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Remote Life: Unconventional midseason premieres of television shows a welcome change

“Mad Men” recently returned with the premiere of its fifth season.

By Samantha Suchland

April 4, 2012 12:10 a.m.

You did it, you found Remote Life. You found it despite the change from Tuesday to Wednesday and the spring break hiatus.

While I like to think there were some of you suffering withdrawals, I’m sure you weren’t too worried. As avid television fans, we’ve all become skilled at tracking down our favorite shows when the networks start to play the line-up mamba.

Besides, the triumphant return of several television shows has been stealing the press lately. Even with their unconventional premiere times and awkwardly long hiatuses, they managed to pull in record-high audiences.

“Mad Men” returned after a 17-month hiatus to a series high of 3.5 million viewers. That’s nearly one million more than the last season’s average of 2.3 million viewers.

Then there’s the second season of “Game of Thrones” returning to HBO earlier this week with its all-time highest ratings and the title of most-viewed scripted show on cable for the week.

It seems weird to have shows premiering midseason like this. Most shows are on hiatus, others are just returning, but new seasons beginning at the end of March? That’s something entirely different.

It also seems risky. Look at “Arrested Development,” the poster child for killing a show by routinely moving its air time. I look back and shake my fist at Fox and wonder “Why, oh why, would you do that to such a brilliant show?”

Then again, would this same fate would have happened to “Arrested Development” had it been on air today and not in 2003? Maybe shows are able to have funky start dates now that we don’t rely on the network to remind us when a show is on. We have our cohort of fellow fans and the Internet to bombard us with reminders.

Can you imagine the “Arrested Development” fan base if Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr had been active? I’m sure it would have been akin to the “Community” fan base publicly mourning its premature hiatus earlier this year. Even after the show’s return, Dan Harmon, creator of “Community,” posted a YouTube video letting viewers know that the show was moving to a different time on Thursday nights.

The Internet refuses to let beloved shows die a premature death. It sinks its claws into them and cries bloody murder.

Of course “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” are unequivocally beloved by critics and benefit from a stronger awareness by those with some clout. Newsweek loves “Mad Men” so much that it reverted its design to the magazine’s 1960s fonts and even had advertisers create retro-looking ads.

There’s also a difference between moving a show’s time around and an unconventional start date, but it seems that both can be overcome with a little bit of extra fanfare.

Shows like “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” also get to sidestep the competitive frenzy of the fall premiere season and reign like royalty over a random week in March or April.

To be honest, it’s been nice to have these random golden nugget premieres scattered throughout the year. The spring hiatus, or the spring doldrums as I like to call it, hasn’t been so bad.

Maybe we’re heading for a new way of scheduling television. Maybe even something more akin to the British way of doing things.

If it makes the upcoming summer hiatus feel any shorter, I am in full support of this trend.

Do you like unconventional premiere dates or was a 17-month “Mad Men” hiatus blasphemous? Contact Suchland at [email protected]. “Remote Life” runs every Wednesday.

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Samantha Suchland
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