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Entertainment Weakly

By Bob Woodiwiss · March 8th, 2001 · Pseudoquasiesque
Every autumn, as predictably as pine needles not falling from the trees, the television networks debut their new programs. Almost simultaneously, as predictably as the average American ass advancing beyond the edges of a single couch cushion, the television viewing public renews its complaints about what's being broadcast. We hear that the new shows bite, blow, suck or, among the PBS crowd, masticate, insufflate and fellate.

Not me. Because I know if it weren't for the ill-advised, mindless, quickly cancelled dreck of fall, the innovative, smart, scintillating, imagination-capturing replacement shows of mid-season might never see the light of day. I mean, think about it: Without anemic efforts like Freakylinks and Madigan Men exiting the program grid, there'd be no slots for gems like Three Sisters and The Fighting Fitzgeralds to move into. Clearly, people, the system works.

And the nets ain't done working it yet. Over the next few weeks, we can expect to see the premiere of some of the greatest mass-market entertainment that the mass-market will allow! Much of it created by the very same species that brought us such classic programs as The Twilight Zone and Seinfeld! For instance:

Dinero! Stat! (ABC): Set in an inner city Miami hospital, the intense action unfolds in the billing department, where a band of hard-nosed, tireless beancounters have dedicated their lives to hounding discharged, indigent, mostly Latino patients for full payment for services rendered.

FAG (UPN): The military drama that doesn't ask but does tell. Compelling stories, that is. Watch each week as the openly gay, highest-ranking European NATO officer attached to the Pentagon, Général Guilliame (Guy) Derriere (the "French Army General" of the title) gets beat up by homophobic American soldiers.

In the opener/pilot, Guy (Bronson Pinchot) accepts his Pentagon assignment despite warnings that, to the U.S. military, being French and gay makes him seem super-gay.

The Big Number One (Fox): Join 14 hard-bodied Christians as they're transported to a remote South Sea island, then tempted to break the biggest, the baddest, the No. 1 Commandment. We'll follow the pious castaways as they're separated from their Bibles and turned loose to taste other, exotic, forbidden faiths. To perform strange, new rites. To fondle unfamiliar icons. Will they be faithful to their jealous God? Or will they take some other before Him? You won't want to miss a wrath-invoking minute.

Ken Burns's Ken Burns (PBS): Take an overlong, "umm-that's-all-very-interesting," stylistically stagnant look at how America's master documentarian produces overlong, "umm-that's-all-very-interesting," stylistically stagnant documentaries.

Kerouac (WB): Forget Biography, think Laugh-ography. Not since Archie Bunker has a sitcom featured such a socially-reprehensible-but-deep-down-quite-loveable hero -- Beat author Jack Kerouac. It's 1962, some years after the acclaim of On the Road, and Kerouac (the zany Dana Carvey), a 40-year-old self-destructive alcoholic with ultraconservative views, is sharing a house with his domineering mother (the hilarious Betty White). Whether you're a fan of literary bon mots or drunken slapstick, you'll love this comedy that goes beyond edgy, all the way to Oedipal.

Sixty Minutes Trey (CBS): CBS retools its successful news magazine one more time in an effort to attract the lucrative under-30 demographic. Correspondents are Queen Latifah, Ricki Lake, Carson Daly and that little girl from the Pepsi commercials. Stories will still focus on top issues and newsmakers of the day but with a youthful slant. Scheduled segments include "Does Farting Make the Hole in the Ozone Bigger?," "Columbine Two Years Later: That Is So 'Who Cares?'," and "Ariel Sharon's E-Z Weight Loss Plan for the Palestinians." Closing rant/commentary by South Park's Cartman.

"You/I/We Look So Hot." (Fox): The cute, huggable little girls you've known since Full House are now cute, huggable 15-year-old babe-ettes. And they're starring in the riskiest, most conceptual series of recent years. Tune in each week for a full half-hour of the Olsen Twins making out with each other.

Help, I'm an Idiot (CBS): Big Brother meets Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? meets a 20/20 segment meets the Matlock generation. A dozen senior citizens take up residence for 13 weeks in a specially built house that allows 24-hour surveillance. Each is given $1 million in cash as a "retirement nest egg." Simultaneously (and unknown to the seniors), the show's producers supply unscrupulous telemarketers with the phone number of each "millionaire." Viewers get to watch as the hopelessly gullible retirees bite on and invest in one ridiculous scam after another. Will anyone wise up before running completely out of money? We can only hope. Because the last contestant with a dollar gets to keep it! ©



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