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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

Sweep it Away!

by Neena Louise

Once again we are in the depths of that wretched Gimmickfest called Sweeps that heralds the season's end and ushers in summer's TV Wasteland. As the season winds down, I am outraged by the pathetically short season, and can't believe the gall of the networks that are bragging endlessly about "four new back-to-back episodes" of various shows. Since when is this something to brag about? Since when are new episodes such an anomaly in a current season that it's something to crow about? Since greed took over quality, that's when.

It seems that new episodes were run ONLY during Sweeps this season - that's only three months (and since when is sweeps THREE times a year??? It used to be only TWO) out of 12 - a quarter of the year - half the number of episodes there should be. And then everyone is surprised by the huge, mega-success of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Oh, c'mon! It's something new every night and a show that will never disappoint the viewer with a rerun. Of course it's a hit! Duh.

It is with relief, however, that Gimmicks Month is less gimmicky than usual (though what the HELL was that stupid X-Files episode???). No 3-D. No "spot the mistakes" embarrassments. No explosions. No exploitive deaths. Curiously, though, weddings and miniseries seem to be a theme. Has anyone seen a "wedding episode" that was anything less than dull and/or outrageously unbelievable? Or a good miniseries since Roots (observe the 10-hour snorefest The 10th Kingdom)? I haven't.

This was absolutely the worst TV season I've ever experienced - more commercials, fewer first-run episodes, and more hype than a viewer can stand. It's no wonder I've spent more money on movie rentals than ever before. My television has become merely a conveyance for movies, rather than the broadcast television I once couldn't live without. Are you listening, Network Suits? You can't tell me you can't afford to make more/better quality episodes and still line your pockets with zillions of dollars.

Here are some highlights of the 1999-2000 television season (I'm not including May's Sweeps episodes, because season-enders don't count as "good television"; they are simply "make megabucks" television and I won't justify their existence with any mention):

Best moments:
  • The death of Lucy on ER (and a good, good riddance to her...I never thought a single actor/character could bring an ensemble show down, but, well, Kellie Martin accomplished it with ease).
  • The auditorium scene in the "Hush" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (absolutely hilarious - and without a single word of dialogue!).

The worst:
  • Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (and the subsequent unending stories of that dumb blonde hypocrite Darva Conger and egomaniac Rick Rockwell...oh, what have we sunk to?)
  • The Drew Carey Show's "spot the mistakes" and "whose line is it" Sweeps episodes (some of the worst television I've ever seen)

Shows I wish hadn't been cancelled:
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • Stark Raving Mad

Shows I wish WOULD be cancelled:
  • Whose Line is it Anyway
  • Third Watch
  • Ladies Man
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Shows I predict WILL be canceled:
  • Spin City (it's nothing without Michael J. Fox)
  • The Drew Carey Show (I think it's run its course)
  • Greed (and all the other mega-buck quiz show Millionaire copycats)

Trends that must stop:
  • Talking cats, dogs, lizards, frogs, babies and all other things that don't normally talk (enough already!).
  • "Reality" (it is to laugh) shows

All in all, a bad season. Spectacularly bad. I'm hoping the fall (which seems soooo far away) will bring better things.
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