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What Non-Aardvarks are Pondering

By Curtis C. Chen

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September 10, 2001

Mostly Crap. Mostly.

(the sequel to "What's Curtis Watching?")

Last Tuesday, I went to Slim's for "KFOG's preview of the Fall TV Season highlights - hosted by the Chronicle TV critic, Tim Goodman."

It wasn't quite what I expected. I had thought they'd show us a bunch of short promotional videos or electronic press kits. Tim Goodman actually brought preview tapes of four new half-hour shows-- complete episodes-- which were played on a huge front-projection screen. He claimed that these four were his favorites of all the new shows he'd seen this season. Well, there's no accounting for taste.

Below, I've recycled some of the grids from my previous Hotsheet and added new notations (in green) for the shows I saw last Tuesday, and a few that I inexplicably overlooked last week. Your mileage may vary. Tim Goodman's certainly does.

Preview #1: Undeclared (Tuesday, FOX)

In a nutshell: it's Freaks and Geeks in college. (Same creator, even: Judd Apatow.) I didn't much care for Freaks and Geeks, and I still don't understand why so many critics seemed to love it. Based on the pilot, Undeclared isn't horrible, but the balance is off: it's too real to be truly funny, and too silly to be truly poignant. Not for me.

Preview #2: The Tick (Thursday, FOX)

Watch The Tick. Tell all your friends, especially those with little Nielsen boxes, to watch The Tick. As Tim Goodman pointed out, FOX has made their lack of confidence clear by scheduling this show opposite the new Survivor series. But even if the pilot I saw was a little thin and overburdened with exposition, it captured the inimitable essence of The Tick. And how can you not love Batmanuel? For the love of lightly toasted waffles, watch The Tick!

Thursday ADDENDUM: The Agency has some good people working on it-- Wolfgang Petersen, Will Patton, Gloria Reuben, and Gil Bellows, among others. And I've always been a sucker for spy stories. I'm willing to give it a chance.

Preview #3: Maybe It's Me (Friday, WB)

And maybe it's crap. Even if you ignore the totally generic nature of this Malcolm in the Middle rip-off, I guarantee you'll be annoyed to death by the Pop-Up Video-style captions and animated thought bubbles (yes, fucking thought bubbles) that clutter the screen. And doesn't anybody care about coherent narrative anymore? There's a present-tense voiceover by the protagonist, a teenage girl, but we also get a caption proclaiming a popular classmate to be "10 years away from complete misery." Whose damn viewpoint is that? The pilot was all over the map-- it's as if they threw everything they could think of on the screen, hoping something would stick. Wrong.

Preview #4: The Mind of the Married Man (Sunday, HBO)

In some ways, this was the best of the lot, but the audience reception on Tuesday was downright chilly. I'm guessing that's because it was more dramatic than the preceding three shows, which were all comedies. The audience wasn't in a mood to be receptive to the Married Man pilot, which, though quite funny, does address some non-trivial issues about long-term relationships. It's like a more mature, male version of Sex and the City. I may not watch it again-- it's on the periphery of my interests-- but I wouldn't tell anyone to avoid it.

Sunday ADDENDA: Look, I have absolutely no interest in UC: Undercover-- despite its title being similar to another series which I mentioned previously-- even if it does feature Oded Fehr.
And I don't know how I missed circling Futurama last week! It's always entertaining, and makes great satire of classic science fiction tropes.

Wednesday ADDENDUM: According to the CBS web site, Wolf Lake is a "small Pacific Northwest town ... where the most prominent residents are 'shape-shifters' who can transform themselves into wolves." I'll be pleasantly surprised if this turns out NOT to be a nighttime soap which throws internal consistency out the window at the earliest opportunity.

You may say I watch too much television. But I'm interested in less than 12% of these shows. Okay, that's 12% out of 168 hours of primetime network programming every week, but quite a bit of that interest is marginal. I'm sure I'll be down to no more than 8% by the end of the calendar year. You do the math. And don't forget to subtract 25% for all the commercials I don't watch.




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