Far be it from me to stand in the way of romance, but I can't imagine a TV couple any ickier than Boston Public's pathetically lovelorn vice principal Scott Guber (Anthony Heald) and "hook lady" Kathy Baker. The domineering mother of a psycho son, she was mysteriously maimed, and her prosthetic metal hand is being used for grotesque comic effect. Almost as unappealing is the forced courtship on ER between doctors Carter (Noah Wyle) and Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), who make googly eyes at each other in between crises. It seems like a long time ago since we were swooning over Doug and Carol, doesn't it?
Used to be, the networks saved their best for last, with many nights going out on a dramatic high. How times and time periods have changed.
The shift noticeably began two seasons ago, when NBC took what was considered a risk by placing the smart, slick The West Wing at 9 pm (all times ET). TV's other best drama, HBO's The Sopranos, airs on Sundays at 9 pm (when it airs original episodes, that is) opposite Fox's The X-Files.
In a further sign of the times, few would have believed a year ago that CBS's engrossing and sometimes just gross CSI (Thursdays, 9 pm) would challenge NBC's long-running and lately, running out of fresh ideas ER for ratings supremacy. (Just wait for rerun season, when CSI is
While I'm still not sure it was necessary to remake 1971's Brian's Song, a truly unforgettable landmark in the history of TV-movies, I have to admit that ABC's new version (December 2, 7 pm/ET) tore me up every bit as much as the original. Sean Maher gives a charismatic, star-making performance as the scrappy Brian Piccolo, and because the movie gives us more context about his life (with Providence's Paula Cale is splendid as his wife) and untimely death, the climactic tribute by his teammate Gale Sayers (the excellent Mekhi Phifer) has perhaps even more emotional power.
CBS's Survivor had to reshuffle its tribes to make this season's stagnant African expedition interesting. Even now, the current series looks like a poor excuse to show whiners sitting around obsessing about the next vote in between insipid contests. Bor-ing!
Not to mention that by changing the rules midstream in hopes of salvaging a show that was dying in front of our eyes, Survivor has lost any claim of credibility. Instead of watching people playing a game, we're watching the game play them, which might be fun for some, but to me, it's foul play.
So given my disaffection for "reality" TV don't get me started on Fear Factor or Temptation Island 2 imagine my surprise to find myself still totally caught up in the globe-trotting antics of CBS's The Amazing Race (Wednesdays, 9 pm/ET).
As opposed to the static Survivor, Race is all about having experiences and going places: bunge
Let's hear it for the return of the classic cliff-hanger, a device as old as the Arabian Nights but nevertheless refreshing when executed so well on such dynamic new thrillers as Fox's 24 and especially ABC's Alias, which is making an art of ending each fast-paced episode on a note of peril. In this cunningly constructed, if often baffling spy caper, you never want to miss the last five minutes of any episode or the first 10 minutes of the following show. Not since The Perils of Pauline have we seen such a plucky heroine (the terrific Jennifer Garner) extricate herself from deadly situations with such impressive zeal.
When a TV character returns from the dead, it's usually a sign of creative desperation: an insipid twist on a daytime or prime-time soap (like Bobby on Dallas) or a sentimental haunting for schmaltzy (Providence) or phonily artsy (Six Feet Under) effect.
Whereas on the magnificently inspired Buffy the Vampire Slayer which has graduated from guilty pleasure to flat-out triumph this season (UPN, Tuesdays, 8 P.M./ET) the heroine's resurrection from the grave has had profound ramifications for the slayer and her "Scooby gang" of demon fighters.
"The thing about magic, there's always consequences," warns vampire Spike (the marvelously moody James Marsters), who has become Buffy's living-dead soul mate. So when witchy Willow (t
The same week that Ross and Rachel went to the videotape to settle who came on to whom the night she got pregnant one of many pricelessly funny moments in a splendidly enjoyable season of Friends I had the weird experience of watching this same couple five seasons ago (in a syndicated repeat from 1997) split up after taking a fateful break from each other.
It was powerful material then, and the aftershocks still resonate. Such is our history with these friends. We care so much because we know them so well.
Always best as a sparkling romantic comedy, Friends is funnier, sharper, sweeter and more satisfying than at any time since the early stages of Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette) and Chandler's (Matthew Perry) once-secret courtship.
Unquestionably, the revelation that Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) is pregnant by Ross (David Schwimmer) an unexpected twist in a rocky
Maybe we'd been taking Star Trek for granted, or vice versa. Whatever the reason, close encounters of the Starfleet kind had started to seem awfully routine, even mundane until Enterprise arrived.
Recapturing the sense of wonder, mystery and even exhilaration that should be at the core of any sci-fi adventure, UPN's entertaining Enterprise (Wednesdays, 8 pm/ET) offers a mostly gung ho crew that greets each challenge with eagerness and anxiety. Been there, done that? Not in this engaging prequel, set 100 years before Captain Kirk entered the scene.
"You've seen too many science-fiction movies," the ship's robust Captain Jonathan Archer (a perfectly cast Scott Bakula) tells a colleague who's packing too many firearms before boarding an alien vessel. To the chief engineer, a Southern charmer nicknamed &q
"So where does that leave us?" wonders Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick) about the absence of David Duchovny's Mulder on Fox's The X-Files's ninth-season opener. The answer: With only half a show. Explaining Mulder's scurrying off requires more than Scully (Gillian Anderson) coyly saying, "It makes sense in its own way. That's all I can tell you." Which tells us nothing. (Why not just admit his contract ran out?) Regardless, the two-part opener is often sleek and suspenseful, with Lucy Lawless (Xena) as a terrifically sinister guest star. About Scully's miracle baby: I now get it (I think), but I still don't like it or buy it.
1. THE PREMISE What a great idea for a TV show: Its format, each episode covering an hour in a single perilous day, is innovative, ingenious and sensationally effective.
2. THE PILOT The season's best. I've watched it four times already. You couldn't ask for a better opening chapter.
3. THE HERO Kiefer Sutherland, as agent Jack Bauer, is charismatic and entirely credible as both superguy and regular-guy family man.
4. THE TARGET Dennis Haysbert brings suave mystery to his role as an African-American presidential candidate. He's hiding something. On 24, who isn't?
5. THE CLOCK It's always ticking, adding urgency to an already tense plot.
6. THE PACE It never lets up. This is one lean thriller.
7. THE SUSPENSE It's palpable. 24 is almost Hitchcockian in design (see No. 8).
8. THE SPLIT SCREENS By breaking up the action over