A Very Foxxy New Year
Except for ours. Because we know better.
When most people think of 1999, they think of the eponymous Prince song and all the joyful images it conjures up -- parties and merriment and nihilistic gang bangs with Wendy and Lisa and Apollonia. But just as George Orwell's 1984 provided a chilling look at the rise of totalitarianism and the downfall of the individual almost exactly as it occurred 15 years ago, a work of equal artistic importance serves as a dire warning about the dangers that 1999 holds.
We're talking, of course, about Space: 1999.
The syndicated '70s series was scoffed at in its time, mocked by short-sighted naysayers unable to grasp the lasting significance of the Martin Landau-Barbara Bain magnum opus. But looking back on it now, Space: 1999 could have taught us so much about the future... if only we had been wise enough to listen. We could have learned the dangers of nuclear waste, after a nuclear explosion catapulted Moonbase Alpha into the darkest regions of space. We could have embraced tolerance by realizing that the love between a man and a hot-blooded alien was just as sacred as human love. And we could have understood first-hand the horrors of seeing Martin Landau in a futuristic, unisex jumpsuit.
Yes, we could have learned all of this. But now... now it's too late.
Superstitious? Perhaps. But TV scribes are, by nature, a superstitious lot. Tom Shales of the Washington Post can't write an article without stroking his lucky rabbit's foot 11 times. A certain writer at Entertainment Weekly -- your secret is safe with us, Owen -- composes his stories using only a Oujia board. And you don't want to know what foul spirits the fellows at TV Guide traffic with.
With so many of our colleagues delving into the world of the supernatural, here at Teevee we've succumbed to competitive pressures and dabble in the dark arts from time to time. And with the cursed year 1999 now breathing down our necks, what better time to turn to the spirit world for insight into the fearful months to come?
Just last week we held a seance in our offices, communing with the spirit of Redd Foxx.
"Abandon all hope for 1999," Redd said, "And while you at it, abandon your ugly-ass go-rilla faces!"
Good ol' Redd. Even in the afterlife, he's still got it.
"Say, boys," said Redd, puffing on a pricey Dominican cigar. "Why you fellas asking me about the year to come?"
Well, Redd, we explained, we put together a Web site, and it's generally customary to write a looking-ahead kind of article to start the year and...
"And you're going to write that same ol' clap-trap? The same boring-ass article that everyone writes at the beginning of the year?" Redd flung his cigar angrily to the floor. "You sons of bitches is even lazier than Grady, and he's the laziest cat I know."
That we are, Redd. That we are.
Jan. 10: The studio audience for ABC's The View sits stunned as co-host Debbie Matenapoulos says the smartest thing she ever said on the talk show: "I quit."
Jan. 31: In the midst of Fox's 12-hour Super Bowl pregame show, a sleep-deprived Terry Bradshaw mistakes co-host James Brown for linebacker L.C. Greenwood. "Keep that bastard away from me," an agitated Bradshaw shrieks.
Feb. 7: In an odd episode of Inside the Actors Studio the usually chummy James Lipton calls actor Tim Curry "a fat-assed hack."
Feb. 11: With the NBA lockout settled, Reebok attempts to mine fan resentment with an ad campaign called "Rich, Spoiled and Stupid." In one of the more popular commercials, Philadelphia 76er Allen Iverson personally pistol-whips a poor single mother after she gets "uppity" at one of his charity events.
Feb. 16: NYPD Blue scores record ratings in a Sweeps month stunt when guest star David Caruso stops Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) on the street and begs for his dignity back.
Feb .19: Parents all over the nation begin burning Rugrats merchandise after an interview in which Angelica Pickles says, "To kids, we're bigger than Jesus."
Mar. 9: In a special episode of Felicity, an old high school chum visits New York and reveals that not only was Felicity popular in high school, she was a "major slut."
Mar. 15: In an attempt to show the entertainment industry that CBS is not in the "geezer" business, network honcho Les Moonves announces the launch of the sitcom Two Fat Balding 40-year-old Guys and a Hot Dog Stand in which the two stars, Fred "Rerun" Berry and George Wendt, complain about "newfangled notions and ideas." Says a gushing Moonves, "This, along with Becker, shows that CBS is the 'hip' network."
Mar. 31: UPN's promotion "31 Days of Legacy" fails to spark interest in the show.
Apr. 1: Deposed NBC chief Warren Littlefield bounces back to the limelight when PBS hires the bearded TV executive to perform the same magic he worked with network television on the public airwaves. "There are going to be some changes around here," Littlefield crows.
Apr. 14: Ratings for the PBS show Teletubbies reach a record high as millions of viewers tune in to find out "Who Shot Laa-Laa?" (It's Dipsy.)
Apr. 30: Geraldo Rivera gets in a scuffle with Bill Press and Robert Novak of Crossfire after both shows book the exact same talking heads to argue about the Clinton impeachment trial.
May 6: In a press conference that sends shockwaves throughout Hollywood, Garry Shandling announces he is suing fellow comedian David Brenner because "everything he got, he got because people confused him with me."
May 7: Heather Thomas announces she is suing Heather Locklear for undisclosed damages.
May 8: Peter Weller announces he is suing James Woods.
May 9: Rambling incoherently, Rod Steiger announces he is suing Carroll O'Connor on the grounds that O'Connor is "my evil clone created by the military industrial complex."
May 10: Rod Steiger disappears from the face of the earth.
May 12: In what can only be a sweeps stunt, Millennium's Frank Black (Lance Henrikson) cracks a smile. In another first for the show, the episode actually makes sense. "You can't hit a home run every time at bat," a despondent Chris Carter says afterwards.
May 15: On a very special season finale of Chicago Hope, Christine Lahti sobs violently about how nobody understands "what it's like to be a working mother." No one seems to notice.
May 23: After the Senate convicts him by a two-thirds vote, Bill Clinton lands a gig on the next season of Melrose Place. "I'm hoping to nail that vixen Amanda," Clinton confesses.
June 8: Law & Order executive producer Dick Wolf stuns TV insiders by firing the show's stars and replacing them with Jason Bateman, Max Wright, Ruth Buzzi and Charles Nelson Reilly.
June 9: Ally McBeal executive producer David Kelly fires Calista Flockhart and replaces her with the emaciated remains of an ancient Inca villager dug up outside of Lima, Peru. No one seems to notice.
June:18: From the creators of Xena: The Warrior Princess comes Jesus Christ: The Untold Adventures. In the first episode: Jesus and sidekick Mark travel back in time to foil Lucifer's evil plan to kill King David.
June 23: The visage of Norman Fell appears on a freezer in a supermarket in Teaneck, N.J. Says a tearful John Ritter, "It's a modern-day miracle."
Aug. 8: Thousands tune in to a pay-per-view event to see who will get a word in edge-wise when Roy Firestone and Charlie Rose attempt to interview each other in the same place at the same time.
Sept. 10: Emmy awards are handed out to Kelsey Grammer, Jimmy Smits, Christine Lahti and, inexplicably, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Sept.12: The six television networks launch the new fall seasons, rolling out 36 new programs.
Sept. 15: The six television networks cancel all 36 new programs, replacing them with newsmagazines.
Sept. 23: After protests from the Anti-Defamation League, UPN cancels a midseason replacement, Camp Dresden!, a sitcom based in a concentration camp, without showing an episode. Posters for the show, "Genocide has never been funnier!" become instant collector's items.
Sept. 24: Camp Dresden! producer Larry Hovis is found dead in his apartment with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Oct. 1: PBS unveils the latest installment of Masterpiece Theatre, Henry VIII: Single Guy. The hilarious look at the life of England's swinginest monarch stars Jonathan Silverman. "It screams 40 share!" crows PBS chief Warren Littlefield.
Oct. 19: In an attempt to reduce production costs, the struggling UPN network buys the rights to Diff'rent Strokes, enhances the old episodes with computer graphics and retitles the series Diff'rent Strokes 2000.
Oct. 20: A UPN executive actually reads this article, and upon reading the last item, thinks, "Hot damn, that's a great idea!"
Nov. 7: The new season of X-Files kicks off with Mulder (David Duchovny) confiding to Scully (Gillian Anderson) that "I'm tired of this freaky-ass spaceman shit. Why don't you and me skip this mumbo jumbo and make some serious whoopee?" Scully blinks.
Nov. 13: Fox debuts its new Sweeps month special: "World's Deadliest Accidents That May or May Not Feature Gratuitous Shots of Naked Women." Nobody seems to notice.
Nov. 18: NBC airs a new drama about a close-knit family of Hungarian immigrants living in New York City.
Nov. 19: ABC airs a new drama about a close-knit family of Bulgarian immigrants living in Boston.
Nov. 20: CBS airs a new drama about a close-knit family of working-class Greeks living in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Nov. 21: Fox airs a new drama about a close-knit family of Swedes. And they occasionally get naked!
Dec. 24: PBS scores its most impressive pledge month ever with the new hit series, Three Tenors and a Little Lady. "We call it Must Pledge TV," Warren Littlefield chuckles.
Dec. 31: Convinced the end is near, Dick Clark opens fire on ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, killing 16 and wounding 29.
And finally, on Jan. 1, 2000, the Y2K bug knocks out the nation's power supply, forcing all six TV networks off the air.
No one seems to notice.
Additional contributions to this article by: James Collier, Philip Michaels.
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