM hour failing due to the hiatus, The Voice comes back, and Revolution is hurting.

        • Babygate says:

          “If that were the case, people would’ve quit watching BEFORE the break.”
          Not necessarily. Generally, when people start watching something, they want to see it through, even if it’s not as appealing or compelling as it was originally. By the time it got to the winter finale, Revolution was pulling ratings in the upper 2’s. The premiere had a 4.1 rating with 11.65 viewers. The finale got a 2.9 (up from a 2.6 the week before) with 8.704 viewers. The long break gave people an excuse to tune in to other shows. The second half has been teetering around the 2.0 mark. Although, all this may be a moot point because DVR viewing makes up for a lot of the differences. All things considered, Revolution came in as the 4th rated drama (in the demo) of the season at 3.9 after The Following, Grey’s, and NCIS. But I do agree that if a show is going to be on such a long hiatus, there should be a strong placeholder to keep the people tuning in.

          • Esaul says:

            Mhm. Even those upper 2’s were helpful to NBC. They do need solid performers throughout and they should focus more on their scheduling than thematic seasons. I don’t think this season will do any better if they continue to have trouble with this.

        • the girl says:

          Your comment about Psych, Suits, etc. only serves my point. Psych has a long history at this point of airing a half season in the fall and another season later in the year. Self-proclaimed Psych-Os don’t forget to watch the show, even with breaks. I watch Covert Affairs and I don’t watch anything else on USA during its breaks, but I don’t forget about my show, because it’s MY show, I love it. Revolution is hurting because people weren’t married to the show in the first place. They liked it, but they didn’t LOVE it. So, it went away for a little while, and viewers moved on. NBC was hoping viewers would be loyal to Revolution and unfortunately they lost that bet.

          • Esaul says:

            And to some, that could be more than true. But it’s also an excellent strategy to have a show stand in when another is on break. Even if a viewer from Show A doesn’t watch Show B when it takes its place, that could always hook another person in. Monday night started strong for NBC, until The Voice/Revolution went on break. The Biggest Loser/Deception stepped in, both didn’t reach the ratings that The Voice/Revolution had. Your Monday night at 10 is weakened for when Revolution returns. It damaged what was working for them. Broadcast haven’t yet truly practiced the success of cable. They should learn from that. Some people might not watch cable shows (for whatever reason), and stick to the networks. We of course won’t truly know why people left. It could be the hiatus, it could be the show wasn’t as great as it appeared to be. I’ve seen the first four episodes, and wanted to continue Revolution on Hulu, but they pulled the episodes I left off on. I watch a lot of shows, so I wasn’t too bothered trying to catch up with it through iTunes.

      • Babygate says:

        Touché!!!

      • John says:

        Apples and Oranges. The cable shows finish their entire run at a stretch by telling the whole story that it wants to tell for the year, but Revolution was just starting to reveal its story by the 11th episode which may have put off some people. I, personally, prefer to wait an entire year rather than 3-4 months (which is very annoying). I’m still watching Revolution and think the story and direction are many times better than before the break. And now its infinitely better than The Following, True Blood (especially the last couple of seasons which were dreadful) and AHS.

      • B. Patterson says:

        Uh, no. I completely forget where True Blood and Dexter leave off; however, I don’t have to chase them around constantly changing view times, or multiple little breaks as 1 new show plays every 3-4 weeks. I buy both shows on Blu Ray, and re-watch just before each season. AND, I can count on new start time. True Blood starts in June and Dexter the start of Oct and then both play the next season straight, with only a couple of instances of skipping ONE week between new episodes (not 9-10 instances of 2-3 weeks between ea new episode)….Just a few reasons why cable is so much better than network programming.

  4. alyssa897 says:

    Really interesting article. Loved the Chicago Fire and Hannibal shout out. No lessons learned from Elementary though? :P

  5. cjeffery7 says:

    ya’ll are really pushing Orphan Black. AND I LOVE IT. (it’s the reason i started watching the show in the first place, cause TVLine don’t lie!)

  6. shuayb says:

    I think shorter season with a lot more shows might work. I agree with every slide! So on point.

  7. Teag says:

    I am loving that reality shows are dying.

  8. jw says:

    ABC broadcasts on Thursday?

  9. Chicago Fire is the best new show on the air. I hope Chicago PD is just as good !!!

    • Maryann says:

      It will be if the embedded pilot is any indication. The episode with the Chicago PD guesting on Chicago Fire was one of the best of the season!

  10. Leah says:

    It makes me very happy that the reality shows might be starting a slow death. I really wish that ABC would realize that MF is the exception and not the rule. How To Live has really been growing on me. Also, the only comedies I can stand are the “narrow” ones. I live in a constant state of terror over my beloved Parks. RIP Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B, 30 Rock, Ben & Kate, etc.

    • Paul says:

      Even if Happy Endings doesn’t find a home on USA, I hope someone somewhere realizes that Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe are an all-time hilarious power couple and cast them in some other series together. I could watch them do basically anything and laugh until I can’t breathe.

      • Dax says:

        Oh my gosh yes! They were the best part about Happy Endings. I’ve love Eliza Coupe ever since she was on Scrubs!

      • Leah says:

        Totally agree. Normally when someone says they are watching a show for a particular actor/actress, I think it is dumb. But I would follow any of the Happy Endings cast.

  11. Jaclyn says:

    “Parks and Recreation earned renewals by the skin of their teeth.”

    Umm. No. Parks is one of NBC’s most consistent scripted shows and its best comedy. You are very right about Community gaining renewal “by the skin of their teeth” but Parks was predicted by TvLine to be a safe bet from the beginning. Stop being dramatic. Parks goes into the 2013-2014 season being NBC’s biggest comedy.

  12. Et al. says:

    The lesson about erratic scheduling seems to have been learned by everyone but ABC who needs the lesson the most.

  13. TVJunkie says:

    Shonda should just own ABC’s Thursday night. She’s conquered medical and political. Maybe its time for procedural?

  14. KristyC says:

    I love Scandal. But I will pick the Bravermans everytime.

    • Babygate says:

      Speaking as someone who gave up on Parenthood because the characters kept getting more and more ridiculous, and someone who loves Scandal, I hope more people choose the awesomeness of Olivia Pope and Associates.

  15. James says:

    great article Matt. I knew the long hiatus would bite the networks in their buts and i was correct, it still continues to puzzle me. and the following was really the number one new drama that surprises the heck out of me, it had the potential to be great, but it asks it’s audience not to think, I can only suspend my disbelief for so long, before i face-palm.

    • ishthemish says:

      It definitely hit the reset button for me. I don’t normally watch network television. It broke the connection to the show. The returning episodes did not always measure up in terms of intensity and storyline in OUAT, Revenge, and dare I say Scandal. I began watching The Americans on FX.

  16. Esaul says:

    I’m happy for CF’s success, and amused by early opinion of the show. No one took it seriously to start with. I didn’t either either. I kept telling my gram, who absolutely loves the show, that it would get cancelled due to ratings. I feared that the other new shows would do better, and NBC wouldn’t give it a chance. But it kept performing well, and I was outsmarted. :D

  17. J nooz says:

    I just hope that somewhere in all this data, research and extrapolation we can develop a formula that will destroy all Reality Television FOREVER and impose strict Federal sentencing guidelines for anyone who tries to resurrect it.

  18. Angela says:

    #4: I’ve been a viewer of “Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” (which seem more like competitions than proper “reality” shows, but they get thrown into that category, so…*Shrugs*), and to each their own with whatever reality TV they enjoy, but hell, even I would be rather glad to see a little less reality TV and more scripted comedies/dramas come back. We do need a change in programming. And on a related note…
    #8: …GOD, YES. Every last word of this one.
    #19: Again, whatever floats one’s boat, but I really don’t get the point of “hate-watching”.

  19. Leigh says:

    I have another one to add to the list: there is no such thing as the Moonlighting Curse.

    And I don’t think that It’s the length of the season or the breaks that affecta

    • Leigh says:

      Sorry the post messed up. But I think people are losing interest in tv. Why invest in a show when the network is going to cancel it? Castle and Scandal are examples of shows being given time to grow and catch an audience. Networks should allow more time for some shows – the payout can be there in the long run.

      And summer break is the longest break of all. If there is a good enough story people will return after the break.

  20. Austin says:

    Love the Braverman comment. I love Scandal too. My two favorite dramas on television paired up against each other. I will decide to DVR Scandal though. I don’t know what it is about the Bravermans that makes them so interesting. Great acting and emotional storylines… sorry Scandal. :”””””””””””'(

  21. mia says:

    Hiatuses + repeats just kill tv for me. There needs to be a huge overhaul of “the tv season”. There should be 3: Sept-Dec, Jan-May, June-August (give or take). Shows should be 13-16 episodes a season and air straight through, no breaks no repeats.
    .
    I have no problems waiting a whole year for the next season of a show (or heck, 2 years for Sherlock) if I know its not going to be stretched out

  22. Nero theTVFiddler says:

    There were plenty of disappointments this television season, but for my money, one very big pleasant surprise, and my vote for most-valuable-player on a television series this past season: Hayden Panettiere. When Nashville got the ‘go’ last May at ABC Upfront, I was very happy for Connie B – I knew she’d do well on this series, but I had no idea just how good Hayden Panettiere would be. She’s a revelation on that show. I don’t know if there is anything she can’t do, but I do know that when she is on the screen, all eyes are on her, and the plot spins around her like planets around the sun.

    As good as Connie is, and she is very good, Nashville will live or die next season based upon what the writers give HP to do – hopefully they give her lots of room to run.

    • And the writers of Nashville, with their breakneck storytelling pace, threw EVERYTHING at Hayden Panettiere. I wonder if Juliette from the first episodes of the show has much in common with the character as she stands now because of the amount of plot and development she’s been through. Hayden Panettiere was giving some shockingly strong performances near the end, even in the too-fast-too-follow season finale. Charles Esten might have been the greatest surprise from the show, but Hayden is a very close second. (And it is a major surprise because nearly ALL the buzz was surrounding Connie Britton. Even Hayden Panettiere admitted to an interview that Nashville was meant to feature Connie Britton more prominently in the beginning but that changed.)

  23. Babygate says:

    I am not a CBS watcher, with the exception of The Good Wife, but I am all in for Hostages and Intelligence. There is a definite advantage to watching episodes uninterrupted by unwanted breaks. It keeps the continuity and the viewer engaged. ABC made a huge, massive mistake scheduling Once in Wonderland on Thursdays. The concept of a bridge to keep the original Once running tighter was perfect.
    Although Revenge’s finale was outstanding, I think the bleeding of viewers is irreversible. A serialized show can’t afford to lose viewers because people rarely want to jump in once the story has begun and so it is improbable that a new audience can be gained.
    Can’t believe ABC renewed The Neighbors and cancelled How to Live. Neighbors’ improvement was marginal at best. HTLWYP, on the other hand, started really late in the middle of the Spring viewership slump and has gotten consistently better with each episode. Nashville has been turning into a bit of a mess, right now Hayden is the best thing on it.
    Good luck to Rebel, I’ll tune in, but I watched the clips and it looks really bad. The best fit for the post MF slot is The Golbergs. And putting SHIELD against NCIS was just an inane move. The 9:00 slot would have been more appropriate because NCIS:LA is much weaker. I swear, ABC just makes it hard for anyone to root for their success.
    Parenthood finally gets the 22 order and then they put it against Scandal and Elementary. I don’t watch it, but ouch!
    I rooted for 666 Park Ave. But that name is horrible and I wonder how many people decided against watching because of it. I know I read comments to that effect. And, unfortunately, the writing and the plot twists were kind of inconsistent and poorly executed. This was a case of an excellent cast in a subpar show.
    This season I started watching (non-summer) cable shows for the first time ever. Often the quality is so much better. Such as The Walking Dead and Orphan Black which is truly, truly awesome.
    Smash, just glad it’s almost over.

  24. DavidSask says:

    Hayden made Nashville, not everyone is enthralled with Connie! Not everyone likes Sci-fi hence Revolution. I hope the networks deliver with short seasoned no repeats for all shows and advertise it all as such with their commercials and print ads!!! PS. Since NBC still sucks ass they need to bring back the movies of the week from decades ago and use that to fill their schedule mishaps, it will work, do it!!!

  25. Ahnjayla says:

    Hiatuses are the worst thing in television programming. I remember when the new season started when the kids went back to school in September and did not end until June. Sure they might have postponed a show for various reasons but these networks play with fans and then they wonder why a show is not making it. Stop playing the fans, We work hard for a living we enjoy are TV time and pay big bucks for cable and what do we get…repeats. By the time the show comes back…..???? Life goes on and see yah.

  26. I don’t mind hiatus as long as they make sense. Airing a 2-5 episodes then taking a few weeks off, especially when other networks are running a full slate of their shows, is just stupid. Smash and Touch died because of that kind of stupidity. (True, Smash also had some other issues as well…) By the time they began to air regularly I didn’t care to watch them in their time slots and just waited to watch them online. (I kinda gave up on them both when I found out they were being canceled though.) I remember shows started in September, went on hiatus in November (right before Thanksgiving) and returned in mid January and finaled in late May. Summer was for variety shows, specials (Battle of the Network Stars FTW! LOL) and watching movies and shows on cable. That formula worked for the most part, the fact that the networks are going back to September starts for the most part, but then everything goes to hell. Like they think their show is so great that they can feed it to us in bites and we will love them all the more for it… Nope, it just creates arguments like this one here. The Walking Dead’s scheme is a bit weird but works for me because they air a bunch of episodes before taking a break.

  27. sara says:

    I’m not really wild about the big gap between episodes in one season, like 3 months plus. Just call it two shorter seasons. It screws up the overall story; cable shows at least have their entire season arc in one burst but when you get stuff like Stargate and Psych and Warehouse 13 doing it, it just creates an overall disinterest.

  28. Tinemi says:

    I agree with the hiatus thing. They should know the damage they make to the shows when the viewer has to wait a month! to watch the rest of a show.

  29. KJ says:

    NBC kinda killed Revolution with the hiatus. They should either have shortened seasons or came back a lot sooner than March when it stopped in November. Almost unacceptable. I was actually shocked they renewed them and gave it a new time slot. And I’m a fan. But, it’s become must-DVR and watch weeks later TV. They don’t understand how to keep it interesting week-to-week, lots of filler. And even worse, predictable filler.

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