Apparently networks have a hard time remembering history.
By the time “Revolution” returns to NBC’s schedule, the show will have been off the air for four solid months. And when it does return March 25, one very big question will be answered: Will viewers remember a 10-episode-old show after just short of 100 days?
NBC says yes. History? Not so much.
“I felt we could pick up the pace of the stunning revelations,” showrunner Eric Kripke recently told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, according to USA Today. “I though maybe the pace of the shocking surprises was a little too slow. We wanted to have a second half that was bigger and better, and more exciting.”
The idea, Kripke said, was to have more episodes running in a row, without a break. Something that worked pretty well for “Lost” during its run on ABC.
However, there is a big difference between “Lost” of then and “Revolution” of today: “Lost” had already used a couple of seasons to establish its audience. And even then, the show suffered from tremendous audience erosions thanks to the breaks. “Revolution” has aired just 10 episodes, and before a small rebound just in time for the mid-season finale on Nov. 26, the show had started to see its own audience slippage.
Over the past two seasons, the networks tried a similar approach just one other time. And it didn’t work out then, either.
In the 2010-11 season, NBC put the genre show “The Event” on a long mid-season hiatus, running from Nov. 29 to March 7 (nearly three weeks shorter than “Revolution”). While the show averaged a 4.2 household rating in Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co., by the time it returned, the audience plummeted 33 percent, and finished its one-season run with a 2.8 household rating.
Networks have avoided this primarily because of the fact that audiences do not have enough time to get invested in shows, and with so much competition from other networks, will move on rather than wait around. CBS learned that lesson the hard way, at the cost of “Jericho” fans, just a few years ago when a long mid-season break turned that show from one of the top new series of the year, to one that was actually cancelled before it was renewed for a very short season. And even then, that only came during a long fan campaign.
On paper, putting episodes in a row with little interruption looks great. But only if the audience returns. “Revolution” was an early success story for NBC, but it did have some huge vulnerabilities. The show premiered with a 7.1 rating/11 share in Fast National overnights, but lost 31 percent of its premiere audience by the fourth episode. By Nov. 19, the week before its mid-season finale, “Revolution’s” audience was off just under 40 percent from is premiere with a 4.3/7.
On top of that, “Revolution” was losing, on average, 31 percent of its lead-in audience from “The Voice.” Considering the strong numbers “The Voice” has, that’s not too shabby for “Revolution.” But a show trying to find its footing needs to really establish itself with its audience, and pulling it off the air before the audience even really gets a chance to know it can be disastrous. Just ask “The Event.” Just ask “Jericho.”
So why do this? NBC likes the pairing of “The Voice” with “Revolution,” and since “The Voice” isn’t returning until March, then that means the same for “Revolution.” This way, there is now room in the schedule for the mid-season return of “The Biggest Loser” reality show as well as the new Tate Donovan series “Deception.”
How this will work on Mondays doesn’t matter, because NBC believes its true Monday lineup begins at the end of March. And while people may be back to see another cycle of “The Voice,” they may not be ready to try and remember what they already watched on “Revolution” to come back for that. Why tune in to that when both CBS and ABC have established, much more procedure-like shows of “Hawaii Five-0” and “Castle” that could catch their attention instead?
History says a break like this will hurt “Revolution” far more than it will help it. Let’s just hope for the sake of both “Revolution” fans and NBC that history in this case doesn’t repeat itself.