As she surveys the desolation of a crumbling Camelot beset by scandalous palace intrigues and the constant threat of invading Saxons, high priestess Viviane (Anjelica Huston), the Lady of the Lake, sadly remarks: "It is the end of an age."
And as I watched TNT's lavishly enthralling yet often loopy romantic epic The Mists of Avalon (July 15 and 16, 8 pm/ ET), I also couldn't help but reflect on how this mammoth production illustrates the shifting tides and fortunes of the made-for-TV movie.
Not so long ago, the broadcast networks would have been the natural haven for a sweeping adaptation of a literary masterwork (in this case, Marion Zimmer Bradley's captivating 1983 reimagining of the Arthur legend from a female perspective). Today, however, the network TV-movie is an endangered species, especially on a scale this grand. It's no small irony that the Wolper Organization (a name associated with such landmarks as Roots and
Not long ago, ER repeated the Emmy-grubbing story line of Mark Greene's (Anthony Edwards) brain-surgery crisis. Which got me thinking, in the aftermath of Dr. Greene's decision in the season finale to let a malevolent patient die, that Mark should be convicted of series murder. His boring character has made many nights seem like slow death, especially his excruciating wedding-day episode. Will the return of Sherry Stringfield's Dr. Lewis in the fall make what is expected to be Edwards's final season a more interesting one? We can only hope.
A year ago I argued for the WB to save Roswell. Now I'm wondering why anyone would want to spare it.
Having watched this teen-alien romantic thriller deteriorate in year two from guilty pleasure to pleasure-free embarrassment, I was shocked when UPN rescued it from arch rival the WB's cancellation heap. (UPN outbidding the WB for Buffy the Vampire Slayer is another cutthroat matter entirely.)
In the fall, Buffy will no longer be teamed with its spin-off Angel on Tuesdays, thanks to the game of corporate chicken between companies. (Angel stays behind on the WB, now airing Mondays at 9 pm/ET.) Instead, Buffy will be followed on UPN at 9 pm/ET by Roswell, which in theory makes sense but in reality is like displaying a Picasso alongside an Archie comic.
layers its violent allegories with emotional empathy, nim
When a favorite show hits a home run, the memory lingers on. Which is why, when reflecting on last season, it seemed more interesting to compile a list not of the best series but of their finest hours (or half hours). A sample:
The Sopranos: Paulie (Tony Sirico) and Christopher (Michael Imperioli), like a Mafia version of Abbott & Costello, bungle the killing of a burly Russian mobster and spend a hilariously harrowing night lost, hungry, freezing and bickering in the Pine Barrens woods. This brilliant episode played like a Jersey Fargo.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The sudden death by natural causes of Buffy's mother, Joyce, gave us the season's most dramatic hour of any series, a quietly wrenching examination of loss and grief.
Malcolm in the Middle: Among many pea
As I look over the new fall lineup, the one renewal that baffles me most more even than NBC's yucky Three Sisters and Fox's tacky decision to continue leading off Wednesdays with comedy repeats is CBS's devotion to Family Law, a thuddingly mediocre and ham-fisted legal drama that failed to catch fire its first two seasons. Worse than its arguable lack of distinction is CBS's squandering of a crucial time period (Mondays, 10 pm/ET) that caps the network's sole successful (though uneven) comedy night. This hour once showcased the likes of Lou Grant, Cagney & Lacey and Northern Exposure. Need we say more?
At times, watching our favorite shows sign off for the summer seemed a lot like a wake. So much death and trauma. (Yes, I wept over Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing.)
At least Fox's underrated Titus had the audacity to mix two of TV's most familiar season-ending gimmicks a wedding and a killing into its startling finale, with Titus's deranged mother intruding on the ceremony and climactically shooting her latest husband, an abusive therapist.
Yikes? Exactly. And it still somehow delivered more laughter than NBC's Friends could muster for its overlong, mostly silly wedding of Chandler and Monica (notwithstanding Rachel's surprise pregnancy twist).
HBO's The Sopranos wrapped an astounding third season on an unexpectedly muted note, as the family uneasily gathered to mourn that dunce Jackie Jr. Compare his murder
What a delight to learn that ABC's Once and Again (which TV Guide recently christened "The Best Show You're Not Watching") is returning next season. Moving to Fridays (10 pm/ET) is a mixed blessing, however. Ratings expectations are lower on that night think of Homicide: Life on the Street's healthy run in the time period on NBC which is a bonus for this challenging drama. But unseating 20/20 and incurring Barbara Walters's wrath puts an unfair burden on the series. What should be a badge of pride for the network now becomes a lightning rod for news vs. entertainment speculation. And that's not healthy.
Well, it turns out lightning didn't strike twice.
Whereas the final night of the first Survivor series was the most electrifying TV event of last year, the contemplative conclusion of the Australian sequel was a self-indulgent snoozer enlivened only by Colby Donaldson's unexpected choice to let Tina Wesson sit beside him for the final vote, setting up his defeat.
And we're all over that by now, aren't we?
If only they'd let us get over it. The ceaseless commercial exploitation of the unexceptional second cast grinds on and grinds us down: on CBS's desperate The Early Show; in an egregious primetime special showing the "stars" mulling over their post-show options; and most recently, for a full week of Hollywood Squares, that elephant's burial ground for disposable celebrity. They sat like caged animals in the garish circus of fleeting fame, performing skits and answering questions that played off of their TV personas: Jerr
Don't hold Kristin against Kristin as in Kristin Chenoweth, the poorly used star of a terrible comedy NBC is burning off (Tuesdays, 9:30 pm/ET). Anyone who has seen this Tony-winning musical-comedy spark plug (perhaps as a slinky schemer in ABC's Annie) will be chagrined that NBC couldn't find a better vehicle than this creaky setup about a perky Oklahoma hick working in Manhattan for a Trump-like womanizer (Jon Tenney). She would have been perfect as Nellie Forbush in ABC's South Pacific remake, but you'd never know it from Kristin. Maybe she'll have better luck in Seven Roses, a CBS ensemble comedy in the works.
With Six Feet Under, the peculiar saga of a deeply unhappy family that operates and lives in a funeral home, HBO once again takes us where network TV would never venture, into a world of sex, drugs and "Rock of Ages."
The offbeat insights into the "death-care industry" are intriguing, but the show itself is frequently irritating, overstuffed with fantastical whimsy visions, dreams, stylized musical sequences as it hammers home its themes of life among death. From Oscar-winning screenwriter and TV sitcom refugee Alan Ball (American Beauty, Cybill), the underwhelming Six Feet (Sundays, 10 pm/ET) reminds us that just being different isn't always better.
"Your father is dead, and my pot roast is ruined," says dour matriarch Ruth Fisher (the excellent Frances Conroy) in a typical moment of self-conscious irony during the opening episode. Her