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TeeVee Awards 2001: Worst Hour Show

We've been doling out these TeeVee trinkets for a few years. So by this point, you've probably figured we're not like the other awards out there.

First there's the banquet -- bottles of wine, a nice plate of chicken (plus a vegan alternative for those flaky Hollywood types): we don't have one of those. Then there's the award. Other ceremonies offer big brassy statues, giant paperweights costing upward of $500 a shot. Seeing as how this Web site as a whole is unlikely to make enough money to pay for even a single one of those statues -- let alone pay our domain-name fees -- the gaudy doo-dads are out of the question. Most award shows feature Armani tuxes and designer gowns. As for TeeVee, it might interest you know that the person typing this isn't wearing any pants.

Then, of course, there's the matter of us being a bunch of cruel bastards who delight in putting down the hard-working men and women of the showbiz community -- whether we're wearing pants or not.

And that's why, unlike those banquet-holding, heavy-statue-giving, fully-clothed suck-up awards, we at TeeVee like to mix in some sour with our sweet. So while this may be one of the few times during the year in which you'll find us saying anything nice at all, we like to supplement our accolades with some well-deserved crunchy beatings.

And that brings us to where we are today, handing a big bouquet of thistles to the two hour-long series this year that made us retch the most. That's right -- it's time to celebrate the Worst Hour Shows.

One of our stinkers is Titans, an obvious choice. And yet, it was a hard choice to make, given just how much lousy stuff is on television these days. When NBC announced last spring that it planned to take the prime-time soap genre out of the deep-freeze and set the microwave on thaw with a series that followed in the footsteps of Dallas and Dynasty, we didn't roll our eyes... well, not much. Because, in the irony-laden universe we live in, surely Titans would be a meta-soap, a series that understood the ridiculous trappings of those relics from TV's past, and could send them up or camp them out. You know, sort of like Melrose Place. Only without the subtle nuances of Andrew Shue.

Unfortunately, Titans was produced in an irony-free zone. And that's why this leaden hour sunk like a stone. No campy fun was to be had. Instead, we got to see that, yes, that nice Yasmine Bleeth could sink lower than Baywatch. And that Dallas stalwart Victoria Principal -- shot through a Vaseline gauze that had apparently been applied to the camera lens like caulk to a troublesome crack -- has gotten really, really old.

Still, who could really be surprised? Titans was a stinker and was always going to be -- we're talking degrees of lousiness here, not orders of magnitude. And it got what it deserved -- namely that it got shitcanned in short order, before it could do any lasting damage to the populace.

So we ask you -- what's the greater crime? Being a lousy, poorly-developed series in a moribund genre that was better off left for dead? Or being a critically-acclaimed ratings darling that blows it so bad that it goes from being one of our favorites to being our Biggest Disappointment to finally hitting rock bottom as Worst Hour Series?

We couldn't decide, so we gave the award to both of them. Yasmin Bleeth, meet Anthony Edwards. Cast of Titans, please sit to the right. Cast of ER, sit to the left. The wake will begin shortly.

You wanna talk about your soap operas with no clue just how far out of touch they are with reality? Let's talk ER. Once the indisputed king of television during its breathtaking, burst-of-adrenaline first season, this series has been in an equally breathtaking decline for years. Perhaps the only reason that ER didn't take the moldy cheese outright is that the show has become so enerverating, several of the Vidiots don't even bother to waste a weekly hour of their lives watching Noah Wyle walk into a wall or Anthony Edwards make us long for his "Revenge of the Nerds" days or Erik Palladino... well, do some of his best work, quite frankly.

And that right there is part of the problem.

This year, in addition to switching to "letterbox" format -- which is great, were it not for the fact that almost everybody still has square TV sets -- ER provided us with a series of ridiculous plot twists. From Mark Greene's brain tumor to a spate of pregnancies at County, ER has swept us away from the emergency room itself and into the ridiculously complicated lives of its characters -- few of whom we really care about anyway.

Unless you tune in each week to see if Michael Michele's Cleo Finch finally sheds her face plate and discovers why it is you humans cry.

Is it any wonder that the show's original cast members are bailing out at an alarming rate? (Except for Sherry Stringfield, who bailed out early on in the show's run and is now coming back to offset the current or impending losses of George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Eriq La Salle, and Anthony Edwards.)

ER is still among the top-rated series on TV -- and will probably be this coming year, Jeff Probst-hosted reality series notwithstanding. But that victory is one of inertia, of an audience too tired to break the viewing habits they've built up over the past few years. There's simply no other explanation.

Sure, all series decline over time. But while we're not as hot on Friends as we once were, it's managed to not embarrass itself as its producers wring the last drips of money from its corpse before tossing it into the recycle bin. ER, wrapped in its letterboxed pretentions and its endless revolving door of characters and plot complications, is beyond embarrassment. It's so bad, we can barely even remember that brief shining moment when it was the best thing on TV.

It's not a horrible disappointment anymore. Now, ER is just a lousy show. And that's worthy of recognition, even if it's of the snide, no-banquet-no-trophy-no-pants variety.

Additional contributions to this article by: Jason Snell.


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