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Tuned In: Rechecking new season's turn-ons and turn-offs

Thursday, October 14, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

You can't judge a book by its cover, and sometimes you can't judge a series by its pilot.

Now that most new shows of the 1999-2000 season have aired multiple episodes, it's time to revisit the "Best" and "Worst" from last month's TV Week fall preview.

Viewers can post their own opinions or ask questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv. Just click on "PG Online Talk" and register to participate. It's a quick and painless process.

You can post your comments on prime-time series or local TV news or ask questions that I'll try my best to answer. Rather than e-mailing me with questions, post them to this site so everyone can see the answers.

Here are my brief re-reviews:

BEST

"Freaks and Geeks" (NBC) -- Only two episodes aired before baseball pre-emptions, but its second outing was just as good as the first. In an age of cynicism, it's a relief to see kids who show sincerity. New episodes return Oct. 30 (unless pre-empted by Game 6 of the World Series).

"Hope Island" (Pax TV) -- Unless you have the DISH Network, you still can't see Pax TV in Pittsburgh. But this drama about a minister on an island off the coast of Seattle has developed nicely. An episode airing Monday at 8 p.m. reveals a bit of the minister's mysterious past.

"Judging Amy" (CBS) and "Once and Again" (ABC) -- Most critics are salivating over "Once and Again," and I'll readily admit it's the smarter, more realistic of the two women-skewing shows airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. But I'd rather watch "Judging Amy." This unassuming, inoffensive family drama benefits greatly from Tyne Daly's brusque performance as Amy's opinionated mother.

"Now and Again" (CBS) -- I was underwhelmed by the pilot, but subsequent episodes have proved my early dismissal hasty. This inventive Friday night drama surprises me at every turn. I still have concerns about how the show will develop, but I'm enjoying the ride.

"The West Wing" (NBC) -- Last week's episode, "A Proportional Response," was the best yet. Dramatic and filled with grand oratory, "West Wing" is the most compelling workplace drama of the year.

Other shows I named "Best" last month have fallen off the list in recent weeks.

"Cold Feet" (NBC) -- Left me cold in its second episode.

"Action" (Fox) -- This dark comedy has been a mixed bag -- funny one week, simply vulgar the next. I still prefer it to NBC's "Stark Raving Mad," but judging by the ratings, the public has rejected "Action."

"Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox) -- Won't premiere until January.


WORST

"Family Law" (CBS) -- Boring, but it's done inexplicably well in the ratings. Now where will CBS put Steven Bochco's mid-season medical drama "City of Angels"?

"Mike O'Malley Show" (NBC) -- Not funny and already canceled.

"Shasta McNasty" (UPN) -- Stupid and rude.

"Get Real" (Fox) -- Got old really quick.

"Wasteland" (ABC) -- Simply a waste of time.

Last month my "Worst" list consisted of just two shows:

"Manchester Prep" (Fox) -- Canceled before its scheduled December premiere.

"The Badland" (Fox) -- Got renamed "Ryan Caulfield: Year One." After seeing two episodes, I decided this one didn't merit inclusion on the "Worst" list because it's merely ordinary, not aggressively annoying.



FALLING FURTHER: Last month Nielsen Media Research released a report that recalculated the market positions of the nation's TV markets, and Pittsburgh tumbled a step from No. 19 to No. 20.

Anne Elliot, vice president of marketing/communications for Nielsen Media Research, said projections for January 2000 show Pittsburgh will be supplanted by the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto market in California, which grew from 1,131,000 TV households a year ago to approximately 1,160,000 this year.

As Sacramento picked up almost 30,000 TV homes, Pittsburgh lost 1,000 and now stands at 1,135,000. Pittsburgh is followed by St. Louis, market No. 21. St. Louis was up 4,000 homes this year, but it's still below Pittsburgh with 1,114,000 TV homes.



VIEWERS' VOICE: Want to voice your opinion about the local TV news operations? Visit www.tvnewz.com, click on "Viewers' Voice," then "Cities," then "Pittsburgh" and vote on which of our stations does the best job. Note to local news directors: No stuffing the ballot box.



"BUFFY" WATCH: Fans of the series' music can look forward to the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" soundtrack, due in stores Tuesday. Kudos to TVT Records for including both the show's theme song by Nerfherder and an instrumental track ("Buffy-Angel Love Theme") in addition to the requisite alternative rock music.



END OF THE STORY: Former WPXI weathercaster C.S. Keys is looking toward the future after his trial last week. Keys was charged with simple assault in February after allegedly beating up a woman in his Ross home.

The charge was reduced to disorderly conduct, to which Keys pleaded guilty and received a year's non-reporting probation.

"I'm very happy my name's been cleared," Keys said. "Disorderly conduct means there was a disturbance in my home, which was true. There was no proof whatsoever of assault."

Patrick Nightingale, assistant district attorney for Allegheny County's domestic violence unit, said the plea bargain his office offered was a third-degree misdemeanor in which an individual engages in "fighting or threatening, in violent or tumultuous behavior with the intent to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience.

"That accurately reflected what took place at the residence," Nightingale said.

Keys also will be required to get counseling.

Keys said he's pursuing a number of opportunities in television, but he wouldn't specify what those might be. In a phone interview this week Keys thanked former colleagues who offered him support, but he said naysayers "can kiss my ass."



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