Last night was the premiere of Agent Carter, a 7 week event that feeds into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s TV branch. However, what is most interesting is its placement within the ABC schedule. Similar to Galavant which premiered Sunday for a 4 wee event, the shows are acting as bridge shows. A bridge show is another show that fills the schedule while another show goes on hiatus.
There are a number of benefits to having a bridge show. For one a a bridge show allows for more new episodes. In the past network shows would run one show in a time slot for the entire season or until there were no more episodes. However, the average network season lasts approximately 22 episodes. A season runs from late September through early May. That means that there are many weeks when new episodes are not shown. In the past those weeks would be populated by reruns. However, these sporadic weeks can lose audiences due to them not knowing when it is actually new or not. Since a bridge show takes a shows normal short midseason gap and stretches and fills it, we are given less rerun weeks.
For example. Agents of SHIELD aired from late September through early December. There was a new episode every week, except for one. There were no reruns. it went straight through. Normally, Agents of SHIELD would come back in mid January with new episodes and would air through April filled with rerun weeks. Instead, Agent Carter is filling that gap. Agent Carter will air for 7 weeks starting January 6th, 2015. When Agent Carter ends, Agents of SHIELD will big up again and will air the second half of the season uninterrupted.
The bridge show also allows for a show to help develop it’s own show. In the past a season of 22 episodes often ran long game story arcs, comprised of filler episodes and ones that moved the overall plot. One arc flowed into another creating less of a distinction between what may have been very different stories. Over the past few years, more and more shows (mainly serialized shows) have been adopting a split season mentality. That means there are two very distinct storylines for each half of a season. This accompanied longer midseason breaks. The main benefit from this is that the shows are able to create tighter stories. A 8-11 episode arc is going to be more focused than a 22 episode arc. This has allowed network story telling to become a bit stronger. A bridge show thus further enables the shows involved. Rather than 1 sprawling arc that could have been better executed if it was shorter. We now have 3 storylines that we can consume that are tighter and focused on the story.
There is also another benefit for the networks as well. When a bridge show is introduced the network is essentially getting another show out to the public that would have otherwise not fit into the schedule. Based on the rate in which network shows fail, the ability to attempt a few more shows and target audiences a bit more tightly, they have more chances to be successful. Considering many of the shows serving as bridge shows are limited run shows, they also can produce the shows then step back and see how it does. Then if they do well, they have a new show they can work with without the commitment of adding additional episodes to the season.