Prime Time ’99- A year of Surprises

Here’s an article with a small mention of Roswell and Brendan that was sent in by May.

It was a year of surprises, pleasant and otherwise

From: Calgary Sun

So which is less likely: Susan Lucci finally winning a Daytime Emmy or CBC host Adrienne Clarkson getting a lofty government appointment?

Well, it turns out TV is a place where anything can happen.

Both happened this year, while Regis Philbin and David E. Kelley took it upon themselves to personally provide 90% of all primetime programming.

Primetime in 1999, by the way, was defined as “the spaces of time between grating Gap commercials.”

The two oddest TV stories during 1999: David Duchovny sued his own boss over royalties on X-Files reruns and Steven Bochco practically had to beg ABC to put new episodes of the hit series NYPD Blue back on the air.

We were “so sick of Monica Lewinsky” that only 3.4 million Canadians and 74 million Americans tuned in to watch Barbara Walters interview the infamous intern. (And she came oh-so-close to landing a gig on The View, too.)

Though it seemed hard to believe during Monica-mania, there would be other news stories. Conflict in Eastern Europe, the Kennedy crash and the Columbine shootings had us flipping to CNN regularly.

Sports, as always, made for dramatic programming.

We watched highlights every Sunday, hoping to see Jeff Garcia in a 49ers uniform. We watched incriminating replays as the Dallas Stars raised the Stanley Cup.

People who had never sat through a baseball game before were glued to a tense playoff series between the Braves and Mets.

And there were farewells for Wayne Gretzky and John Elway.
There were also hyped farewells for Another World, Home Improvement, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Mad About You, Millennium, Caroline in the City, Sunset Beach and Melrose Place, although few would claim any of them were still in their prime.

The same could not be said about Homicide: Life on the Street or NewsRadio.

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE: Few saw this one coming — CTV wasn’t even planning on simulcasting all the episodes of the game show when it debuted this summer — but it was already an international hit. And why not? Watching a MENSA member lose $968,000 US because he doesn’t watch popular television shows or own any Jethro Tull albums is just good fun.

ACTION: Jay Mohr’s unpredictable, cutting edge and, yes, savage Fox sitcom was too good to last. Add this one to series like The Prisoner, Police Squad!, TV Nation and other great shows tragically killed before their time.

HIT NEW SHOWS: Once and Again, Now and Then, Freaks and Geeks, Providence, Roswell, Angel, The West Wing, Judging Amy, Ladies Man … who would have believed there could be so many series this year people would actually watch a second episode of?

TV TECHNOLOGY: In 1999, Canadian satellite systems actually became a viable alternative to cable. Cable became a viable alternative to dial-up Internet connections. HDTV is sneaking up behind us, too. We may not be able to figure it all out (or afford it), but it’s nice to know it’s there.

CANADIAN CONTENT: Alex Trebek, Paul Shaffer and Peter Jennings got some more company on American airwaves this year. Canucks Carly Pope (Popular), Sean Cullen (Mad TV), Colin Mochrie (Whose Line is it Anyway?), Brendan Fehr (Roswell), Saul Rubinek (Frasier), Lochlyn Munro (Charmed) and Scott Bairstow (Harsh Realm) were primetime regulars. Not to mention such established actors as Michael J. Fox, Eric McCormack, Norm Macdonald, Tom Green, Caroline Rhea, Matthew Perry, Scott Speedman, Enrico Colantoni and Neve Campbell.

NEW YEAR’S EVE: You name the musical act, they will be on some channel tomorrow. A nice change from previous years where Calgarians were lucky to get a midnight countdown televised for our time zone. (Besides, I can’t wait to see if ABC anchor Peter Jennings starts to crack during his 24-hour marathon.)

GRETZKY’S GOODBYE: True, it was a sad occasion — but weren’t the endless documentaries, tributes and flashbacks great?

POKEMON: I understand Pokemon. I do not even disapprove of the video game/trading card/mass merchandising synergy. But the daily series is really quite terrible.

The animation is the worst seen since Astro Boy and Hercules went off the air — offensively bad. (And don’t get me started on the movie.)

There is hardly any plot to speak of, other than the shameless plot to sell more Pokemon they often work into episodes.

THE SOPRANOS: Thanks to a long-standing feud between HBO and Superchannel, Albertans are unable to see the universally acclaimed gangster drama.

WRESTLING: Stampede Wrestling is a welcome addition to the schedule and rasslin’ can be fun in appropriate doses. The freakshow which seems to air daily from the major circuits these days, and the fervour with which it is embraced, is bewildering.

LOCAL NEWS: Calgary 7’s newsroom made news of its own — Ed Whalen retired after 51 years of broadcasting, Mike Lownsbrough was fired after 18 years of sports reporting and Calgary 7 wooed Tony Tighe away from Channel 3. A-Channel lost entertainment reporters Alex Pierson and Tyler Harcott to greener pastures this fall, too.

AWARD SHOWS: OK, so they aren’t exactly a new phenomenon, but do Britney Spears, ‘N Sync and Ricky Martin have to be on EVERY SINGLE one? The only ones they didn’t show up at were the Oscars — Roberto Benigni’s maniacal acceptance speech would’ve been great if he hadn’t “improvised” the same routine at Cannes — and the Emmys. (Jenna Elfman’s and David Hyde Pierce’s interpretive dance haunts me to this day.)

HELLO, SHELLEY LONG!: George Clooney, Benjamin Bratt, Andy Richter, Julianna Margulies and Gloria Reuben decided to leave successful NBC series to pursue the kind of big time offers which awaited David Caruso.

GRETZKY’S NEW CAREER: Coffee, tires, gas, beer, banking services … he’ll sell anything these days. Remember when Wayne only plugged Pro-Stars cereal?

THE RISE AND FALL OF DAVID E. KELLEY: He won the Emmy for both best comedy, Ally McBeal, and drama, The Practice. He spent the summer spinning-off a half-hour Ally, reviving Chicago Hope and pushing a new series called Snoops.

As we enter 2000, we find Kelley just may be human after all and not in possession of the Midas touch.

His two feature films, Lake Placid and Mystery, Alaska, bombed. The disappointing Snoops was cancelled. Nobody was fooled into watching the recycled Ally and the quality of the original hit has been lacking so far this season.

McBeal has been reusing old storylines and leaned on wild sexcapades to create excitement. (Although, if you’re going get your main character to explore her bisexual feelings, it had better be with Lucy Liu. Her star is definitely on the rise.)

Chicago Hope has also been borrowing noticeably from ER and itself.

However, Ally McBeal began righting itself in recent weeks and the makeover of Chicago Hope has helped.

It is likely David E. Kelley has no more lost his touch than Friends ran out of gas a few seasons back.

10 Best Shows (Still) on TV
1. The Simpsons
2. Sex and the City
3. Friends
4. The West Wing
5. Once and Again
6. Win Ben Stein’s Money
7. Freaks and Geeks
8. Now and Again
9. Will and Grace
10. What’s For Dinner?

10 Worst Shows (Still) on TV
1. Pokemon
2. The World’s Whatever-est Anything!
3. Veronica’s Closet
5. Later
6. Baywatch Hawaii
7. Passions
8. Shasta McNasty
9. Odd Man Out
10. The Rosie O’Donnell Show

Celebrity Deaths: Owen Hart, 34, the Calgary wrestling star killed during a WWF event; Madeline Kahn, 57, the veteran comic actress from Cosby; DeForest Kelley, 79, who was more than just a doctor to Star Trek fans; Ellen Corby, 87, the Oscar-nominated grandma Walton; David Strickland, 29, a Suddenly Susan cast member; Dana Plato, 34, the troubled Diff’rent Strokes star; Mary Kay Bergman, 38, the voice of many South Park characters; Senor Wences, 103, a familiar ventriloquist to Ed Sullivan viewers; Jennifer Paterson, 71, one half of the Two Fat Ladies cooking duo; Allen Funt, 84, the host of Candid Camera; Gene Rayburn, 81, the host of The Match Game; Rory Calhoun, 76, otherwise known as The Texan; Clayton Moore, 85, otherwise known as The Lone Ranger, and golden age comic Joey Adams, 88.


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