The Year in Television
2000 was a year of big name stars, but no must-see hits
by Beth Rowen
The 2000-2001 network television season got off to a late start because the summer Olympics were really the fall Olympics. NBC paid billions for broadcast rights to the Sydney games, and none of the other networks dared to have their new shows compete against the games, which were taped and aired during prime time. If they had only known that the Olympics would turn out to be a ratings disappointment of epic proportions.
Indeed, it was somewhat anti-climactic to watch a video broadcast of a race hours after the results had been posted on the web or announced on the radio and news. And NBC made no attempt to make the events seem live or interesting. Not even host Bob Costas could muster up much enthusiasm for the games.
Waiting for Survivor II
When the season finally began, however, it was clear that none of the networks produced a single hit. There's still hope for at least one upcoming show, however. CBS plans to roll out Survivor II, set in the Australian Outback, on January 28, immediately following the Super Bowl.
Although the networks trotted out big-budget shows with big-name stars, such as Geena Davis, Bette Midler, Gabriel Byrne, and Oliver Platt, scripts, plot, and character development were not part of the master plan. The verdict is still out on whether these actors can salvage their careers after appearing in such small-minded, clichéd shows.
While CBS's Bette has been sinking in the ratings, tension has been mounting behind the camera. Midler's onscreen husband, Kevin Dunn, is leaving the show, reportedly at the diva's urging. Platt's Deadline, a journalism drama from Law & Order's Dick Wolf was canceled less than a month after it debuted. Byrne's Madigan Men will go on hiatus in January.
From Failing Sitcom to Failing Sitcom
Big-screen actors weren't the only stars to make ill-conceived moves on the small screen. John Goodman reprised his role as Roseanne's beer-swilling working-class slob Dan Connor, except on Fox's Normal, Ohio, he plays a gay beer-swilling working-class slob. Steven Weber, from Wings, stars as an unlucky bachelor in Cursed, the appropriately titled NBC comedy that's sandwiched between Friends and Will & Grace, but still manages to lose viewers. Michael Richards' eponymous show was the fifth series of the season axed by NBC. A complete retooling of the show wasn't enough to keep the former Kramer from slipping into oblivion.
Dark Angel, Boston Public Are Winners
The season wasn't a total wash for personalities with their roots in film. Titanic director James Cameron found critical and commercial success with Fox's Dark Angel, a futuristic sci-fi series starring Jessica Alba who plays Max, a butt-kicking, genetically engineered crusader. Boston Public, from prolific producer David E. Kelley, takes a realistic, if not somewhat disturbing, look at an urban high school.
While this season has yet to produce a break out hit, a handful of returning dramas, such as Law & Order, The West Wing, and The Practice, continue to offer well-written, multi-layered scripts and sharply observed performances. ER, which has faltered the past few seasons, received a life-saving injection of new characters and plot twists.
Overall, the networks have proved once again that viewers must turn down the dial to cable for a dose of reality and edgy programming. The networks would've fared better if they shelved the new shows and ran nightly election coverage. That's real drama.