At first I was bummed. When a network shifts a show to Saturday nights it’s typically a no-confidence vote, and so it seemed with Harper’s Island. The CBS slasher series, which moves to Saturdays starting May 2, promises to kill off at least one of the members of a posh wedding party every week—at least as long as it doesn’t get killed off first. That would be sad because not only is Harper’s a fun throwback to old-school thrillers, it’s produced by (among others) Dan Shotz and Karim Zreik, who produced Jericho. Like Jericho, Harper’s is now in danger of becoming a cult show that faces a long, slow death. (Full disclosure: I moderated the Harper’s Island panel at WonderCon.)
But a move to Saturday night may not be a death knell—especially if viewers follow. There’s absolutely no reason Saturday night TV can’t be great again. The Golden Girls and The Love Boat were top-10 hits on Saturday night, and Fantasy Island and CHiPS were top 20. And there are (okay, a scant few) indications that networks are paying attention to Saturdays again: NASCAR is a weekend mainstay on Fox and CBS aired Streisand: Live in Concert this past Saturday. (Guess which DVD set is sitting at the top of Amazon’s queue? That’s right: Streisand—The Concerts.) Plus, if no one’s watching TV on Saturdays, how is Saturday Night Live still popular?
This may, in fact, be the perfect moment to raise Saturday nights from the dead. With the recession raging and Americans nesting, there may be no better place to be on the weekend than at home. And you may have noticed that networks actually pay attention to ratings, especially in recessions, especially in areas where they didn’t realize they might actually be able to make a buck or two. So watch Harper’s Island, and NASCAR, and reruns of Southland (which really is quite an excellent show that also needs your love), and show network execs that you’ll be happy to stay home on Saturdays for their programming…provided there’s something decent to watch.