The Americans vs The Assets

the americans vs the assets

the americans vs the assetsWe have said from the start of this website that we are just 3 guys from the Midwest who watch a lot of TV. We don’t have any special insight and we certainly don’t get any secret news handed to us from anyone inside the industry. We just have decades of TV watching experience helping to shape our opinions. We may be ignored by most of the TV world, our fans, and our wives, but one thing is true about us here. We are pretty representative of a big chunk of the TV viewing public. Why do I bring this up? Because I made a point to someone at FX a few weeks ago about how they schedule their TV shows and I was basically dismissed as an idiot. I want to look at something irritating from the perspective of a regular guy from flyover country. The Americans vs The Assets.

I’ve written many times about how much I love the shows on FX. Most of my favorite shows are on their network. They rarely miss. Last year, they gave us a new spy drama set during the height of the cold war, The Americans. The Americans was one of the best new shows of 2013. Did any of you watch it? Have you even heard of it? The Americans premiered on January 30, 2013. 3.2 million people watched the premiere. That put The Americans in 4th place for the night behind leader Moonshiners and 3 different re-runs of The Big Bang Theory (sad I know). By the season 1 finale on May 1, the ratings were down to under 2 million viewers putting it 31st on that Wednesday night. That is an alarming drop in viewership for such a fantastic show.

What is FX’s answer to build viewers for The Americans? Why lets keep it off the air for nearly 10 months. Hows that for brilliance? This is my problem with FX and what they thought I was an idiot for asking. How can you build an audience by not having your show on TV? The season 1 finale aired on May 1, 2013. When is the season 2 premiere? On February 26, 2014. That is nearly 10 months off air for a show that was already losing viewers heading in to the finale. Are they trying on purpose to make people forget about their show? Again, I’m just a regular guy and to FX, I’m an idiot, so maybe I don’t know the intricacies of production and scheduling, but this seems like it’s a problem. I’m a huge fan of The Americans and I can’t even tell you where we left off at the end of season 1 or what is really going on. I’m looking forward to the season 2 premiere, but that’s because I’m one of the fans that stuck with the show. Everyone else? I’ll tell you what they are thinking. They are not going to be watching.

This brings me to another problem FX has now with The Americans. The problem? It’s called The Assets on ABC. The Assets is an 8 part mini-series that premiered on ABC on January 2nd.  What is The Assets? It’s a cold-war era spy drama. Here’s IMDb’s description of The Assets:

CIA counter-intelligence officer Sandy Grimes works to save Soviet intelligence officers from being exposed by a mole inside her organization.

Here then, for comparison, is IMDb’s description of The Americans:

Two Soviet intelligence agents pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.

Very similar shows right? Both shows even have a guy named Rhys (they are not related) as a star. In the TV and movie world, if you get copied, it means that others think you have something good. The fact that ABC is doing this means that they think highly of The Americans. The Assets remember is an 8 part min-series.  8 parts huh? That’s strange. So if it starts on January 2nd and is going for 8 weeks, when would that mean the finale is? 8 weeks after January 2nd is February 27. When did I say The Americans is premiering? February 26.

Ratings for the premiere of The Assets were strong. 3.8 million viewers watched The Assets nearly tying 9pm ratings king Parenthood. The Assets has the benefit of being on network TV which always draws more viewers than cable. This means that networks like FX should be working harder to get viewers. Having a show off the air for 10 months and allowing a network to get a spy drama out just ahead of your show’s season 2 premiere is just not smart. Now again, I’m just a regular guy from the Midwest. I’m not a TV executive who is privy to the reasoning behind this brilliant scheduling maneuver but to me, it looks exceedingly dumb.

We in the Midwest are solutions oriented. We won’t just tell you what your problem is, we’ll tell you how to fix it too. FX. I’m here to help. I’m not going to tell you to add episodes to the season. I know that would be an expensive proposition. Stick with your production schedule, that’s cool. Why not spread them out a bit? You just can’t go 10 months between seasons. People can’t remember what they ate for dinner last night. Do you expect them to remember you when you are gone for 10 months? What about a mid-season cliff-hanger, take a few weeks off, then come back? That would build some drama and give you more coverage on the calendar. I’m spit balling here but seriously. You can’t tell me you haven’t thought about this.

Ok if you don’t want to do that. How about this? Why will you not run a marathon of the previous seasons of your shows prior to the next season premiere? If you are going to be off the air for 10 months, you need to get everyone familiar with the show again. In the case of The Americans, you definitely should have run a season 1 marathon to counter ABC’s move of putting The Assets ahead of your premiere. They are totally stealing your spy drama thunder and you were losing thunder as it was. You don’t have much more you can afford to lose. You could have run a marathon to get old fans familiar again and give new fans a chance to catch up and jump on board. Having your episodes online is not good enough. People who weren’t watching aren’t going to search it out on your website. If you want to put it online, put it in Netflix or it is essentially invisible.

FX you are losing the battle of The Americans vs The Assets. You probably don’t care since you are pretty much planning on only having 2 seasons of The Americans anyway but this is a lesson you should be applying to all of your shows. I know some people say you should leave people wanting more and that absence makes the heart grow fonder. That is true but in some cases, absence makes the heart grow old and forgetful.

For those of us that care, like me, The Americans premieres on FX February 26 at 9:00.

3 Comments on The Americans vs The Assets

  1. I was also among the 3.2 million viewers who tuned in for the beginning of The Americans. It’s a clever and well done TV show about a fascinating time in our country’s history. I didn’t make a clear cut decision to stop watching because the writing or acting fell off. It simply became more of a “if I catch it when it’s on…. great” kind of deal. A marathon of Season 1 leading up to the Season 2 premiere would likely do FX a great justice here. You can’t turn on AMC without falling into a Walking Dead marathon and people stayed glued to that show week in and week out. Here’s to hoping that someone at FX subscribes to the MWTVG blog and gets your ideas in front of the board.

  2. Midwest Mike // January 9, 2014 at 11:06 pm //

    Hi Matt. Thanks for stopping by. They use the same model for their other shows yes but has it been hugely successful? I love SOA too but the ratings for it overall aren’t that big. It has a very loyal and loving small niche market of a fan base. I’m only critical because I love FX. I think they are one of, if not the, best TV studios in the business.

  3. Many cable networks use/used a 10 month break or longer between seasons. HBO-Game of Thrones and AMC-Breaking Bad both successful shows that have kept the audience waiting. Let’s not forget about SOA-also on FX. That show is great and keeps the audience in suspense for 10 months. I agree that the show should run a marathon or maybe use a time slot each week to air reruns. Both Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad were good at doing this.

    I was one of the 3.8 million viewers to watch the premiere of The Americans and then the show lost me along the way. I can’t explain my disinterest because it is hard for me not to like a tv show. If FX is only planning on running 2 seasons then they should have went to a mini-series format.

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