Because most TV shows now end a little bit later than they are scheduled to conclude, every episode of TV recorded on my DVR becomes a cliffhanger. The recorded version of each sitcom abruptly finishes just moments before the actual conclusion of the show. This ongoing case of “premature evacuation” is a very unsatisfying way to watch TV.
Is my DVR broken? No. DVRs get their scheduling information from the networks. If a network says that this week’s 2 Broke Girls will end at 8:31pm, but the show actually ends at 8:32pm, DVRs will only record 1.9 Broke Girls.
This was never a problem in the old days. All shows started and ended exactly on the hour or half hour. Then, in the early 2000s, the networks came up with the idea of running episodes of popular shows a minute or two long, hoping the audience would then stay and watch the next show on the same network.
The problem isn’t that these shows are running long. It’s that they are not consistently long. If all episodes of Parks and Recreation were exactly 32 minutes, then NBC would always tell DVRs to record NBC Thursday from 8:30pm to 9:02pm. Because program length is now variable (some episodes of Parks and Recreation are 32 minutes, some 29, some 31), there is often a miscommunication between the people who know the exact running time of each episode, and the team that feeds this info to the world. I don’t know who’s to blame. All I know is that NBC is usually not getting the right running time to my TiVo. When this happens, I get another case of jokus-interuptus.
So how does this error in end times effect how I watch TV on my DVR? Almost every recorded episode of comedy my wife and I watch starts with 30 to 90 seconds of the end of the previous show. The beginning of every episode of The Mindy Project starts by spoiling the end of The New Girl. Two days later, when we watch that episode of The (now-not-so) New Girl, I already know the ending, and yet I’m still frustrated that the last minute is cut off, and annoyed at myself for having already deleted The Mindy Project, instead of saving it for this moment. My wife and I have to reconstruct the end of New Girl from our memories of two days earlier. I should not have to work so hard to enjoy a sitcom!
So what’s the Rich Fix?
Most DVRs have the ability to manually add recording time to episodes, but I’m not turning my TV schedule into a complicated trigonometry algorithm. It only creates conflicts and confusion.
I could watch comedies in the order they were recorded, but that would mean giving up the power of choice. It’s 2013 people, I’m not going back to the dark ages of linear television!
Instead of trying to compensate for the inaccuracies in recording time, I want to let everyone know that we’re annoyed. By “everyone”, I mean scheduling executives, heads of development, VPs of publicity, and, most importantly, the writers of these shows.
Why focus on the writers? Because the executives at the networks (many of whom I’ve had the chance to get to know a bit) seem to have much bigger problems to worry about. I believe they would be empathetic to the complaint, but it would get added to the bottom of a list of to-do’s a mile-long, well below tasks like “put a hit show on the air.”
But getting the word directly to the people creating these shows could motivate one of the most powerful forces in the entertainment industry – the writers’ ego. Once writers realize lines of dialogue they painstakingly agonized over are being unceremoniously sliced off their shows, they will take up the fight for themselves. While a well-meaning network executive might not have time to get to solving my complaint, they will make it their business to solve the same grievance when it’s filed by showrunners like Chuck Lorre or Steve Levitan.
How do we get word to these elusive, exclusive (and often reclusive) showrunners? The answer is often in the bottom right-hand corner of the TV screen. Let’s spread the word on Twitter, using the hashtag so proudly emblazoned on the screen of most comedies.
Imagine thousands and thousands of annoyed tweets using a series’ hashtag:
“Did Pam stab Jim with a fork during dinner? My DRV cut off the end of #TheOffice again.”
“Another week of #Suburgatory Purgatory. DVR cut off the last scene.”
“Is it me, or is #HappyEndings the most ironically named show on TV? DVR cut off again. Thanks, ABC.”
As the audience, it’s our responsibility to let our irritation be known. Once we call their attention to it, writers will realize how frustrating it is for content to cut off right before the very end, which, surprisingly, really effects our ----