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From Canoe.ca


TV’s best (and blondest) moments

By Kevin Williamson

Sunday 28 December 2003

TV’s best (and blondest) moments By KEVIN WILLIAMSON — Calgary Sun It was a grim year with blond highlights.

War coverage and reality-TV dreck dominated the first half of 2003, while the networks unveiled a fall season lineup that generated plenty of bombs and no real hits.

For better and worse, blond moments abounded. Bubble-headed fashionista Paris Hilton (with pal Nicole Richie) milked her notoriety and a few cows on Fox’s reality-meets-Green Acres series, The Simple Life — bolstered by the media blitz that Hilton’s sex-tape scandal generated. On MTV, Britney Spears-wannabe Jessica Simpson found more success playing Blondie to Nick Lechay’s Dagwood on Newlyweds than she ever did singing for her supper.

But blondest of all were network programmers who seemed utterly clueless about what viewers want. NBC unveiled its much-hyped Coupling — touted as a replacement for the network’s outgoing Friends — to disastrous ratings and swift cancellation. News at ABC wasn’t much better; after the startling success of Joe Millionaire on Fox, ABC devoted most of its spring programming to reality knockoffs — and automatic duds — such as The Family and I’m A Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here. This fall, its acclaimed Karen Sisco floundered in the ratings and was taken off the air until next year.

Even CBS, the year’s clear ratings winner thanks to the CSI and Survivor franchises, couldn’t avoid a highly-publicized bungle or two — namely, a Michael Jackson concert special scrapped following the raid on the Neverland ranch and The Reagans, a mini-series that American conservative groups successfully lobbied to kill (in the end, it aired on U.S. cabler Showtime).

But no network suffered a more tumulteous time in 2003 than Fox, which started off the year with Joe Millionaire and ended it with The Next Joe Millionaure.

The difference between the two? About 40 million viewers.

Certainly one can empathize with network brass facing a public that is increasingly fickle and unpredictable.

Who would have thought, after all, that five not-so-ordinary joes would become the talk of reality-TV?

Yet the "Fab Five," as they are called, did just that when U.S. cable channel Bravo — obviously seeing the ratings glory home and personal improvement efforts such as Trading Places were basking in — introduced Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, about a gay fashion S.W.A.T. team who give a hetrosexual guy a makeover. The result proved an instant pop culture sensation with the quintet turning up everywhere from the MTV Video Music Awards to Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating People of 2003.

What that means for viewers is obvious — more of the same. Bravo is plotting Straight Eye for the Queer Guy while on Fox, expect The Simple Life 2, again with Hilton and Richie.

Blond moments, apparently, will continue well into 2004.

Despite the well-documented dregs, though, some shows stood out from the rest. The 10 best of the year are below, but there were other bright spots too — Karen Sisco, The Shield, The O.C., NipTuck and Keen Eddie, among them.

Some of them are even hits, giving all of us reason to hope for more and better as the year draws to a close and we usher in 2004:

5) ANGEL: What’s scary is how good this smart, supernatural fantasy is. Enjoying one of its wittiest seasons to date, it’s made life without Buffy The Vampire Slayer bearable. Credit an overhaul late last season when demi-god Joss Whedon made Angel’s titular hero (David Boreanaz) the CEO of a demonic law firm. The restart gave the show a newfound energy and served two distinct purposes: Made it accessible to new viewers with faster, funnier episodes and, at the same time, crystallized the metaphor that is key to the Buffy-verse — that Hell is all around us, from high schools to high-priced law firms. Jerry Bruckheimer and Dick Wolf, with their automated CSI and Law & Order machines, could learn a thing or two from Whedon about how to generate a satisfying spinoff.