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Tuned In: New game shows hard to sit through

Friday, January 18, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. -- Having watched both Fox's "The Chamber" (9 p.m. Sundays) and ABC's "The Chair" (8 p.m. Tuesdays), it is tough to determine which is the worse show. I saw "The Chair" first and was mostly bored by it. Once you've seen the gimmicks, there's no reason to watch again.

Then came the Dick Clark-produced game show "The Chamber," which is more torturous to contestants, but equally boring. The Chamber gets hot or cold. That's it. At least on "the Chair" different distractions can be lowered from the ceiling each week. (A fellow critic suggested they lower a snarling Dick Clark who'd vow to "sue you into the next century!")

Ah, yes, the lawsuits. "The Chair" sued "The Chamber," which filed a countersuit. Do these have merit? Well, the sets of both shows are almost identical, a sunken arena that brings to mind "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" by way of "Time Cop," "Logan's Run" and "The Running Man." But who knows which game show had the idea first.

Equally as offensive as the physical torture endured by contestants in "The Chamber" (temperatures went as high as 130 degrees and as low as minus 5) are the answers to the questions, 80 percent of which were some sort of brand name. Talk about a shout out to corporate America, or is it some kind of product placement?

"Chamber" host Rick Schwartz, who didn't bother to shave before Sunday's premiere, has a monotone voice that's as bland as his personality. "Chair" host John McEnroe at least has a personality, one-dimensional though it might be.

In the final analysis, "The Chair," with its semi-interesting heart monitor, is the better show. Don't take that as an endorsement, though. Neither is watchable.

'X'-ed out

"The X-Files" will end its nine-year run on Fox in May, according to series creator Chris Carter.

The show's ratings have been down this season since the departure of original series star David Duchovny, whom Carter hopes will return for the show's final episode.

MTV's 'Munsters'

Surely the oddest midseason show is MTV's answer to "Ozzie and Harriet." Ozzy Osbourne and his real-life family allowed MTV cameras to follow them around their Southern California home in "The Osbournes."

"I just thought America needed to see what a normal family was really like," said Ozzy's wife, Sharon.

His 16-year-old daughter, Kelly, has pink hair, and 15-year-old son Jack likes to slam dance. And the Osbournes don't get along with their new neighbors.

"This guy thinks he's some kind of folk singer," Ozzy said. "He starts playing 'Kumbaya' at 4 a.m. ... We never make noise though."

"We don't," Sharon said. "We're really, really quiet people, and they come and harass us and make us behave in a way that I don't like."

The new neighbor pales -- especially compared to an old neighbor.

"The best neighbor that we've ever had is Pat Boone," Ozzy said. "Seriously. This isn't a joke. We miss him terribly."

"We had Pat Boone on one side and Meatloaf on the other," Kelly said.

"It was sort of a Satan sandwich," Ozzy added.

Other MTV news:

"Making the Band," the former ABC series about the boy band O-Town, premieres its third season at 9 p.m. tomorrow on MTV.

Long-running animated series "Daria" takes its final bow with its second TV movie in "Daria: Is It College Yet?" The series-ender airs Jan. 21 at 8 p.m.

Remembering New York

Mixing 70 percent amateur footage with 30 percent network news video, HBO will create "In Memoriam: September 11, 2001, New York City" (10 p.m. May 26), a record of the day's events.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is among the New Yorkers interviewed for the special, and he told TV critics why it was important that the documentary film be made.

"Since the time it happened, I've looked at books and TV footage, and this much more conveys what it felt like to be in the middle of it," Giuliani said, "particularly those big clouds rushing through the canyons of the city."

He said a historical record of the terrorist attack is necessary for future generations.

"It's also important for people and scholars and people in the government to look at how we responded, what we did right, what we did wrong," Giuliani said.

She's baaack

Monica Lewinsky will tell her story in a question-and-answer-style documentary filmed with college students last spring.

Lewinsky said she agreed to participate in HBO's "Monica in Black and White" (10 p.m. March 3), for which she was paid by the network, because as part of her immunity agreement with the Office of the Independent Counsel, she was unable to talk about the day she was first questioned by the FBI until last year. She also feared other media portrayals or possible TV movies could further sully her image.

"I hope to fill in the historical gaps and correct some of the inaccuracies and to call attention to some of the significant issues lost in the flurry of salaciousness that occurred in '98 and '99," Lewinsky said.

Lewinsky appeared nervous and almost broke into tears during the press conference. Though she still shows up at movie premieres, Lewinsky said she hopes she'll only be "a small footnote in history."

To questions that suggested she should simply go away and avoid the spotlight altogether, Lewinsky sighed.

"When you lose your anonymity, there isn't a handbook on what to do," she said. "I'm sorry it doesn't meet everyone's standards of how to become a private citizen again."

An HBO executive didn't want her to answer a question about what she thinks of her last name being used as a synonym for oral sex in sitcom punch lines, preferring Lewinsky's answer be saved for the documentary. But after badgering from reporters, Lewinsky responded.

"It's very, very painful," she said, upset that the whole affair became known as "the Lewinsky scandal." "I didn't do this all by myself.... To take my name and equate it to something a lot of people in the world do is a very cruel thing to do."

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

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