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'Tis the Second Season

By P.F. Wilson · December 14th, 2000 · Channel Surfing
The holiday season is always a curious time for TV. It's the only time of year any kind of weather is shown, as it is incessantly snowing ... even on shows that take place in L.A. Then we have the hapless parade of Christmas-themed shows that either rip off A Christmas Carol or "The Gift of the Magi" or end with a "maybe it really was Santa Claus" scene. All of the old favorites turn up, including Frosty, Rudolph and Charlie Brown, but their appearances are far less impactful thanks to their availability on video.

Shows also go on hiatus which, as you probably know, is show biz talk for vacation. So you'll be looking at a lot of reruns. Some shows come back. Some find that the locks have been changed and their stuff is on the curb.

Like a head coach heading down the stretch with a losing record, viewers can take this opportunity to try out new shows. Ally too whacked for you? Send in Roswell to run a few plays. Give a listen at work to what everyone else is watching. Maybe West Wing is more to your liking than Drew Carey. Friends is almost unwatchable. Give Gilmore Girls a shot.

A few years ago NBC adopted the philosophy of "if you haven't seen it, it's not a rerun" which translated into "it's new to you" for on-air promos.

While that looked like a lame attempt to stretch out their thin programming ranks, they were essentially correct.

It stands to reason that, if every show were great, we'd never get anything done, or be incredibly frustrated trying to watch them all. The TV season at one time was 26 weeks long. Can you imagine? It's whittled its way down to 22, although the networks are trying to bump that back up a little.

That brings up another point. It makes sense for all involved. The advantage to actors and production folks for a 22 show season is four weeks fewer with 18 hour days. The other is that break-out stars can squeeze in a movie role or two during the off time. The problem is that most of these dimwits are no more talented than the guy who asks you if you want paper or plastic. You've got to make the money now.

Norm MacDonald made it known when his show debuted that he wanted to hit 100 episodes and grab his parachute. That's the magic number for syndication. Macdonald will probably go beyond his sitcom, but you have to question why a guy would turn off the gravy spigot like that. The more episodes he produces, the more money he gets on "the back end." (By the way, that's more show biz/agent talk).

Cynthia Geary never has to work again. You remember her as Shelly on Northern Exposure (or maybe not). In any case, while the show was in production in Washington State, she lived in housing provided by the studio and saved her paychecks. She came back in some dreadful sitcom last season that tanked, but suffered no more than a slightly bruised ego.

This has split into two columns, which I will now try to sew back together.

We don't need a 26-episode schedule anymore, though it would be nice to enjoy the good shows a little longer during each season. The actors, however, should push for it. After the New Year, new shows will premiere, so now is the time to check out the programs likely to return to see if you want to add them to your lineup.

Be like a real network programmer. Add shows, cancel shows and complain that the ratings can't possibly be accurate.

CONTACT P.F. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com



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