Last night, I published my review of another terrific episode of "The Americans" that had a particularly memorable final shot (no spoilers). Then the commenters began expressing their confusion — and anger — because their DVR recordings had cut off at an earlier, more mild moment in the final scene.
This has been something of a plague the last few years, as the broadcast networks (except for CBS and the CW) have have been toying with the start and finish times of their shows — especially their big hits. Some of this is juking the stats — if "Modern Family" runs a minute or two past 9:30, then it artificially boosts the initial ratings for the show that follows it — but some, no doubt, is to try to encourage people to watch live, rather than watch later on DVR (when you can fast-forward through the commercials). Most DVRs allow you to pad the recording by a few minutes at the front and back end, but it shouldn't be necessary for non-live events, and it causes complications if you're recording multiple shows at once.
In this case, though, FX is claiming it was an error, and not malice — and the FX PR department pretty thoroughly fell on its sword to make that point. According to a press release — which includes the info that the episode is available immediately online for those who missed the ending — it was all their fault:
Last night’s ninth episode of The Americans, “Safe House,” aired from 10:00 to 11:07 PM ET/PT. The correct listings information was not properly disseminated to television listings services that provide information to media outlets, cable and satellite providers. As a result of the error, electronic guides which trigger the run times of DVRs incorrectly recorded the total running time of one hour (10:00-11:00 PM ET/PT), therefore cutting off the final seven minutes of the episode.
“The error is regrettable and I apologize to all the loyal fans of The Americans who were cheated out of the full viewing experience of one of the most important episodes so far this season,” said John Solberg, Senior Vice President of Media Relations, FX Networks. “Unfortunately mistakes happen and this happened to be a very unfortunate time for this kind of mistake. I hope the viewers whose DVRs failed to capture the final seven minutes of the episode will take advantage of the opportunity to watch the encore run on FXNetworks.com and see the spectacular ending.”
FX in general has distinguished itself as the kind of network that doesn't play games with its viewers. When episodes run long (as they have quite often for "The Americans," but also for other shows like "American Horror Story"), the listings reflect that, so the DVRs record the whole thing. Given all that, I buy that this was human error, and good on FX or both copping to that and taking steps to rectify it, even for those who already know what happened after their recording cut off.