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Final 'Freaks and Geeks' will air tonight on NBC

Saturday, July 08, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

I hate it when I'm right.

Last fall I begged readers to watch "Freaks and Geeks" but acknowledged "it may be too offbeat for mainstream audiences." That proved all too prophetic. Few viewers tuned in and others who might have watched couldn't keep track of the show as NBC jerked it all around the prime-time schedule.

"Freaks and Geeks," officially canceled by NBC, gets one last hurrah tonight from 8 to 11 p.m. The network will air three of the remaining episodes, including the season finale and another episode with a cameo by Ben Stiller. I've seen all three and they're well worth watching.

Even though NBC blew it when it came to scheduling "Freaks and Geeks" and nurturing it to a longer life, the network at least deserves some appreciation for showing these episodes. Most canceled series get much less consideration.

So far there's no word on where "Freaks and Geeks" reruns or the unaired episodes might turn up, but a deal to air reruns somewhere (MTV has been ruled out) is in the offing, according to one of the show's producers. It's also likely the episodes will be released on home video and DVD. A soundtrack album may also be produced.

Although my confidence is a little shaken by the delay in announcing a home for reruns, this news from the "Freaks and Geeks" producers gives me hope. It just may take awhile. Seven years passed between the cancellation of "Homefront" and TV Land's decision to put that series on the air in April. At the time, I asked readers for suggestions on what other shows they'd like to see again.

Suggestions included "Frank's Place" (CBS, 1987-88), "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1990-91), "Byrds of Paradise" (ABC, 1994), "American Gothic" (CBS, 1995-96), "Picket Fences" (CBS, 1992-96), "Get a Life" (Fox, 1990-92), "EZ Streets" (CBS, 1996-97), "Maximum Bob" (ABC, 1998) and "Nothing Sacred" (ABC, 1997-98).

My primary interest is to crusade on behalf of series that have not aired since their original network runs, particularly if there are episodes that never aired. Episodes of "Frank's Place" have been broadcast on TV Land, "Twin Peaks" is on Bravo, "American Gothic" was on Sci-Fi Channel, "Picket Fences" was on FX and "Get a Life" is on home video.

It is surprising no network picked up the Steven Bochco-produced family drama "Byrds of Paradise" because it starred a pre-"Party of Five" Jennifer Love Hewitt and a pre-"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Seth Green. But there were only a handful of episodes, which makes scheduling such a show difficult. The same goes for "EZ Streets," "Maximum Bob" and "Nothing Sacred."

Regardless, I want to throw my support behind a "Nothing Sacred" resurrection. Although this drama about a liberal Catholic priest began with a pilot episode that tried way too hard to shock, the series gained balance and perspective, especially in its depiction of Sister Maureen (Ann Dowd) and her struggles with the church. Plus, I know there are several episodes that never aired on ABC.

"Nothing Sacred" was met with howls of protests from some conservative Catholics, but it struck a chord with others. TV Land is unlikely to be the savior of this deserving series, making Bravo the most likely outlet. I know, I know, Bravo is not as widely distributed (it's only on the Digital tier of local AT&T systems), but I can't help that. With its "TV Too Good For TV" showcase and a willingness to court controversy with shows like Michael Moore's "The Awful Truth," Bravo is the best hope for "Nothing Sacred's" salvation.

Anyone who'd like to join the "Nothing Sacred" crusade should write to: Frances Berwick, Senior Vice President of Programming, Bravo, 1111 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, NY 11714.

NAME CHANGE: So would you rather watch a sci-fi drama called "Fearsum" or "Freakylinks"? Fox thinks the latter. The network changed the name of its new fall series to "Freakylinks," presumably because it's the name of a Web site on the show, which is from the creators of "The Blair Witch Project." The Web site also exists at www.freakylinks.com.

SCARIEST PROMOTIONAL ITEM OF THE WEEK: How should one react to a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" soundtrack album? Fear? After all, the soundtrack (in stores Aug. 1) includes a 1968 recording of Regis singing "Pennies From Heaven."

But the album is actually a fun listen, with all the music and sound effects from the series and some audio clips of Reege and contestants. Songs on the album -- picked because their lyrics relate to the game show -- include "Money 'That's What I Want" (Barrett Strong), "Call Me" (Blondie), "When the Going Gets Tough" (Billy Ocean) and "Goldfinger" (Shirley Bassey).

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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