Yesterday, the news Person of Interest fans had been waiting for finally came. The show would indeed be getting a Season Five. However, it came with a caveat and one that has no doubt killed the joy of the initial announcement. It’s only been renewed for 13 episodes.
So what does this mean? Is season five going to be announced as the last? That’s what happens when season orders are cut, right? My guess is such an announcement will not be delivered this week. The show, even though it airs on CBS, is owned by Warner Brothers. The 13 episodes was very likely given so the show could get to it’s 100 episode mark (it has 90 right now) and still manage to be a reliable gap filler at CBS while it launches new shows. But this does leave questions.
Creators Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman declared in a recent interview that season five would not be Person of Interest’s last. The grind of a 22 or 23 episode season has certainly caused some wear on the show’s concept, which did struggle a bit with the Samaritan arc in season four. For the most part the season story went well, but there was enough filler in between where the quality dipped and the ratings did as well.
Part of the blame for season four’s ratings demise though falls on CBS. For the past few seasons, they have been wildly inconsistent with scheduling original airings vs. repeats. There was no rhyme or reason to the breaks and it was hard to keep track which weeks new episodes were airing. Considering the overall mythological nature of the show, something that doesn’t impact the standard CBS procedurals like NCIS, such breaks were detrimental to the momentum of the story. This is why serial themed shows with full seasons are aired in two parts on other networks.
Why not give Person of Interest the full season order and air it in two separate parts? Easy, the answer is money. CBS doesn’t own the show and it’s not to their benefit financially to assure more episodes, especially when ratings are down. Also, the show is filmed in New York. Not only is it more expensive to film in New York, but in the past few seasons there have been some weather related factors impacting production (Hurricane Sandy and two extreme cold winters coming to mind). 13 episodes certainly gives them the flexibility to work around that.
One plus for Person of Interest is in this day and age it is easier to shop around established shows to other outlets. The choices are more numerous now. Warner Brothers’ parent Time Warner owns a very compatible outlet in TNT, but if there’s any hope with future seasons landing on cable, it’ll likely be with WGN, who has scored the second run syndication rights to Person of Interest. No doubt Warner Brothers has been exploring other options and working on a backup plan, because shows that have a syndication contract and go past 100 episodes become pure profit for the studio producing it. I’m certain that Warner Brothers isn’t ready to let this one go.
It is also possible Person of Interest will enjoy a few more seasons at CBS with the 13 episode format. There is always space on the schedule for shorter shows, especially in the summer. That will assure a tighter story that focuses more on the mythology of the show. It’ll also assure back to back airings of episodes. As we’ve constantly been learning from cable, a shorter season does drastically improve the quality. The bummer of course is the show won’t be on all season long, but given the ratings, chances are it has become increasingly difficult with all the other options out there to tune in every single Tuesday at 10 pm. Person of Interest did deliver well with DVR ratings and those ratings are not dependent on timeslot. It’s still a show people are willing to find no matter when it’s on.
So, to answer the question, will season five be Person of Interest’s last? Probably not. It just might be it’s last with CBS. With networks giving preference to in-house shows over ones owned by other studios, chances are POI won’t be the last veteran show to find itself in this position either. Luckily, there are plenty more chances for new life for displaced TV shows.
UPDATED: Per CBS boss Nina Tassler in today’s upfront conference call, an official amount of episodes hasn’t been determined. The show has been pulled from the schedule and new show Limitless will air on Tuesdays at 10pm instead. It should be noted, Limitless is owned by CBS Studios. Tassler also can’t say if this will be the end. That is all still being negotiated. “Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman came in and pitched really terrifc ideas for the new season…It’s always been a smart, creative show. We don’t know whether or not it’s going to be the end or not, but if it is, we’ll have a great ending.”
Tassler also stated that for CBS, it’s a matter of “shelf space.” They have a lot of great shows and not enough slots.
Sadly, in this day and age of preference for in-house shows, outside studios are bound to get bumped, even if their shows have better ratings, as was the case with Person of Interest. Popular Mike & Molly was also held for midseason, and that also is a Warner Brothers show. In fairness, so is The Big Bang Theory, but CBS was not going to bump their number one show. It’s about money and it sounds like Warner Brothers and CBS still have a lot of haggling to do. In the meantime, Person of Interest fans are left in the lurch with no idea when their show will return and if it’s time to say goodbye. CBS made their move by leaving it off the fall schedule. Your turn Warner Brothers.