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Low-Res Resurrection

dot-comedy.jpg Looking to the Internet for exciting new television programming ideas is just not a good idea--unless it involves mucho nudity and one of those "premium channels" you can't afford, then there's an argument.

Same goes for Britain's ability to export something watchable, but danged if they don't keep trying. The Americanized version of English show Big Brother's main (hell, practically only) viewership was on the Net, but only because it hinted at streaming two-inch RealVideo nakedness. As for Big Brother the TV show, we all know it received a collective Yankee shrug matched only by the US of A's reception of the latest Spice Girls album. Yes, there's a new Spice Girls album--it's called "Reduced Price: $1.95," or at least that's what the stickers on the CD covers say down at the Wal-Mart.

Just imagine the horror of watching something British and web-based--ABC did. Last month, The Mouse Network launched a show "inspired by the British series of the same name," Dot Comedy. Then they deleted it faster than a porn site e-mail after a single airing. Now Gyno-American powered Oxygen has picked up the remaining episodes to fill time between online shoe-shopping shows, and you'll understand why in two paragraphs.

As you may have gathered from the clever title, Dot Comedy is about the Internet and all the wacky stuff available out there on Al Gore's Infobahn. But, like forwarded e-mail jokes with hundreds of those ">" symbols and goofy MPEG movies that clog up your company's mail server until the Computer Guy is forced to come into the office and "interface" with humans by screeching funny words like "bandwidth" and "FTP," the actual "comedy" of Dot Comedy was decidedly low-res.

"In the competitive development arena, we are always on the lookout for new programming ideas, and the World Wide Web is a rich, underutilized source of creativity," said a then-hopeful ABC in a press release. "Dot Comedy is an innovative, daring show that taps into the immediate, electric nature of the Internet. We couldn't be more thrilled." Translation: "We download free content, get some cut-rate cable personalities to intro it and make 'edgy' comments, then hold a studio audience leftover from Funniest Home Videos at gunpoint and force them to laugh hysterically--bang! We've produced a show that's cheaper than a box of new Spice Girls albums!"

At least Carsey-Werner and Oxygen (the production company and cable network that jointly produced Dot Comedy--get the connection now?) could have tried hiring the unemployment-bound Posh, Baby, Scary and, er, Spunky?, to host the show. Instead, we got identically creepy twins Jason and Randy Sklar (MTV's Apartment 2F; Comedy Central's BattleBots), whose only discernible talents were laughing at each other's alleged jokes and growing deep-shag sideburns that would make even Tom Jones feel like less of a man.

Not even ancillary hosts Annabelle Gurwitch (TBS' Dinner & a Movie) and Katie Puckrick (Oxygen's own Pajama Party), two of the sharpest and funniest women of the cable domain, could pull this download out of the trash, but they did have their moments: In the debut episode, Gurwitch's feigned infatuation with a self-described "slim and handsome racecar driver" named Curry was nearly as funny as the "terracotta blonde's" website itself (www.RubberBurner.com--you've got to see this for yourself), while Puckrick's chat with the webmaster of a "virtual museum" of airsickness bags, well, how can you go wrong with that? As she's proven on 635 reruns of Pajama Party (I've seen them all), the sassy-banged one can make even the lamest interviewees look good--but don't ever press your luck and invite the Sklars on, Puckster.

If Dot Comedy would had more offbeat features like these, less sub-Dilbert office time-killer fodder like virtual paper-airplanes-over-cubicles games (?!), over-pixilated video rejects from Caught on Tape!, and a whole lot less of the Dimmer Twins, it might actually have approximated the "cyberculture celebration" it claimed to be. Instead, it was just a lot of annoying "check out this URL" banter flying by with little "stickiness"--that's web lingo for how attractive your site is to multiple-repeat surfers. Since the addresses for the websites on Dot Comedy were only spoken and never displayed onscreen--you'll have to go to Oxygen.com for the links, I'm guessing--the producers obviously understood the importance of "hits."

What I don't understand is why the hosts of these couch/desk/coffee-table shows, like Dot Comedy, always have to have coffee mugs from which they sip from constantly--why do they do this? Does sucking that strenuously for 20 minutes dangerously dehydrate you? What's in those cups? I swear to god, if one of you Netheads e-mails me and says "Java"...


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