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Why are all the good shows on at the same time?

Ken Tucker wonders how TV fanatics can keep up when everyone’s favorites air at the same time

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Kiefer Sutherland
Keifer Sutherland: Fox

Why are all the good shows on at the same time?

Sure, November is sweeps month in the TV world, with lots of new episodes and specials to lure you (mmmm — not one, not two, but three Garth Brooks concerts on CBS!). But even without the extra trimmings, the TV schedule has become stuffed and unwieldy for viewers like us. Tomorrow night, for example: Are you watching ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on UPN or ”Gilmore Girls” on the WB at 8 p.m.? Fox’s ”Undeclared” at 8:30? At 9 p.m., will you take in ”24” on Fox, or Bill Gates guesting on NBC’s ”Fraiser,” or check out the new action on ABC’s ”NYPD Blue”? It’s enough to make a VCR explode, a TiVo blow its top.

On Wednesday, which ”E” show do you pick — NBC’s ”Ed” or UPN’s ”Enterprise”? Maybe you’re sold on ”West Wing” (NBC at 9 p.m.), but I really recommend this season’s ”Felicity,” on the WB and which airs at the same time — it’s been terrific. And I hate to see CBS’ exciting ”Amazing Race,” also at 9 p.m., drawing such a sparse audience — it’s getting ignored in the reality-TV avalanche.

Answer me this: Do you suffer from TV-fatigue? Do you switch channels during some of your favorite shows to keep up with others? Do you tape one, watch another, and ask a pal to tape a third show if three all air in the same time-period?

It’s commonplace to bemoan the quality of television, but I’m increasingly running into people who can’t get ENOUGH TV — there’s not enough time, and the networks pit shows with similar demographics (like ”Buffy” and ”Gilmore”) against each other. Thank goodness I’m a TV critic, with an extra VCR in my office; how do you solve your viewing conflicts?