Worrying new trend imported from the US

There’s a worrying new trend I’ve just started to notice. Its perpetrator is Channel 4.

As we all know, in the US, TV seasons tend to run from August/September through to May/June (give or take a month depending on which network the show’s on, the show, whether it’s a summer season show, etc). Now, with 22-24 episodes per season, that’s still not enough to allow for new episodes every week. Sometimes, as with Lost and Daybreak, US networks will simply insert a new show into the time slot and then carry on with the old show.

But most of the time, they’ll simply put on an old episode of the same show – hence the pressing need for gruff narrators to preface trailers with “next week on an all-new Woof the Sheepdog” or whatever, so that viewers know when a new episode rather than a re-run is going to be on.

This plays havoc with the ratings and annoys fans. But it doesn’t seem to be stopping Channel 4 from trying it out for themselves.

I first spotted this with Secret Millionaire, and it confused me no end. In fact, I assumed that Bastard, my PVR, had cocked up the TV guide entry again.

Channel 4 has already learnt that you can get a load of extra mileage out of reality shows by producing “revisited” episodes. These involving chopping five or ten minutes of filler out of the old episode, then going back to the original location/restaurant/poor people and showing how things have changed since the show aired.

Now it used to be that Channel 4 would show these at the end of the new series – new episodes then revisited episodes. Easy to understand, hey, and quite fitting, too, since it leaves the viewer thinking about what’s going to happen at the new places by the time of the next series.

Now though, they’re sticking these revisited episodes into the middle of series. Ben Way, the first Secret Millionaire, got to go back to Hackney last week and now an all-new millionaire is off to a care home this evening.

Gordon Ramsay’s doing it, too. For the last two weeks, after just three weeks of new episodes, he’s been revisiting – it’s been Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares Revisited. Even Bastard the PVR thinks so – he’s been recording them as a separate series. But last night’s was an all-new Kitchen Nightmare, as is next week’s.

And of course, the announcers are having to do the same thing as they do in the US and use that phrase “all new” at every possible moment so that we know that we’re not going to be getting just a repeat with a few extra minutes tacked on.

How is this helpful? How is this a good thing? Is it purely because deadlines have been so tight the producers have been unable to get the editing or legal clearance on new episodes done in time? Surely all it’s going to do is cause ratings to fall off, as well-trained viewers turn off, assuming that the first “revisited” marks the start of continuing repeats.

What do you think? Do you like this new trend? Have you noticed it, too? And have you seen other networks doing it?