Here are four promising network shows that need to be revamped
Network execs are nothing if not persistent. Just look at the fall schedule, which is littered with shows — some of which never should have made it beyond a few episodes — that are getting yet another shot at attracting viewers thanks to ”revamping.” NBC’s consistently laughless ”Suddenly Susan,” for instance, will get a near-complete facelift, ABC’s ”Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” ditches its dopey moniker — one that doomed it to endless derision from day one — and becomes ”Two Guys and a Girl,” while CBS’ lagging medical drama ”Chicago Hope” experienced a David E. Kelley-dictated overhaul in its season finale when six regulars got the ax.
But while the networks are busy focusing on sitcoms and dramas that should probably be euthanized, they’re neglecting more established shows that are in need of a little rehabilitation. Let’s start with The WB. Last season, all that separated ”Dawson’s Creek” from ”Melrose Place” was the lack of a pool in Dawson’s front yard. Jen’s melodramatic loss of faith in humanity after Abby’s death, Joey’s undercover sting of her drug-dealing dad (and the subsequent torching of the Icehouse), and even Andie’s mental breakdown (although brilliantly portrayed by Meredith Monroe) all contributed to ”Creek”’s soapy lather. It’s time to let these kids be kids again, to have crushes and heartbreaks and little freak-outs with their parents. You know, just normal teenage stuff — accentuated with lots of 50-cent words.
Fox needs to tinker with their signature serial as well. ”Party of Five” should tighten its cast (three words: Bye-bye, Daphne) and bring Julia and Bailey back to their roots. Sure, Neve Campbell’s character has always been a bit of a flake, but did anyone out there believe Julia — a whiny but never weak woman — would stay with abusive boyfriend Ned? And her dalliance with lesbianism after finally ditching Ned rang thoroughly false. Why not let her finish college and just get on with her life, mate-free? It would be nice to see reformed-alcoholic Bailey, on the other hand, give us an occasional peek at his inner demons, as the control freak got-it-all-together act is running out of dramatic possibilities.
While NBC is revamping three shows on their schedule (”Susan,” ”Jesse,” and ”Profiler”), they need to spend some time on ”Just Shoot Me.” Steve Levitan’s urbane comedy has a wealth of promise if the characters evolve, but instead they’ve stayed exactly as they were when the sitcom premiered in 1997. We get it: Nina’s a vain former model, Elliot sleeps with a lot of models but has a good heart, Finch is a weasel, and Maya is an idealist in a sea of idiots. Unless this group breaks past their individual boundaries, the show will have to continue resorting to gimmicky storytelling (i.e. ”How the Finch stole Christmas”) to escape the dull sameness that plagues it now.
Finally, don’t think ABC is getting off the hook. Something has to be done with ”SportsNight.” Yes, it’s a form-breaking, fresh, highly intelligent series, and yes, the network was brave to keep it on the air for a second season despite lackluster ratings. That said, an ABC suit needs to slice no fewer than 10 lines of dialogue from each script (it won’t harm the stories, as each character repeats everything at least twice), and producer Aaron Sorkin should be required to make half of the season’s episodes lesson-free. The comedy’s biggest failing is the insistence on ”What have we learned today?” moments at the end of each half hour, and there’s nothing less funny than a ”very special episode.”
September’s just a few weeks away, folks — it’s time to get to work.