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Dead Pool '98: Gregg Wrenn

It used to be called the "elevator pitch" because that's how long television producers had to impress highfalutin' TV execs that their show was worth putting on the air: from the second the network big-wig pressed the "Lobby" button to the moment the doors slid open with a faint ping and the suit had the scruffy creative-type hauled out the back door for a savage beating.

In those precious seconds, television fortunes could be made or lost, lives ruined or blessed with the promise of 13-week orders and cash-rich syndication deals. Then, perhaps because the execs decided to take offices closer to the ground floor, the pitches became shorter, tighter, even less enlightening. Nowadays, an entire television show from overall concept to actors to writers to costume design needs to be summed up in no more than a short sentence.

Miami Vice was sold to NBC on the basis of only two words: "MTV cops." Aaron Spelling convinced network honchos to give his show Nightengales a chance with the immortal words: "Student nurses in Dallas, and the air conditioning's broken."

Not the best way to make TV, but then again, it makes sense when you try and consider how shows like Hitz, Meego or Dellaventura ever made it to the airwaves in the first place.

So taking a cue from my esteemed colleague Philip Michaels, I've decided to use a theme to make my TeeVee Dead Pool '98 picks. Unlike Mr. Michaels, I'm not picking on any one ethnic group. Rather, I'm picking on the almost-unbelievable chutzpah those aforementioned producers had in pitching the following doomed-to-failure programs to brain-dead network programmers.

1. Holding the Baby, Fox. Probable pitch: It's the last season of Mad About You without million-dollar-per-episode actors.

We need another sitcom about a young, professional couple's wacky hijinks while trying to care for an infant like we need Lee Horsley back on TV. What new ground could possibly exist in this comedy vein? Every single drop of originality and creativity that can be squeezed out of TV babies was wrung out back in the days of I Love Lucy. On the other hand, it takes most sitcoms a few years before they run out of creative steam and resort to bringing in a bawling crap machine. At least Holding the Baby has the guts to admit it was dumping all notions of creativity and humor from the very beginning.

2. Wind on Water, NBC. Probable pitch: Irritating Mountain Dew-drinking, snow-board loving troglodytes meet "10" without the drunken antics of Dudley Moore. Plus, they kick Matt Houston's ass.

I'm just impressed the producers knew Lee Horsley, the poor man's Burt Reynolds, was still alive. As for the rest of the show, you've got Bo Derek pretending to be a rancher. You've got a former Real World cast member trying to act. And you've got NBC thinking that the people at home watching TV on Saturday nights want to watch a couple of Rollerblading punks. So how could this show ever manage to sully up a real network's schedule? I'll bet anything Warren Littlefield has that poster from "10" on his bedroom wall.

3. Vengeance Unlimited, ABC. Probable pitch: A one-man A-Team with a lot more killing and a lot less redeeming social value.

I'm actually rooting for this show, believe it or not. Two of the reviews I've seen for it so far have called the show "reprehensible" and "morally vacant."

This bodes well.

Plus there's the fact the first episode looks like it's about killing lawyers, which is a wonderful concept for a show, no matter what certain TeeVee staff members-slash-attorneys may think. But then again, it does star Michael Madsen, who, while a riveting and powerful screen presence, also falls into that category of actors known as "Men Fathers Everywhere will Never Allow their Daughters to Date on the Basis of their Unrelenting Creepiness."

Unfortunately, I doubt most of America will share my lack of moral compass and be "outraged" by the senseless violence, flipping over to senseless comedy like Veronica's Closet instead. Personally, I hope this show gets moved from it's murderous Thursday time slot and re-titles itself Killing Lawyers. With a name like that, you're guaranteed Nielsen nirvana every week.


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