Viewers being swept into season of TV reruns
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LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Dr. Ross is leaving "ER." "The X-Files" promises to reveal the whole truth. Woody Harrelson drops in on "Frasier." John Ritter visits "Veronica's Closet" and Dick Van Dyke appears on "Becker."
All the signs point to the February "sweeps" period. Television networks pull out all the stops during the month, because ratings are watched closely to set advertising rates. But after the initial feasting, viewers can expect to be fed mostly leftovers.
"The networks throw all this razzle-dazzle programming up so they get phony ratings so they can charge more ... when they're not showing this spectacular programming," said Mark Schwed of TV Guide.
In fact, most shows feature reruns for more than half the year.
A lot of viewers complain.
"You know, my mother does," said "JAG" actor David James Elliott. "She asks, 'Why don't you have any new shows? Why is it another rerun?'"
'A delicate balancing act'
It can get confusing. Reruns put Jimmy Smits back on the beat only weeks after he died on "NYPD Blue." Some shows wear better than others.
"This show, like good spaghetti, is better the second time around because you miss stuff and can catch right up," said Tim Allen of "Home Improvement."
On average, networks spend $1 million per episode, making a season of 22 new episodes an expensive proposition. Time is also a factor.
"They may be airing repeats, but we're (working) nine months a year, five days a week for 12-and-a-half hours a day," said Noah Wyle of "ER."
"You can ask any of the writers of the show -- to keep the quality up and to keep the actors satisfied is a delicate balancing act," Allen added.
So enjoy the sweeps. In March, Dr. Ross may be back in scrubs, Bobby Simone back on the beat and Chandler and Monica may just be friends.
Correspondent Sherri Sylvester contributed to this report.
NBC: TV Central, ER
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