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TeeVee Dead Pool 2001: "Citizen" Caned

There's a scene in "Apocalypse Now" -- not in the good part of the movie, but in the incomprehensible final half-hour -- in which Martin Sheen finally comes face to face with Marlon Brando, the renegade colonel he's been hunting for the better part of two hours. Brando, who doesn't look like an elite Special Forces officer in this scene so much as he resembles The Shmoo, mumbles a lot of things, most of which you won't be able to understand without closed captioning and an interpreter well versed in gibberish. But the gist of it is, Brando admits that he might have crossed a line somewhere, probably when he started beheading people and that, as a consequence, he's most likely going to have to have to take a bullet to the skull. And if that's case, Brando concludes, well, he'd just as soon Sheen do the deed -- which the future resident of the West Wing is more than happy to do, hacking Brando to bits while Jim Morrison warbles in the background.

We bring this up only because of the startling parallels between the denouement of "Apocalypse Now" and a recent meeting between CBS chief Les Moonves and Citizen Baines producers John Wells and Lydia Woodward. No, the CBS confab probably didn't feature a Doors soundtrack and pyramids of human skulls -- though who's to say how Les Moonves decorates his office? -- but it did conclude with Wells and Woodward essentially begging Moonves for death. The two producers asked CBS to pull the plug on their freshman drama about a U.S. Senator who unexpectedly loses his reelection bid, and CBS happily complied -- hopefully having the good sense to wait until Wells and Woodward left the room before gleefully dancing on the show's grave.

Follow the TV industry long enough, and you'll see shows get canceled for all sorts of reasons. Programs get the heave-ho because not enough people watched, because too many old people watched, because too few 25-year-olds bought Crest as a result of watching. Shows go off the air when they become too expensive to make or when the cast decides to follow its bliss and start starring in movies like "Pay it Forward" and "One Night at McCool's." And there are times network executives cancel a show simply because they don't like it, or the jokes puzzle them, or the lead actress reminds them of the ex-wife who made off with the vacation home in Aspen. But Citizen Baines may have pulled off a first -- it's one of the only shows to leave the airwaves in recent memory because the producers decided things weren't working out.

TV viewers can only hope this is the beginning of some sort of trend. If only David E. Kelley had reached the same conclusion as the Citizen Baines producers 40 episodes ago on Ally McBeal, he would have saved himself and us a lot of trouble.

Then again, it turns out that quantity not quality is what did in Citizen Baines. There was nothing wrong with the show from an artistic standpoint -- it wasn't that great, but it wasn't all that bad either. That's more than can be said for other shows that are more worthy of cancellation -- better not give up that day job just yet, Emeril -- but still clinging to the schedule while Citizen Baines pushes up the daisies.

Instead, Citizen Baines falls victim to a numbers game. Stuck in the darkest recesses of CBS's Saturday night lineup, the show just couldn't attract any viewers. Even if it managed to eek out a meager existence -- let alone scratch its way onto the CBS lineup next fall -- there was no way Citizen Baines was ever going to land a lucrative syndication deal. And that's how shows make their money back these days. Faced with slaving over Citizen Baines only to wind up with a pittance when the show inevitably wound up on Pax, Wells and Woodward broke out the adding machine, punched a couple of buttons and decided that living to fight another day just wasn't worth their while.

The decision to eighty-six Citizen Baines speaks volumes about the TV industry and why executives and producers make the creative choices they do. But more important, Citizen Baines' shuffling off of its mortal coil helps decide this year's edition of the annual TeeVee Dead Pool.

Not because anyone correctly picked when the show would get canceled, mind you. Reader Charles Pavlack was the only contestant to include Citizen Baines among his top three picks for cancellation. But Pavlack was eliminated the minute CBS made Danny the first casualty of the fall season -- Pavlack's choice for the top spot was Raising Dad, the horrific Bob Saget sitcom which will likely remain on the air long enough to haunt our children's children.

Besides, Pavlack predicted Citizen Baines would be the second show to hear the executioner's song -- it was actually the third. Everybody knows that the second show to follow Danny into Death's icy embrace was... well, what exactly?

Wolf Lake -- the program that asks "Which is scarier: a town where people change into wolves or a show that features the acting chops of Lou Diamond Phillips?" -- hasn't seen the light of day since mid-October. But technically the show hasn't been canceled -- CBS insists it's just on hiatus until the latest Sweeps period ends. So what if CBS defines the end of Sweeps as "just after the sun explodes, leaving the Earth a smoldering cinder, and even then, probably not?" By the admittedly flimsy rules that govern our contest, Wolf Lake hasn't been officially shitcanned and CBS is spared the ignominy of sweeping this year's Dead Pool.

So sorry to the 765 of you that picked Wolf Lake.

That means the second show to get the bum's rush is Elimidate Deluxe, a reality program that tried to pair up vain, shallow knuckleheads. Elimidate Deluxe's sudden, unlamented departure from the airwaves not only spares us from the chilling possibility that its contestants could breed and people the earth with their idiot offspring, it also thins the reality TV herd by one show.

TeeVee reader Michael N. Bastedo was the only Dead Pool entrant to foresee the American viewing public's growing distaste for reality programming in general and Elimidate Deluxe in particular. Unfortunately, Bastedo -- without a doubt, the best surname of all our contestants -- targeted Elimidate Deluxe for elimination first and Danny second. Had he flip-flopped his top two picks, he would be slipping on his complimentary TeeVee T-shirt, holding aloft the Dead Pool victor's Cheese Log and laughing a triumphant laugh as we speak.

But he didn't. So he gets dick.

No, this year's Dead Pool contest comes down to the same two people who vaulted into first place a month ago -- Bryan Harris and David MacDonald. Both correctly picked Danny as the first new TV show to be sent to the showers, and both incorrectly used their other picks on programs -- According to Jim and UC: Undercover for Harris, The Guardian and Pasadena for MacDonald -- that remain stubbornly, inexplicably on the air.

So under the time-honored, unwavering and completely phony rules of our sham of a contest, we go to the tiebreaker -- the day the show was canceled. Harris picked October 5. MacDonald picked October 7. CBS axed Danny on October 8. MacDonald is the big winner.

We have to admit it -- we kind of felt badly for ol' Bryan Harris. Bad enough to lose in the highly competitive Dead Pool. But to lose on a technicality -- that's like losing on The Price is Right Showcase Showdown because you overbid on the Aruba vacation package by a couple of bucks and the clown your competing against wins by bidding a dollar. A roomful of Barker's Beauties can't take the sting away from that defeat.

So we were ready to break down and give Bryan Harris something -- a trinket, an Arby's coupon, a lock of Boychuk's hair. Something that would acknowledge that he too would have reigned supreme in the 2001 Dead Pool, but for the vagaries of the Roman calendar.

Until we got the following e-mail from Bryan Harris.

I don't mean to take up much of your time, but as one of the front-runners in your Dead Pool thingy, I was wondering if you were preparing an update to the stats, or if you'll notify the eventual winner by e-mail. I realize that if it comes to a push between David McDonald and myself, he'll win the tie-breaker, but I'm curious as to how you'll rule on the sequence of cancellations, especially given the obligatory "hiatus vs. cancellation" dissembling surrounding "Wolf Lake". Thank you.

Eagerly awaiting that shitty homemade T-shirt,

Bryan Harris

Shitty homemade T-shirt, Bryan? Shitty? We'll have you know Boychuk was up half the night silk-screening those sons of bitches. Shitty, homemade T-shirt, indeed.

Consider yourself terminated with extremely prejudice.


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