Long running storylines will be a problem for syndication

by todd Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:09 am

It used to be said that a show was home free once it reached 100 episodes, as that tended to be the minimum to qualify for rerun syndication.

This show has exceeded 150 episodes, which is more than enough.

However, I'm not sure it could really have much appeal in syndication, given the ongoing storylines. The original Five-O could be run out of order, and aside from a few sequential premises (Chin Ho's murder in Season 10, the Vashon family saga, etc), one could watch the seasons/episodes in any order and fully understand what was going on. Indeed, my first exposure to Five-O were the episodes "Thanks for the Honeymoon" and "Draw Me a Killer" (the latter of which really drew me in).

While I've seen that the new show is already syndicated and appearing in cable reruns, I don't imagine it is very viable that way, and I doubt it will pick up a lot of new fans after it's cancelled. If it does, it would likely be from binge-watching, and not from conventional syndication.

Of course, this isn't just a Five-0 thing. Most hourlong dramas produced these days have an ongoing storyline, and most would not make sense if watched out of order. This is part of the reason syndication is dying. Even half-hour comedies have somewhat of an ongoing storyline (think "Big Bang Theory").

The death of syndication is sad, because that's how many shows found an audience in later generations. 1970s shows such as the original Five-O, The Rockford Files, and WKRP in Cincinnati all found sizable audiences from younger people who saw these shows for the first time in 1980s syndication.

by Norths Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:46 am

All valid points but I suspect that today syndication is less and less relevant given the streaming options. I think long arc stories actually play better in streaming as you say because it induces addictive binge watching.

by ringfire211 Wed Mar 15, 2017 12:24 pm

You're absolutely right, todd. Syndication is the reason short-lived series like THE HONEYMOONERS (only 1 season!!) or GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (only 3 seasons) still live on to this day and still play daily on some channel somewhere. Hell, is there anyone under the sun (no matter what age) who hasn't heard of these shows? SWAT only ran for a season and a half, AIRWOLF only 2 seasons and a half and yet these still play to this very day. It's easier to see why long-running shows are syndicated. But why such short lived series such as those? Apparently there was an appetite for them and they ended up more successful in reruns than they ever were during their first runs. On the other hand some long-running shows don't show up much in reruns. OZZIE and HARRIET was a popular show which ran for 12 seasons but I don't see it much in reruns. I've never seen MY THREE SONS (with Fred MacMurray) either and that was a hit show which ran for a while. I guess some shows are more timeless than others. ST. ELSEWHERE was a huge hit in the 80s (basically the ER of the 80s) but I've never seen it in reruns. Meanwhile KNIGHT RIDER and AIRWOLF get shown all the time. To be watching those same classic 39 episodes of THE HONEYMOONERS over and over more than half a century (over 60 years!) after they first aired is nothing short of incredible. Can you imagine a show today that lasts a season (or 2 or 3) playing in reruns 50 years from today? 40 years? 30? 20? 10? No way! It gets pulled off the air and completely forgotten.

But the magic of all those old shows, as you said, was the ability to just jump in and watch any episode in any sequence. There was no continuity and no one cared. You can't do that with today's shows. It's no wonder that when you look at reruns on TV they're mostly old shows. Did you ever see LOST in reruns? ALIAS? I never did. They tried to do reruns with 24 and that ended up being very short lived. Syndication lives on mostly thanks to old shows.