Friday, May 28th, 1999
Content is our most important product. We must conserve our sparse national resource-entertainment. That’s why I wholly support Fox and producer David Kelley’s decision to chop up hour episodes of Ally McBeal, add a few shots left on the nonlinear editing floor, mix, and serve-a recycled half-hour of television. Makes perfect sense, right? People don’t tune in Ally for great narrative structure. They won’t mind some regurgitation. And think of the money Fox saves-which I’m sure they’ll reinvest-in our interest-in even more World’s Greatest Car Crashes V, right?
This concept-that the Makers of Television need not waste their time with new stuff when we’re just fine with the old is hardly new or without precedent, but this is the first time to my memory that a top-rated primetime show has blatantly said "let’s serve up some leftovers" while the main airing still attracts big audiences. Of course just last week, the much-hyped finale of Home Improvement-ostensibly 90 minutes of entertainment-was in fact a half-hour of flashbacks (that would be recycling), an actual half-hour program, and then a "behind the scenes" filler half-hour of outtakes and the "stars reminiscing," and, oh yeah, the face of that guy who hides behind the backyard fence. Oh, thanks so much.
I was much more charmed by the Mad About You finale, which you didn’t see because Buffy was on against it. Somehow, the idea that Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt’s baby would grow up to be Janeane Garafolo had a certain rightness to it. Her "looking back" documentary on the turbulent lives of her parents was a great way to tie together loose ends
The finale I’m really waiting for however, is the penultimate Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and I might as well confess here that this program has been consistently my favorite hour of television over its seven year run. This past year’s episodes, taken together, form a calculated dramatic march to the finale, with major threads playing out and resolving, all leading to one entitled "What You Leave Behind" that airs the weekend of June 5th. The stories have been great, the drama has been first-rate, the computer-generated spacecraft have been blowing up in spectacular fashion, and, well, I really like the work these folks do. Simple as that. If you haven’t noticed, I’m not surprised-WGNX airs DS9 at 11:36 pm on Saturday nights-and then at 11 am on Sunday morning, one last time. However, I’m sure that, like most of Star Trek, DS9 will air in reruns well into our geezerdom.
It’s funny-unlike the more generally popular Next Generation series, Deep Space Nine and Voyager have more narrowly-defined audiences, and there are plenty of Star Trek fans who will tell you that neither show is the "real" thing. Yet plenty of Internet bandwidth is consumed with critical dissections of each episode, and, by syndicated standards, the shows do well, and Paramount/Viacom markets the franchise in the great George Lucas tradition.
Maybe they should sweep up the digital outtakes, string them together, and offer Star Trek: The Leftovers . Hey, it could air right after Ally McRerun.