One of the weird developments of this TV season is the number of shows, usually very young shows, that came on in the fall, then went on an extended hiatus and are only returning now that spring's approaching.
"FlashForward" is back tonight after being away for three and a half months, and both "V" and "Glee" will have been gone for similar or longer gaps by the time they return in upcoming weeks ("V" on March 30, "Glee" on April 13). And that's not even counting other shows like "Fringe" that have taken shorter but still noticeable mid-season breaks.
Now, the reasons behind these gaps - and what's happened during them - aren't all the same. "Glee" went away in part because Ryan Murphy had a prior commitment to direct a movie. Both "FlashForward" and "V" have been retooled and had new showrunners installed since we last saw them. "Fringe" went away because Fox needed, for some reason, to find a timeslot for "Past Life."
But whatever the reason, all these scenarios also seem to be the broadcast networks responding to the problem that few people watch reruns anymore, and even fewer watch them for serialized dramas. In the good ol' days when the networks had to stretch 22 episodes of a show over the 39 weeks of the official TV season, they could feel confident that the reruns would perform adequately enough to live with, and that's just not the case anymore. Ideally, every show would work the way "Lost" and "24" have for years, and just air all their episodes straight through. The problem is that the way the business is set up (and, like Titanic approaching an iceberg, it's too big and unwieldy to easily maneuver around this problem), most shows are incapable of starting production on a season before late summer, and therefore the only shows that can run straight through for 22 weeks are the ones that start in mid-season.
But given how high-profile (if not always highly-rated) these shows are, and how long most of the gaps have been, I'm going to be really curious to see how many viewers remember or care to come back now. "Glee" shouldn't have a problem, as its fans are rabid and loved what the show was doing when it left, and as it'll be airing after "American Idol." But "FlashForward" and "V" were both bleeding viewers when they went away, in part because those viewers liked the ideas behind the shows better than what the shows were doing with those ideas. I'll probably give "V" another shot, because I've liked new showrunner Scott Rosenbaum's work on "Chuck" and "The Shield," but with "FlashForward," there doesn't seem to be any there there, and the constant showrunner changes suggest that nobody behind-the-scenes knows what to do with it, either.
But out of curiosity, what are those of you who stuck with "FlashForward" through November going to do tonight? Do you still care? Are you viewing the two-hour episode tonight as a welcome event, or the show's last chance to convince you to stay?