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Let The Games Begin

"If there were any justice in the world, Chevy would have been reading this story 10 years ago."

-- Weekend Update anchor Dennis Miller, announcing
the 1986 cancellation of "The Love Boat"

If there were any justice in the world, we wouldn't be holding our annual TV cancellation contest this year. Instead, executives at ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox would call a joint press conference to solemnly announce that yes indeed, the new TV shows they've lovingly prepared for the upcoming fall season are in fact crap. Every last remaining copy of the new shows would be rounded up and thrown into Warren Littlefield's wood chipper. And then the networks would agree to air old episodes of "Hogan's Heroes" and "F Troop" until they could generate enough non-wretched programs to fill their schedules. Then, peace would ring out through the land. Christian, Jew and Arab would embrace in brotherhood. And we'd all get to see the episode where Hogan pulls the wool over Klink's eyes and manages to blow up a train.

The good news is that the first four episodes of "Ink," the much ballyhooed but painfully unfunny Ted Danson-Mary Steenburgen opus, have been fired off into orbit where they can do no more damage to an unsuspecting populace. The bad news is that they've decided to re-shoot the episodes, giving Americans another chance to see liberal filth Danson exhibit zero on-screen chemistry with his off-screen paramour.

How bad is the new Fall Season? Bad with a capital B, which rhymes with P, which stands for "The Pretender" -- one of the three new series NBC is foisting on us Saturday night and just another reason to join a bowling league that evening.

How bad is the new Fall Season?

  • So bad that three new series ("Party Girl," "Dangerous Minds," and "Clueless") are based on movies that weren't exactly crying out for pale imitations;
  • So bad that ABC is asking us to invest a half-hour of our weekly schedule in a show called "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch;"
  • So bad that Robby Benson (!!!!!!!) has managed to find work again (in the aforementioned "Sabrina").

To quote our good friend Roget, that's bad, awful, stinky, wretched, putrid, evil, sinister, rotten, foul and utterly lacking in goodness.

Of the 29 or so new programs that hope to win a place in our collective hearts, only two of them ("Spin City" and "Everybody Loves Raymond") generate any sort of desire in me to watch. The rest? Well, all I can say is "Thank God for cable...."

(I'm not sure if this total takes into account the new shows on UPN or the WB! because frankly, I would rather face the prospect of permanent blindness than spend a minute of my life having to watch "Homeboys in Space.")

There's a problem when dopey premises, hack actors and just plain bad ideas are the rule rather than the exception. And that problem is that it becomes all the tougher to pick which show will be sent to the land of "EARTH Force" first. In making my own picks, I could literally choose from a dozen or so programs that smell like my garbage can the night after I've cooked chicken. It's... Oh, wait, that is my garbage. Hold on just a second.

It's almost enough to make a man throw his hands up and not even bother to enter the TV cancellation derby. There are no standouts this year like "South of Sunset," "Bay City Blues," or the memorably putrid "Covington Cross."

PHIL'S PICKS (in descending order)

1. Moloney -- I've run the tests. I've consulted the ancients. I've sent this to the boys back at R&D. And the inescapable conclusion remains: Nothing starring Peter Strauss can last through the Columbus Day. And when you consider this potential train wreck is running on the CBS rail... Hell-lo Amtrak!

"Moloney" also is stuck in a time slot opposite of "Seinfeld" -- which three-quarters of the people who watch television tune into -- and "New York Undercover" -- which most of the rest watch. That leaves "Moloney" to inherit the "Murder, She Wrote" crowd, most of whom probably passed away during the summer. I guess I'll no longer be confused whether Peter Strauss is "Rich Man" or "Poor Man."

What clinched it for me, though, was the fact that I was unable to make it through the "Moloney" synopsis in "Entertainment Weekly" without nodding off. Near as I can figure, "Moloney" is about a police psychiatrist who... um... solves crimes?

Yours is not to reason why, Peter Strauss. Yours is but to do and die.

2. Profiler -- Let's get one thing straight. America hates Ally Walker. They hated her in "Moon Over Miami" which went over like a lead zepplin back in 1993. They will hate in this, which airs opposite of the inexplicably popular "Walker: Texas Ranger."

I believe Ms. Walker, no relation to the aforementioned Texas Ranger, plays a profiler who... um... solves crimes. "Profiler" bears only the slightest resemblance to "Millenium," which is about a profiler played by Lance Henrikson who... um... solves crimes. Only "Millenium" is done by the talented folks who gave us "X Files" whereas "Profiler" is done by people who cast Ally Walker in things.

3. Lush Life -- I have no scientific evidence that "Lush Life" is any more reprehensible than the slew of other bad sitcoms that are descending upon our TVs like locusts on ancient Egypt. But "Lush Life" features Lori Petty -- and the kindest adjective "Entertainment Weekly" could drum up for her was "brassy."

Let me put it more plainly: Lori Petty's voice makes my ears bleed. America will not watch a program that will make unsuspecting young people claw at their auditory canals.

Damn you, Fox.


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