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Dead Pool 2002: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

I had just wrapped up my thousand-word treatise on the general folly of inking successful producers to multi-show deals that are doomed and the specific folly of inking successful producers to multi-show deals that yield Good Morning, Miami. So it was time to kick back, pour myself a stiff belt of bourbon and awaiting the usual outpouring of indifference I've come to accept from our adoring TeeVee readership. And there it was amid the letters proposing many exciting new investment opportunities in Africa and offering to cure my myriad and heretofore unknown medical shortcomings -- an actual letter from actual TeeVee reader Nicholas Sapp, who was moved to comment after reading one of my actual articles:

A recent comment in your recent column tweaked my interest. The column referred to the works of David E. Kelly, and his most recent artistic offering, "Girl's Club". You state that Fox so tragically "shitcanned" the show after two showings. After reflecting on the general intransigence of life, I was forced to ask:


I mean, seriously. In-laws--dead. Girls Club--dead. That Twin Peaks rip off where they were supposed to give away money--dead. Have your cracked-out brains forgotten your loyal readers who derive joy from sucessfully guessing which big pile of suck gets flushed first?

C'mon--get off your ass, take the needle out of your vein, remove the gerbil, stop molesting the pooch, and get us some answers!

Well, thank you for those kind words, Nicholas. I don't mean to get all sentimental on you here, but it's compliments like these from readers like you that make the long hours and the rigorous demands of the job all worthwh...

Wait a minute. "Cracked-out brains?" "Get off your ass?" "Gerbils?" Why, those aren't kind words at all. And unless "molesting the pooch" has a whole new meaning among the young people than it did in my day, I'm guessing that there's not too much complimentary in Nicholas' little missive, either.

As a matter of fact, Nicholas has a little bit of a potty-mouth, if you ask me.

Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly reasonable person -- slow to anger, tolerant of others, not at all the sort of person to fly off the handle whenever is heard a discouraging word. But I'm only human. And my first instinct after reading an e-mail like Nicholas' is to surf over to a slew of particularly seditious antigovernment Web sites, sign Nicholas' e-mail address to the mailing list and giggle myself silly as federal shock troops drag him away for a vigorous round of questioning.

So that's what I did. See you in 12 to 16 years, Nicholas. Eight with good behavior. Maybe fewer if you name names.

But Nicholas has a valid point. No -- not about the gerbils. That's... well, that's just kind of gross. It's his point about the Dead Pool -- specifically, that here it is, April, and we've yet to inform our vast readership who exactly won the damned thing -- that's spot on.

There are many reasons why we've waited nearly an entire TV season to tell you what we could have just as easily disclosed sometime around Thanksgiving -- laziness, mostly, but also unprofessionalism. Oh, we also got really into that Joe Millionaire thing more than we were expecting to, so that's January and February out the window right there. Then the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue comes in the mail, so that takes us out of circulation for a while. And, of course, we thought it would be really smart to hold off on a Dead Pool winner until there was a war going on, just to make this as uncomfortable and awkward for you folks as it is for us.

Plus, we didn't feel right announcing a winner until all of the new shows announced last fall had debuted. I mean, don't the makers of Oliver Beene -- which just had its season premiere a couple of weeks ago -- deserve the same shot at mockery and derision already enjoyed by the likes of Hidden Hills, Bram & Alice and Dinotopia. We think so -- and in the darkest recesses of your cold, black hearts, you probably feel that way, too. Then again, if we really wanted to wait until every last dog had its day -- still holding our breath for that series debut of The Grubbs, Fox -- we'd probably be here until August.

Any of the pathetic excuses listed above would probably be valid enough reason for taking the blasted TeeVee Dead Pool and shunning it like some troublesome ex-girlfriend -- that's what our legal team tells us, anyhow. The trouble is, all those reasons are nothing more than convenient lies. The real reason? It has more to do with equal parts pride and shame.

You see, back in the fall, when we were all young and innocent and life was still full of delicious possibilities, the San Francisco Chronicle called up to let us know they were working on a story about the online TV-series-cancellation-contest craze sweeping the nation, and if we wouldn't mind selecting a representative to offer up a few choice sound bites for such an article. Despite my inability to string together two coherent sentences without the help of a team of copy editors and my well-documented track record for giving drab, spiritless interviews, the TeeVee Brain Trust selected me as the lucky interviewee.

With decisions like that, it's probably not too mysterious anymore why we haven't made a cent in the six-plus years of running this Web site, huh? It's probably more mysterious how we even lasted six-plus years.

So I did the interview, and while a part of me thinks the Chronicle reporter might have been better off talking to my cat if it was choice sound bites he wanted, I took some comfort in the fact that I managed to come across as reasonably coherent -- certainly not any more of a stammering loser than I'm uncomfortable with.

Then the article came out. And that was when I really wished the Chronicle would have interviewed my cat.

The San Francisco Chronicle focused on two Dead Pool-style contests -- ours, of course, and the one put on by a relative newcomer to this crazy cancellation game, Zap2It.com. A part of the mighty, occasionally-hated Tribune Media Services, Zap2It.com looks a site that has its act together -- it certainly gives the impression that it pays its writing staff in something other than bottle caps and broken dreams, and don't all of us here go to bed at night wondering what that must be like?

The other thing that's obvious about Zap2It.com: it runs a ruthlessly efficient TV Dead Pool contest. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 2,000 people entered Zap2It's contest. And the number of entries in TeeVee's annual Dead Pool? Um... slightly fewer than 2,000. Something like 1,930 fewer entries. That's just a ballpark figure, though. Also, the winner of Zap2It's contest got a TiVo, in a package the Web site valued at $650. Our winner gets a T-shirt. It is not $650, not unless it winds up figuring into a grisly crime and gets auctioned off on eBay, that is.

So... let's recap here. We're profiled in article alongside a rival contest that had 2,751 percent more participants and a much cooler prize than ours, even though we've been doing this for years. Also, the Chronicle spelled my name wrong, eschewing the nominally correct and Biblically-mandated single-L spelling of "Philip" for the unrepentantly secular and gratuitously consonant-filled double-L version. Oh, and the article also listed me as living in a city that I don't live in. But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, it was a very enjoyable night at the theater.

Now put yourself in my position. Northern California's Largest Newspaper™ has just informed you that your labor-of-love Web site, on its best day, is dwarfed by the might of the powerful Tribune Media Services juggernaut, that you actually live in Oakland, and that you've apparently been spelling your name wrong for the past 30 years. How do you think you'd react? Well, if you're anything like me, you'd say to hell with this Dead Pool business and you'd curl up into a little ball to spend the next several months having yourself a good cry.

Why, yes -- the impending end of the world has made me a little extra sensitive as of late. Why do you ask?

So thank God for Nicholas Sapp's letter. His simple, unbelievably crude words -- as true today as they were back in his time -- have shocked me back into action. Does it matter that our contest wouldn't even register a blip for other, more popular Web sites? Does it matter that our prize package is depressingly TiVo-free? Does it matter that after six years of slaving away at our crummy little .org URL, all we have to show for our efforts is a box of TeeVee T-shirts taking up space in Snell's garage?

Probably, on some level. It matters a lot actually. But what matters more, at least to readers like Nicholas Sapp, is hatred and abuse. And the Dead Pool certainly provides plenty of that. So let's get on with it.

The first lucky show to take the pipe to the base of its skull this season was That Was Then, canceled by a deeply regretful ABC back in October. In case the ravages of time have removed every last trace of That Was Then from your memory banks, this was the show about the pathetic loser who got to go back in time to the 1980s to relive his dreary high school years in a vain attempt to stop his future self from turning into such a putz. Hard to believe that premise never really caught fire.

That Was Then, by the way, should not be confused with Do Over, another show about a pathetic loser who got to go back in time to the 1980s to relive his dreary high school years in a vain attempt to stop his future self from turning into such a putz. The difference? One has a half-hour sitcom, and the other was an hour-long dramedy -- beats us which was which, though we can say with certainty that neither were very funny or entertaining. Also, Do Over was officially pronounced dead earlier this month, thus depriving the airwaves of two chances to watch a pathetic loser go back in time to the 1980s to relieve his dreary high school years. We know you find this news devastating.

On the same day ABC cashiered That Was Then, it was also filling out change-of-address forms for Push, Nevada, a show that combined the very worst elements of Twin Peaks, Million Dollar Mystery and The Daily Jumble and is likely to be the lead chapter in the forthcoming retrospective on Ben Affleck's career, "Squandering My Talent: The J-Lo Years." "But wait!" attentive readers are protesting. "If That Was Then and Push, Nevada were canceled at exactly the same time, how can you pretend that one show was axed before the other?" Because, attentive reader, ABC yanked That Was Then off the air almost immediately, while it kept Push, Nevada on the air a few extra weeks so that someone in its ever-shrinking audience of shut-ins, moody loners, Matt Damon and Ms. Lopez could claim the $1 million prize. Unless, of course, ABC takes as long to pay off its contest winners as we do.

Sparing ABC from the ignominy of sweeping the Dead Pool was girls club, the latest embarrassing effort in David E. Kelley's increasingly embarrassing career. To put girls club's magnitude of failure into perspective, consider that Fox waited until after the World Series to roll out the show, long after almost every other new program had debuted -- and it still was among the first three shows to get kicked to the curb. We'd like to think that setting a land-speed record for failure might make the broadcast networks think twice before ever loosing David E. Kelley on their prime-time lineups again, but then again, we thought the same thing about college basketball coach Jim Harrick a few years ago after UCLA showed him the door, and what's he up to now? Resigning in disgrace at the University of Georgia? Gee, who could have seen that coming?

So there you have it -- That Was Then, Push, Nevada and girls club set down one-two-three. That means our lucky winner is... um... well... we're not actually sure, exactly.

1.James Yu3.5
2.Kathryn C. Brooks 3
3.Graham Hudson 2
4.T. Lautenschlager 1
*Suzanne Skinner 1
*Tony Wike 1
*Pamnani 1
8.Neil Druxbury 0.5
*Andrew King 0.5
*Bryan Farris 0.5
*Sarah Stanek 0.5
*Betsy Dougherty 0.5
*Johnny Guenther 0.5
*Michael Maki 0.5
*Greg McElhatton 0.5
*Tim Stahmer 0.5
*D. Heinekamp 0.5
*R. Perlow 0.5
*Joshua Buergel 0.5
*Damian Penny 0.5
*D. Conner 0.5
*Allie Johnston 0.5
*William Ortenberg 0.5
*John Edwards 0.5
*R. Weber 0.5

I mean, we have a first name. The winning contestant -- who successfully picked That Was Then to get the ax first and included Push, Nevada among his top-three picks -- signed his entry form "James." But he neglected to include a surname, like he was afraid he were going to take his personal information and sell it to the highest bidder. Which we were, and a hearty thanks for foiling that moneymaking scheme, James. Anyhow, based on the guy's e-mail address, we think his last name could be "Yu," though it could just as easily not be.

Anyhow, if your name is James and you live in the continental United States and you entered our Dead Pool contest a million years ago, drop us a line. We'll probably send you a t-shirt.

Our second-place finisher is Kathryn C. Brooks, who correctly tabbed That Was Then as the first against the wall and then picked nothing else. No -- we're not saying that she didn't pick anything else correctly; we're saying that her entire entry form consisted of picking That Was Then with no second or third place selections. Which is certainly displaying a great deal of confidence in her top choice or, at the very least, or an inability to read contest rules. Whichever.

Kathryn was gracious enough to include her full business address with her e-mail entry, apparently just in case any of us Vidiots ever felt like dropping by for a chat. Which we'll probably do sometime next week during our lunch break. So better alert building security now, Kathryn!

Graham Hudson's prescient prediction that Push, Nevada would be the second show canceled this fall was enough to vault him into third place. And he might have won, too, had he tabbed any other show to get whacked first than the one he selected -- Oliver Beene. We'd feel badly about Graham falling short solely because he picked a show that didn't premiere until the spring time if we hadn't warned you folks back in September not to expect the awful Oliver Beene any time before the end of football season. Let this be a lesson to all of you to read the verbose, poorly edited drivel we post at TeeVee.org. We're certainly not writing all this garbage for our health.

Oh, who are we kidding? No one should be expected to read the verbose, poorly edited drivel we post. Kathryn and Graham get prizes, too. Assuming they haven't passed away in the time it took us to get around to declaring them winners.

As for the rest of the contest, four people finished in a tie for fourth, thanks to their agreement that girls club would be the third show off the air. They're followed by a less-impressive 18-way tie for eighth place, composed of contestants who named one of the three shows to go down in flames but couldn't be bothered to do it in the correct order. These people win nothing, save for the thrill of seeing their name posted on a Web site that generates a fraction of the traffic of Zap2It.com. We apologize if we've misspelled any of your names, but you can at least take comfort in the fact that our mistake would preclude us from future employment with the San Francisco Chronicle.

You will notice, of course, that Nicholas Sapp's name is missing from that list -- even from the everyone-gets-a-ribbon multitude of eighth-place finishers. That's because of the three shows Nicholas picked -- Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, Bram & Alice and Hack -- only the middle one has gone off to the happy hunting ground. Eight Simple Rules and Hack, in fact, are qualified hits, certain to return to their respective networks for a sophomore season.

We'd make fun of Nicholas for his lousy prognosticative abilities, but if it means another year of John Ritter as a jittery father and David Morse as a crime-fighting cabbie, we're pretty sure humanity is the bigger loser here.


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