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Picture showing Don, Joan and Roger in Mad Men
Mad Men, mad schedule

Posted on 23 August 2010, 16:01

The almighty BBC schedule has caved to file-sharing pressure and brought forward the screening of Mad Men Season 4. This was originally set for January, a bizarre six months after the US audience started to watch, tweet and blog about the continuing and compelling story of Don Draper, Peggy Olsen, Roger Sterling and all the other characters in the orbit of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The new start date, on BBC4, is 4 September.

Social media are now at the point where posts of the ‘Can you believe last night’s episode?’ variety function very effectively as advertising, but all the more powerfully, since they’re written by people posting because they love what they’re watching and want their turn on the Facebook and Twitter stage to say so.

I can understand the logic of waiting a few months to see how an audience builds for Season 1 of an unproven show. After all, the promising but ultimately cheesy sci-fi drama Defying Gravity recently fell to earth and was cancelled after Season 1 of a planned 3.

But in a proven hit such as Mad Men, it’s surely wasteful not to harness the free and natural energy of social media and let the audience boost what you’re doing. If you fail to do that, then the viral effect works against you, as people cut you out of the loop altogether and start downloading episodes the night they’re posted by US viewers. It’s illegal, but the Net has taught us we don’t have to wait for TV schedulers to get the plot.

The BBC’s belated correction to its schedule now leaves Mad Men followers with a dilemma. Carry on downloading as they’re already in the week-by-week momentum of the story? Or park the series and wait for the BBC to catch up? It’s no way to treat an informed audience.

Photo: AMC

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