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July 3, 2006 | Comments ()


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The Declaration of the TV Whore

The Clip Show / The TV Whore
July 3, 2006

TV Reviews | July 3, 2006 | Comments ()


We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That the Christ of Nazareth isn’t the only one who can come back to life. In 2003, the Emmy-award winning “Futurama” was yanked off the air after five seasons, due to low ratings pulled in by Fry and friends. Well if you haven’t heard, Comedy Central has picked the series back up and there will be at least 13 new episodes premiering in 2008, original voice-actors in tow. With the recent return of “Family Guy,” we are one step closer to being able to call the resurrection of cult-shows a legitimate trend, and it’s one that’s all too welcome. There are numerous shows that have been unceremoniously ripped off the air before their time, and while the chances of any show actually coming back remain slimmer than Kate Bosworth’s emaciated waistline, resurrections like this give the fans of each expired show a glimmer of hope. Of course, the realities of Hollywood mean that we’re less likely to see this trend carry over from animated sitcoms to live-action shows, but still, this is a sign that the entertainment biz can sometimes make a “Quantum Leap”-like correction of wrongly made decisions, so huzzah to Comedy Central.

That in 18 months YouTube is already having a serious impact on the networks. Speaking of resurrections, YouTube may have already garnered itself a spot at the table. Recently, a nixed WB pilot showed up, in full (albeit in 3 parts) on YouTube. The show, “Nobody’s Watching,” was a meta-comedy put together by “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence and focusing on two friends who are hired by the WB to appear in a reality show about their attempts to create a new sitcom whilst working and living on old sitcom sets and appearing before a live studio audience. It’s a clever idea and, while the pilot’s not without its faults, there were certainly some laughs and possibilities of potential to it. Despite the WB’s take on the pilot — that folks were too stupid to get it — it’s been remarkably well received online, to the point that Lawrence is actually in the early stages of discussing a possible resurrection. So maybe I was a little premature to suggest that this sort of thing can’t happen with live-action shows. Even if “Nobody’s Watching” doesn’t show up on a network some day, this is certainly yet another interesting development in the evolution of TV and, as Lawrence himself put it: “Why on earth wouldn’t a network, when they pick up 10 comedy pilots, just put ‘em all on YouTube and see what people respond to, and get real notes and real feedback from people, and get an idea of what they should pick up?

Another sign of YouTube’s potential is NBC’s recent deal with the site. Currently, it’s just promotional in nature, with YouTube setting up a “channel” to show promos and clips of upcoming shows. But already NBC’s using the new deal to run a new kind of promotion for “The Office,” where fans create and post their own promos, with the winning ad getting an on-air showing towards the end of the summer. This isn’t just a clever way for NBC to get a free ad; a move like this gets tons of free word-of-mouth publicity (case in point — I’m talking about it right now, ain’t I?) and lets the fans feel involved.

It doesn’t take any real leap of imagination to see NBC taking the next step, as envisioned by Bill Lawrence, and posting pilots online during the pilot season to get a better read on how potential new shows screen, does it? In fact, the biggest hurdle here, to my thinking, is the potential risk to the networks. See, there’s the prospect that a pilot the network loves is posted online and is well received. The network is mollified that it got it right, and it can now use this surging public opinion during the upfronts when it’s setting the show’s ad rates, perhaps getting more than a rookie show might otherwise garner. But, what if a show isn’t well received, yet the network is stuck having to use it in the fall lineup anyway? It’s going to be hard getting the ad money for such a negatively received show, and even harder to get the series off the ground in the fall (even if the pilot’s problems were fixed), due to the bad taste it will have already created in folks’ mouths. And it’s this risk of failure that makes me think we’re not quite at a place where we’ll see pilots being screened en masse just yet. But I do think it’s only a matter of time and, personally, I can’t wait. Anything that shakes up the television industry is aces-up in my book.

That the bitches aren’t as welcome to the O.C. next year. Fox has announced that it’s lowering its episode order for “The O.C.,” signing on for just 16 episodes instead of the usual minimum-22 (and actually, Fox has taken at least 24 episodes in the show’s first three seasons). Fox claims this is due to scheduling needs, since the show won’t even premier until November 2, after baseball is done swinging the bat. But that smells like a steaming pile of horseshit if you ask me, because they could easily roll out 22+ new episodes between November 2 and the end of May sweeps. One suspects that Fox’s faith in the show is dwindling after a lackluster third season (Marissa’s fantastically hilarious death aside). And that faith probably isn’t helped any when you look at the schedule — not only does “The O.C.” remain up against ratings stalwart “C.S.I.”, but now it’s also facing “Deal or No Deal” and the newly timeslotted “Grey’s Anatomy” (which we already knows scares the bejesus out of NBC). So it looks like there may only be one more year before everyone but Peter Gallagher (and maybe Adam Brody) goes off into obscurity. But don’t worry guys, Mischa’s already there, keeping the couch warm for you.

That not everything from the land of King George III is terrible. Like many males of my generation, my first introduction to the world of British humour was “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” In the years since discovering wafer-thin mints, nipples exploding with delight, and expectations of the Spanish Inquisition, I’ve stumbled upon many other imported gems from across the pond — “Mr. Bean,” “The Office,” “The Young Ones,” “Coupling,” “Black Books,” and, of course, “Fawlty Towers.” However, my favorite of them all has always been “Blackadder,” Rowan Atkinson’s pre-Bean historically set series. Although I’m not a huge fan of the first series (the Richard III era), the other three series are bloody fantastic (my personal favorite being the Elizabethan “Blackadder II”).

So I was outrageously happy in 1999 when the one-shot “Blackadder Back & Forth” came out. After watching it, however, I was outrageously disappointed. But that disappointment doesn’t lessen my joy in hearing the early rumors of a potential “Blackadder” movie in our futures. Details are extremely light at this point, but the rumors include conversations between Stephen Fry and Atkinson about returning to the characters, and that writer Ben Elton is working on a screenplay set during the Russian Revolution. As Lord Flashheart would say, “woof!”

That in its death throes, the WB is actually doing something right. The network’s last day on the air is scheduled to be September 17th. To honor its demise, the network is planning to run four of its more significant pilots in its last gasp of on-air time. From 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. that night, the net will air the pilots of “Felicity,” “Angel,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” (two hours), and “Dawson’s Creek.” A variety of rights-related issued forced them to stick with dead shows, which is why they’re not including the pilots of any still-breathing shows such as “Gilmore Girls.” Still, it’s a rather classy way to go out and, while it still won’t get me to watch the WB, even on its last night, I commend the network for leaving with a touch of grace.

That casting news can be both good and bad. On the “good casting news” front, word has it that the impending return of “Weeds” (August!) will include a run by Zooey Deschanel as a love interest for Justin Kirk’s brother-in-law character, Andy. Deschanel’s ability to play dark and dry wit should mix well with the tenor of the show and has me very excited. A similarly good mix appears to be in the making with the addition of the post-“Invasion” William Fichtner to the sophomore season of “Prison Break,” where he’ll play an agent hunting down our recently escaped friends. Of course, this isn’t really a show that needs the kind of broad-ranged talent that Fichtner has, but he may to help lower (at least a little) the show’s unintentional comedy factor (and even if not, he should be able to equally mix in with its over-the-topness).

Of course, for every casting agent who does the right thing, there’s one who gets it as wrong as wrong can be. And this week, that award goes to the casting agent over at “Nip/Tuck.” After the debacle that was last season, I was naively hoping that they could right the ship and get it back to its former glory. Well, “hope in one hand, shit in the other, see which fills up first,” as they say. In this case, the shit in the other hand comes in the form of A.C. Slater. Yes, it’s with a deeply saddened heart that I learned that Mario Lopez will be showing up to have some sort of homoerotic tryst with Christian. Now the good news is, I think it’s only for one episode. But the bad news is, “Nip/Tuck” is done, folks. Just call it a day on this one, and move on.

That we just can’t get enough cocks. Speaking of guest stars, I just wanna throw out some mad props to “Deadwood” for bringing the always fantastic Brian Cox onboard as theater manager Jack Langrishe. He’s bringing an awesome extra verve to an increasingly amazing show that wasn’t even in need of such extra verve. Damn HBO for fucking up the fourth season (yes, I will bitch about this over the next year just as much as I bitched about the cancellation of “Arrested Development” — deal with it).

That nothings stirs up drama like a little rape. If you’re not up-to-speed on the ongoing online debate resulting from the controversial sex scene in the third episode of this season of “Rescue Me,” the Star Ledger’s Alan Sepinwall has a good write-up on it, including some responses from show creators Peter Tolan and Dennis Leary. I pretty much agree with Sepinwall’s take on the situation, and will just add these few comments:

I don’t consider myself a “sensitive” viewer, and few things I watch, read, or hear ever bother me. But I gotta admit, even I was a little shocked and disturbed by, in Tolan’s parlance, the “dangerous scene,” particularly Gavin’s smirk of enjoyment when all was said and done. I simply can’t buy that Tolan and Leary were shooting for something different with this scene, despite their protestations otherwise, because I find it very difficult to believe that anyone could sit down and watch this and see it as anything but a rape (even with Janet’s eventual acceptance and apparent enjoyment of it). I’ve been willing to accept, and usually laugh immensely at, the show’s obvious male-centric and sometimes misogynist point of view, but this one pushed it a little far even for me. And don’t get me wrong — it’s not the fact that they wanted to include this scene at all that bothers me; it’s how they handled it. As Sepinwall points out, shows like “The Sopranos” get away with having their characters do despicable things because the show itself doesn’t appear to condone the acts. Here, however, with that little sneer that Leary throws out as he leaves the house, and Janet’s pleasant demeanor after the fact, the show seemed to be condoning what just happened, writing it off as “Well, they’ve got a high-energy and dangerous relationship, and these things happen.” I’m not going to stop watching the show, mind you, but this left a bad taste in my mouth and I am extremely disappointed.

That July brings us new shows trying to tide us through the summer. There are several new things coming to us over the next couple of weeks. First, there’s the new season of “Rock Star” (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., CBS) starting July 5. I enjoyed the hell out of the first season so I’m hoping this one will be just as entertaining (and the concept of this mashed-up Supernova “mega-band” is no more ridiculous, when you get down to it, than the comeback of INXS was last season). July 9, meanwhile gives us a little old and a little new. At 9 p.m., Comedy Central is airing the quasi-season of “Chappelle’s Show,” presumably much to Dave’s chagrin (the last I heard from him on the issue, he didn’t want them airing it without his approval, and since he didn’t film the skit intros, I’m guessing they don’t have his approval). Then at 10 p.m., Showtime will be premiering “Brotherhood.” Early word on this Irish/crime drama is mixed but skewing towards the positive and, and as I’ve mentioned before, Showtime has joined the ranks of HBO and F/X insofar as I’ll try any new show that looks to have potential.

And then we’ve got two returning reality shows that sit on the opposite ends of the spectrum, with “Project Runway” (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Bravo) returning on July 12 and the newly-networked “The Contender” (Tuesday, 10 p.m., ESPN) returning on July 17. The first ain’t my cup of tea, and I don’t know if the latter will be any good (although the little-watched first season was incredibly engaging), but either is likely to be better than most of your other viewing options.

That y’all should enjoy your 4th of July. Seriously, take one day off from your television watching (there’s only going to be shit on, anyway) and enjoy a nice summer day with your friends and family, barbequing some tasty meat (and if you’re vegetarian, suck it up and eat some meat anyways — it’s good for you!) and watching some fireworks. And then you can get back to the glories and disreputes of all that is Television.

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Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He lives in Washington, D.C., and couldn’t be happier that summer “intern season” is finally here.









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