Gay is the television critic.
Do not be alarmed and do not adjust your set, either, but... you are about to be drowned by your television.
Over the next eight to 12 weeks, beginning Jan. 1, approximately 100 new shows, specials, reality series and megaevents (from the Super Bowl to the new "Tonight Show") will launch. It's TV's own perfect storm -- of opportunity, changing industry practices and simply more viewing.
We'll get to the laundry list of shows as they're rolled out, but today, a little bit of understanding and perspective: Why is there about to be so darn much new TV?
Let's go to the reasons:
1. More people watch TV from January to March than at any other time of year. The TV industry has known this for years, which has led networks to add more shows. Because there's more to watch, more viewers watch -- or so the thinking goes. A basic yardstick appears to bear this out: 115.1 million people watched prime-time TV at any given moment last year, from January through March, according to Nielsen. That compares to 106 million during the summer. Usage is expected to reach record levels next month -- surpassing last winter's record level.
2. The broadcast networks now have the clever habit of giving their hits "half" seasons, or "fall seasons," followed by "winter seasons." Hits like "The Blacklist" and "Scandal" recently had their "fall finales"; now the series -- and a few dozen others -- will relaunch. This may not mean an actual boost in the number of new shows out there, but it does give the impression there are a lot more premieres to watch, adding to the overall decibel level.
3. 2014 has an unusual number of major events -- which means more opportunities to promote new shows. The first quarter of any year is crowded with special events -- from the Grammys to the Super Bowl, which have always provided a promotional platform for newcomers. But 2014 has 2 1/2 weeks of the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, beginning Feb. 6. That's a reason many of NBC's major shows arrive after, including the new "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" (Feb. 24). A major exception: "Community" (Jan. 2).
4. Time to sweep out the flops. Here's another reason for the influx of new programming in January -- networks have broomed out the shows that haven't worked, and need to add new ones.
5. Borrowing from the cable playbook, the broadcast networks have ordered more "short-run" series than in past seasons. Examples include CBS' "Intelligence" and ABC's "Killer Women," both arriving Jan. 7, and Fox's "Rake" (Jan. 23).