It's not a race

I’m not the first to ask this question but it’s still perplexing… Why is BBC2 showing The Wire every night of the week? And at 11.20pm? Who is it at the BBC that shoves every decent American import it gets its hands on into the graveyard slot?

The channel is so consistent in this behaviour I can only assume there’s been a single person responsible for shoving US imports into late-night slots over the years. Or is it a long-held tradition that’s passed down from master to apprentice scheduler as the generations pass?

Seinfeld, the most popular show in America, was shown in a post-Newsnight slot on, if I remember rightly, an increasingly erratic schedule. The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm and have all followed and all have been slid virtually out of sight as if the BBC doesn’t really want anyone to see them. The current repeats of the latter on BBC Four (in a post-midnight slot of course) even skipped over season four entirely, for no apparent reason.

Maybe some of these would simply never get the audience an earlier and more regular slot would require (and the language ensures they’d never be seen pre-watershed) but still… I can’t help thinking that if Channel 4 had acquired the rights they’d have done something a bit more sensible with such potential hits. If Seinfeld had been shown in Channel 4’s Friday night comedy slot, couldn’t it have been a hit over here?

So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the BBC have scheduled The Wire post-11pm and stripped it across the week. As one friend put it “Are you nuts? It’s not a race!” It’s a jaw-dropping disappointment but not a surprise.

Maybe they figure that everyone who wants to see it has already bought it, downloaded it or seen it on FX (you never know). But then why buy the thing? Presumably you bought it because it’s the most critically acclaimed drama of recent years? In which case… what on Earth are you doing, hiding it away and rushing it out?

If you were generous you could say that schedules no longer matter as time-shifting is where it’s at these days. This is an argument that would hold more water if the show was scheduled to appear on iPlayer (it seems not). Sheeeeeeeeeeeeit! BBC, you just don’t deserve to get your hands on these shows.


  • I agree, also 'Dream On' and 'Rhoda' suffered like this.…

  • Well we know how Channel 4 treated one of David Simon's previous shows. Homicide: Life On The Street started off on a reasonable evening slot, 10pm as I recall, but after a couple of seasons slipped to about 11pm, and by season 6 was showing at a variable 1am/2am/3am time slot among the soft porn and inane quizzes (remember Naked Elvis?) with nary a promo to point viewers in its direction. This naturally resulted in viewing figures so low Channel 4 could justify not picking up the seventh and final season. In those far-off pre-BitTorrent days that meant waiting a few years until a satellite channel picked up the re-runs to see the final season (which to be fair was not as good as the early seasons).

  • Channel 4 is just as bad - I still haven't seen the end of The West Wing because it fell out of its slot and kept moving around. And I remember the mess around Angel. ITV, too - they didn't originally show episode 2 of series 1 of Pushing Daisies because they said they had to get the whole series in before Euro 2008(!) Five is always showing CSI, but I'm never actually sure if it's in any particular order. ;)

    BBC2 did put e.g. Buffy, Star Trek, etc. in the nice 6pm-7.30pm-ish slots weekly and predictably - perhaps pre-watershed stuff is easier.

    Scheduling is frequently responded to at… so perhaps you could ask there?

    In my personal case, I haven't bought it, downloaded it or seen it on FX, and I certainly won't have time to watch one a day, c'est la vie.

  • timeshifting slot. pvrs and skyplus/iplayer users.
    once you start the wire you will not want to wait a week for the next episode, it's basically five 12 hour movies.

  • Eddie and Matthew: You're right about Channel 4 -- they did the same thing with NYPD Blue too. They seem to do better with US comedies though.

    Mac: It's not on iPlayer. But yes, this is only of use to people who record it all. It's not the kind of show you can miss many episodes of and still follow too well.

  • I believe the schedulers prefer to get a small amount of complaints from people who already know it's good, and would like to watch it vs the massive and predictable amount of complaints from the 'not made here, what do I pay my license fee for' brigade if it filled a sensible timeslot.

    then again i might be wrong and they are scared we'll want more imports.

  • "BBC2 did put e.g. Buffy, Star Trek, etc. in the nice 6pm-7.30pm-ish slots weekly and predictably - perhaps pre-watershed stuff is easier."

    Buffy was, iirc, edited for the pre-watershed slot; that slot was only introduced after running the first couple of series in a varying late night slot.

    They don't always treat cult programmes well: Farscape suffered from astoudingly erratic scheduling, and, lest we forget 'Moved for Snooker'.

  • Hear, hear.

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30 Mar 2009 at Twitter

  • 9:16pm: @ianbetteridge If it's anything like posting links to your blog posts on Twitter, I imagine it'll be sucky :p I read your RSS feed already!
  • 1:03pm: Meeting 2 of 2: Cycle to Westminster. Should be easier than the mammoth fail of DLR to Docklands.
  • 9:45am: Even in the sun Docklands is an evil, horrific place.
  • 8:54am: Meeting 1 of 2: DLR to Westferry. So far taken 40 mins to get from the Barbican to Tower Gateway.