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It’s Time to Cancel Pilot Season

The Latest Mr. Television Column at Campaign US

One of the challenges the broadcast networks face is shaking off antiquated traditions. What worked in the past may not necessarily be the best way forward. But getting network to embrace change is not easy.

As the way audiences consume content continues to evolve, digital platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, and the cable nets before them, set their own rules. For example, cable and digital feel no pressure to to start their new TV seasons the third week of September, when everything on the broadcast nets — new and returning — seems to premiere around the same time. They don’t have to gut the airwaves with new product in first quarter for midseason. They don’t have a certain number of hours of programming in primetime in need of original fare or a set number of episodes per show each season.

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Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of weekly column “Mr. Television” for Campaign US ( Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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  1. Very interesting as usual, but I’d say the opposite is needed.

    The networks need to go back to what they used to be doing when they were very successful.

    For instance (in no particular order and not exhaustively):

    – Cancel their flops quickly

    – Lower budget to what they can afford and make enough shows to program every evening and have replacement shows.

    – I don’t mind the September Premiere Week. It has lost its impact because the shows have been so bad for so long. If they start making better shows, Premiere Week will excite people again.

    – Make better shows (that means no shakycam, no shot-on-video shows to start with).

    – Stop using exclusively the same bad producers who keep failing (ie. Rob Thomas, Greg Berlanti, J.J. Abrams, Orci and Kurtzmann, Seth MacFarlane, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and a few others).

    – Let people who know acting pick the casts (ie. not people in the E-Suite).

    I could continue, but that is where the problem is. Having or not having a pilot season is not really the problem (although the attendant “there’s only six good actors and three good writers in Hollywood for our shows” mentality is also a problem).

    It’s the bad shows that are picked that is the problem.