Charlie Pickering on the Rubik’s Cube of network programming

Tonight TEN will air the last new episode of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation for 2012, and nobody involved with the show has any idea if it will be renewed for a fifth season.

But while Charlie Pickering says everybody still loves making the show, he admits the show has been challenged by programming moves by TEN.

In just four years the show has been moved around the schedule like a Rubik’s Cube. It originally premiered at 7:30pm on Tuesdays in 2009, before moving to Sundays, then Wednesdays at 8pm and extending to 70 minutes.

“8:00 is pretty unconventional,” Pickering agrees.

“I don’t often criticise the decisions of my masters, because I don’t think it’s politic. And the fact is everyone is an expert programmer when they’re not actually programming a network.

“So I’ll just say Spicks and Specks was an extremely successful, broadly appealing panel / game show that was allowed to enjoy the same timeslot for the entirety of its existence. And its numbers reflected that.

“I would never claim that we were ever as good as Spicks and Specks. They had a staggering achievement in what they did. But if we’d been left at 7:30 on a Tuesday night for the entirety of four seasons, I think that maybe those numbers would have been different.”

Ratings for the first season were dynamite, in the vicinity of 1.6m viewers -but in fairness, this was well before our current multichannel landscape. While subsequent seasons often settled at around 1.00m – 1.2m, this year the numbers have been closer to 600,000.

Pickering says networks shouldn’t always presume an audience will follow a show to a new timeslot even when the cast is strong.

“People who work in television sometimes presume they are more important than they are, and would perhaps think that if you move a show around the audience will automatically be looking up on the internet where it’s gone now. (For example) If it’s on in a different night or timeslot they’ll change their lives so that they can watch a particular show,” he says.

“But there are very few lives where people change their lives to be able to watch a show. Maybe you aren’t treating your audience as well as you should. If they’re a faithful, loyal audience and you then move off somewhere else I think maybe audiences find that a bit disrespectful.”

But Pickering is no stranger to timeslot changes. The Project originally began at 7pm before moving to 6:30pm for one hour, then 6pm.

“I would say in very different circumstances,” he points out. “When you’re on five, now, six nights a week it’s much easier for an audience to pick up where you are. When we’re on every single night except for Saturday there’s not going to be much doubt where The Project is.”

With their busy schedules, Pickering and his fiancee agreed during a New Year’s holiday that neither would work on weekends this year. But it was a wish that didn’t last very long.

“I flew back, I landed back in Australia and went straight to work on the day, and the first thing I was told was ‘We’re going to 6:00 and you’re going to be working Sundays.’ So that New Year’s Resolution did not last at all,” he laughs.

“But these things don’t last forever. I won’t work six days for the rest of my life. However that works out I’m not sure.

“The show is always fun, so that’s the good thing. When I get there it’s fun. But not having a proper weekend isn’t great.

“But the nature of The Project is we’re all very passionate about it and on a number of occasions we’ve been asked to expand our roles, take on new challenges,” he says, “….we’re all so passionate about the show that everyone is willing to make sacrifices to do that.”

Earlier this month Shaun Micallef didn’t rule a 2013 return for Your Gen in or out, which is also the current position of the network. As Pickering points out, there were many claiming it wouldn’t be back for 2012 too.

“When we wrapped last time we didn’t know either. News Limited ran stories that Shaun was never going to come back and here we are,” he says.

“So I remain optimistic, and I remain optimistic because we all really enjoy making the show. There’s no sense that anyone is lacking enthusiasm for doing it.”

Micallef will be appearing in a yet-to-be-announced drama for TEN as well as his own news-based comedy for the ABC.

“Keeping Shaun excited is very important and I think it’s great for Australian TV that he’s doing other things and not just Your Gen. The same with Josh, his show on the ABC will be great,” says Pickering.

“Any decision for any of us to come back would be ‘Are we enjoying it? Does it fit in with the other exciting things that might be going on?’

“And obviously the network will have some say in it!”

Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation season finale 7:30pm tonight on TEN.

26 Comments:

  1. Charlie is bang on, i used to scour the TV guide every day and hunt down shows but nowadays i tend not to bother. I have my XBMC media center with all my movies and shows on it and ill watch that instead.

    It doesn’t help that i moved into a renal property that has a satellite dish but no FTA antenna, and i have to keep re-tuning the the indoor one. But the networks have fostered a lot of apathy with their viewers, over the last 12 years I’ve gone from watching 6+ hours of FTA tv a day to almost none and watching media i own or ABC iView (XBMC catchup for Ch10 doesnt work, doesnt exist for 9 and doesnt have much worth watching for 7).

  2. I really don’t enjoy Charlie’s obvious problem with working Sundays. You want a decent paying career in television? Well then stop complaining!

    The Project hardly ever does require him to work 6 days. Recently he seems to have every Friday off and last year (when it was Mon-Fri) he was regularly having Wednesdays off.

    Whether or not the ratings justify a Sunday offering of the show is an entirely different argument altogether. So enough Charlie.. enough!

  3. As many here know I loathe ABC News 24 having hour or 45 minute programmes at 8pm. Unless everyone else is doing it and people don’t want or can’t record then it’ll cause clashes. Ironically I’d watch old Four Corners at 8.30pm Saturday especially if it prevents a clash with Doctor Who. The reason I point out ABC News 24 is the ratings figure for the channel is always low during prime-time. So why would anyone want to emulate them? I really don’t get it. I thought commercial channels wanted viewers especially live ones!?! I also wish the ABC would also acknowledge we are in Australia and not the U.S. or U.K. during prime-time. But it seems futile (I do like the half hour 8pm news I’m only surprised they can’t capitalise on SBS News not being on at 9.30pm ) .

    By the way as a viewer the rot set in when they moved House from Wednesday to Sunday. It was a time change too far. I think it was mid-second half of 2009 . Especially when they already had unreliable start times because of reality TV. My only peeve with it. ‘Cos it doesn’t interest me. But there’s plenty of channels. Which included eventually Fringe on Wednesdays. By the way I generally like most of the reliability on Eleven. So it’s not all bad.

    P.S. Sorry for the length David. 🙁

  4. I don’t have an issue with 8pm start times and I love the 1 hr of BL. TBYG is good but getting to drawn out, they need to tighten it up a bit.

    IMO we are still on a learning curve with the new tv landscape and it is not good enough to expect everything to remain as is. The times they are a’changing join in or miss out.

  5. steveany 2.0

    For what it’s worth I’ll add my two cents to what Charlie, JB, S.Squirrel and the other “chattering monkeys on the internet” have opined: Ten has well and truly screwed up.
    Countless mistakes over the past year or so have seen Ten shoot itself in the foot and the wound has become infected. Be it News/Negus/Project, moving the Simpsons, creating YTT, introducing Bolt and relentless schedule changes (and that’s the tip of the iceberg), who can blame viewers for turning off?
    TV viewers are creatures of habit, and to disrupt that habit is to invite calamity. Or in this case poor ratings. S. Squirrel may be right, it’s time to light our torches and howl for someone (Mott?) to be tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail (Deadwood reference).

    But, in closing, should TAYG ever return, the format should be tweaked – those final challenges were pretty lame this year.

  6. Back in the 90’s and early naughties, networks had stability. I grew up in that era and love the YouTube nostalgia. It makes me wonder why they have failed.

    TEN seems to bring in a show only for it to fail.
    TBYG – Moved too much. Stay on Tuesday Micallef stay.
    Negus – No figures & too in depth. Perhaps wrong target. TEN targets Gen X&Y.
    Evening News – Too much news in a short space of time. We need to catch our breath!
    It’s a KO – Nowhere near the original. Filmed overseas and like FNL / BB FNL.
    YTT – Feels like Idol. How much of the show is associated to Idol? Rob Mills, Stan Walker, Anthony Callea, Dicko! Ykes.

  7. Remember back 10 years ago and you knew off by heart what day and time your favourite shows screened. You knew you could set the G code if you were going to be out and your show would be taped in full ready for you at your convenience. There was structure and you could trust the networks. NOt now!

  8. Secret Squirrel

    Charlie, JB, everyone else – couldn’t agree more. I’ll say it again – it doesn’t matter if the scheduling of programs is undertaken by an entire 10-a-side darts team, ultimately one person (their boss, their boss’s boss, whatever) has responsibility for the final decisions and that person at Ten clearly hasn’t a f’ing clue.

    It’s easy to think that the chattering monkeys on the internet don’t know what they’re talking about (this is often true) but when they’re consistently saying the same thing over an extended period of time, *and* when the evidence (good programs rating poorly) supports their assertions, it takes a certain type of arrogance to just dismiss their comments. When those people are the very people you are trying to get to watch your shows, ignoring or disregarding their input is not only disrespectful, it is monumentally stupid.

    Mott has to go.

  9. @JB I totally agree with everything you said. I used to love Ch 10 too, now they are a disgrace. I don’t bother with any of their shows at all. I did like TGYH and Modern Family but i cannot keep up when they are on, and quite frankly i have totally given up, even though they are both good shows.

    And don’t even get me started on “The Shire” and “Lara Bingle” these shows are a total insult on our intelligences, I will not watch one second of either. I Love Charlie Pickering and think he summed it up very nicely. How come the people in the program department are so clueless. It’s just mind boggling, do they have any common sense or brains?? I think not. Thank God for DVD’s and Foxtel.

  10. “Pickering says networks shouldn’t always presume an audience will follow a show to a new timeslot even when the cast is strong”

    This is very true, and unfortunately (for whatever reason) Ten’s programming department have made several changes.

    The Biggest Loser should have run for only 30 mins at 7pm, allowing their other shows to start at 7:30pm.

    TAYG worked really well on a Tuesday.

  11. Did they promote during last night’s ep that there was another one on tonight? Maybe my fault because I fast forward the ads, but I had no idea it was on again tonight until I read this article. Plus at the end of last nights’ they were talking like it was the finale?

    I still love Micallef and I still love this show, just as much as when it started. But pretty much the only reason I haven’t missed an ep is because my Tivo has been able to keep track of it through all the schedule changes! Really hope there’s another season and it hasn’t been killed by the programmers.

  12. Well perhaps the whole programming team should go then, starting with Mott. Moving NCIS LA from Tuesday where it rated well, to Monday where it’s bombed = stupid move. Glee i think has been on every day of the week in it’s 2 years on air. The Good Wife, Your Gen, Modern Family have all been on several days and timeslots in their few seasons.
    And now Ten’s big hope is Lara Beingle and The Shire??? I think it’s an insult to actually call it a Programming Department at Ten. Ten was the favourite network on many on here, now it’s just a disaster.

    • Programming at any network is a team effort, people. Clearly Your Gen has had some challenges due to TEN returning Biggest Loser to 7pm, so while there may be some benefits there are other impacts as well. I still enjoy TBYG and hope it returns.

  13. He is absolutely spot on. Your Gen is still a great show, but the ratings dipped when they kept moving it. Same thing happened to City Homicide on Seven.

    If Ten want any chance to improve their ratings they need to get rid of David Mott. He’s in charge of programming so he’s repsonsible for the constant stuff ups of schedule. Look at shows like Your Gen, NCIS LA, Glee, The Good Wife, Modern Family. All great shows that had rated well. All about 3 season in yet in that time they’ve all moved timeslots at least 4 different times, and look at the ratings of them now. They all should still be rating huge numbers. Mott has gotta go

  14. I used to be able to measure my week by what TV shows were on. Each day would have something I’d watch, and I’d orient myself accordingly.

    Now not only is that impossible, due to constant scheduling changes, but free-to-air TV is just ugly and unpleasant to even experience, with only a few decent gems like TAYG sporadically sprinkled through.

    Last night’s episode was 12 minutes late in starting, too, which is unacceptable and is pushing me to my limit.

  15. Starting a show at 8.00 is a dumb idea when everyone else starts (sort of) theirs on the half hour. Extending it to 70 minutes (too long) is even more ridiculous, so you have The Good Wife starting at the crazy time of 9.10 (sort of).

    On the other hand, I love The Good Wife so I tend to watch Generation, whereas if TEN conformed to normal times, I might not, even though I’m a big fan of Charlie Pickering.

  16. It was on last night. Is it on again tonight? As he says, who can keep track of it? And TEN wonders why they are number 3.
    ““People who work in television sometimes presume they are more important than they are, (they do) and would perhaps think that if you move a show around the audience will automatically be looking up on the internet where it’s gone now.” (They don’t.)

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