We watch... so you don't have to.

Dead Pool 2000: Legends of the Fall

There's a distinct bite in the air. The leaves in the sycamore trees outside our window have lost their bright green luster and have begun to turn a shade of golden brown. The kids are back in school, and for the first time in months, we have a moment's peace to ourselves. And here in the Bay Area, Oakland Raiders games are once again blacked out from local television due to insufficient ticket sales.

Yes, autumn is finally here.

And yet, something is missing -- some essential part of the season which reminds us every year that summer has clocked out and that winter is warming up in the bullpen. Let's see: Sunsets coming earlier and earlier? Check. Halloween decorations up at the local supermarket? Check. The Los Angeles Dodgers failing to make the playoffs? Double-check. The sight of Vidiots sobbing after watching Tony Danza's return to television in a new fall series?

Ahhhhh. That's it!

We're what, a stone's throw from October, and the 2000-2001 TV season is still in the locker room limbering up and doing hurdler's stretches. Usually at this point in September, we're ass-deep in new and returning TV shows, counting down the final days until the runt of the litter gets the first cancellation notice of the new fall season. True, UPN and the WB have rolled out a couple or three shows for our critical amusement, but that only serves to underscore this essential truth: No self-respecting TV network wants any part of the month of September this year.

Blame the Olympics for the new season's delay. With America theoretically glued to the set watching pixie-like Mary Lous and Keris and Mistys vaulting their way to bigger and better endorsement deals, the networks decided, not unreasonably, that folks wouldn't be clamoring for that new show about the newspaper columnist who solves crimes or the one about the guy who's been cursed by an angry, voodoo-practicing ex-girlfriend. So instead of season premieres, we get a month of reruns, reality specials and fresh, new episodes of Big Brother -- truly a grim time in the history of creative endeavor. And with the baseball playoffs eating up prime time next month, you'll be pricing Thanksgiving turkeys by the time all the new and returning shows debut.

For the most part, though, a spate of season and series premieres will begin next Monday, less than a day after the Olympic torch is doused. Then you can enjoy the exploits of Michael Richards as a bumbling private detective. You can thrill to the sight of Geena Davis as a woman balancing the wacky burdens and motherhood and career. You can fall to your knees and thank the deity of your choice for the triumphant network TV returns of Mike O'Malley, Christine Baranski, Craig T. Nelson, and -- yes, children, it's true -- the aforementioned Tony Danza.

To which we say, is it set in stone that the Olympics have to end this weekend? Couldn't we add a couple more events? Surely, there are some countries out there that haven't won a medal yet.

No? Damn.

You can understand our reluctance to see the TV season kick off. Last year, amid the usual slate of warmed-over premises hastily thought up on the way to the pitch meeting, a few gems emerged -- The West Wing, Now and Again, Freaks and Geeks, Malcolm in the Middle. This year, there's not a hint of that rich a crop. We're looking forward to Ed, the quirky offering from David Letterman's production company, and maybe Andre Braugher's star turn in Gideon's Crossing and... um... hey, Aaron's Spelling's got a new show! That's sure to be just... great.


And let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that Bette isn't a tedious vanity project thrown together for an indifferent star, that Tucker isn't this year's Shasta McNasty, that the sound of producers and executives hastily backing away from Freakylinks is an encouraging sign and not the first indication that the show is being fitted for a toe tag. Let's assume we'll love all the new shows. You know what? Two of the four shows we loved from last year still got canceled. Damned if we do care. Double-damned if we don't.

Look, it's not like we're alone in dreading the arrival of the fall season. Network executives seem to be frantically filing for extensions as well -- and they've had months to prepare. Fox was set to air a sitcom from comic Robert Schimmel on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Then, the show got shelved and Schimmel got ill, and now Fox has turned over the slot to one of its most popular programs: "To Be Announced." Also making the final cut at Fox: an hour of Police Videos on Friday and a Saturday schedule anchored by 60 minutes of Cops, now in its 63rd glorious season.

Even the actual shows -- you know, with casts and scripts and stuff -- that made the final schedule are far from finalized themselves. The Michael Richards Show, starring the once and future Kramer, has undergone massive retooling. So has The Steven Weber Show, which has seen its name changed to Cursed and its original co-creators sent to the cornfield. Or consider the sorry case of The Untitled John Goodman Project. Once saucily called Don't Ask, the show dropped costar Anthony LaPaglia and changed its premise from a mismatched buddy sitcom to a sitcom about a family of wacky eccentrics. As we type this, the show is called Normal, Ohio, and presumably, John Goodman still stars. Unless the producers are looking to replace him with another jovial fat character actor.

Wayne Knight, call your agent.

No, the new shows give us no hope because they give so little comfort to the networks whose fortunes actually hinge on whether anyone watches. If NBC has so little faith in The Michael Richards Show, for example, that it's willing to fire nearly everyone, start from scratch and hope that the results are halfway airable, then why should we get too worked up about this nonsense?

We'll take our chances with the returning shows, thank you. We'll bide our time wondering who survives last spring's West Wing cliffhanger. (Our guess? Marty Sheen somehow pulls through.) We'll devote untold man-hours watching Fox's stable of proven sitcoms -- Malcolm and The Simpsons and That '70s Show and the woefully underrated Futurama. We'll even tune in to ER every now and again. To laugh and point, mostly. But that's two more things than we'll be doing for The District.

All the new shows will get from us is the back of our hand. And the humiliating prospect of taking home the top prize in our annual Dead Pool.

The Dead Pool, for those of you playing the home version of TeeVee, is an annual contest among the Vidiots to pick the first new show that gets axed by overanxious network executives. Using expert analysis, divining rods, 20-sided dice and pure, unadulterated guessing, each of us picks three shows we think are fated to be worm food. Whoever gets the most confirmed kills enjoys a lovely dinner at a moderately priced steakhouse and the universal acclaim that comes from being able to spot the true Shemp in a room full of Curlys.

And you, gentle reader, get to play along.

Against the advice of our attorneys, we again are opening up the TeeVee Dead Pool to our legions of readers. For the cost of a simple e-mail, you can tell us which three shows you think will get canceled before the fall of the first snow. If you're right, you'll win a host of valuable prizes -- OK, we'll send you a T-shirt -- and the honor that comes with outwitting TV executives and Vidiots alike. And if you're wrong... well, what's the worst that could happen? We ridicule your e-mail?

OK. Bad example. Just enter.


Out of the 30 or so new shows airing on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the WB and UPN, tells us which three -- in order -- will be canceled first. It's just that simple.

OK, it's not entirely that simple. You get three points if you pick the first show correctly. You get two points if you pick the second show correctly. You get one point for the third show. If any of the shows you pick gets canceled but not in the order you picked it, you get half a point.

Shows are considered canceled when they cease to be in production and the networks have no plans to ever air a single episode again, not even in prisons or on United Airlines flights. A show that goes on hiatus is not -- under the rules of our silly, meaningless contest -- considered to be canceled.

Oh, and one other thing: Include the date you think the first show to reap its eternal reward will get shit-canned. That's what we'll use as a tiebreaker in case more than one of you comes up with the same score. This is very important. Last year, not one winning entry included the tiebreaker, and our normally aboveboard contest took on all the legitimacy of a Yugoslavian presidential election. So turn in the tiebreaker date, or we'll know you stopped reading several paragraphs ago and our feelings will be hurt.


Like we said: you get a T-shirt. Maybe a bumper sticker. Maybe a trinket Michaels picked up on his recent trip to France. We could bullshit you and say that you'll win an undisclosed cash sum or some valuable Hollywood knick-knack, but frankly, you people seem too clever to fall for that kind of flimflammery. You win, you get a T-shirt.

And your weight in golden coins!*


Send your entry to teevee@teevee.org by Monday, Oct. 2. Only one entry per person, but really, if you don't pay attention to the tiebreaker rule, what gives us the idea you'll listen to this one?

Stay tuned. Coming soon: Philip Michaels handicaps the fall season, show by show.

* Winners will not actually receive coins, golden or otherwise. Just the T-shirt. We can't drive that point home enough.

Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *