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Dead Pool 2000: Marked for Banishment

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Show Odds
Freakylinks Even
The Trouble With Normal Even
Tucker Even
Hype 3-2
Michael Richards 3-2
Madigan Men 9-5
Gilmore Girls 2-1
The Geena Davis Show 5-2
Bette 3-1
DAG 3-1
Ed 3-1
Yes, Dear 3-1
Grosse Pointe 7-2
Normal, Ohio 7-2
Girlfriends 4-1
Level 9 4-1
Deadline 5-1
Freedom 5-1
Welcome to New York 5-1
Dark Angel 6-1
Gideon's Crossing 7-1
Cursed 8-1
CSI 10-1
The Fugitive 10-1
Titans 10-1
The $treet 15-1
That's Life 25-1
The District 25-1
Boston Public 30-1
Nikki 50-1
To hear metaphor-mad critics tell it, this coming season is little more than a live-action version of Survivor, played against the high-stakes tableau of network TV. Just as the lovable castaways of Survivor arrived in the wilds of Borneo ready to duke it out for a million smackers, the hardy souls that make up the freshman class of network shows hit the airwaves in full force next week, competing for valuable cash prizes of their own. In the days ahead, we'll be treated to immunity challenges, tenuous alliances and treacherous backbiting. But in the end, the prize of high ratings, critical raves and a devoted audience will be awarded to the contender you least expect -- a devious, naked fat man.

The tribe has spoken. Oliver Platt -- we salute you.

There are only two problems with this scenario. First off, TV critics, while lovely people on the whole, are usually full of hot gas. And most would gladly turn a Styx album into a metaphor if they thought it would eat up enough column inches to get the copy editor off their ass ("In many ways, NBC's Thursday night lineup is a lot like side one of 'Kilroy Was Here'...").

The second problem? The new fall season is almost nothing like Survivor. There're no tribal councils, no Jeff Probst, no gratuitous rat-eating. Though NBC has given Steven Weber his own show, and you never know what'll happen when sweeps rolls around.

No, to put the new network shows in their proper perspective, we have to turn to that other CBS reality show -- that mother lode of utter indifference, Big Brother.

Like Big Brother, the new shows will arrive with a lot of hype and a ton of fanfare. Like Big Brother, they'll try to capture some of the buzz surrounding their predecessors. Like Big Brother, most of the new shows will turn out to be hastily assembled, poorly produced and resoundingly amateurish.

And like Big Brother, the vast majority of the new shows that debut in the next few weeks will be well nigh unwatchable.

The trick, then, is to figure out which of the 30 new shows are inoffensive and unassuming enough to remain unmolested in our Big Brother-like compound and which will be the first to be beaten with orange-filled socks by angry housemates once the lights are doused.

To do that, it takes hours upon hours of study, of introspection, of asking the tough questions. Questions like:

  • Will Boston Public adhere to the time-honored David E. Kelley tradition of sucking wind by season two, or will it follow the time-saving lead of Snoops and blow chunks from the get-go?
  • Is there any discernable difference between The Trouble With Normal and Normal, Ohio, other than the fact that one features John Goodman as a gay father and the other, presumably, does not?
  • Which show is America clamoring to see -- Craig T. Nelson as a police commissioner who solves crimes in The District, Marg Helenberger as a forensic scientist who solves crimes in C.S.I, or Oliver Platt as a newspaper columnist who solves crimes in Deadline? Or Geena Davis as a corporate executive who commits crimes against humanity on The Geena Davis Show?
  • Since both shows air at exactly the same time, just how much darker is James Cameron's new Dark Angel than Joss Whedon's returning Angel? And will I need to don protective eyewear?
  • If Bette Midler plays herself on a TV show, and nobody watches, does she cease to exist? And is it wrong to believe that's reason enough not to tune in?
  • Most important, which one of these dogs gets put down first?

I've spent the better part of a week contemplating these questions. And I believe the answers are: Yes; I'm not sure; what was the fourth one again?; much darker, I guess; no; oh God, is it ever; and beats the hell out of me.

And I supposedly do this kind of thing for a living. What hope can you people expect to have?

That's why, when handicapping the new shows for Dead Pool purposes, we've brought back the Cliché-O-Meter -- the measuring stick that proves not only isn't there anything original on TV, the Web sites that write about TV are starting to copy themselves, too.

To make it even easier to heap scorn and derision upon the creative efforts of others, we've devised a new method for tracking pabulum -- our patented Big Brother Scale. Using complex mathematical formulas, we're able to boil down each of the new shows to their essential characteristics, matching them to the tedious Big Brother cast member who best represents those unfortunate traits. For those of you unfamiliar with the cast of Big Brother -- and I'm just going to assume that's everyone in the room -- the Big Brother Scale breaks down like this, from least offensive to most awful:
Too dignified and banal to survive Curtis
Bland and unremarkable
Completely forgettable Will Mega
Will Mega
Creepy and unsettling
Foul-mouthed and resentful Josh
Utterly clueless
Overwrought and under-whelming Jamie
Dense and delusional
Painfully unfunny Karen
Repeated viewings may actually result in lasting trauma

And if that doesn't clear things up for you, I can always prattle on about the similarities between the new fall season and Styx's "Paradise Theater."

No? Well, happy hunting then.


We stick in the disclaimer here about the Dead Pool every year, with the misguided optimism that people actually will read articles from start to finish before they send angry letters to smart-alecky Web sites. And every year, we learn again that the Internet has given people with poor reading comprehension skills a larger forum in which to make spectacles of themselves.

But hope -- and the disclaimers that come with them -- springs eternal. And so we'll repeat it once more if, for no other reason, than to hear the melodious strains of our own voices: None of us Vidiots have actually seen the shows we are mercilessly deriding. We are guessing as to which ones will get cancelled first based upon conjecture and carefully developed hypotheses. If we happen to say something particularly mean-spirited about your favorite actor or the show that employs you and you feel you have to write and give us what for, please don't e-mail us. Because we'll only make fun of you and all you hold dear with extra zeal.

And that goes double for you irascible Styx fans.


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