As the Emmy Eligibility Calendar Ended, Memorial Day Weekend Offered No Rest for TV Viewers

The official 2022-2023 TV season ended on May 24, according to Nielsen and as you may have seen via my annual TV series rankers (which I posted on Monday), we’ve got the wrap on this year’s winners and losers in the good ol’ fashioned linear TV world. Football, “Yellowstone” and procedurals, oh my!

But we’re not living in a good ol’ fashioned linear TV world anymore. Television didn’t grind to a halt on May 24, and the Memorial Day weekend gauntlet of finales and premieres (!) was a fine reminder that TV no longer plays by the rules of a Nielsen calendar. Three of the biggest on-screen events of the year all took place on Sunday night: The series finales of HBO’s “Succession” and “Barry,” as well as the mind-blowing Season 2 ender for “Yellowjackets,” which hit Showtime’s linear channel that same evening.

Let’s say that again. That three-show TV pileup all happened on the Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend. The three-day holiday when we’re all supposed to shut off the TV, go outside and enjoy the arrival of summer. Hit the beach. Go for a hike. Read a book. (You heard me — a book!) For the love of all things healthy, the Memorial Day and Independence Day weekends are the two times of the year you should be proud of not watching television. (Otherwise, you should always be watching TV. There’s too much good stuff to catch up on.)

Not too long ago, the end of the traditional TV season was sacred. Networks knew that HUT levels — that’s “households using TV” — were at their lowest in the summer, and that’s why the end of May through the start of September was the vast wasteland of repeats… and then, eventually, low-budget unscripted fare. Of course, summer has been a hotbed of TV activity for a while now, and that’s actually fine in an age where you can watch TV anywhere, at any time.

Dropping some of the year’s the biggest shows during the Sunday night of a long holiday weekend is a bit too far, however. Selfishly, for those of us who write about TV, that ruined any chance of getting a chance to take a breath and see the sunlight in the middle of simultaneously reporting on Emmy season, the upfronts and the WGA strike. As my colleague Kate Aurthur notes, think of the children! Our children, that is, as their parents are too busy covering HBO and Showtime to have any downtime. (Of course, I should remind everyone of the real reason for the holiday: taking a moment to remember those who lost their lives fighting to protect our country.)

But this is what the on-demand world has wrought. In general, the age of “anytime, anywhere” has made it more beneficial to drop shows during the holidays, when people actually do have more free time to catch up on shows on their own timetable. (It’s why we see so many more premieres during the winter break, for example.)

And let’s face it, the Emmy eligibility calendar is now the only calendar that really matters in primetime. That calendar expired Wednesday night, as the May 31 deadline hit. The race to squeeze those last-minute voter eyeballs has been fast and furious these last several weeks, which also included other landmark moments like series finale for Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Friday, May 26, and the Season 3 (or is it series?) finale for Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” on Wednesday, May 31.

Then there are the last-minute, drop-all-episodes-at-once premieres we have just experienced, including Disney+’s “American Born Chinese,” Apple TV+’s “Platonic” and the new season of Netflix’s “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.”

That’s a whole lot of TV to watch when we should be planning a picnic or going on a bike ride. At least we’re not obligated to binge everything over a long holiday weekend — giving us plenty of fresh programming to watch as summer unfolds. Books? Who needs books?

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