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THE WATER COOLER

The Tv Morgue

May 28, 2008|Mary McNamara | Times Television Critic

THE NETWORKS have lately brought out their dead, and as happy as I was personally to see the backs of such marvels of misogyny and racism as "Big Shots" and "Cavemen," I couldn't help feel a little tiny twang of sympathy and even regret.

Eviscerated by the three-month writers strike, this last television season was the strangest in recent memory, the natural arc of story line disrupted and disjointed, viewers yanked out of their grooves with all the gentleness of a toddler discovering a turntable.

It was bad enough for established shows -- after such a long and unplanned for hiatus, even some of the best returned to the air rusty and not quite up to code. But if "Grey's Anatomy," "30 Rock" and "The Office" did not have to worry about getting the boot, many of the new shows did.

Some, like "Life," "Chuck" and "Pushing Daisies" got Get Out of Jail free cards -- the networks just didn't bring them back for the end of the season, choosing instead to relaunch in the fall. But it was back to the trenches for the rest, and for those already weak or wounded -- "Moonlight," "New Amsterdam," "Aliens in America" and "Back to You" -- any hope of building enough word of mouth to overcome early low numbers was faint and soon vanished altogether. As will the shows.

Reviewing the rolls of those fallen in action, I must confess that while there were a few I liked -- "Aliens," "Back to You" -- most I did not. Still, it seems unfair that they should be judged as no other shows have been judged, on seasons ripped apart by internal strife and resumed amid so much expectation and occasional time slot changes.

A few shows that I hated early on were showing some improvement. After being badgered by die-hard fans, I watched "Moonlight" now and then, and if it never rose to "Buffy" or "Nightstalker" standards, it was growing on me. (And what does it mean when Alex O'Loughlin makes TV Guide's 100 Sexiest People on TV only to have his show canceled two minutes later?) Likewise, "New Amsterdam" had its moments, and wouldn't it have been nice if some wunderkind over at NBC could have saved/recast "Bionic Woman"?

But it's a tough business, brother, and not every show can afford to wobble in and out of favor like "Lost." My heart goes out to the writers and actors who got their big break in this strike-riven year. For the record, it isn't fair, and if this were a television show, the governor or the president or the network executive would call and order a do-over.

But then, of course, we'd have to sit through "Carpoolers" and "The Return of Jezebel James" again, and that wouldn't be fair either.

--

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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