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Dead Pool '98: Philip Michaels

Certain failures in life you know are going to happen.

Take the Boston Red Sox... perfect example. You can gather together the greatest ballclub ever assembled, slap a couple of dozen Red Sox uniforms on them and point them toward a World Series. And it won't make a dime's bit of difference because all of a sudden runts like Bucky Dent will start hitting home runs and ground balls will trickle through Bill Buckner's legs and Fred Lynn will knock himself silly running into a wall. And -- just like they always do when they come within sniffing distance of a championship -- the Sox will implode in a fireball of their own futility.

Or Charlie Brown... he always fails. He'll run to that football every week, totally convinced he's finally going to boot that ball into the stratosphere. And every week, Lucy yanks the ball away and Charlie Brown falls into a spectacular heap and makes some arch commentary about the vagaries of modern life. Only you don't know that because you've already skipped down to see what's cooking with "The Wizard of Id."

Why? Because you already know Charlie Brown is going to fail.

Yes, certain failures are inevitable. Cursed baseball teams. Woe begotten comic strip characters. And, of course, big-assed Lutherans who try to win the annual TeeVee Dead Pool.

I've never won this accursed contest. I've never even come close enough to scream that I've been jobbed. Each year, I diligently prepare for the contest. I research the new shows. I construct elaborate charts and graphs to help me weigh the programs' strengths and weaknesses. And then I cast my lot with some mangy mutt like Moloney or Lush Life or Over The Top.

And ultimately, I get jilted by fate.

It's not that the shows I pick for an early collapse don't eventually get axed. They do. Just not soon enough. And that's got me grinding my teeth down to the nub.

So this year... no preparation. No carefully reasoned analysis. No surveys to determine the pulse of the American viewing public. I'm using a new formula to make my Dead Pool selections, a formula that may finally vault me to the top of this crazy racket.

Theme picks.

Yes, all my picks for prompt and decisive cancellations will be built around a simple theme, a hateful trend that somehow has managed to permeate the fall schedules for each of the major networks. By singling out this theme, I hope to not only capture the 1998 Dead Pool crown and all the honors and prizes that entails but to also warn you -- the trusting but naive TeeVee reader -- that there's a menace afoot in TV Land and that by working together, maybe -- just maybe -- we can snuff this thing out in it's infancy.

That menace is, of course, those goddamn Irish shows.

Being part-paddy myself, I thought I would welcome the chance to see my people so well-represented on the Boob Tube this year. It's high time we sons and daughters of the Emerald Isle got our TV due. But with the promise of a full season of watching cops and lawyers and priests and wee little men drink and fight and drink some more and mutter darkly about the queen... well, I figure I'll be ready to revitalize the Know Nothing Party.

It'd be different, I suppose, if all of the shows didn't sound as if they all came from the same industrial factory where network TV shows are processed to remove any last hint of originality. You'll get loud-talkin' tough guys and sainted Irish grandmothers. You'll have old-timers waxing lyrically about "the old country" and how the pipes, the pipes are calling them. And you have schloads and schloads of step dancing and jigs and Enya.

Enya, for chrissake.

Well enough of that. My great, great grandpappy didn't hightail it from the County Cork, endure fierce anti-Irish prejudice in the New World and pickle his liver in cheap whiskey just so that several generations later, I would have to endure really bad TV shows about the Irish.

And that's why I'll light a candle for the vast majority of these Irish-themed shows to find their way into an early grave. Not because I'm filled with unfocused rage or because I wish misfortune upon my fellow man.

But for you, grandpappy. For you. And for Enya, too.

My picks in descending order:

3. Wind On The Water (NBC): While not technically a show about the Celtic people, Wind On The Water qualifies for my little theme on a technicality: The fact that a show this stupid could actually be conceived, let alone broadcast, is enough to get my Irish up.

How idiotic does Wind On The Water sound? Let me count the ways.

  • The show stars Bo Derek.

  • The show also stars Lee Horsley.

  • The show centers around the lives and loves of Hawaiian cattle ranchers.

  • Lee Horsley is trying to seize control of Bo's cattle ranch.

  • Bo's sons, in an effort to prevent Lee Horsley from stealing said cattle ranch, take to the extreme sports circuit to raise some extra cash.

  • Bo's sons, when not competing in street luge and sky surfing, vie for the affections of the same girl who also happens to be the daughter of Lee Horsley.

By my count, that's six kinds of stupid, enough to qualify for some sort of prize if the whole prospect of weekly helpings of Bo Derek weren't so utterly horrifying. I've seen "Bolero," folks. I've seen "Ghosts Can't Do It." I've seen "Tarzan, The Ape Man" in which Bo is out-acted by the likes of Miles O'Keefe. It seems unlikely that Bo's kept her immense acting talents under wraps all these years until a project with the magnitude of Wind on the Water rolls around.

There is one mitigating factor to Wind on the Water, though. The show may well be funnier than an average episode of Suddenly Susan. But even that, coupled with all the extreme sports footage in the world, won't be enough to save Bo's bacon.

And for that, a grateful nation should be thankful.

2. Costello (Fox): Sue Costello should fall to her knees and thank Mark McGwire. Because Fox decided to broadcast the St. Louis Cardinals game where Big Mac broke Roger Maris' single season home run record, it had to delay the premiere of Costello by a week. And that means an extra week where the unknown comic is able to take home a paycheck.

She should savor the flavor, though, because it ain't gonna last. I base my conclusion not on the premise that Costello is a bad show -- it is, with loud, unfunny people telling loud, unfunny jokes -- but rather on the numbers. The first episode of Costello lost 18 percent of its lead-in audience from King of the Hill. And that was against reruns. Imagine the hemorrhaging when Costello goes up against real shows.

1. To Have & To Hold (CBS): Jason Beghe is a dumb mick cop. Moira Kelly is the fellow potato-eater he falls in love with. What happens when a couple of paddies try to balance love, work and good times down at their favorite pub? Tedium and banality, most likely, set to an Irish brogue.

Again, I feel no particular animus toward To Have & To Hold. The show may very well be a delight to watch and not at all the strung-together hour of cliches about relationships that it sounds like.

The reason I think the show is going to go over about as well as a toast to the royal family in a Belfast pub is simply a matter of scheduling. The poor, dumb slobs at To Have & to Hold will have to face The Drew Carey Show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Party of Five and Star Trek: Voyager. Or to put it another way, shows that people watch.

No luck of the Irish for To Have & To Hold. We'll be holding a wake for this DOA drama faster than you can say "Erin go bragh."


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