TV Production Timeline?
July 6, 2010 11:32 AM   Subscribe

How far ahead of their scheduled air date are scripted television shows ready to air?

I'm just wondering how far in advance a fairly cinematic show like HBO's True Blood is in the can. Do they edit/revise up to the minute on their scheduled air date or are they completely finished months in advance?
posted by pb to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It varies. South Park is famous for turning episodes around very quickly so if something notable happens, they can be riffing off it in their very next episode. But normally lead times would be a good deal longer.
posted by Naberius at 11:56 AM on July 6, 2010

The answer is really "it depends," but often the turnaround is pretty tight.

A major network program filmed on location at my workplace during the last week of January, and the episode aired on March 10th.

This article states that True Blood was doing some on-location filming for s02e10 on or about July 14, 2009. The episode aired on August 23rd. No idea how close to the airdate they get when editing and doing all the other post-production work, though.
posted by bcwinters at 11:58 AM on July 6, 2010

I remember reading once that there were one or two episodes of the X-Files that were completed so late that the east coast actually saw a different version than the west coast saw 3 hours later, because they were still editing after it started airing on the east coast.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2010

There's a new USA Network series due to launch in about a week (mid-July 2010). They shot the pilot in September 2009 and the first season's episodes started shooting in late April 2010. So they had 3 months to turn around the first couple episodes, and then they'll still be working on post-production for some of the later episodes while the first ones air.

I also remember hearing on a DVD commentary of NBC's The Office that there was an episode (I think it was the big proposal) that took a lot of fussing and logistical work to complete, and the producers went back and forth between a couple possible versions of it as it was such a key scene and it took lots of little details to get it exactly right. I'm pretty sure they said that they finally hand-delivered the master late on the same day it was meant to air.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:09 PM on July 6, 2010

I've worked in film and tv, so I can say that it truly does vary. Episodes finishing the week they air is not too rare. Nor are episodes finished weeks or months in advance. Sometimes many months, for instance when a show gets cancelled with unaired episodes, and then the network decides to burn off those episodes over the summer.

But I don't believe rabbitrabbit's anecdote about the x-files. The only time I ever saw a show air differently in the east and the west was when i worked in news, and late-breaking stuff was added. (Typical during daytime news air: the current stock exchange numbers being updated for the west coast feed.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:11 PM on July 6, 2010

Delivery guidelines for the BBC.

In the States, it varies depending on the network and the type of show. When I did kids' TV for PBS, our producers would often comment that our deliveries were scheduled very early compared to, say, a show for CBS.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2010

If you follow the usual spoiler sources (like Ausiello or Ask Kristen or TVSquad) then you'll often get little nuggets about what's currently shooting. For example, a week or so ago there were some pics from the production of House on location shooting the fall premiere. In general a safe bet is that they're running 6 to 8 weeks ahead, but in some cases they'll shoot much in advance if they have scheduling issues with the cast or whatnot.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:40 AM on July 7, 2010

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