Peak TV isn’t a problem. It can’t be. The very implication of having “too many” TV shows, ranging from good to great, available for your viewing pleasure as a dilemma is pure silliness.
There is a problem cropping up in TV lately, though, and that problem is scheduling overload. While we have seven days in a week, networks tend to target the same days and timeslots to air their best content. For example, Wednesday nights this spring have become a lightning rod for quality drama, with WGN America’s Underground, ABC’s Nashville, SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard, FX’s The Americans, and (until recently) TV Land’s Younger all airing at the same 10 PM EST.
This creates the true challenge for TV watchers of having to choose between their favorite programs for viewing dibs. It’s a treacherous slope, with consequences going beyond personal preference of which episode left on the better cliffhanger or plugged more crossover hype.
Niche programming may be on the rise, new channels and streaming content appearing every day, measurement systems for judging success expanding to take into account changing viewer habits, but LIVE numbers still matter in the decision-making process for a show’s continuation. With the end of the “can’t miss TV,” era, when everyone committed to gathering around their screens at scheduled times, the realistic expectations for how high these numbers should run have changed, but the basic tenet stands. No show is immune to the stress of renewal limbo. Every year networks decide which of their prime-time line-up are staying—picked up for another season—and which are getting cancelled. Being able to say your show has such and such number of people consistently tuning in each week means something. With over-scheduling, however, it’s not a matter of not being home so you miss the broadcast. You are home. You just can’t watch five different shows at once.