B y T o m D a n e h y
IT'S JUNE NOW, the beginning of the Dark Days for those of us who enjoy television. All the season-ending cliffhangers have been hung neatly in place and we've entered that long, cold three-month period of Rerun Hell. About the only chance of seeing something new on TV between now and Labor Day will be if Dan Rather happens to get the same boot that claimed Connie Chung not too long ago.
Hey, maybe she and Maury Povich can have that baby they've been gagging us with over these past few years. And won't society be much the better for that arrival?
As we look back on the past season, we find some pleasant successes, a surprising number of strong dramas, two new networks, and more bad comedy than can be conjured up in all of the legislative bodies in Arizona combined.
Highlights and lowlights:
BEST NEW SHOW: ER on NBC, Thursdays. A rare combination of excellence and ratings success, made all the more unlikely by the fact that it jumped to the top of the heap in the middle of its first season. The real star of the show is its frenetic pace as one emergency after another is piled up like human cordwood. While the cast is skilled and attractive, even season-long viewers will probably be able to name only one character, and that's because Carter is called by his name about 30 times each episode.
Not the best show on TV--heck, it probably isn't in the top five--but a solid freshman season for a show with a lot of promise.
BEST NEW SHOW, RUNNER-UP: Chicago Hope. The other new hospital drama based in the Windy City, Hope is more technical and more offbeat than ER, but it suffers from its sometimes-forced bizarreness. The late-season story line on Mandy Patinkin's Dr. Geiger as genius/madman got a bit tiring, but the mid-season episode involving a patient who checks in with an erection that won't go away and then barely escapes the hospital with his life is an instant classic.
MOST OVERRATED SUCCESS: Friends on NBC, Thursdays. This mildly-amusing sitcom has spawned a Top 10 single and more magazine covers than anyone cares to think about.
Friends tells of a group of twentysomethings with crappy jobs, dead-end relationships and a huge, vaulted-ceiling New York City apartment that Courteney Cox couldn't afford if she were selling her skinny butt on the street.This thing's okay, but it had better not win any Emmys.
PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME: Picket Fences on CBS, Fridays. This is the television equilvalent of German opera. Technically excellent, I suppose, but virtually unwatchable. Alternately preachy and abrasive, this show is too weird by about 90 percent. Somehow it has won the past two Best Drama Series Emmys. Don't bet on a third.
WORST MINI-SERIES: Scarlett on CBS. We could have gone our whole life without a sequel to Gone With The Wind, especially a badly-made, boring one. The guy who okayed this project probably has on his desk right now, The Bible, Part II: Beyond Revelations.
BEST COMEDY: Frasier. Simply delicious. Kelsey Grammar's Frasier is the same old bundle of strength and neuroses, but now he's surrounded by a cast of lunatics that make for huge laughs evry Tuesday night on NBC. David Hyde-Pierce as Frasier's brother Niles is the clear favorite for the Best Supporting Actor Emmy.
MOST IMPROVED: Lois and Clark, ABC Sundays. A light charmer in its first season, this show blossomed this season by focusing less on the super hero and more on the Lois and Clark romance angle.
Industrial-strength babe Teri Hatcher and engagingly vulnerable Dean Cain play the reluctant couple with real style.
Lois and Clark already has NBC's SeaQuest on the run and has helped force the once-invincible Murder, She Wrote off Sunday nights. It also had the season's most appealing cliffhanger, with Lois about to answer Clark's proposal of marriage.
BEST DRAMATIC SERIES: Tough call: the two aforementioned hospital shows; maybe Picket Fences on a good night; NYPD Blues, which actually got better with the addition of Jimmy Smits; a steller season of Law and Order, with the addition of Sam Waterston; the underrated Under Suspicion and two favorites for top honors, Homicide and The X-Files.
The latter were low-rated shows that their respective networks stuck with, to their credit. The X-Files jumped 45 places in the ratings over last year, while Homicide finally started climbing at the end of this season.
Overall, it was a good TV season, with lots of very good to balance out the usual lots of very bad.
Cutline: Great Caesar's ghost! Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain team up for a super show.
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