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Bo Knows Cancellation: The '98 Dead Pool Decided

"This quarry cries on havoc. O proud Death,
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck."

--Hamlet, V, ii

No offense to Shakespeare, who knew how to put a sentence together all pretty-like, but when he wrote those lines in "Hamlet," he wouldn't have known from a quarry that cried on havoc, even if it strode up to him and kicked him square in the first folio.

Oh sure, when Fortinbras utters that line to cap off the three hours of shits and giggles that is "Hamlet," four people are lying dead on the stage, two more have been executed off-stage, some broad has thrown herself into a river a couple of scenes back and her old man winds up shishkebabbed on the whim of a spooked-out Dane. That's a hell of a lot of mayhem, especially for something that's not a Simpson-Bruckheimer production.

But stack that pile of bodies from the last scene of "Hamlet" up against the wreckage of the 1998 Fall TV season, and it makes the Bard's work look like a church picnic. An especially bloody and calamity-filled church picnic, sure, but a church picnic, nevertheless.

Skeptical? Then for those of you scoring at home, consider this: Costello? Dead. The Brian Benben Show? History. Living In Captivity? Eighty-sixed. Desmond Pfeiffer? Hasta. Mercy Point? Compost. Holding the Baby? Worm food. Wind on Water? Gone. But, for those of us who sat through the pilot, not soon enough.

That's seven new shows obliterated off the map in a little over a month's time. TV's creative crème de la crème -- rich, powerful people who are paid millions of dollars to figure out what kind of bland, inoffensive programming you and I are most likely to sit through -- green-lighted each of these shows. They spent millions to produce the programs and millions more to promote them. And now, after two to six broadcasts, they've seemingly come to their senses. "A foul-mouthed Boston waitress?" they might as well be saying. "Abraham Lincoln's black British butler and his wacky adventures? An emergency room in outer space? Bo Derek? Jesus Christ, what the hell were we thinking?"

What the hell indeed? Because the rich, powerful people who conceived and produced this crap before unleashing it on unarmed civilians can at least fall back on their millions and their sport utility vehicles and their summer homes in Jackson Hole. But those of us who tuned in... we just have the memories. The haunting awful memories of Sue Costello's banshee-like wails and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln using a crude, school-yard euphemism to refer to her husband's penis and Bo Derek doing... well, just about anything.

That's a pretty short end of the stick to get stuck with. But for a few lucky folks out there, we can offer at least a little solace to see you through these dark times, a salve to take away the sting of another autumn of faulty pilots and broken promises.

We can offer you the chance to win valuable prizes off of the failings of others. We can offer you the Dead Pool.

If anything, this year's Dead Pool merely emphasized the cruel vagaries of the TV business. Costello was a bad show, true, and no doubt deserving of the dubious title of First Show to Get Shitcanned, Class of '98. But was it the worst thing that we saw on television this fall? Not as long as Bo Derek is riding horses in the Hawaiian surf and her chucklehead sons are jumping off of helicopters to earn a few extra bucks and her husband is getting killed by a drilling combine, no. Not by a long shot.

And while we're on the subject of the cruel whims of God, how can He, in his mercy, strike down brain-dead, sophomoric piffle like The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer while sparing brain-dead, sophomoric piffle like The Secret Lives of Men? Why must banal family program like Holding the Baby die while Brother's Keeper lives agonizingly on? And won't someone please deliver a bullet to the base of The Army Show's skull? Please?

But these are questions for a higher power -- a clergyman, a Talmudic scholar, or Les Moonves. Ours is not to reason why. Ours is only to sort through the wreckage to toss well-deserved laurels and cheap baubles at the lucky readers who correctly identified the first three shows to go down in flames.

But even that wasn't easy. Oh sure, Costello was picked off right quick, and soon thereafter, Brian Benben was gone-gone. Then, things got a little hairy.

Living in Captivity was yanked off the air... but not canceled. Desmond Pfeiffer was sent to the showers with the promise that it would return. It didn't. Maybe Mercy Point was put on hiatus. Maybe it wasn't. Frankly, we aren't diligent enough to follow the ever-evolving whimsies of UPN executives. And then there's The Army Show... which is still on the air!

I mean, honestly, can't someone do something about that?

1st Show:Costello
2nd Show:Brian Benben
3rd Show:Wind on Water

1. J. LaFerriere:3.5 points
2. M. Genrich:3 points
2. D. Kelly:3 points
4. N. Braun:1 point
4. R. Cadenhead:1 point
1. P. Michaels:1 point
2. G. Knauss:.5 points
2. P. Ko:.5 points
3. G. Wrenn:.5 points
In the end, though, the TeeVee Dead Pool Rules Committee -- which basically consists of me, my inner demons and whatever bartender is serving whiskey sours to me on that particular afternoon -- decided that Wind on Water was indeed the third show canceled this season. NBC executives, the flow of blood apparently returning to their brains, yanked the Bo Derek-Lee Horsley-Interchangeable Pretty Boy clunker after just two episodes... which, unfortunately, was two episodes too late to stave off any lasting damage to the human soul.

But it was right on time for Jody LaFerriere, who captures this year's TV Dead Pool crown. Jody correctly deduced that Costello and Wind on Water would be among the first shows to flatline this fall, edging out second-place finishers Michael Genrich and David Kelly.

In all honestly, it pains us Vidiots to bestow this honor upon Jody. First, Jody sent us e-mail, proclaiming that The Secret Lives of Men was not the painful abdominal cramping we condemned it as, but rather, an enjoyable half-hour of television. Drug use has not been ruled out.

Then, as soon as Wind on Water bid aloha to the land of the living, Jody kept pestering us with e-mail along the line of:

They yanked Wind on the Water....WHERE'S MY PRIZE!!!!??


now that I know Bo Derek won't be darkening my doorstep again, I'm just wondering if you've retabulated the Dead Pool. According to my records, someone owes me a gold star and a hearty handshake.

Jody, Jody, Jody -- calm yourself, my friend. Take a look at me. I was the winning Vidiot in this year's Dead Pool. And am I getting all bent out of shape about it? Am I hurling cruel taunts at the people I've bested? Am I demanding the quick and immediate awarding of my justly earned prime rib dinner?

Goddamned right I am. Pay up, deadbeats!

So Jody gets to pick from an array of fabulous prizes -- a Hillshire Farms cheese and sausage gift pack; An autographed copy of MTV's The Real World Diaries; a California State Lottery ticket; a cheap-ass TeeVee T-shirt; or dinner with the Vidiot of your choice where we'll thoughtfully pick up half the tab!

Also getting their mitts on prizes are Michael Genrich and David Kelly, who are both good. Just not Jody LaFerriere good. We're even willing to throw some trinkets in the direction of our fourth-place finishers Neil Braun and Rogers Cadenhead -- even though we're not legally obligated to give them bupkus. It's just because we're a bunch of big-hearted slobs here at TeeVee. That, and our Hillshire Farms cheese and sausage packs are starting to get a bit ripe.

As for the rest of you, we wish we could give each and everyone of you a prize, as a way of thanking you for your kind support. But the boys over in accounting say that would be a real hassle, tax-wise. So you get nothing... except for the warm feeling we all get, knowing that The Army Show is still being broadcast by an English-speaking network.

May God have mercy on us all.


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