Q: Why do British TV shows such as "Downton Abbey" air at one time in the United Kingdom and months later in the United States? With today's technology, why don't they air at the same time?
A: It turns out it's not always possible. The window between UK and U.S. air dates is shrinking, as evidenced by the "Call the Midwife" Christmas special, which aired on PBS in December just a few days after its UK premiere and by some "Dr. Who" programs that air on or around the same date on BBC America and on the BBC.
But here's the deal with "Downton": Episodes have to be re-edited for PBS's format. That has to be done by the British editors, who only move on to working on the American edit after they have completed work on the British version of the show. I suspect PBS could get "Downton" on in December if it really wanted to but people are busy with the holidays then, which is why it holds the show until January.
Sets differ for 'Men' and 'Millers'
Q: On previews of "The Millers," the set looks like the same one used by "Two and a Half Men." Are the same sets being used for both of these sitcoms?
A: The layout of the set is similar — the position of the staircase was what I noticed most — but a CBS publicist for "The Millers" said the two shows are not sharing a set. Sometimes for a pilot a set from an existing series will be recycled, but that did not happen in this case.
Trio of shows won't be back
Q: Will "Magic City" on STARZ, "The Killing" on AMC and the animated "Ricky Gervais Show" on HBO be returning?
A: "The Killing" was canceled (again). "Magic City" got the boot in August. Ricky Gervais has moved on to other projects, so "The Ricky Gervais Show" will not be back on HBO, either.
Blu-rays target captive audience
Q: I bought a Blu-ray player a couple of years ago. In the last year or so, I've been passing on renting or buying Blu-ray discs, because the studios put so many previews and other garbage on them and won't let you skip directly to the menu and play the disc. Why do DVD makers do this?
A: I'm not sure this practice is particular to Blu-ray. With regular DVDs, it doesn't work to hit the menu button during previews, either — but it does work to hit the skip-forward button. I find I have to push that a number of times to advance through all the previews to get to the menu.
Manufacturers know they have a captive audience, and they put on the previews to try to inspire you to buy more DVDs or Blu-rays. If this practice is making you buy fewer, that's an unintended consequence.
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