Small Screen Déjà Vu

If a thing happens on television, we have every right to find it fascinating, whatever it is." --Don DeLillo, White Noise. And you have an equal right to be repulsed. Reviled. Even repelled. Love it or hate it, fall is here, and in TV land, that means it's time to unveil the rookies--gimmicks, promos and all. We know you Duke students--too smart, too busy (and perhaps too self-righteous?) to care.... Right? C'mon, admit it. Sometimes you can't deny the urge to delve into Survivor. Even if you can't bring yourself to embrace TV, we here at Recess--Duke's resident pop-culture sellouts--are here to preview, review, reheat, slice, dice and dish the new fall network line-up. WaitÉ did I say new? Oops--they did it again. I mean that, literally. There is nothing really "new" about the line-up. Popstars II. The Mole II. Millionaire is getting its own channel (it used to be called ABC). Even fresh-out-of-the-box pilots fit into the cookie cutter TV creations of yesteryear. In short, we have a "token" season--formulaic down to its inane attempts at innovation. A few examples: Token Superman Show Ah, Smallville--WB's new "reinterpretation" of the Superman story, following teenage Clark Kent's discovery of his superpowers in rural Kansas. But wait--this isn't even the first "re-interpretation"--who can forget Lois and Clark starring TV movie king Dean Cain and Ms. Radio Shack? And bonus points to anyone who remembers the original "it's-Superman-but-with-a-twist" series--the O80s cartoon Superboy. This franchise seems to have more half-lives than kryptonite. The WB hopes to "freshen it up" with their own token additions: attractive new faces, pensive expressions and a quirky relative or two. Token Reality Show From the creators of MTV's The Real World and the channel that brought you Temptation Island comes Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage. Sexy singles isolated Big Brother-style on a boat compete in both Survivor-type competitions and in matters of the libido (think of last year's isle of infidelity or even better, DisMissed) in order to win everything important in life: money, sex and that coveted guesthosting gig on TRL. Please make note of the title, as its promise to be a multi-season show is already established. Joy. Token Gimmicky Thursday Night NBC Comedy Start with those arrested-development thirty-somethings with the hyphenated celebrity last names. Continue on with the "wacky" antics of the should-be-titled Jack & Karen show. Whatever shall go in between? How about Inside Schwartzü starring Breckin Meyer as a single sportscaster whose life is interpreted through an inner play-by-play? Cutesy idea with likable star, but sadly, this show has happened before. It was called Herman's Head. Token Family Sitcom Starring Washed-up Comedian It's a close race between According to Jim (ABC) starring Jim Belushi as a bumbling father and Raising Dad (WB) starring Bob Saget as a... bumbling father. Saget's had this gig before on Full House, but his unforgettable cameo in Half Baked gives him the slight coolness advantage over Belushi. Either way, it's doubtful you'll be watching either show. Token College Show Actually, Undeclared looks pretty promising, especially coming from the creators of the critical-winner/ratings-loser Freaks and Geeks. Advance press says it's eccentric and funny. But could it hit too close to home? And that's just a brief sample. You've got new vehicles for Ellen De Generes, Jason Alexander and Daniel Stern, all sitcom staples. There's The Amazing Race and Lost in addition to new seasons of the billion other reality shows dominating the airwaves. Any way you slice it, all the "new" shows are just re-packaged franchises, celebrities or genres. Will audience appetite for this season's token TV reflect a love of comfort food or the boredom of reheated leftovers? In TV land, anything is possible.


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