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TeeVee Awards '02: Best Hour Shows

Elections can often have unexpected results. Take the last presidential skirmish, which as you recall was a fairly remarkable occurrence. Even if George W. Bush had won Florida by an undisputed number of votes -- tens of thousands -- he would have been elected President despite his rival having more overall votes cast in his name across the nation. Such are the quirky rules of our electoral system.

Not that we're putting ourselves in the same league with the Founders of the Republic, but we here at TeeVee also participate in quirky elections from time to time. Our TeeVee awards -- now winding down after taking up an eternity of your valuable late-summer reading time -- are one such event. Everyone votes, and votes again, then Snell tallies the votes and everyone scratches their heads. Are there back-room shenanigans going on? Case for: Sarah Michelle Gellar wins the Best Actress award every year. Case against: Not a single award for Stargate. We're don't know what to think, frankly.

But nothing baffled us more than our strange choices for two awards this year: Best New Show and Best Hour Show. You see, we chose Alias as the Best New Show, and received several congratulatory letters from readers who felt we were very smart to choose ABC's phenomenal spy series over Fox's much-more-hyped 24. 24, also a new series, clearly had fallen behind Alias in the voting, making Alias the presumptive Big Winner of the TeeVee Awards.

Uh, yeah. But how does that explain that one of our winners for Best Hour Show is 24 -- and the other one isn't Alias? Damned if we know. Here's our official rationalization: Alias gets an award not only for its present, but for its future. It's got huge potential, and we wanted to recognize that. Also, that Jennifer Garner sure is purty.

But 24 gets a piece of the big award because its unique story structure, its visual style, its appropriate use of Kiefer Sutherland, impressed us this year. Is 24 a realistic show? Anyone who saw the episode where Jack Bauer runs through a field at noon with a late-afternoon shadow trailing behind him, or any of the other 23 episodes, knows the answer. But like Alias, 24 is really not at all concerned with realism. Thank goodness.

No, 24 is all about tension, and as a tension-inducing, nailbiting, freak-out of an action-adventure show, it succeeded wildly. With the exception of a brief break about 1 p.m. that was clearly a trap-door exit in case the series was cancelled after 13 episodes, the show managed to ratchet up the tension and keep it building. Sure, the scenes of Jack's family being placed in jeopardy went on a bit too long and strained our suspension of disbelief a bit too much, especially when amnesia was a part of the equation.

But those are minor quibbles to a show that managed to keep us equal parts riveted, excited, and exhausted for 24 hours this season. Our hope is that next year, 24's producers will manage to learn from this year's mistakes and make the show even better. But if they don't, it won't matter -- nothing can take away the 24 hours of remarkable television that we got to witness last season.

Our other Best Hour Series winner is, well, a departure for us here at TeeVee, largely because some of our members are not known as fans of the Silly Sci-Fi For the Kids. But make no mistake: just because Farscape is set in outer space and features several Space Muppets as main characters doesn't mean it's for kids. In fact, it's one of the more challenging and adult series to come along in quite a while.

The show's third season, which is the basis for its share of the Best Hour Show award, was a triumph of storytelling and characterization for the Sci-Fi Channel's longest-running series. In a brilliant decision, the show's producers split the cast in two, putting half the characters on the living spaceship Moya, and the other half aboard Moya's son, Talyn. The most brilliant decision: to use a wacky sci-fi premise to make two copies of the show's main character, John Crichton (Ben Browser), allowing Crichton to appear in every episode while the two plot lines ran over alternating weeks. Even more, the resolution of the dual-Crichton storyline led to even more dramatic potential, as the copy who survived had to deal with the ramifications of the way the martyred Crichton had lived.

Featuring bizarre methods of telling stories and a confidence in its audience that led to a minimum of the exposition and technobabble that tend to choke other sci-fi series, Farscape is a brilliant example of a genre-blending, humorously dramatic, depressingly uplifting, outer space show for adults.

The bad news is, as we write this applause for this, one of our favorite TV series on the air today, word has reached here that the Sci-Fi Channel has cancelled Farscape, opting out of its prior agreement to produce a fifth season of the series. If that decision stands, and no new network steps in to fill the void, it will be a crying shame. Television will not have just lost another silly sci-fi puppet show loved by the kids -- it will have lost one of the most complete and appealing science fiction shows of all time.

And no flimsy award from a fly-by-night web site whose awards are orchestrated in some mysterious back room can ease that pain.

Additional contributions to this article by: Jason Snell.


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