Saturday, August 28, 2004

Fall TV preview, part 2

Well, tonight we will examine ABC to see if it has a solution for being the network doormat, the position that it has held for the last several years.

You might recall that while NBC has consistently been the #1 network for many years now (on the strength of its comedy lineup) ABC was a decent second for a good while. Its strength was hour long dramas. CBS was a distant third--committing itself to the older demographic of television viewers.

But then CBS hit the TV jackpot with Survivor and its many spinoffs and it followed suit with the edgy drama CSI, which eventually replaced ER as the #1 drama program. During all this change ABC could not figure out what to do. It has for several years now struggled to create a reliable sitcom and its dramas did not have the staying power of ER--probably ABC's best drama, The Practice, finally gave up at the end of last season. While Alias is one of my favorite shows, it has never been a ratings lock.

ABC improved its fortune briefly by reintroducing America to the game show. Who Wants to be a Millionaire was a genuine phenomenon--for a few months. But ABC decided to grind it into the ground by putting on about 10 nights a week. Plus, everyone else tried the gameshow thing too and America got tired of them fast--remember the Weakest Link?

So, now ABC is facing another year of new programming. Can something in this crop be good? Let's take a look.

ABC can still rely on Monday Night Football--it's always a ratings winner. But now ABC is leading into MNF with The Benefactor. Sure, its really a very transparent rip-off of NBC's idea for The Apprentice, but TV knows one thing--rip off other people's good ideas. But is Mark Cuban--outspoken owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks--as interesting and in your face rich as Donald Trump? Every time I ever see Cuban, he's wearing a t-shirt. That doesn't say RICH to me. Does he have gold giltwork all over his office like Trump? It seems to me that unless your rich TV mogul figure is willing to act like Midas with a bad toupe, America will take a pass. (Plus, MTVs ripoff of is better--Andy Dick is crazy in The Assistant.)

So, what else? Tuesday night is ABC's sitcom laugh night. Yes, I know that According to Jim is located on that night, which would seem to negate what I just said, but this is what ABC is planning, not what it is accomplishing. There is a new show called Rodney, but I wouldn't get your hopes up that it is about Rodney Dangerfield--a good idea that is not being accomplished.

Wednesday is ABC best chance probably. It is anchored with The Bachelor. But I think the luster is off of this show now. I am somewhat excited by the show starting at 8pm--Lost. J.J. Abrams is involved, and if he can bring some of the fun of Alias to this show, it might be cool. Plus, it features Dominic Monighan (that's LOTR's Merry Brandybuck to you). The other show on Wednesday is the creepy Wife Swap. Go to the link for more insight on that one--the less said the better I think.

So, what about Thursday? Well, there is life as we know it, but I don't know much about this one really. It has a pretty good pedigree--some good writers who worked on previously good shows, but the ideas sounds a bit like cramming My So Called Life together with Thirteen (but about boys). It will probably be a hit with the critics, but I don't think people will schedule their nights around it.

Friday night is ABC's TGiF night. So the rest of the sitcomes go there. I've liked Less Than Perfect in the past, but it doesn't bode well that they are putting it here on Friday. Plus, Andy Dick was the best thing about that show and now that he is doing well on MTV . . . a bad combination.

Nobody watches anything on Saturday, so lets skip that and go to Sunday--which has kept ABC alive the last few years. First, I will point out my anger that Alias isn't premiering until JANUARY!! I know that some of you say that this is done to ensure that there will be a continuous run of new episodes, eliminating the annoyance of two weeks of reruns in the middle of important stuff. But really, we've got to wait until January! The only way to make up for this in my mind is to do what they did last time and use the Super Bowl as a great lead in and put Sydney back in an airplane with a whip. You know what I'm talking about!

The other show on Sunday night is Boston Legal. Please don't call it The Practice II or anything like that. Just because The Practice imploded last year and the only thing left standing were the two focal characters (played by James Spader and Bill Shatner [KHAN!!]) who just happen to be t he main characters of this show . . . . Well, anyway, who doesn't love David E. Kelley? Right? He is obligated to have a show of his SOMEWHERE each year right? Otherwise Boston has nothing going for it except sports teams and John Kerry--which means its got nothing going for it but sports teams.

Where was I? Oh, right . . . we have to wait for JANUARY to watch Alias?!!

So, in conclusion . . . ABC is ripping off other peoples ideas, recycling characters from dead shows into new ones, swapping wives, not giving us Rodney Dangerfield, STILL paying Jim Belushi . . . and then there is JANUARY when all will be right with the world. Will it all work? I don't think it can get lots worse, so let's be optimistic, okay?

Next up . . . CBS.

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