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TeeVee Dead Pool 2000: Our Own Private Constitutional Crisis

With just one week of shopping left until the Electoral College meets to pick our 43rd president, George W. Bush and Al Gore have only now stopped going at it like a couple of sumo wrestlers fighting for the last bowl of chanko. Recounts, hand counts, court challenges -- we wouldn't have been surprised if the presidential race had come down to a Supreme Court-mandated game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors." Why not? The election, which almost ran into its second glorious month, was threatening to displace "The Fantasticks" as the longest-running Off-Broadway show.

The 2000 presidential election has carved out a place for itself in the history books. Never has such a collection of snafus, technicalities, legal mumbo-jumbo and poor sportsmanship turned a contest that should have been decided in a day, two days tops, into a never-ending ordeal.

Unless, that is, you're talking about TeeVee's own 2000 Dead Pool. What should have been a simple contest to reward whomever could correctly pick the first three TV shows to be cancelled this fall has turned into a quagmire of contingencies, randomness and rulings by fiat. Our own internal tussle over the Dead Pool this year is enough to make George W. Bush and Al Gore look like a couple of five-year-olds fighting over who gets the Chutes 'N Ladders game during playtime.

What's that you say? Bush and Gore looked like five-year-olds without any help from us? Very well.

But that doesn't change the fact that this year's Dead Pool has been nuttier than a bagful of macadamias.

Things started out so orderly. NBC noticed that Tucker -- its 20-percent-off coupon version of Malcolm in the Middle -- was single-handedly sinking its entire Monday night lineup. So the Peacock Network terminated Tucker with extreme prejudice and threw in the corpse of sophomore stinker Daddio just for good measure. Maybe they got a two-for-one deal on mob hits. I don't know.

When a week free of the stink of Tucker failed to improve things on Monday night, NBC pulled the trigger on Deadline, Dick Wolf's take on what Murder, She Wrote would have been like had Jessica Fletcher been a boozy tabloid columnist instead of an septuagenarian novelist.

The answer, apparently, is "cancelled in less than a month."

Deadline's, um, deadline threw a bit of a monkey wrench into the works. None of us Vidiots picked it to get cancelled. And only two of our readers -- Randy Dotinga and Robert Castillo -- correctly predicted that Deadline would go second. Unfortunately, since neither had picked Tucker to get cancelled first, their prescient knowledge of Oliver Platt's poor career decisions wasn't enough to vault them over the 10-person logjam in first place.

Still, by the end of October, two shows had been shitcanned, and the grim visage of Death was making cameo appearances on the sets of low-rated TV shows across the land. It wouldn't be long, we reasoned, before a third show would get the definitive hook, and we could crown a new Dead Pool Champion.

Then, the November sweeps came. And the waiting began.

ABC pulled The Trouble with Normal off its woeful night of sitcoms, and Fox followed suit minutes later by hiding FreakyLinks from the neighbors. Sadly for the purposes of Dead Pool closure, both networks claimed that the shows were merely on hiatus, certain to return to the schedule at... well, some point. Just not now. And the Dead Pool rules explicitly state that shows placed on hiatus don't count in the final standings.

We have our reasons for this, of course. Back in the days when the Dead Pool was a Vidiots-only affair and TeeVee was just a gleam in Jason Snell's HTML code, we made no such distinction between shows that were cancelled and put on hiatus. So a program would be taken off the air, a Vidiot would claim victory, boasts would be made, taunts would be exchanged, and all wagers would be paid off. And then, Something Wilder winds up back on the schedule, and all of a sudden, we have a blood feud on our hands. Boychuk and Knauss still can't be trusted to be in the same room alone with one another.

It doesn't matter that here we are, nearly halfway through December, and The Trouble with Normal and FreakyLinks have yet to make their triumphant return to the airwaves. It doesn't matter that even if those shows do come back, it will likely be with little fanfare and for a limited time. And it doesn't even matter that most of our readers -- including Dead Pool contestants jockeying for the winner's circle -- had included The Trouble with Normal or FreakyLinks in their picks. The rules say hiatus doesn't count. So hiatus doesn't count.

Of course, the rules are also pretty clear on how presidents should be elected, but that didn't stop the state of Florida from screwing the pooch, now did it?

So October gave way to November and November gave way to December, and we still didn't have a third show to fill out the bracket for our meaningless little contest. And by this time, our readers were getting agitated -- those who even remembered they had entered, anyway.

Then, last week, a miracle happened: a network finally canceled a show. NBC, which just is not having a good fall, informed the cast and crew of Titans that their services would no longer be required. Production would stop on Aaron Spelling's tedious and unremarkable nighttime soap, with NBC burning off the last remaining Titans episodes.

With the doubly joyous news that our contest was finally at an end and that we'd never have to watch Casper Van Dien struggle to pronounce polysyllabic words again, we prepared to announce the results to the one or two readers who hadn't abandoned our site for TV Barn. That was when the TeeVee lawyers -- curse their black-hearted, litigious hides -- bolted into the room, waving the Dead Pool rule sheet above their heads and insisting that we hold off on certifying a winner.

The trouble, it seems, was a question of semantics. Yes, Titans was officially cancelled. Sets were taken down. Promotional materials were discarded. Casper Van Dien was returned to the old-growth forest from which he came. Yet, unlike most canceled shows, which are immediately driven into the sea as the last traces of their existence are erased from human memory, Titans is still on the air. It's going to be on the air until January. Viewers will still have a chance to surf by NBC on Mondays and say to themselves, "Why is Yasmine Bleeth sharing screen time with that giant slab of plywood?"

In other words, while NBC had put Titans on the ice floe and pushed it out to sea, the show has yet to officially breathe its last. Which meant that the Dead Pool -- and our long, national nightmare -- would seemingly have to continue.

NBC compounded the problem the next day when it came to its senses and axed The Michael Richards Show, but pulled the same stunt it had with Titans -- you're cancelled, sure, but we're going to keep showing episodes until we run out, just so we don't have to broadcast 30 hours of Dateline to remain on the air. Within minutes of each other, ABC pulled Madigan Men off its schedule, while UPN -- UPN still exists? -- nixed Freedom.

And just like that, the TeeVee overlords became more confused than a gaggle of Palm Beach County voters.

Do we certify Titans as the third show to be officially cancelled this year? Or do we choose between Titans and Michael Richards, whichever one stops polluting the airwaves first? But then what about Madigan Men? It's off the air for good, isn't it? And come to think of it, Pat Buchanan's vote totals do look a little fishy. If the accountants who handle the Oscar ballots had to deal with this kind of nonsense, they'd hang themselves with their calculator printouts.

But in the end, we came to a clear and nearly unanimous decision: Hell, with it -- Titans, it is. Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, of course.

The end result is that ParryRacer -- known to people who look up his AOL profile as Doug Parry -- wins the 2000 Dead Pool by correctly picking Tucker as the first show to get cancelled and Titans as the third show. Indeed, Doug Parry was the only Dead Pool contestant to correctly name more than one cancelled show, let alone get two of his three picks in the right order. And he bested all of us Vidiots, where Gregg Wrenn was the only one who managed to nail Tucker's untimely demise while the rest of us sucked wind.

(That makes Wrenn the two-time defending Dead Pool champion among the Vidiots, which would be galling and completely unacceptable if not for the fact that none of us bought him dinner last year. Don't worry, Gregg -- we'll double what we gave you last year to make up for things.)

As for the rest of our contestants, readers Allie Johnston, Matsu Terwilliger, Marshall Ray Marseca, Sean Sandquist, Anthony Foglia, Brian Jenkins, Shane Bodrero, Robert Bishop and Thad Edwards wound up in a nine-way tie for second, meaning they get the honor of seeing their names on our Web site -- probably misspelled.

"They get dick," insisted one of the Vidiots whom we won't name until we publish our tell-all memoir. "We don't have enough prizes to dole out to nine people." Then he left the room, presumably to destroy Christmas toys in front of needy orphans.

But you know what? To reward these plucky contestants for enduring the longest Dead Pool in the annals of human history, we'll break into the slush fund and give them a prize -- a cheap, useless trinket that's worth less than the postage we'll spend shipping it to them, but a prize nevertheless. There's lots of stuff on Boychuk's desk that he won't notice if it goes missing. And Collier left a lot of stuff here, after we fired him and had the locks changed.

Giving and sharing -- that's what the holidays are all about. That and having presidential hopefuls settle their dispute by doing eggnog shots.


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