'The Event' hiatus: Long nap or death sentence?

jason-ritter-the-event-320.jpg"The Event" wraps up the first part of its season on Monday (Nov. 29), and if you're among the show's (dwindling number of) fans, what comes next should be of concern.

Because what comes next is three months of nothing -- and recent TV history has not been kind to shows that go off the air for a substantial length of time in-season.

After Monday's episode, "The Event" will go away for three months before returning Feb. 28 for a 12-week run to conclude the season. (New drama "The Cape" will fill the 9 p.m. Monday spot in January and February.) We get at least some of NBC's thinking in giving it the break -- serialized shows like "The Event" don't tend to repeat well, and the network can use its late-season NFL games (including the first round of the playoffs) to hype "The Cape" and hope people tune in.

But it's also a pretty big risk to take "The Event" off for that long.

"Lost" and "24" had some issues when they followed traditional scheduling patterns in their early seasons, but ABC and FOX eventually figured out how to run them in mostly unbroken blocks. And  last season, ABC tried the long-hiatus gambit with two shows -- "V" and "FlashForward" -- and it didn't really work in either case.

"FlashForward" is the more apples-to-apples comparison with "The Event." ABC aired 10 episodes of the show last fall, then put it on a three-month-plus hiatus before returning it to the schedule in mid-March. Like NBC's show, "FlashForward's" ratings had shown a downward trend (though not as steep as "The Event's" has been) in the fall, and after the return, its numbers tailed off even more.

"FlashForward's" first episode back in the spring drew 6.6 million same-day viewers, which wasn't a huge dip from the 7.3 million who watched the final fall episode. Two weeks later, however, the show was barely above 5 million viewers, and it stayed there pretty much through the end of the season.

"V" only aired four episodes last fall before its long break, but its audience also eroded in the spring. The first episode back drew 7.3 million same-day viewers, compared to 9.2 million in its final fall installment. (ABC did, however, renew it for a second season, which debuts in January.)

By giving "The Event" such a long break, NBC will effectively have to mount two marketing campaigns for it -- and the second one will have an even bigger task than the first one. Not only will the network have to remind people who've been loyal to the show so far that it's coming back, but it will also try to convince viewers who have spent 10 weeks not watching the show that it's worth it to join in midstream.

We have to wonder if, rather than giving "The Event" a three-month hiatus, restarting the show in January and having it run through late March wouldn't serve the show better. Its same-day ratings are pretty meager (though it is one of the more heavily DVR'd shows on TV this season), and it's hard to envision them improving much after such a long break.

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Photo credit: NBC
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