A Distinctly Screenerless Existence

by Paul William Tenny

DVD ScreenerSeptember is the month for TV. All the new shows and new episodes of old shows slowly filter in over the course of the month and into early October, which is good for the audience because they've been waiting a long time for the good stuff.

It's not so good when the press is also sitting around waiting to wrap their heads around what's coming, even though it's their job to serve up previews long before any of it airs.
Screeners are simply DVDs sent out to the press so they can have reviews ready for early or on-time publication. Usually we're only talking about a series or season premier and nothing else, they don't send out every single episode early -- at least not as far as I know. With the help of Stargate exec-prod Joe Mallozzi, I was able to get one of these babies for Stargate Atlantis back in July, and it obviously piqued my interest. Could I get more of them from the Scifi Channel for their other shows? Could I score screeners from the broadcast networks too?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: no.

Although their slate of original programming is limited, I'm good to go for the Scifi Channel. Since Scifi is owned by NBC Universal, NBC was the next logical step and my second biggest hope since they have my current favorite show in Heroes. Things went smoothly there, and if things had gone as they have in previous years, I should have had a number of NBC screeners sitting on my desk by now. In fact, after securing a position on the screener distribution list for CBS and being granted press access to the ABC press site -- they are streaming their screeners this year which I think is innovative and also lame, I want the DVD damn it -- I had become quite concerned that with less than four weeks to go for some shows, I haven't gotten a single screener from anyone other than Scifi.

FOX, for what it's worth, turned me down cold.

Not enough traffic, budget concerns, etc. I don't blame the press department for it, they have a budget and if the networks are anything like Scifi, then I bet they are spending a decent chunk of change sending these things out. FedEx overnight isn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination, I guess not even for a billion dollar network that towers over its competition. I guess when you're on top, you don't have to reach out to the little guy. I actually expected going into this that all the networks would have been reluctant to send screeners to a site as small as The Media Pundit, so 4/5 (including Scifi) is hardly anything to cry about even.

Maybe The CW will be a little more sympathetic to the plight of the little guy, maybe they deserve the positive press more than FOX does. On the other hand, they kind of need it.

It's all academic of course, since none of these networks have actually bothered to send out screeners to the press. I'm sure none of them care what I think, but the big guns aren't pleased about the delays either. Variety actually stopped to write about it a couple of days ago:

TV critics, meanwhile, still haven't had a chance to catch much of this year's frosh fare, preventing them from handicapping the fall race and putting together their usual season-preview packages.

"It's beyond frustrating," said Newark Star-Ledger scribe Alan Sepinwall. "Because there are so many early September premieres this year, we're running our fall preview before Labor Day. And I know nothing."

Blame the writers for it since it's always the writers fault, even though the strike could have and should have been averted by stubborn, brainless execs who were trying to find new ways to split a penny four ways, or blame it on incessant network meddling. I'm just glad I'm not the only person wondering where all these screeners are, though I doubt with them all flooding in at once that I'll be able to do anything useful with most of them.

Still, I'll do my best to do some previews for what I get.
in Television


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