In the nineteen primetime lineups that I’ve discussed thus far, and all the timeslots that came with them, I’ve yet to come across what amounts to a really tough choice. Sure I’ve had to pit shows against one another before, and at times I’ve cheated by going with two, but this is really the first time I’ve been faced with an overall tough night. And I plan to do this one cleanly, because the truth is that all I’m doing when choosing two shows for one hour is putting off the inevitable need for a decision.
8:00-8:30 Tales of the Gold Monkey worked better when it was animated and called TaleSpin, The Fall Guy thought combining movie stunt work and bounty hunting made sense, and Dinosaurs was admittedly cutesy, but not for me. Perfect Strangers is safe on my Fridays, Growing Pains is the right show on the wrong day and time, and Dharma & Greg was the right guy (Thomas Gibson) with the wrong girl (Jenna Elfman). Thea was Brandy Norwood’s first TV flop, Thunder Alley was one of Haley Joel Osment’s few missteps, and Ellen was one of Ellen DeGeneres’ many — sorry, but I really don’t enjoy her. Two Guys and a Girl didn’t improve with the pizza, My Wife and Kids should never have lasted as long as it did, even with a Wayans driving the bus, and George Lopez owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Sandra Bullock. Seriously. Lost is not an 8PM show, Alias and I never connected, and Scrubs can make me laugh, but it doesn’t deserve any of these slots. I know a lot of you will go with Pushing Daisies, but it wasn’t for me. Neither were reality/game show giants Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Dancing with the Stars, and Wife Swap. And I think even Kelsey Grammer deeply regrets Hank. Which leaves me with two really funny shows: The Wonder Years and Spin City. Fred Savage or Michael J. Fox. Teenage angst or government inefficiency. It’s a tough call. I know I might be romanticizing something that could flounder under a modern light, but I have to give this one to The Wonder Years. I just do.
8:30-9:00 We dispatched with Growing Pains, The Wonder Years, Dharma & Greg, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (now with the pizza!), and George Lopez above. And I think we can add According to Jim to the discard pile pretty easily. Doogie Howser, M.D. is a nightmare decision for another timeslot, Joe’s Life was a nightmare for its viewers, and The Drew Carey Show introduced us to the nightmare known as Mimi (Kathy Kinney). It’s All Relative was family dysfunction at its worst, Knights of Prosperity was about a group of dysfunctional amateur thieves, and Freddie starred two actors with career dysfunction, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Brian Austin Green. Better Off Ted, meanwhile, is just a mess for me. Which leaves me with a classic show versus a newcomer: Head of the Class or The Middle. Now here’s where the real romanticizing fear comes into play; is Head of the Class really anything more than one of the first shows I remember clearly? Was Howard Hesseman as good here as he was on WKRP in Cincinnati? I’m honestly not sure, but it’s hard to overlook the moment of bliss I’m currently enjoying. I have to give this one to The Middle.
9:00-9:30 We’ve already worked our way through The Fall Guy, The Wonder Years, The Drew Carey Show, Alias, and According To Jim, and I dropped Private Practice as a viewer last year. Plus we can brush away reality shows The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Supernanny. Also Lost, which is the right show in the right timeslot, but on the wrong night. Dynasty’s way before my time, Hooperman put John Ritter on the other side of a rental agreement, Anything but Love was a series-long will they/won’t they, and Grace Under Fire was one of those shows that never even made a blip on my radar. I definitely enjoyed Home Improvement for both its home and workplace comedy, but as a pick? And Roseanne only let me get to know John Goodman, who should have been the headliner on that show. The current head scratcher? Doogie Howser, M.D. or Modern Family. This one just took some visits to Hulu and a night of honest evaluation … as corny as it is, the fun and enjoyment that you remember experiencing when watching Doogie Howser, M.D. is still there today. Paging Neil Patrick Harris!
9:30-10:00 We’ve already covered Hooperman, Doogie Howser, M.D., Grace Under Fire, Ellen, and The Drew Carey Show. And Notes from the Underbelly is safe on my Mondays. The Slap Maxwell Story was about an out-of-touch sportswriter, Married People was one in a long line of uneventful couples comedies, and The Naked Truth was false advertising starring Téa Leoni. The Secret Lives of Men did nothing for Bradley Whitford, and Bob Patterson was yet another post-Seinfeld disappointment for Jason Alexander. In Case of Emergency was totally unoriginal, and Cougar Town is just as bad as I thought it would be. I know it’s not fair, but I did see this coming when I made my 8PM choice: Spin City gets a slot after all!
10:00-11:00 Surprisingly, it was the hour-long dramas where I found some breathing room. We covered Dynasty and Anything But Love above, Lost’s on the wrong day and time, and Boston Legal’s safe on my Sundays. Hotel was the granddaddy of the Melrose Place craze, China Beach failed to catch M*A*S*H’s lighting, Cop Rock was about singing cops, and Moon Over Miami was an odd-couple PI tale. Eyes starred a floundering Tim Daly, Invasion was a science fiction nightmare, and Eastwick was about witches. Yeah. Then there were the recent series that made a lot of noise before fizzling out mightily — Cashmere Mafia, Men in Trees, and Life on Mars. I liked The Nine, but not enough, and Dirty Sexy Money put up a good game in its first season, but it went completely haywire in its second. And of course there were the reality/game show darlings Extreme Makeover, Wife Swap, and Celebrity Mole: Yucatan. My choice here should surprise no one, as I’ve written time and again about how much I loved this show — I’ll take The Unusuals forever.
Now that’s a great night of TV! What did you think about some of my tough choices? How about you … what does your dream Wednesday night on ABC look like?