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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(of the new television season)

by Beth Rowen

This feature appeared on November 9, 1998

About the only thing new on ER this season is Noah Wyle's outrageous Grizzly Adams-like beard. It's also the silliest.

It's halfway through the fall season, and the state of network television doesn't look all that rosy. Indeed, it's fair to say that the 1998-1999 new shows are the worst in recent memory, with no runaway commercial hit and only a sprinkling of critical darlings.

Even ER, NBC's reliable standby, is off 20 percent this year in the Nielsen ratings. About the only thing new this season is Noah Wyle's outrageous Grizzly Adams-like beard, and it's also the silliest. Thank heavens he decided to part with it on the November 5 episode. The show is beginning to show its age, with plots that seem recycled from seasons past. Regardless, ER has taken over Seinfeld's post as the top-rated show on television. (ER had been the top-rated drama for several years.) Though numbers are not supposed to lie, they are misleading. Take, for example, the dismal Veronica's Closet and the flat Jesse, which both consistently rank in the top five.

So it's easy to assume that while the ratings may indicate what people are watching, they don't necessarily reflect the quality of what we're tuned in to. Given this assumption, we're going to throw the ratings out the window and assess the good, the bad and the ugly of the new television season.






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