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The Kids Aren't All Right

Last Year: New Kids On the Schlock The WB and UPN are networks in the same sense that Shelly Long is a gifted comedic actress. It's what her publicist says and so that must make it true, right?

Likewise, UPN and The WB have taken to calling themselves networks, implying that despite a pathetic lineup of UHF affiliates and barely half the hours of programming the big four show, they're entitled to give us the same bucketloads of crap NBC and the others feel is their God-given right to foist upon an unsuspecting public.

Actually, UPN and CBS do have something in common. I don't watch a single prime-time show on either one of their slates.

It doesn't have to be this way. These two little netlets could earn some respect. Both WB and UPN, never taken seriously by anyone who does not own a pair of Vulcan ears or is not a 14-year old girl, have a license to take some chances, to try and really push the television envelope and give us something we've never seen before.

Instead, we get The Love Boat: The Next Wave.

So on the off chance that someone out there actually cares, we'll go ahead and enlighten you about UPN's less-than-eagerly anticipated fall schedule.

There are, of course, family sitcoms up the wazoo. These include Guys Like Us, which features a couple of swinging bachelor roommates whose style is crimped suddenly, and hilariously, when one of the guys' 6-year-old brother moves in. Wacky hijinks ensue. Loyal readers who remember my stance on children in television know just what kind of promise Guys Like Us holds.

A second moribund-upon-arrival is DiResta, which stars a stand-up comic who has a zany job as a New York cop and a rib-tickling family life.

Oh sure, go ahead and scoff. "Why, that sounds exactly like Everybody Loves Raymond," you're saying to yourself. You pathetic, misguided fool. Everybody Loves Raymond stars a stand-up comic with a rib-tickling family life whose brother has a zany job as a New York cop.

UPN's third sitcom, which features one of the most bizarre plot summaries I've ever seen, is The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, a show about Abraham Lincoln's British butler. If ever a show cried out "second-week cancellation" this is it.

But if, by some miracle, the show lasts long enough to get into the civil war, I guarantee you dozens of jokes like this:

Abe Lincoln: "87 years ago, no, that's not right--almost a century ago, um--a little over eight-and-a-half decades ago. Dammit, I'll never get this speech written!"

Desmond Pfeiffer: "Sir, if you don't mind me interrupting, how about 'Four score and seven years ago?' It sounds very regal."

Abe Lincoln: "I don't know, Des, sounds kind of English to me. Ah, what the hell."

Not to mention, "Tonight, on a very special episode of Desmond Pfeiffer, Desmond's daughter learns being cool isn't all it's cracked up to be. Also, the President is assassinated. [Last show of the series.]"

There's plenty of drama afoot at UPN as well. Joe Morton, the sacrificial nerd from Terminator 2, is slated to star in Mercy Point. Think "ER meets Star Trek: Voyager" -- the two shows with the most incomprehensible jargon on TV, fused together! "Give me a chem 7, CBC, lytes and protonic neutrino detector. And get that 6-armed, blue Strunkernush up to the wave-guide scanner, stat! He's blandykindling tetryon particles all over the place!"

Two more dramas fill out UPN's newcomers, Seven Days and Legacy. The former is about a CIA "castoff" who travels back in time to avert disaster -- sort of an ungodly mix of Nowhere Man and Early Edition. Legacy is the story of post-Civil War Kentucky. Look for hilarious crossover hijinks with the post-assassination Desmond Pfeiffer show!

Over at The WB, which recently completed a breakout season thanks largely in part to the fact that Michigan J. Frog no longer appears in all of its promos, there's more than enough crap for everyone.

Sure, this is network is home to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the best and most original shows in recent television history. But it's also the same network that decided to air Dawson's Creek, yet another hour of whining teenagers. Sure the advertisers love the demographics, but I never saw the appeal of 60 minutes of the same type of kids who were way to cool to talk to me when I was in high school.

Dawson will be moving to Wednesday nights, where it will lead-in a brand new Shannen Doherty vehicle, Charmed. Yes, the Shannen Doherty, starring as yet another beautiful young person who happens to find out she's a witch.

That's witch, folks. With a "W."

Taking Dawson Creek's old spot will be Matlock: The Next Generation, the classic Andy Griffith vehicle. The WB, it seems, was tired of losing that valuable adults 75-95 demo to CBS.

OK, so I'm lying. Instead of Matlock, we'll be getting Felicity, a drama starring Keri Russell as, yes, another beautiful young person. This beautiful young person happens to be a college freshman in New York. Why, it's Ally McBeal wearing sandals and carrying a backpack!

Do you notice a theme to the WB yet?

Don't worry, Wayans Brothers fans, you're still happy. So are all of those of you who've been saying to yourselves, "You know, I just can't get enough of armed forces goofiness ever since that boisterously witty Steve Martin remake of 'Sgt. Bilko' a few years ago."

Your prayers have been answered in the form of The Army Show.

However, my prayers, hopes, dreams and fondest wishes were crushed under the heel of those insensitive WB bastards. Kelly Kelly, starring my beloved Shelly Long, was left off the fall schedule.

So maybe I'm wrong about The WB coming of age. After all, no network's really worth its salt until it's cancelled a godawful Shelley Long sitcom. If UPN wants to keep pace with its infant-network rival, it's high time to pair The Love Boat: The Next Wave with another remake of a long-running TV series. Troop Beverly Hills, 90210 anyone?


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