Television Q&A: What makes a TV 'season'?

Rich Heldenfels, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

You have questions. I have some answers.

Q: How are TV seasons determined? I see some shows say it’s season 34 and I know they haven’t been on that long.

A: It used to be that the calendar determined a prime-time TV show’s season in the U.S. – that it consisted of episodes airing from September to May, when most people were watching TV and the broadcast networks calculated their seasonal results; in the early days of TV that meant 39 episodes.

But these days, with viewing habits fragmented and shows spread across platforms, a season is whatever a show says it is. Depending on variables such as budget and the availability of actors, the number of prime-time episodes can vary from as few as four to about 24 with reruns and hiatuses along the way. (Of course, the numbers are much higher for series running five days a week.)

A long break between telecasts set up by a "mid-season finale" might make it feel like two seasons, but the show will say the episodes before and after the break still make up one season. On the other hand, reality shows may do two competitions during that period and call each competition a season. Thus “Survivor” will start its 41st season on Sept. 22 even though it has been on the air for 21 years.

Q: I just watched the new season of “The Talk.” Do you know what happened to Elaine and Carrie Ann?

A: About a month ago I mentioned that Carrie Ann Inaba had taken a break from the CBS show and her return was not certain. Shortly after that answer ran, Inaba announced she was leaving “The Talk.” (She will still be on "Dancing with the Stars" which starts a new season on Sept. 20.) Inaba called it an amicable parting in an Instagram post. Then Elaine Welteroth also announced she was leaving the show, reportedly to pursue other projects. The result of those and other changes is a current lineup of Akbar Gbajabiamila (also known for “American Ninja Warrior”), Amanda Kloots (who is also in the new cast of “Dancing with the Stars"), Jerry O’Connell and Sheryl Underwood.

As long as we’re talking about talk …

Q: Will “The Real” be returning?


A: The show kicks off a new season on Sept. 20 with hosts Garcelle Beauvais, Adrienne Houghton, Loni Love and Jeannie Mai Jenkins. Unlike “The Talk,” which is a network show, “The Real” is in broadcast syndication, which gives stations far more flexibility about what time slot to put it in. In Ohio, where I live, it airs at five different times, depending on which station you are watching. You may want to use the “when it’s on” key on thereal.com to see what’s going on in your area or consult your local listings.

Q: When is “This Old House” going to have new episodes?

A: They will begin airing on Sept. 30, although the exact date on your PBS station may vary. As the show notes on its website, “New episodes generally premiere on Thursday evenings or Saturdays, but local programmers can schedule episodes throughout the week.” This is another time to check your listings.

The latest old house, by the way, is an 1880 New England Cape in Concord, Massachusetts.

Q: In the original television play of “12 Angry Men,” who played the role Henry Fonda played in the movie? How many actors from the TV play were also in the movie?

A: Reginald Rose’s drama about jurors debating a verdict starred Robert Cummings as Juror #8 when it first aired on the “Studio One” anthology series in 1954. (Also, the TV title was “Twelve Angry Men,” the movie “12 Angry Men.”) Fonda played Juror #8 in the 1957 film. While the casts of the two productions are impressive, only two actors – George Voscovec as Juror #11 and Joseph Sweeney as Juror #9 -- are in both the TV play and the movie. You may also be aware of a 1997 TV presentation, with Jack Lemmon as Juror #8, along with another strong supporting cast.


©2021 Tribune News Service. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.