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Some resolutions for television in 2003

Sunday, December 29, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

It's the week millions of Americans make resolutions. They promise themselves they'll lose weight, quit smoking, spend more time with their families and even - egads! - watch less TV.

But admit it: Wouldn't it be more fun to make resolutions for someone else? Or maybe something else, like a TV network?

I've heard the cries from viewers demanding less sex, less violence, less profane language. Chances are, that won't happen. But I've come up with my own list of suggested resolutions for each network. Not that they'll listen, but it's fun to dream.

This is embarrassing - for ABC more than me - but I can't think of a single alphabet network series to champion.

I know I'm supposed to love "Alias," but I don't. "The Practice" ran out of steam, "Push, Nevada" got canceled, and "Life with Bonnie" is occasionally funny, but I don't make a point of watching it.

ABC needs to develop programs that demand to be watched. Currently, those are in short supply.

The Eye network has a pretty successful lineup this season, which is why CBS should have patience with the critically acclaimed "Robbery Homicide Division."

The Friday night cop drama, starring Tom Sizemore, is now on hiatus with no return date in sight. But in two recent Saturday night outings, its ratings perked up. I hope CBS will take that as a sign. Many popular, long-running shows took time to grow. "RHD" needs that opportunity, too.

Then again, CBS renewed "The Agency" only to ruin it with needless, unbelievable romantic story lines that detract from the CIA office politics that made the show worth watching in the first place.

With CBS intent on renewing "Survivor," executive producer Rob Burnett needs to reinvigorate the franchise. The recently concluded Thailand edition was as boring as the Africa edition, the series' worst ever.

Ratings have yet to rebound for Fox, hampered in part by baseball playoffs, which always interrupt the network's launch of new series.

But it's returning comedy "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" that most deserves a chance to shine. Problem is, it's too smart for Fox and too weird for lead-in "Malcolm in the Middle," which appeals to a much younger audience than Richter's office-set show. I'm not sure where Fox should schedule Richter's laughfest, but it deserves a place on the lineup.

I still can't muster much enthusiasm for Joss Whedon's "Firefly," but the space Western has improved at least a little in recent weeks. Characters are more focused, the writing improved. Given time, it may be a keeper. Looks like time is not on the show's side: Fox canceled it earlier this month and barring a pickup by another network, "Firefly" will go lost in space.

Though ratings for new Sunday night dramas "American Dreams" and "Boomtown" aren't breaking any records, NBC would be wise to give them time to grow, especially "Dreams." The family drama has improved creatively since its premiere and is on track to be the "7th Heaven" for a new generation of young viewers and their parents.

NBC would do well to cancel Thursday night comedy "Good Morning, Miami" or at least replace the lead, Mark Feuerstein, a decent dramatic actor consistently miscast as a sitcom leading man.

And poor "Ed" has lost its way, obsessing over the Ed-Carol relationship at the expense of developing the show's secondary characters (although the addition of Daryl "Chill" Mitchell was a positive step).

Along with ABC and Fox, UPN can do no right this year. Ratings are down for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Enterprise," the network's signature shows (aside from wrestling, which you won't hear anyone at UPN boasting about).

As a long-time fan, I can only pray UPN will let "Buffy" die a dignified death or completely reinvent the show. It's had a long, respectable run. Let it go; don't milk "Buffy" until there's nothing left as Fox did with "The X-Files."

Not sure what can be done about "Enterprise," especially now that the whole "Star Trek" franchise appears doomed after the box-office failure of the latest "Next Generation" movie. That's what happens when you go to the well 12 too many times.

The WB
The network with an animated frog mascot needs little advice this season. Ratings are up, "Birds of Prey" was wisely dismissed and "Everwood" is the hit it deserves to be.

My only quibbles: Give "Angel" a time slot and leave it there, please. The show moves to 9 p.m. Wednesdays in January after a move to Sunday nights this fall.

I'd also like to see "Do Over," a cute, funny sitcom, get a better shot at success, but it's difficult to argue against cancellation given its super-low ratings.

You can reach Rob Owen 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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