It's time for "Channel Surfing" to do some spring cleaning of sorts: Here is a gathering of items not worth a full column, but still deserving some attention.
On the eve of May sweeps, some interesting things have taken place. Perhaps the biggest news is Buffy The Vampire Slayer's move from the WB to UPN, in a deal announced recently. You don't have to be a fan of the show to find this noteworthy.
In one corner, you have the WB, the demographic darling. And though it's lost some of its clout as the network of the 18-34 crowd, it still packs a punch. In the opposite corner sits UPN, also doing a decent job of reaching the same age bracket. Problem is, UPN's audience is mostly male, due in large part to the nearly-departed Star Trek: Voyager and the World Wrestling Federation.
Both networks have been fighting to claim the No. 5 spot behind ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Originally "Buff" was rumored to be headed to Fox (whose studio division produces the show). But UPN came up with a truckload of money, and the WB refused to match the offer.
According to Daily Variety, UPN has a two-year deal, paying $2.3 million weekly for a show that pulls in $1.6 million per episode and regularly finishes out of the top 50. Apparently UPN feels Buffy will be the network's new flagship program.
Not quite as interesting is NBC's assault on ABC's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? When a particular animal is imported into a new region, it can become a nuisance. To combat it, a natural enemy is brought in from the offending creature's indigenous habitat. NBC has taken this principle and applied it to TV programming with The Weakest Link. Imported from Britain, where it allegedly beat the original Millionaire, there's a lot to hate about this program.
Accurately described as a cross between Survivor and Millionaire, the program features eight contestants who take turns answering questions. After each round, one is voted off. After each round, icy host Ann Robinson, from the original U.K. version, hammers players for missing questions.
Some think it's mean. I think it's funny. What I could do without is the number of times she says "the weakest link." The game has 17 rounds, probably four commercial breaks, an intro, outro -- she must say it close to 50 times. Yikes!
Yes, it promotes people being mean to each other. But the nitwits on this show couldn't be more deserving. After being voted off, they take the (good grief) "walk of shame." Then they have about 30 seconds to berate the remaining contestants.
"I think Bob will be the next voted off, because he's an idiot." Yawn. Wouldn't it be refreshing if someone said, "Well, that was fun. Came from nothing, going back to nothing, what have I lost? Nothing." But that's not good TV.
Stand by for more of the same, though. There have been rumblings about writers and actors going on strike. The Screen Actors Guild's contract expires July 1. The Writers Guild contract expired at the end of April. A settlement in the latter was uncertain as this was being written, but if a writers strike is averted, the chance of a walkout by actors is reduced.
A work stoppage by either, of course, would shut down Hollywood. So we'll be saddled with more Temptation Island, Weakest Link and Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire And His Wife?
It will be a chance to catch up on shows we've missed. There's loads of quality reruns out there. Time Warner now has the TV Land channel in its lineup, which lately kind of sucks. When we didn't have it they ran St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues. Now it's Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith and Mary Tyler Moore, stuff sister channel Nick at Nite, and others, have run for a while.
Buck up though: In June they bring back Love Boat. Now that's classic!
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