Welcome to the toilet that is network TV. With the abundance of
new programming flops this season, it seems obvious, barring a few
rare exceptions, that originality levels have plummeted so far that
any pilot set to air is cursed to fail from day one. But, this
season in particular, even formerly critically acclaimed series
have not been spared from this lapse in creative judgment. From the
likes of “Friends” to “Boston Public,” our
favorite shows are draining the bottom of the content barrel week
after week, losing viewers steadily as they sink.

Kate Green
Courtesy of FOX
Fyvush Finkel is still alive.

Alas, the David E. Kelley syndrome has now officially infected
FOX’s prized melodrama “Boston Public.” The
concepts for all of his shows thus far begin as cunning or cute
ideas but suddenly become so outlandish that they eventually fizzle
out of existence. While critics once praised the bold portrayals of
teen violence, drug battles and sexual indiscretions within one
inner city school, the series recently adopted the very same overly
complicated, bizarre style as the other previous Kelley letdowns,
such as “The Practice” and “Ally
McBeal.”

The plotline is rifled with unbearable implausibility and
incomprehensible twists. Within one episode, a convicted criminal
(a man charged with security fraud) is court ordered to become a
math teacher, an undercover police officer tracks a porn star/drug
dealer who also happens to be his sister’s only legal
guardian and a teacher finds herself competing with a 15-year-old
student for a man’s attentions. Sound confusing?
Unfortunately, the show doesn’t offer much more
explanation.

When “ER” lost the majority of its original cast to
contract battles and just plain boredom, the producers should have
known the end was near. The series, which started as a drama about
doctors and patients, has assumed a laughingly soap opera-ish
quality in recent years. The show focuses less on patient
heartbreak and disease and more on who’s dating whom and
which character should appear insane next. Thanks to the plethora
of guest appearances lately, big name stars like Sally Field and
Alan Alda can join the ranks of crazed problem children on the
show.

Undoubtedly, “The Simpsons,” America’s
favorite dysfunctional family, has passed its prime. Recycled
characters and overused plots can’t make up for a distinct
lack of decent jokes any longer. Though it has now entered its 14th
season, it is extremely atypical to find anything later than season
nine gracing the viewers’ top-10 lists.

Even “Friends,” which held one of the top-rated
shows since it began, is losing momentum in its last season. While
the actors gripe over contract issues and money demands, their
acting talent wanes, providing the audience with lackluster punch
lines and uninspired stories. For God’s sake, how many of the
“Friends” can Rachel possibly consider sleeping with
before the show’s end?

Though the basic story is certainly lacking, the show itself
hardly captures the audience’s attention anymore. After only
two new episodes, NBC aired its first rerun of the season, a
phenomenon which will become more frequent since the
“Friends” stars can’t handle filming the complete
24 episodes.

Although these are but a few examples, this trend is spreading
to many of today’s popular series. “The Practice”
and “NYPD Blue” also experience the wrath of contract
quibbles and lagging writing quality. Hit shows like “Law
& Order” and “CSI” became so egocentric in
the last few seasons that they convinced themselves their replicas
would double their popularity. Instead, the excess of these crime
dramas mar the innovativeness of the real McCoy. Hopefully, sweeps
season will lend some much needed inspiration to an otherwise dying
breed of programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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