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The Daily Tar Heel

Bad Network Decisions Plague Today's TV

But that doesn't stop me from vehemently disliking some of the choices networks have made in trying to reposition themselves for the spot as top dog.

First of all, the recent premiere of Fox's "Temptation Island" and the upcoming installment of "Survivor" show an alarming trend for this trash known as reality TV.

Now, I understand that my friends and I are the only ones in the United States who weren't enraptured by the original "Survivor" over the summer, and this popularity is what is inspiring CBS to place the new version of "Survivor" opposite NBC's formidable Thursday night lineup.

But I just don't understand the appeal. To me, reality TV is sensationalistic and privacy-violating -- the National Enquirer of television.

Something else that has been bothering me is the networks' tendency to cancel shows just coming out of the blocks if they don't get an instantaneous audience. Such great shows as "Freaks and Geeks" and the long-gone "My So-Called Life" were canceled despite such misguided maneuvers as shuffling them around the schedule and putting them up against tried-and-true programs.

Thank goodness both of them found new homes (though just for reruns) on cable, but there are many excellent older shows on the air today that started out slow. They were offered chances many new shows today are not.

One show that never had that problem was "ER." When it began, it featured a complex cast of characters and subtly pushed their development along through their jobs in an urban Chicago emergency room. For the first several seasons, it was the best series on television, and the most popular as well.

But in attempts to maintain that popularity, "ER" has become a shell of what it once was. Things began to go downhill with the departures of original cast members George Clooney and Julianna Margulies, and the tight plot lines have deteriorated into soap-opera absurdity.

For instance, in the past two weeks, Dr. Greene was operated on for a brain tumor (while his pregnant fiancee watched), and Dr. Weaver wrestled with her feelings for a lesbian colleague. Gone are the fascinating medical cases and conflicts between right and wrong, and they've been replaced by manipulative grovels for emotion.

But "ER" can charge several hundred thousand dollars for a 30-second commercial due to its perpetual stand atop the ratings heap, so it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Another great show that should be nearing the end of its run is "The X-Files," but the show does not want to let go. "The X-Files" is now in its eighth season, and a last-minute contract negotiation last spring resulted in David Duchovny only appearing in half of this season's episodes.

For me, the appeal of "The X-Files" is all about the dynamic between Mulder and Scully, romantic or not. Now that Scully is pregnant (and probably by Mulder), that dynamic is needed the most, but Mulder had to go get abducted by aliens to give Duchovny his out for the first half of this season. Now Scully is investigating the paranormal stuff with a new partner, but without Mulder, the show's heart just isn't there.

He is coming back during February sweeps but reportedly just to finish out this year. It would only be logical to end the series, but Fox is eager to have the series return for a ninth season. Gillian Anderson is under contract, new guy Robert Patrick is too, and producers recently hired actress Annabeth Gish to play a new FBI agent (one who could possibly become a regular next year should the show continue).

"The X-Files"' ratings have been sliding for a few years, but ratings are up from last year and Fox claims the show has been creatively rejuvenated with Patrick's appearances. As cool as it is to see the metal guy from "Terminator 2" on TV, this season should be "The X-Files"' last.

Keeping older and popular shows on the air is logical from a ratings standpoint, but the downgrade in quality is just too much. Hopefully, these declining shows will lose viewers, and networks will cancel them before they degrade into laughingstocks.

With all of these television network high jinks, maybe my grade point average can improve. However, "The West Wing" and "Will & Grace" are both having fantastic seasons so far -- so you never know.

The Arts & Entertaiment Editor can be reached at

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