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May 25, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Has there ever been a Monthly television program? Why not if not?

Could a monthly TV show work? Has anyone ever tried it?

Is there any indication that people would or would not watch it?

Is there something about advertising budgets or scheduling that would make it difficult to sell against a monthly entertainment?

Finally there any studies about why shows in the US are on either a weekly, seasonal schedule (like a sitcom or Nightline) or a daily constant schedule (like the news or the fake news), instead of monthly?
posted by Potomac Avenue to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Sky at Night has been running monthly on the BBC since 1957

I think it could work.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:59 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (on HBO) is monthly. It's the only sports programming I can watch.
posted by dfriedman at 8:59 AM on May 25, 2012

US schedules are highly regimented, weekly things, with hourly blocks (barring some sports event overrunning). Viewers expect this and might be weirded out by a monthly show interrupting their routine. Perhaps if there were a group of related rotating shows in a weekly slot it could work. (Maybe PBS does this with Masterpiece?)

In Britain schedules are very different, probably because so many imported foreign shows are shown without advertising breaks, lasting 25 minutes or less, while most British shows are 30 minutes. So the schedules are pretty chaotic and viewers are more used to complex scheduling like this.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:04 AM on May 25, 2012

Also, we don't have 'seasons' here - I always thought this was a sports thing, but all our popular winter sports take place in the same months. Shows often come back after the summer as the summer isn't seen as peak time for programming, but we don't get the US thing of all the new series starting pretty much at once.

As EMRJKC94 says, it is a lot more regimented in the US. When Seinfeld was imported here it was shown late at night and moved around a lot - same with Arrested Development. In the 90s Thursdays or Friday nights were the nights for more alternative comedy shows on the BBC and C4, but I don't think that's so much the case now.
posted by mippy at 9:10 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Back in the 70's there was a Sunday Night Mystery Movie where Columbo, McMillan and Wife and McCloud would rotate the time slot. Occasionally, they'd throw some other stuff in like Hec Ramsey.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think over here documentary strands dedicated to single issues like Panorama or Wonderland have sometimes shown monthly - there's no need for someone to keep coming back each month, and people will tune into individual episodes which interest them. That's probably how the HBO sports series works.
posted by mippy at 9:13 AM on May 25, 2012

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (on HBO) is monthly. It's the only sports programming I can watch.

This is a perfect example of what can work in the U.S. and why. It's nearly timeless, story-based programming on a premium channel with a respected, familiar name. It can be repeated and viewed days after the initial airing. It's low-cost to produce. And Gumbel's name and the topic can be used to market it as a selling point for the premium channel ("Look, HBO has more than movies -- we have sports, too. With Bryant Gumbel! You remember him, right? Buy a subscription to our channel!")


Is there something about advertising budgets or scheduling that would make it difficult to sell against a monthly entertainment?

For a monthly show to work on an advertising-based channel, it would need to be event-based programming where you can garner a big enough audience at a specific time and place to receive a useful advertising message.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:13 AM on May 25, 2012

Wetten, dass..? is one of the most popular TV shows in the German language area. During its seasons it airs about once a month on three public broadcasting channels (in Germany, Austria and Switzerland), so again, there are no commercial breaks.
posted by wachhundfisch at 9:20 AM on May 25, 2012

Do you mean a fictional narrative like a drama? Logistically it might be difficult to secure the actors and crew for a show like this. I can't imagine anyone wanting to sign a contract which might prevent them getting more work.
posted by cazoo at 9:38 AM on May 25, 2012

To have a show with a mass appeal, you generally need to go with a schedule that is easy for the viewers to remember and keep up with. This goes even in the UK.

That's going to go double for anything where a storyline spans multiple episodes.

For shows that are minority tastes, they get fitted around in whatever slots are available. If the topic is one that doesn't warrant weekly coverage, and where it doesn't matter so much to most people if they catch every single episode, The Sky at Night being a great example, there's no reason why it can't be monthly.

Given the kind of stuff I see on minor ad supported channels, I can't see any reason why a low-budget show with a small-but-select audience like The Sky at Night couldn't be done there.

Monthly or less than monthly scheduling can also work for mass appeal shows if they have scarcity value and carry enough weight as events that people won't forget they're on. For example, England international soccer matches are big events that get aired on TV on average less than once a month, but because they're such a big deal in the media and to the fans, people are pretty much going to remember when they're on. But not many things can pull that off.
posted by philipy at 9:45 AM on May 25, 2012

RFD-TV carried (carries?) a monthly show called "AARP Live!"

I expect if you drill down enough you'll find a lot of this kind of thing on small networks given the fragmentation of television.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2012

Here's another similar example: "Kozy Liberty" on Madagascar's RTA.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 9:51 AM on May 25, 2012

I would love to see something like this happen. It would allow for much greater quality programs. The longer time available to write and produce should result in a better product.

I don't imagine it would be of much help for a 30-minute sitcom but for a hour long drama (or even 2 hours) it would be great. A monthly schedule might even re-enable the anthology style of shows we all loved once upon a time. A revival of high-quality Twilight Zone or similar would be great.
posted by 2manyusernames at 10:24 AM on May 25, 2012

Logistically it might be difficult to secure the actors and crew for a show like this. I can't imagine anyone wanting to sign a contract which might prevent them getting more work.

Not really, because you could shoot the whole season/series/block of episodes in one go, and just air them monthly rather than weekly. There might be complications about exclusivity (what if you have a year's worth of monthly episodes in the can, then you book a weekly series that will begin airing while that monthly material is still current?), but you could get around that, I'm sure. In this vertically integrated and marketing-heavy era, it might even be a bonus. And actors' agents aren't that powerful in Hollywood.
posted by Sara C. at 10:34 AM on May 25, 2012

Didn't GamePro used to have a monthly TV program? With J. D. Roth? Am I making this up?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2012

NBC had a show called "First Tuesday" which ran on... the first Tuesday of every month.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2012

I'm guessing that many of the regional sports channels in the US (like Fox Sports) have weekly news magazine type shows dedicated to the various teams whose games they broadcast. In the offseason, this would then go to a monthly show, with repeats airing frequently and randomly to fill time. But this probably isn't quite what you had in mind, where it's "appointment" TV on a certain day each month.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:45 PM on May 25, 2012

Oh, and as for whether a serial-type monthly show would work, I wouldn't think so. Fans get irritated just waiting an extra week if a series has a rerun or pre-emption. I can't imagine them willingly waiting an entire month every time to see what happens next, and it would be hard to sustain viewership.

Having a rotational series with one of four shows each week would be interesting, but maybe confusing, and American TV viewers at least seem to be easily confused ("How come _____ isn't on this week? Was it canceled?!")
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2012

First Tuesday Book Club has run for 5 years.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 5:44 PM on May 25, 2012

Ooh! Ooh! I get to mention Weekend.

See, NBC used to rerun Carson on Saturdays, counter-programming the popular Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. When Carson wanted to work less, this presented a programming problem, so Dick Ebersol came to Lorne Michaels with a proposal for a comedy program -- which was called NBC's Saturday Night the first year, but then bought the rights to the Cosell program's name when it shut down the next year.

Still, the nascent SNL couldn't produce enough material for a constant weekly airing, so (about) monthly, NBC let Lloyd Dobyns and Reuven Frank, both NBC News veterans, play around and make as quirky and unusual a real news program has ever been. A failed later move to prime time was how Linda Ellerbee came to prominence.

It pains me that there's so little out there about this program, and not a single clip. My family loved that show. SNL was fun, but it was an unexpected dlight when it would turn out to be Weekend.
It's also annoying when I can't remember the name, ever, like tonight, and have to poke around.

posted by dhartung at 1:42 AM on May 26, 2012

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