Well, this is bogus. Reagan-era TV enthusiasts are becoming increasingly frustrated with CNN over its repeated pre-emption of the documentary series “The Eighties” in favor of breaking news. The network on Thursday bumped the show’s latest episode for extended coverage of the EgyptAir Flight 804 disaster, marking at least the third time this season that the show did not air during its regular slot.
The latest episode focuses on the music video revolution and its effect on youth culture and the music industry, but viewers who tuned in to watch it — or set their DVRs to record it — were out of luck. CNN instead continued a stretch of daylong coverage dedicated almost exclusively to Flight 804, which disappeared from radar screens early Thursday morning and is presumed to have crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. The Airbus A320 airliner was carrying 66 people.
“The Eighties,” which premiered March 31, is supposed to air Thursdays 9 p.m. EDT, but CNN has routinely bumped it for breaking news. A few weeks ago an episode that featured 1980s technology also didn’t air as scheduled, as CNN instead focused on coverage of the presidential campaign. A similar thing happened in April. Each time the pre-emption occurred, viewers took to social media to voice their frustrations with ever-greater frequency.
@CNN come on would rather see "the Eighties" as promised rather than this EgyptAir speculation.
— Jason Horner (@jasoncrh) May 20, 2016
@CNN lest tell us it has been canceled. We made plans to watch.
— James Richards (@MrJR_4) May 20, 2016
— LHSmrGeorge (@LHSmrGeorge) May 20, 2016
— Miss Purple (@purplefille) May 20, 2016
A CNN representative did not respond to a request for comment. CNN does air “The Eighties” on alternate days throughout the week, according to listings on TV Guide. But some viewers had noted on Twitter that they blocked out time in their schedules to watch the show during its original air time — because apparently some people do still watch TV live.
The viewers’ frustration highlights a tricky line CNN has been trying to toe over the last few years as it has invested more heavily in non-news programming. The network hit a ratings low in mid-2012, but it has since diversified its programming slate with series like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” that aren’t dependent on the news cycle. “The Eighties,” produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, is part of an anthology-style miniseries that began with “The Sixties” in 2014.
While the series has garnered acclaim and decent ratings, it’s easy to see why it would take a back seat to major news events, which are CNN’s bread and butter. The 2016 presidential election has given CNN some of its biggest audiences in years. The network saw triple-digit growth in prime time in April, according to Nielsen.
CNN’s coverage of EgyptAir continued into Friday. The nonstop attention to a single air disaster will likely draw comparisons to CNN’s obsession with the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. At the time, the network was roundly mocked by media pundits, but the story drew huge ratings.
In a bit of irony, CNN said just this week that it has greenlighted “The Nineties” for its 2017 programming slate. We’ll believe it when we see it.