Question: It seems a given, in the many questions about network scheduling that you receive, that Saturday night is where TV shows go to die, so no one schedules a potential keeper on Saturday. Yet within living memory (mine, at least), CBS had a killer Saturday lineup that would put any recent "must-see" night to shame (All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett). I know we went out on Saturday night in the '70s (and with no TiVo, or even VCRs). It can't just be due to the fracturing of cable — if the audience is really too small on Saturday, then it's too small whether your share is 15 percent or 35 percent. I've been looking back trying to find the tipping point, but I can't see when the landscape changed. What in the business has caused this change in perception? On a completely unrelated note: I have fallen in love with Slings & Arrows. Has there been, or is there going to be, a third season? I need more of New Burbage!
Answer: First off, I'm thrilled to report that a third series of Slings & Arrows has been or is being produced. Sundance will air it sometime next year, after it's shown on Canadian TV. Can't wait. As for Saturdays: The real tipping point came when CBS gave up on the night a few seasons back. That was the last network that found significant ratings success (if not demographics success) on the night, with shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Walker, Texas Ranger and The District. But these shows skewed very old, and eventually, even CBS couldn't make the economics work to be able to support first-run programming on a night when you couldn't sell ads at a premium. I remember CBS' Saturday nights in the '70s very fondly — those really were the days — and also NBC having a major hit with Golden Girls through the late '80s into the early '90s. But that ship has sailed. Now take a look at Fridays. It's slowly becoming the new Saturday. Very hard for more than one network (in this case, CBS again) to land hits on that night, though everyone keeps trying and usually fails miserably at great cost. How long before Fox gives up on the night altogether, followed, maybe, by ABC, which can throw reality and newsmags there, etc.? It would be nice to think you could use nights like these to launch and nurture quality or high-risk shows. But that just never seems to work.