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The New TV Season: Everything Old is New Again

by Neena Louise

While reviewing the upcoming shows for the new television season, a saying kept running through my mind: "Everything old is new again." Networks seem to be reverting, not only to tried-and-true formulae, but tried-and-true stars: John Ritter, Bonnie Hunt, Carol Kane, Treat Williams, Forest Whitaker, David Morse, Gary Cole, etc., etc., are all coming to television during the upcoming season in formats that have been very successful in the past. The people behind aging shows like Drew Carey, ER, The Practice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all claim they will be getting back to their original premises and ditch the lame gimmicks and silly plot lines used last season in a futile attempt to boost ratings. It all has me very intrigued, and I'm eager to see if it will work.

Last season's beginning was rife with cops & robbers, jiggle & bounce - stultifyingly dull and made more so when the new shows vanished with astonishing speed and the old shows just got older. There are, of course, new cops & robbers shows (Boomtown, Miami Heat, Fastlane) and jiggle & bounce (Birds of Prey, girls club) in the upcoming season, but the emphasis seems to be on sitcoms and dramas with fresh premises such as American Dreams, Push, Nevada and John Doe. For the first time in many, many years, I'm looking forward to the new fall season for reasons other than being tired of Rerun Hell.

But I can't help but wonder: why did the networks suddenly get a clue? Is it because they've been relying on reality TV and endless Sept. 11 exploitation for their ratings (then watching them slide)? Are they actually listening to viewers (yeah, right)? Are they desperate? Or is it just that Powers That Be got tired of watching audiences dwindle and analyzed to what has worked - and what hasn't - in the past? I find that hard to believe. If the past few seasons are any indication, their stupidity has become pathological.

The new season has barely begun, but the new shows, so far, are fresh (well, warmed-over, anyway) and fun. Time will tell if it will last. Let's hope the networks stick with their new-found intelligence and don't repeat their past mistakes (such as canceling a show before it has a chance to find an audience and shuffling time slots around and around). If they don't, I suspect the upcoming season could be the most successful in a long, long time.
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