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Fall '98: A Tale of the Tapes

My father was a firm believer in chores. Each and every day I had assigned tasks to perform around the house. Cutting the grass. Dishes. Laundry. Taking out the garbage. Without fail, every time I'd go out to play Dad would be lurking in the living room waiting for me to touch the front door.

"Mr. Collier," Dad would say the moment I touched the doorknob. "Did you do your chores?"

"Um.... I was gonna do 'em later," I'd say.

"No, no, no..." he'd admonish. "You gotta get the cotton picked before you go to town." Then he'd smile. And I'd turn around and go do my chores. That bastard.

I mention this story only because the past few weeks I've been ignoring a box of preview tapes in my corner office in the basement of TeeVee headquarters. For weeks I've hoped that this motley collection of cable and syndicated dreck would just disappear. For weeks I've ignored the pleas of Jason, our esteemed Teevee editor, to "make something funny" out of the stuff. For weeks when he's asked for updates on my piece, I've claimed to have "something in the works."

Last Friday, when I looked for my paycheck in my mail slot, nothing was there.

"Hey Jason," I said. "I didn't get a paycheck."

"Where's my piece?"


"The article on those preview tapes?"

"I don't do syndicated shows, man."

"I don't do a paycheck, then."

Then he smiled. That bastard. I guess it's time to pick the cotton.

The past two days I have watched 20 hours of the most execrable non-network shows put on video. Bad. Real bad. And the following are the best of the worst. So behold the strangest shows to premiere this fall on non-network TV:

Eatin' With James Earl Jones
Food Network

The Premise: Mr. Jones and a celebrity guest dine at some famous and some not-so-famous restaurants across the globe.


  • Jones consumes 12 waffles, a whole chicken, 6 fried eggs, 12 slices of bacon, 8 biscuits, several glasses of lemonade and a pitcher of beer.

  • Jones sticks guest diner Al Roker with his fork as the weatherman reaches for the last piece of chicken.

  • After chugging an entire pitcher of beer, Jones belches: "The Force is with Me."

Retro Hell
TV Land

Premise: Based on the book by the editors of ben is dead magazine, former kid-star Mason Reese gets a blast from the past.


  • A revealing interview with former Real People host Sarah Purcell, who admits that "I've grown to hate Byron Allen with every fiber of my being."

  • An amusing piece on the wacky "Toughskin Jeans Museum" in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

  • Footage of Rodney Allen Rippey performing at a bar mitzvah.

  • In a sobering piece on former Wonderama and Kids are People Too host Bob McAllister, Reese interviews the struggling performer as he attempts collect enough cans and bottles to pay for a room in a filthy flophouse. (He does.)

Snoop Doggy Dogg's Flyy Fishing & Hunting Show

Premise: Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg and his posse update the old hunting and fishing show for the 90s.


  • After landing a 100-pound marlin in the Florida Keys, Snoop executes it... gangland style.

  • Snoop sics a pack of Rottweilers on a baby deer in Utah.

  • While hunting in Alaska, Snoop and his entourage shoot 247 rounds into a hapless moose with Glock 18s.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
Sci-Fi Channel

The Premise: Host Robert Stack investigates and uncovers strange happenings and supernatural phenomena involving actor Kevin Bacon.

In the premiere episode:

  • Deepak Chopra admits in an interview that everything he teaches about spirituality he gleaned from repeated viewings of "Tremors."

  • Stack visits a tribe in Kenya that considers Bacon a god.

  • Kiefer Sutherland recounts how Bacon saved him from choking on a piece of salami.

  • We meet a Cincinnati, Ohio man and his collection of potatoes that look eerily like the cast of "Footloose."

Cigar World Hosted by Smokin' Joe Frazier

The Premise: Former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier shows you the world of cigars.


  • While examining the humidor of Bill Cosby, Frazier delivers a 10-minute tirade disparaging the Muhammad Ali's "retard act."

  • On a tour of the Canaria d'Oro cigar factory in the Dominican Republic, Frazier organizes workers into a frenzied chant of "Kill Ali."

  • In one of the show's more awkward moments, Frazier, while receiving a tour of actor George Hamilton's restaurant and cigar lounge in L.A., wonders aloud how long it would take to strangle Ali to death in his current state. "Not long, I guess," replies the horrified Hamilton.

    There you go. Can I have my paycheck now, Jason? For the love of God in heaven, don't make me watch a minute more.

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