80's TV -- The Wave Of The 90's

The new TV season is almost here. And not a minute too soon, I might add. Since June -- or was it January? -- we've been bombarded by previews for the upcoming line-up of shows, making it the longest continuous promotion of the 20th Century, not an easy feat when you realize the presidential election has continued unabated since 1976. The good news is soon we can stop watching reruns of the X-Files episode where Muldur accuses Sculley of being an alien because she never wears a skirt. The bad news is now we have to watch Bill Cosby, Michael J. Fox and Ted Dansen again.It's true. This years' theme is "Recycled TV Stars Who Couldn't Make It In The Movies." At least this is an improvement over last year's which was "Funny Stand-up Comedians Starring in Lame Imitations of Friends." Although this year's theme was originally conceived as a comeback vehicle for McLean Stevenson -- until someone realized he was dead -- what it really means is we get to watch 80's television all over again. We'll see Alex Keaton grown up, Cliff Huxtable grown old and Sam Malone trying to grow hair so he can stop wearing those silly toupees. What more could a viewing audience want?Brooke Shields.That's right, even Brooke gets her own TV show. And why shouldn't she? After all, she did such a fine job in Blue Lagoon and Brenda Starr ("Not even available on video," says Rex Reed) the least she deserves is a shot at prime time. I haven't seen the details of the show yet -- after all, they're still reshooting the pilot over and over in the hopes that eventually the network honchos will be able to watch it without throwing up their tofu-filled whole wheat cupcakes -- but if we're lucky maybe she'll reprise the one role she did well: the teenage prostitute in Pretty Baby. Of course since she's older now it will focus on her later years as a single divorcee living in the big city with her three young, precocious children. Something new and refreshing called, oh, how does Babbling Brooke sound?Maybe I should take TV more seriously. Other people do. In fact, many people think TV characters are real. On Friday mornings workers all across America huddle around the water cooler discussing such weighty topics as whether Ross will fall in love with someone other than his monkey, whether Phoebe is actually an intellectual but acts like a ditz because renegade space worms from X-Files have jumped networks and burrowed into her brain, and whether Rachel's haircut looks better on her than it does on the women in the office who got the same haircut -- which is all of them -- even though their hairdressers warned them it wouldn't look good with gray curly hair.True story: there's a young reporter at a local daily newspaper (which shall remain unnamed) who has repeatedly been overheard talking on the phone as if TV characters were real. He cares about them. He worries about them. He probably even sends them get well cards. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who supposedly makes his living writing about facts. It wouldn't surprise me if he even believed the laughter he hears on TV is real.It isn't. I know that for a fact. You see, I'm one of the lucky 182 million people who have had the privilege of being at the taping of a TV show. This happened a couple of years ago when I was in Los Angeles visiting my brother. Los Angeles, in case you've never been in an airplane that was diverted from a real destination, is the city on the west coast that's home to Hollywood, the La Brea tar pits and 2,426 Winchell's Doughnut ShopsMost TV shows are filmed in and around Los Angeles. The only notable exceptions are Late Night with David Letterman, which is taped in New York, and Oprah, which technically speaking isn't a TV show but rather a group therapy session for the self-respect impaired. As you walk down the streets of Los Angeles nice young men and women try to force complimentary tickets into your hand. Do not take these If you're lucky they'll be tickets for jaywalking, which is the state crime of California. If you're not, they'll be for either a Scientology meeting (wherein they'll conclude you have both deep seated emotional problems and excess money and will want to cure you of both) or to watch the taping of a TV show. Either way you're in trouble.You see, no one laughs at the taping of a TV show. This is due to Henny Youngman's First Law of Humor, which states that an unfunny joke doesn't get any funnier the fourth time you hear it. That's why they resort to using canned laughter. Besides, it 's cheaper than hiring good writers.Thus when the new TV season begins in September (Musty TV Be There) you can rest assured that Cos and Ted and Michael J. and yes, even Brooke, will have people rolling on the floor. And huddled around the water cooler discussing such weighty topics as whether Jessica Fletcher and Matlock are having an affair at the retirement home, did Ted Koppel's hair once play the part of a Tribble on Star Trek and exactly why do we have this water cooler in the office, anyway? Don't we all drink bottled water now?

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