When talking about indie television versus mainstream television, it is tempting to draw parallels to episodic and narratively complex structures.
Episodic television is vastly more syndication friendly to both networks and audiences because of accessibility: i.e. you can walk in on any episode of The Andy Griffith Show and be perfectly able to ascertain what is happening story-wise. But because narratively complex shows like Mad Men, The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones have ongoing narratives that are linked together from episode to episode, they cannot be run (or re-run’d) out of order simply because there would be no context for the viewer to latch onto.
Shows that are hybrid in their approach to episode/narratively complex run into the same issues. I recall catching back-to-back episodes of Scrubs on Comedy Central. The first episode was a straightforward A-plot, with a lesson learned by the central characters at the end. The B-plot however, was a romantic plot-line. All well and good, but when the first episode ended, the second episode plopped me down right in the middle of a completely separate B-plot. J.D., the main character, was in an entirely different relationship, and as a viewer I was thrown. The A-plot was still accessible, but half of the episode didn’t make sense based on the previous, un-synced episode. That is the hazard of syndication, and one of the reason indie shows tend to be less able to make the syndication jump, based on narrative structure.
One reason syndicated television tends to be on the more complacent side of the spectrum content-wise, is the episodic nature of the many shows that are typically found in heavy syndication. If you take a show like, say, Two & A Half Men, and put into a syndication cycle.
Episodic syndication-friendly shows don’t have to worry about that. Law & Order, CSI, and Happy Days don’t have to worry about on-going plots and evolving character dynamics. They are therefore, free