It was only a few of days ago that the BBC got their act together and announced that Poldark Season 2 would return September, on Sunday nights in direct competition with ITV’s penciled in start date for Victoria. At the time, I noted that we would not have this issue over here, as both Victoria and Poldark were picked up to air over here by PBS’ Masterpiece Theater.
Victoria is already penciled in for an early January 2017 start date on most PBS stations, inhabiting the same slot that Downton Abbey did prior to it. (This makes sense, since it’s also functioning as the heir to Downton over on ITV, which inhabited their Sunday night fall slot.) Poldark, on the other hand, had been PBS’s summer show, with about the same lag time between ending in the UK and starting in the US. But with Poldark now pushed back from Spring to Fall in order to compete with ITV, would PBS hold the airing until winter as well, and run the two back to back?
Turns out, the answer is no. Instead, Poldark will begin airing in the US as soon as PBS could slot it in–Sunday, September 25th, starting with a two-hour premiere at 8pm. Since that “two hour premiere” is actually the first two episodes of the season edited to run back to back, that means that Poldark episodes will wind up airing only one week behind the UK in the US. And with the probability high that PBS will do the final episode as a “two hour finale” where the last two episodes are edited to run back to back as well, chances are the show will end on the same week.
Now, that’s very interesting. For years, PBS would lie that such a quick turn around was impossible, and that’s why we had to wait until the Downton Abbey seasons had been over for months before we in the US would see it. When pressed, the Masterpiece Theater heads admitted that the network didn’t want to risk trying to air Downton in the fall on Sunday nights anyway. Going up against The Walking Dead, or other competing shows during the crush of the TV season would have negated Downton‘s ratings impact. The reason they got such huge numbers for the program was assisted by being literally the only damn thing to watch on Sunday nights in January.
So what’s so different about Poldark? Why is it being risked against returning primetime line ups on network TV, while Victoria‘s precious little flower is left to sit until January? Were the numbers last summer not considered good enough to hold the show until it could get a clear run for the ratings brass ring? Or are the heads of PBS anxious that too long a wait (plus any spoilers from filming Season 3) might mar is airing over here?
Either way, this marks PBS putting one of their more high-profile acquisitions directly against network programming for the first time since Downton Abbey raised their profile. Sadly though, somehow I don’t think it will be posed for the same win it might get against Victoria overseas.