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kill your television
and at least maim the suits
by joe procopio (@jproco)

Last month, in a moment of clarity, I wrote letters to the heads of all the major networks describing, in great detail, just how worthless the fall television season was going to be.

Then I sat back and I waited. And waited. Surely, I thought to myself, they're not really going to do a show about a vigilante taxicab driver. Especially one with David Morse, best remembered in the '80s for looking a little like William Kaat.


There's no way, I continued to muse, that someone got out of a meeting pitching the "street-talking-nun-weather-forecaster" character.

Still nothing.

Are they really giving Bonnie Hunt another shot? Remember her? Of course not.

Then last week I got a package from ABC.

Dear Madam,

We know.


Please enjoy this signed 8x10 of John Ritter with his thumb up his ass.

I don't think the general public realizes how desperately television networks are scrambling to put something - anything - on the air that's at least palatable, let alone gratifying. I've said it before and I'll say it again; to truly qualify television as bad, you have to believe television can be good. It can't.

At its best, television can be entertaining. It is by nature segmented, time-limited, and episodic. These three contsraints alone hamper most attempts at breaking new ground in storytelling. It is by design, from its earliest origins, a form of alternative advertising. This has not gone away. "American Idol," the summer's lone hit, began life as an extended Coke ad. Oh, and keep your eyes posted for the BMW Channel. Yeah. Remember those cute little films that ran on the automaker's website? It'll be that and other promotional claptrap as filler for the other 23 hours and fifty five minutes each day.

So the terms television and art form are indeed mutually exclusive. That being said, it can be hard to clarify the line between good and bad. Good TV can be bad TV ("SportsNight," "Undeclared"). Bad TV can be good TV ("Idol," "Big Brother," "Everybody Loves Raymond.")

So what strikes fear into the heart of any and every programming executive?

Irrelevancy. It's when no one cares that the ad dollars dry up.

Segue to the fall season, 2002, where Must See TV has become We'll Give Someone a Million Frigging Dollars If They Watch The Whole Thing TV.

Thus the premise of Affleck Nation's "Push, Nevada." Watch the whole season, pay attention, get a million bucks. And believe me, there was a meeting in some conference room in which some executive came up with the idea of a million dollar payoff as a viewer draw. Then, rest assurred, a "Twin Peaks" ripoff was hastily built around that premise.

You get the feeling Ben didn't even read Stolen Summer.

Oh yeah. Also, next to "Hack," the aforementioned vigilante/cab-driver show, "Push" is the top pick of industry execs to flatline (Electronic Media, 9/23/02).

Programming heads readily admit that there isn't a creative bone left anywhere near the small screen. This is why the fall schedule is full of retread stars (David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, John Ritter) doing retread things (lawyerin', doctorin', parentin'). And this isn't a new phenomenon - remember last year when all three Seinfeld alums crashed and burned?

Reality TV is over. Thank God. Or maybe not, because the void left by its departure is filled with crime shows and sitcoms - straight episodic garbage. Do we really care what Becker thinks week to week? How many units can you break a police force into? Are there really two shows about going back in time to relive awkward moments of someone's life with the wisdom achieved over subsequent years?

No. Infinity. And Yes, there are.

Blame it on HBO. I can't listen to another word about "The Sopranos," "Sex in the City," and "Six Feet Under." Take away the language, the gratuitous violence, and the boobies, and you have "Wiseguy," "Caroline in the City," and "Dynasty." Roughly. And that's why everything on non-premium TV looks like "Wiseguy," "Caroline in the City," and "Dynasty." Well, not "Dynasty."

There are two real innovators on the television front. And, far be it from me to leave you with hope, they're both problematic.

The first is the Cartoon Network. That should tell you right up front that we're in trouble. But most of the constraints of television disappear with animation. Adult Swim, their Sunday night grown-ups-only block ("Home Movies," "The Oblongs," "Space Ghost,") is the most fascinating thing on the box, week after week. Furthermore, their branding, marketing, and overall demeanor are the least insulting of any network or cable channel.

The other is Comedy Central - for the "Daily Show" and "Insomniac" alone. Keep an eye on "Trigger Happy TV" as well, a British import that's "Jackass" without the meanness. However, Comedy Central also can't get out of its own way in terms of endlessly repeating shows and believing way too much of its own hype ("The Man Show," the God-awful "Crank Yankers," and their first original movie, "Porn 'n Chicken" looks as bad as the title forewarns.)

Yeah, this season will be infuriating. But what's worse is the trend, ever clearer, toward the mediocre, the bland, and the stale. Innovation on television these days seems to be relegated to getting the word "shit" snuck into the dialogue. Until that changes, the audience will continue to leave in droves, the advertisers will continute to demand a greater share of those remaining, and the networks will stoop to the lowest common denominator and the most insulting shock value.

And then we'll all be, I don't know, getting our entertainment from Internet magazines. That sounds right.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio


the late shaft
talk shows battle like it's 1993
by joe procopio
topic: television
published: 2.1.10

survivor: racism island
go crackers!
by joe procopio
topic: television
published: 10.2.06


robert melos
10.1.02 @ 12:51a

Joe, Joe, Joe. You spoke too soon. I have one word for you Joe.


NBC Sunday night at 10.

tracey kelley
10.1.02 @ 1:32a

Man. This is so timely. Matt* and I were having a debate just last night about whether or not to:
1) Do without cable and get a dish.
2) Do without a dish and stick with cable.
3) Not use either one, put rabbit ears on the box and go out to more movies with the money we've saved.

I said it was all or nothing. Mainly for the music (sad to think radio has gone so far into the earth's core that we have to get new music through our tv) and movies available without having to trudge through the snow. But to me, there is no gray area. We either pay for some good stuff, or have the tv only broadcast whatever is playing in the VCR.

But I will say two good words about television: Ken Burns. American Stories started this week. Awesome stuff, that.


sarah ficke
10.1.02 @ 9:17a

In my opinion the best thing to come out of tv was M*A*S*H, which started before I was born and ended before I could pay attention. Oh, and the Daily Show. The rest of it is repetitive tripe - even the sets look the same. T

he problem with shows like the new John Ritter one is that they are one-gag setups. How many times can you make a joke about a biker trying to date your daughter? Guarenteed there's nothing on there that we didn't see on the Cosby Show, except there they could leave it at one episode and then go talk about Claire's career or something.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 9:22a

I'm familiar with Boomtown. Back to my premise. It's not good, it's not bad, it's irrelevant.

And the Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. time slot ought to be a signal as to how much faith their putting into it.

jael mchenry
10.1.02 @ 9:33a

Hey. Hey. Don't bust on my man Morse. (That said, I gave up on Hack after 5 minutes and feel great shame for him.)

I watch/tape four shows now: CSI, CSI Miami, Alias, and Buffy. CSI Miami and Buffy are on the bubble. Alias is the best of bad TV: shameless, galloping, twisty, with gorgeous people.

Please don't ever mention Caroline in the City in the same paragraph with Sex and the City again. Actually, if you don't mention Caroline ever again, that'd be even better.

julie adkins
10.1.02 @ 10:22a

I fully disagree with Joe's opinion on HBO TV (Sopranos and 6 Feet especially). Intelligent humor and depth of character are the primary reasons these shows are winners, and sure there is a bad episode now and then. But my new discovery is Spongebob Squarepants; a true kids cartoon with adult draw the likes of Bugs & company.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 10:27a

I think everyone's forgetting the WB's new "The Surreal Life." I posted on the boards yesterday, that they're in development regarding a reality show starring - get this - Vince Neil of Motley Crue, MC Hammer, Emmanuel Lewis of "Webster" fame, and Mindy Cohn who played Natalie on "Facts of Life." I think they might also be throwing in a Playboy playmate or two. Now that's gonna be good TV.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 10:29a

Animation is going through a re-birth and it's just been awesome. Spongebob is great.

Disagreement taken, but, let me ask you this. How deep did they really dig to get those characters on the Sopranos? To me, it's insulting - I've coined it "Italiansploitation." You can get away with such massive, crooked stereotypes with Italians.

Six Feet Under is all right, but man, it navel-gazes. And Sex in the City is just dreck. It's painful for me to watch the same way the Man Show is painful at times.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 10:32a

Surreal Life - word on this is it was horrid. Again, a case of kind-of-originai idea, LOUSY execution. That's what killed The Weakest Link, Fear Factor, etc.

And furthermore, even with an idea this out-there, no one really cares, you know? It's been done. For God's sake they even re-hired Barry "Greg" Williams. Come on. Next.

mike julianelle
10.1.02 @ 10:34a

The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Six Feet Under are GREAT shows. HBO might be overhyped, but it's the best network on TV.

"Best remembered in the '80s for looking a little like William Katt."


mike julianelle
10.1.02 @ 10:36a

And Push, Nevada couldn't try any harder to be Twin peaks and fail more miserably.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 10:39a

Joe - are you still watching the Sopranos? Have you seen any of the episodes, including this last Sunday's, that address the exact point of Italian stereotyping and cultural pride? Your knee-jerk reaction is noticably uninformed.

russ carr
10.1.02 @ 10:44a

I just typed a long discussion and it disappeared. No time to 'splain; let me sum-up:

We don't need "The Rerun Show" -- the nets are in permanent rerun. The casts and sets may change, but the shows remain the same.


I'm not a fan of anything HBO shows as its "lineup" of shows. But they've produced some really good stuff in recent years, such as "From the Earth to the Moon," and "Band of Brothers." The networks won't touch that stuff anymore. We'll never see "Shogun," or "The Winds of War" or anything like that on a network again, because they're convinced the average viewer doesn't have the time.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 10:45a

HA! Calling that a kneejerk reaction is a kneejerk reaction. I did not see any of the very special episodes that addressed Italian stereotyping. Simply put, they're the exception, and when I hear some jackass imitating Tony Soprano while and grabbing his crotch, the episode that warmly handles stereotyping isn't the first one that pops into my head.

However, my point is that even the Sopranos has no edge. I knew I'd take some flak for bashing the HBO stuff, but is it really groundbreaking? Really? How?

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 10:48a

Russ. Good point on both of those HBO shows, which were much more a cinematic experience than a television experience.

And since HBO is pay TV, it can elude the advertiser constraints, which it does with the sex and violence and language. So I give HBO credit, I'm just tired of hearing why these particular shows are so great without any real reason other than people got sucked into them. Hell, I got sucked into Survivors 1, 2, and 3. And they were all crap.

russ carr
10.1.02 @ 10:55a

For the price of one month of digital cable (monolithic Charter Communications has eliminated traditional cable) with HBO, I could go to ten movies in a month -- or 13 matinee screenings. There's no show on TV that is so enthralling that I'm going to shell out $60/month just to see it.

mike julianelle
10.1.02 @ 11:03a

I dunno about groundbreaking, but in my opinion what makes the Sopranos good is the writing, and more specifically, the fact that it's a character based show that doesn't pander to its audience by getting plot-centric. It's subtle and slow to develop. When you see people complaining about the season finale not tying anything up or "nothing happening" on the show, they are clearly bred on straight forward TV, not intelligent, detailed TV that focuses on character progression over the course of several seasons. The acting is phenomenal, as well. PHENOMENAL.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 11:13a

I'd pay $60 a month just for Carrot Top to go away.

jael mchenry
10.1.02 @ 11:13a

I won't get HBO unless I win Project Greenlight, but I do enjoy watching Sex and the City on DVD. For the same reasons as Alias: "shameless, galloping, twisty, with gorgeous people" except it's not twisty. And more emphasis on the lack of shame, of course.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 11:22a

I think "groundbreaking" is a buzzword HBO made up. But I do think that the Sopranos is one of the most intelligently written, consistently well-acted dramas on TV. And far as stereotyping Italians goes, some of them are involved in organzied crime in New Jersey and Manhattan. And watching them try to reconcile modern-day life with old-school ethos is pretty damned interesting. At no point in time is it insinuated that all Italian Americans are like that.

tracey kelley
10.1.02 @ 11:22a

Matt* rang the final bell - he's decided we're going with a dish. So even though I watch more dreck, I was still willing to go without it, while he wasn't.

My God, I agree with Mike. :) The subtle approach of the Sopranos is what really makes it work for me. You're forced to deal with these characters on a totally different basis - nothing is simply laid out on a plate for the taking.

And the sendups are hysterical. The most recent episode - with almost every member of the gang offended by the stereotype of Italian gangsters - AS gangsters themselves!! - is just ironic and funny. They don't want to be who they are - and yet they are who they are, and they're really not going to do anything about it. It's a wonderful show of the underbelly of human nature vaneered by the desire to do right.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 11:23a

Oh, and you people do seem to forget that HBO, et al, do show movies, as well. I watch more movies on HBO every month than I rent.

tracey kelley
10.1.02 @ 11:24a

Sex and the City was much better in the first 2 seasons. Only the last 3 episodes of this last season were worth anything.

And I hate the "typing the pivotal scene question on the screen" thing. Ugh.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 11:35a

Very Doogie Houser.

jael mchenry
10.1.02 @ 11:45a

Howser, yes.

I miss Neil Patrick Harris. He was such a cutie-pie.

russ carr
10.1.02 @ 11:47a

"Taxicab Confessions" is not a movie, Adam.

The last three episodes of Sex and the City? Out of...what, four episodes? I can understand why Jael watches them on DVD. And The Sopranos didn't have any new episodes for like 15 months! So (Adam's theatrics notwithstanding) what are you paying for the rest of the time? Battlefield Earth, twice a day?

russ carr
10.1.02 @ 11:49a

NPH was great as Doogie Himmler in Starship Troopers. And I actually half-enjoyed that short-lived sitcom he did with Tony Shalhoub.

heather millen
10.1.02 @ 12:09p

As much as I loved Sex in the City in years passed, I pretty much skipped this year. Watched the first two episodes and was very unimpressed.

Other than that, I pretty much stick to NBC's Thursday night. Yes, STILL. Perhaps proving that nothing I've seen since the advent of "Must see TV" has been worth turning the TV on for.

julie adkins
10.1.02 @ 12:35p

Joe, have you watched Curb Your Enthusiasm? I wanted to hate it. Really did. But after two episodes of being emotionally confused (why am I laughing when this guy is such an ass and I WANT to hate it?), I think I admit its really good. And is Larry David REALLY like that?

Groundbreaking... is ANYTHING groundbreaking anymore? Tracey Kelley's description of recent Soprano's hit the nail for me.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 12:55p

Julie, in all seriousness, I had a joke for the column that was something like "Curb Your Enthusiasm - is that even a show? It seems like they just dropped a camera in some guy's gym bag."

The problem was I couldn't even remember the name of the show and I got lazy. Then, thankfully, I realized the joke wasn't funny.

It's appropriate, however, that I couldn't remember the name. I did the opposite of you. I wanted to like that show, going in with a recommendation from a close friend. Ten minutes into it I was noticing how dusty the screen was.

I also thought someone might pin me on groundbreaking. The Daily Show created a new genre. The Kids in The Hall was like a punk rock record on TV - last time this happened. Friends, for what it's worth, opened up an entirely new demo - spawning clones to this day. Survivor, for all intents and purposes, begat reality television. Insomniac will end it. Adult Swim turns TV on its ear. There are more.

wendy p
10.1.02 @ 1:06p

I'd pay $60 a month just for Carrot Top to go away. Ditto!

As for me, I'm sticking with HBO. I like some of the series they've done, like "Band of Brothers", I'm hooked on The Sopranos and it's a good place to find some of the movies I love to watch and my husband hasn't seen. Last night's selection was "Stand by Me". He loved it. Yay!

mike julianelle
10.1.02 @ 1:15p

Mr. Show was groundbreaking. That was HBO. Larry Sanders was great.

And Curb is hilarious!!! Best sitcom on the air. It's too good to even be classified as a sitcom.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 1:16p

Okay, Russ. To answer your question, just picking a random day (today), and ignoring the fact that digital cable actually offers, like, six or seven HBOs, among the MOVIES showing are: Moulin Rouge, The Cable Guy, The Gun In Betty Lou's Handbag, Dr. Doolittle 2, Assasins, The Two Jakes, The Cherokee Kid, and Charlie's Angels. Even if, say, only a third of those sound good, that's still 3 decent films in a day.

Oh, and I agree with you about Stark Raving Mad. I liked it, too.

jeffrey walker
10.1.02 @ 1:17p

Notice Joe mentions basic cable channels as the best hope for t.v. Look at The History Channel, TLC and other basic networks to make leaps and bounds in the ratings while the big networks flop.

Also, look out for PBS: The Ken Burns documentaries are worth your time.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 1:23p

Yeah, but at that point, shouldn't you just be reading a book?

Edited to add that you are right, Jeff, and don't let my total lack of hope discourage you.

jeffrey walker
10.1.02 @ 1:33p

reading is for those who can't afford cable. why read when you can have it told to you, with pictures, in 1/3 of the time?

heather millen
10.1.02 @ 1:40p

That's a whole different conversation. While movies (and the rare television piece)can be entertaining, reading is a much more rewarding experience. It allows your mind to actively create a story, rather than just vacantly stare at someone else's creation.

But like I said... that's a whole different conversation.


russ carr
10.1.02 @ 1:51p

The meerkats are funnier when you can see 'em moving on screen. Thus, Animal Planet, Nat'l Geo, Discovery, et al.

And Adam, not even 1/3 of those films are what I'd call "decent."

And who needs TV when there's here?

julie adkins
10.1.02 @ 2:31p

One last thought as I read Jeffrey Walker's post re: TLC... I've probably watched 50 Teevo taped episodes of Trading Spaces and have since painted my dining room adobe orange (among other atrocities in the name of "design"). This is more of why I should remove my tv and read my books. And if Joe ever pisses me off, I'll send a VCR tape of them to Alison.

jael mchenry
10.1.02 @ 2:35p

Ohhhhhhhhh, Trading Spaces. I love that show. Frank cracks me up. And I want to be Amy Wynn.

Really, people, I don't watch that much TV. This discussion just makes it seem like I do. Besides, Trading Spaces is on approximately 12 hours a day on TLC.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 2:47p

Yes, but Russ, have you seen most of them at least once? If so, I've proven my point.

jael mchenry
10.1.02 @ 2:53p

How? Having seen them doesn't make them worth watching. Paying $60 for a few movies I might want to see is a worse decision than paying $60 for more movies I definitely want to see.

And HBO tends to show the same movies over and over during a month.

jeffrey walker
10.1.02 @ 2:57p

i.e. basic cable! the pay channels are no longer worth it with netflix to see films, or even downloading of full movies using kazaa if you've got the bandwidth and patience. Even HBO isn't worth it for the original series any longer. Although, I'd pay for Showtime for The Chris Issac Show - a must watch.

brian anderson
10.1.02 @ 3:10p

I'm going to have to go with Russ here. After months of paying for cable (from the monopolistic Charter) so that I could sometimes find the time to watch Adult Swim on Cartoon Network and Iron Chef, I decided that it wasn't worth the expense. I'm on the road sometimes two weeks a month, I don't have much time in the evening to watch TV, and DVD rentals are far more satisfying and cost-effective.

Intrepid Media has TV beat, at least as far as entertainment values and price.

Plus, any so-called basic cable that doesn't give me reruns of the The Muppet Show isn't giving me the best there is to offer.

russ carr
10.1.02 @ 3:16p

Jael: exactly. Why pay that kind of money to have someone else dictate my options? And just because a movie may be good, I'm still not going to want to watch it as often as the premium channels are going to broadcast it. Renting DVDs at Lackluster (or as Jeff suggests, NetFlix) provides me considerable flexibility at a much lower price point. And if HBO keeps cranking their original programming out on DVDs, then all I have to do is be patient.


adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 3:22p

Well, I think the answer goes to one's TV watching habits. I like flipping through channels, trying to find something good on. I like seeing new movies, mixed in which stuff I've already seen. And I like being able to call my friends and tell them to put on whatever I'm watching so we can discuss it. And I watch a lot of TV. If I were away for half the month like Brian, I'd probably just go with the basic cable, as well.

Which brings me to my last point - what about reception? It might only be a New York City thing, but antenna reception here sucks. Even if I only watched network TV, I'd still get cable or a dish, just to get it in clearly.

brian anderson
10.1.02 @ 3:29p

Half a month is, of course, worst case. Many months I have a week-long business trip; sometimes I have none. The last few times I've been out on business, however, it's been a week and a half to two weeks each time.

"Antenna reception," in the rural area where I live, is nonexistent. Your choices are basic cable, extended cable, and dish. Non-premium cable (including Cartoon Network, Discovery, etc.) was costing me about $40/month. I finally dropped it all entirely. I simply had a choice of *who* was getting my $40/month for entertainment, and my answer was "no one." I pay that for a no-roaming-charge cell phone, and less than that for an Internet connection.


heather millen
10.1.02 @ 3:35p

Without cable in LA, you'll get a good 10-12 channels. Of course, you're going to need to be able to speak Spanish.

I have basic cable. If nothing else, it's background noise. And gives me capability of the above-mentioned "Friends." Oh, and "That 70s Show." That's my version of Joe's "Bad TV" that's oh-so-good.

joe procopio
10.1.02 @ 3:59p

See how easy it is to chuck TV? This is happening more and more. The nets have been realizing for years that their share is plummeting. Now the same is true for cable.

I heard a commercial on the radio at lunch, a promo for tonight's NBC lineup. They had the balls to say that the double dose of The In-Laws tonight contained "the catch-phrase that's sweeping the nation."

Phrase in question, Dennis Farina (who is awesome and wasted here), flatly delivering, "Okay, private convo."


Oh, and the reason you get a double dose tonight is because they're bleeding the inventory in anticipation of cancellation.

russ carr
10.1.02 @ 4:03p

You must've been listening to the same station I was, Joe...I heard the spot, too. But I changed the station before I could learn the catch-phrase.

Does this mean "Where's the beef?" is finally over?

jael mchenry
10.1.02 @ 4:06p

"Private convo" is sooo not a catchphrase.

The whole idea reminds me of the MadTV (??) promo for "Test Pattern," showing at 8:30 between Friends and Frasier on NBC Thursdays. It was right on the proverbial money.

adam kraemer
10.1.02 @ 5:30p

I'm also not sure what you guys are paying where you are, but in NYC, TimeWarner no-frills digital cable (basic, basic service) costs less than $20 a month. Seems worthwhile to me, but then I already admitted to watching a lot of TV.

robert melos
10.2.02 @ 2:13a

Okay, I just heard on Naked News, which I believe Katherine was horrified to know existed (it does), CNN is in negotiations to merge with ABC News department, making one of the televisions top news sources partners with the world's top fantasy producer. This is much more frightening than 90% of the crap which is supposed to entertain us.

And check out Boom town anyway. It was actually intersting enough to watch the entire show. I'm off to watch Buffy now.

jeffrey walker
10.2.02 @ 9:27a

Boomtown; lots of points of views of a crime, as advertised. However, the depth they go into for each viewpoint in a one hour show is not enough to make sense of any of the characters. It's just a wandering look at a bunch of people linked by an event with no real logic. Turn to FX and watch the Shield.

russ carr
10.2.02 @ 9:57a

Jeff: You mean you haven't embraced the scripting of "dramas" to the same template as music videos? Look at it this way: ABC saves money by hiring actors with no particular range; they're never going to develop the characters. ABC saves money on screenwriters because all they have to do is rewrite the same scene from a different POV. It's TV for the lowest price and lowest common denominator. It's taking the Law & Order format and making it even more basic.

And if I hear "ripped from the headlines" one more time, I'm gonna hunt Dick Wolf down and rip something from him. Tonight's L&O: The Usual Folks vs. American Taliban!

adam kraemer
10.2.02 @ 10:59a

Hey, if nothing else, L&O is the most consistent show on TV.

russ carr
10.2.02 @ 11:01a

If by "consistent" you mean "predictably mundane," yes.

joe procopio
10.2.02 @ 11:45a

The CNN/ABC merger has been in the works for years. Don't forget that GE essentially owns NBC news and that their news division, MSNBC, well, the MS doesn't stand for "most scrupled."

The line between hard news and entertainment has been blurred for a while now. And Disney, oddly enough, has shown a lot of restraint in keeping its hands off the ABC News and ESPN News properties. The fact that MSNBC is anchoring its prime-time with Donahue - the granddaddy of Jerry Springer, should tell you where those blurry lines are drawn.

The best source for news, by far, is always going to be a newspaper.

russ carr
10.2.02 @ 11:51a

CNN's website is particularly galling, showing considerable dilution of content thanks to AOL/Time Warner's ownership. AOL/TW is using the site to cross-promote their other holdings, and as a result, the legit content is slipping.

adam kraemer
10.2.02 @ 1:29p

Russ, yes, I meant predictably mundane. You can actually break it into scenes, it's so predictable.

jael mchenry
10.2.02 @ 1:30p

Like you can't break other TV into scenes? What?

sarah ficke
10.2.02 @ 1:42p

The same scenes happen in every show with a different cast of characters. "Ok, coming up is the Lawyers Arguing Over Their Method scene and after that is The Big Court Scene." It's like Matlock.

adam kraemer
10.2.02 @ 1:51p

So happy not to know what Matlock is like. But yeah, it gets even more predictable - "Okay, here's the point where they get their first suspect, only to find out three scenes later that he didn't do it."

joe procopio
10.3.02 @ 9:09a

Dennis Farina just fell off my cool list. I could take about 5 minutes of the In Laws. I ended up watching Candid Camera on PAX last night. People. PAX.

sarah ficke
10.3.02 @ 9:10a

Joe, is it time for an intervention?

russ carr
10.3.02 @ 10:16a

On the least insipid of the morning radio shows here, the ditzy chick who hosts the show was debating the merits of "reality" TV with her goofy sidekick. Sidekick said he was sick of the shows. Hostess said she wouldn't mind if they were gone, since she only watches them because "that's what's on." (She went on to say she wishes they'd bring back Knots Landing and Melrose Place, so you know where her tastes sit.)

I fully expected such an answer from this girl -- she's proven time and again to be the most vacuous thing I've ever heard on the radio. But hell, people -- watching whatever comes on just because you feel some obligation to spend your nights in front of the box? Get your lazy ass up and do something else!

adam kraemer
10.3.02 @ 10:20a

Thanks, Russ. That's not too insulting.

sarah ficke
10.3.02 @ 10:25a

Oh, that Hostess likes them. They're essentially the same emotions and interests that drove Melrose Place, just with "real" people. And probably less death.

I have to admit that I got sucked into the British version of Big Brother earlier this summer. It really brings out the triviality of life. I remember two women getting into a screaming fight because one of them went "ugh" when the other one told her about a wart on her foot. The fight went something like: "you went 'ugh'! I heard you!" "No I did not go ugh." "Yes you did!" "No I didn't!" etc. Now that's interesting tv, folks.

erik myers
10.3.02 @ 11:48a

Oh yeah... TV writers wish they were that brilliant.

juli mccarthy
10.3.02 @ 1:07p

Dennis Farina will never fall off my cool list. I'm not allowed to say bad things about him no matter what he does. (His sister is married to my uncle, and he would find out and kick my butt.)

joe procopio
10.3.02 @ 1:20p

Don't get me wrong, Farina is five kinds of awesome, just for Get Shorty and Snatch alone. But man, he ain't afraid to run with a bad script.

Can I meet him? Hook me up.

juli mccarthy
10.3.02 @ 1:21p

I dunno - it's been about 15 years since I've seen him, although I see his sister from time to time. I'll see what I can do.

heather millen
10.3.02 @ 1:22p

I heard this morning that after last week's premiere, "Good Morning, Miami" is the number one new comedy in America. Yes, that's the one with the street-talking-weather-forecasting nun.

That's the best of the worst?
I'm sickened. Joe was right on target with this column.


jael mchenry
10.3.02 @ 1:37p

Doesn't hurt that Friends ran two minutes long. Ratings ploy.

mike julianelle
10.3.02 @ 1:59p

Farina is good, but Snatch sucks. Check him out in Midnight Run though. Hilarious.

adam kraemer
10.3.02 @ 2:32p

a) I liked Snatch. b) "Good Morning, Miami" is no worse than a lot of stuff out there. And, yes, I know what I just said and I meant to say it that way.

tracey kelley
10.3.02 @ 11:27p

I ended up watching Candid Camera on PAX last night. People. PAX.

I laughed more at a "Match Game" rerun from "Match Game '79" caught in a weak moment on the Game Show Network than at "Good Morning, Miami" tonight.

matt morin
10.4.02 @ 12:19a

Hey, the Match Game rocks! That's the best gameshow of all time.

russ carr
10.4.02 @ 12:31a

Charles Nelson Reilly. 'Nuff said.

juli mccarthy
10.4.02 @ 12:34a

Pshaw. Nipsy Russell was the MAN!

russ carr
10.4.02 @ 12:39a

Huh. Nipsey may have been in The Wiz, but Chaz made it to The X-Files.

jeff wilder
10.15.02 @ 10:03p

ABC has axed both "Push Nevada" and "That Was Then". In addition, they have also fired most of the writers for "Life With Bonnie". Could it be that ABC MAY be starting to wise up? Or is Eisner Soprano just tightening the noose?

mike julianelle
10.16.02 @ 1:01p

Push, Nevada was crap. And all it means is that they weren't getting viewers and there's no patience anymore. Not that they deserved to survive. From what I saw, they didn't.

russ carr
10.16.02 @ 1:56p

Regarding "Life with Bonnie" -- amazing how spin works, yes? Makes me wonder if there's not some backscratching going on somewhere to plug the show.

There's not a brand new show this season that's got legs...not that I've seen.

adam kraemer
10.16.02 @ 3:48p

Yeah. ABC not giving a show a chance is nothing new. If you want your show to build an audience find another network.

I also don't quite understand why every show is expected to "have legs". Whatever NBC puts on after Friends is going to do fine. Given, it's Scrubs, which is easily the funniest show to come along since Seinfeld ended.


michelle von euw
10.16.02 @ 4:30p

ABC? Not giving shows a chance? I think there's a column about it.

As for Adam's second point, "doing fine" isn't enough for the 8:30 PM timeslot on Thursdays for NBC. Last year, they cancelled Inside Schwartz even though it was the highest-rated new show. In fact, that spot has consistently churned out top ten rated shows that have gotten the ax (mercifully, because they have all been crap).


russ carr
10.16.02 @ 8:50p

Good Morning Miami has changed its status. Now (according to the commercial) it's America's favorite new romantic comedy.

Um...because the competition is what?

joe procopio
10.16.02 @ 10:37p

Was that during Rome? I was laughing too hard over Terrell Owens and the sharpie. The NFL is all the TV I'll ever need.

Yeah, nice of the networks to prove me right, but I'm in TV, so I have inside dirt. Push was toast after the second episode tanked. That was Then was the weaker of the time travel shows and was axed five minutes into the premiere. They let it bleed out under the guise that it's on hiatus.

Nexts goes to one of the new medical shows, probably MDs - which I know nothing about other than it's another boring useless medical show without a name attached.

heather millen
10.17.02 @ 12:19p

The NBC Thursdays 8:30 time show slot is and always has been a bathroom break, a time to do dishes, a chance to grab a snack.

jeffrey walker
12.19.02 @ 10:49a

As predicted above by me on 10/1, cable_ratings_surpass_broadcast_ratings.

It's hard being so right.


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