Why FOX’s “Previews” don’t work

A few weeks ago, I watched a fun new show: The Good Guys. Starring Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, it’s fun, a little quirky, and even has a mustache. Honestly, I’ll watch anything with Bradley Whitford in it. Even those old movies when he’s always the jerk. But I like him.

Then a few weeks went by and I though, Hmm, when does The Good Guys air? Did I miss that? I saw a commercial: June. June? Are you kidding? I have to wait until June?

June came, and here we are, June 15. I have no idea when The Good Guys returned. I have no idea when it airs. How do I know it’s currently being aired? Well, Friday night I caught an episode that was new–well, new to me. It was a rerun. From when, I don’t know.

I’m going to make the large assumption that the show airs Mondays. Not because I was flipping channels. No, it’s because other TV blogs are covering it today. Guess what I was doing last night in primetime. Watching Lost and season three of The Guild–neither of which FOX is going to benefit from, let alone Whitford and Hanks.

FOX seems to be one of those few networks that does new show “Previews.” They show the pilot–or special presentation, whatever you want to call it–on a random night to get people interested. Then, they later air the show on its regular night and time.

I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to watch a TV show, I’m a creature of habit. If something’s aired on Tuesday at 9 pm, I’m going to assume that next week, it will probably air on Tuesday at 9 pm.  I don’t expect to wait a month before seeing the new episode. And when you plop a new show in the middle of the season finales of the current season, there’s a good chance that people are going to get a little too focused on the BIG EPISODES of their favorites and miss this special “preview” anyway. Why’s that a problem? Inconsistency, really. Sometimes FOX will air the “preview” again when it starts the official season, sometimes it won’t. I don’t like starting a new show feeling like I’ve already missed it.

But let’s not just look at The Good Guys. This preview strategy is what killed Drive. FOX did a Sunday night preview for Drive–a two-hour pilot. Then they showed the next episode the following night on Monday. The fourth (and final, I might add) episode? The following Monday night?

Again, creatures of habit. If the network just gave me two hours of a show on a Sunday night, I’d assume it’s going to air on Sunday. But tuning in the following week, nothing was on. On the other hand, knowing Monday was part of the game, I taped Monday’s episode. Ok, what if you just tuned in at the regular time? Mondays? You’ve missed two hours of action that’s actually needed to understand the series. What if you watched all three? Well, you’d either think it’s some sort of miniseries, where maybe another installment is on Tuesday, or you just assume to catch it next week. But when?

It’s true, this strategy worked for Glee, but I’d say Glee was a bit of an exception. First, it’s a distinctive new series. Name another series that habitually combines drama and music, and you’ll see what I mean. Ultimately, The Good Guys is a procedural and Drive was a mystery drama. They have their own features, but they blend into the background. With enough momentum, like Glee had, you can make it stand for a whole summer. And maybe that was another issue: You were sustained for the entire summer.

It wasn’t one night or a month. You knew this was a fall show. You weren’t guessing when you’d be seeing it again.

But mismashing the show on random night just for the hell of it and expecting people to figure out when it’s on based on a website and the occasional commercial (sorry, FOX, but I don’t watch American Idol so I don’t see your commercials for the two other series you have on deck) is just madness. It’s not successful. It’s way too close to the Scrubs treatment. And honestly, it’s killing your shows.

Now, I don’t know how The Good Guys is doing in ratings. Hopefully it has some upside, what with there being very few new shows out right now this summer, but I can’t say this is doing much for it. After all, when a TV blogger doesn’t know when to watch, I’d say there’s more of a problem with the strategy than with the audience.

*images from TheTVAddict.com and BuddyTV.com

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3 thoughts on “Why FOX’s “Previews” don’t work

  1. I wonder if part of the reason it helped Glee instead of hindering it was because the preview was aired around this time last year and then the series didn’t actually start until fall. Lots of time to forget what night the preview might have been and let Fox’s advertising department brainwash us with the new day and time.

    I keep meaning to check out the Bradley Whitford show, though. You like?

  2. Yeah, I realized The Good Guys was airing on Mondays when I ran across it last week, which apparently was the first night it came back. I was kind of curious about the show, but evidently had missed the premiere that aired a month ago. So here I’ve been, still expecting it to air on Wednesdays (the day of the week the premiere aired) and casually wondering how’d I’d somehow managed to NOT run across it every Wednesday of the past several weeks.

    And by the way, yes, I’m still annoyed about Drive.

  3. This is a really good point. Even NBC, as screwed up as they are, don’t seem to preview shows and then throw episodes around on different nights. It seems to me like Fox was doing this to Kitchen Nightmares a while ago too; it was on Friday for a while, yet once or twice I remember watching it on another night, and now suddenly it’s vanished. Where’d it go?

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