Gasp. Gulp. Gasp.
That's the sound made by many of the TV shows waiting to learn their fates.
America's broadcast television networks will announce their fall schedules next month and until then producers, writers and stars of shows like "Sports Night," "Jack & Jill" and "Falcone" wonder whether they'll still be getting a paycheck come September.
They're waiting and fans are waiting, so it's time to do your part and vote for your favorites and against the series you despise in the Post-Gazette's annual poll, Readers' Remote: Keep or Cancel?
We've renamed it (some folks got a little touchy over the use of the word "kill" when we called it Kill 'Em or Keep 'Em) and refined the look of the online voting ballot.
Otherwise, it's the same. Readers' Remote is your opportunity to tell the networks what you like and what you wouldn't watch, even if they offered you an insta-bride for $1 million.
Some readers were miffed last year when the contest was confined to the Internet, but it's the best, most accurate way to count the votes and generate the demographic data about a show's supporters. Even if you don't have a computer, you can still vote: Just use a terminal at a local library or ask a friend to register your choices for you.
Readers' Remote gives you the chance to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to every regular series broadcast during the 1999-2000 season. Some of these have already been canceled, but no matter. Let us know what you thought of them anyway.
I'll forward the results of the poll (voting closes April 30) to the network executives who decide what stays and what goes before they set their fall schedules next month. Realistically, Readers' Remote is no competition for the research the networks do on their programs each year, but it's at least anecdotal evidence.
If nothing else, the poll gives viewers a chance to sound off. Judging by the number of phone calls I get from readers everyday, I know people have strong feelings about TV.
But before you vote, let's look at the shows most likely to be on the bubble with iffy prospects for renewal. If you want to write a letter on behalf of any of these programs to a particular network, see the list of network addresses under TV Connections
As the network whose schedule was all but consumed by "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" this season, ABC has only a few time slots available in the fall. Will those go to low-rated returning shows or will ABC gamble on newcomers?
"Sports Night" is the show most in need of support. There's no guarantee "Norm" will be back either. Friday night sitcom "The Hughleys" looks like it could be a goner as well.
Will "Ladies Man" survive to be berated by the women of his house for another season? Will "Grapevine" ripen with age or whither? "Chicago Hope" looks hopeless. It could be replaced by "City of Angels."
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Keep or Cancel?
Vote for or against the continuation of network TV shows online at www.post-gazette.com/tv
It was a season marked by failure (except for "Malcolm in the Middle"), so little is likely to return. Given the choice, would you want to see "The X-Files" continue? Or is it so late in the game for that show, the response will be a big "Who cares?"
Someone out there must be watching "Jesse" and "Stark Raving Mad," but do they watch because they like the shows or because they don't feel like changing the channel between NBC's good Thursday night shows?
Surely there are viewers with an abiding hatred for "Suddenly Susan" and "Veronica's Closet." A vote to cancel them would make your day (and mine).
I know viewers feel passionately about wanting to see further adventures of the "Freaks and Geeks," even though it's already been canceled by NBC. Your vote is one way to get back at the network for doing everything in its power to ensure the show's failure.
Hmmm, what to vote for here. "The Beat"? Maybe?
Some viewers will vote for "WWF Smackdown!" and perhaps even more inexplicably "Star Trek: Voyager," but otherwise ...
As the ratings of UPN have risen from the Nielsen depths, The WB has seen its golden glow tarnished. Viewers aren't defecting for UPN, they're just sick of the same-old WB dramas.
"Roswell" never really got traction, but it still has a loyal following that would be sad to see it go. Same for "Jack & Jill." But will anyone shed a tear for "Zoe ..."? Votes in Readers' Remote will offer a tell-tale sign.
Rob Owen can be reached at (412) 263-2582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.