Homeland. The Good Wife. The Affair. The Walking Dead. Mad Men. Masters of Sex. Veep. Game of Thrones. When you think of the best (and most Emmy-nominated) shows on TV, almost all of them air on Sunday nights. As I wrote at Quartz,
It seems counterintuitive to pit all of TV’s best series against one another, as anyone who’s tried to program a DVR on Sundays can attest. But there is in fact a method to the networks’ madness, and five reasons why Sunday night’s quality TV overload exists—and won’t be going away anytime soon.
Through Nielsen numbers crunching (charts!), research and a great chat with Showtime Network President David Nevins, I came up with five very strong reasons — some of which surprised even me. Here’s one: airing on Sunday night is more important than being watched on Sunday night.
While many of the Sunday shows have drawn record audiences as mentioned above, it’s also true that premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime aren’t beholden to advertisers. So those executives don’t have the expectation or urgency that viewers need to tune in “live” during their shows’ initial Sunday night airing. “I always say, it doesn’t matter to me whether you watch it on Sunday; I’m fine if you want to want until Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Nevins. “You wait much past then, you’re going to miss the conversation.”
As if I hadn’t written about Downton Abbey enough for this weekend’s Parade, I also interviewed Elizabeth McGovern for the magazine’s “Sunday With” Q&A. She talked to me about playing Lady Cora, her accidental music career and why her husband, director Simon Curtis, doesn’t press her for spoilers:
He’s happy to wait and see the show. Once in L.A. somebody scurried over to him at one of these parties and said, “What’s happening on Downton Abbey next year?” He said, “I don’t know anything. I’m just going to watch it with you guys.” The next day, there was a headline: “Downton Husband Knows Nothing.” He was pleased he’d made the papers in that way!
I actually had been assigned this McGovern interview long before the Downton cover came my way, and it was a pleasure speaking with her, two years after editing a delightful story on her for People.
Look, my first Parade cover! It was such a treat to reunite with my former People colleagues, Maggie Murphy and Andy Abrahams, for this cover on Downton Abbey. The whole thing came together so quickly that I barely had time to think. I immediately had to immerse myself in the minutia of the show so I could pull together this obsessive, A to Z look at the world of Downton Abbey. Thanks also to Downton creator Julian Fellowes, who shared all sorts of wonderful behind-the-scenes details, like this one for the “R” category, R.I.P.:
When actors Dan Stevens (Matthew) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil) broke the news that they would not return for a fourth season, “really, the grim reaper was the only option,” says Fellowes, who adds that “it’s easier when the servants leave,” because he can simply have them take another job.
I also wrote several sidebars for the story, including this one on the new characters being introduced this season. This cover story was a lot of work, but it all paid off in the end.