You have questions. I have some answers.
Q: When is “This Old House” going to have new episodes?
A: They will begin airing on Sept. 30, although the exact date on your PBS station may vary. As the show notes on its website, “New episodes generally premiere on Thursday evenings or Saturdays, but local programmers can schedule episodes throughout the week.” This is another time to check your listings. The latest old house, by the way, is an 1880 New England Cape in Concord, Massachusetts.
Q: How are TV seasons determined? I see some shows say it’s season 34 and I know they haven’t been on that long.
A: It used to be that the calendar determined a prime-time TV show’s season in the U.S. — that it consisted of episodes airing from September to May, when most people were watching TV and the broadcast networks calculated their seasonal results; in the early days of TV, that meant 39 episodes.
But, these days, with viewing habits fragmented and shows spread across platforms, a season is whatever a show says it is. Depending on variables such as budget and the availability of actors, the number of prime-time episodes can vary from as few as four to about 24 with reruns and hiatuses along the way. (Of course, the numbers are much higher for series running five days a week.)
A long break between telecasts set up by a “midseason finale” might make it feel like two seasons, but the show will say the episodes before and after the break still make up one season. On the other hand, reality shows may do two competitions during that period and call each competition a season. Thus “Survivor” will start its 41st season on Sept. 22, even though it has been on the air for 21 years.
Q: Where is Scott Van Pelt, the ESPN late-night commentator? What is he doing now, and why is he no longer on ESPN?
A: Your note arrived just about the time Van Pelt went back on ESPN after taking his usual vacation for most of August. But it can be tricky to find his late-night “SportsCenter” telecast because it is so often at the mercy of live sports events leading into it. A longer-than-expected match in U.S. Open tennis recently put Van Pelt on the air 100 minutes later than scheduled.
Which leads me to remind you that, especially with the NFL season upon us, you need to put extra time in your DVR settings for programs that are following late-afternoon football games. You won’t find “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. ET — or even 7:30 — some weeks when the games go long.
Q: My husband and I loved the “Nero Wolfe” show with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin. They were fun and entertaining mystery stories — but only for two seasons! Any chance of further seasons?
A: I suspect someone will try again to adapt Rex Stout’s novels. After all, the “Nero Wolfe” series you mentioned, which first aired in 2001-02, is one of several screen versions — including two different series for Italian television! But the pairing you admired cannot happen again, since Chaykin died in 2010.
Do you have a question or comment about entertainment past, present and future? Write to Rich Heldenfels, P.O. Box 417, Mogadore, OH 44260, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited. Individual replies are not guaranteed.