HBO has the goods to get tube junkies through their 'no new shows' withdrawal, says Kristen Baldwin

By Kristen Baldwin
Updated June 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Here’s the answer to the summertime rerun blues

As TV addicts know, summer is the unkindest season. Oh, how it hurts to be forced to go cold turkey when the networks’ supply of original episodes abruptly runs out. Me, I’d probably be committed to Betty Ford with a severe case of the rerun shakes if it weren’t for another, slightly more expensive program pusher willing to deliver the goods: HBO.

(We interrupt this column for a disclaimer: Both HBO and EW are part of the massive corporate entity known as Time Warner, but I’m writing this story of my own free will, cross my heart and hope to die.)

Anyhoo, HBO’s three most recent series — the fanciful sex farce ”Sex and the City” (Sundays at 9), the visceral and terrifying prison drama ”Oz” (Wednesdays at 10), and the brilliantly acted Mafia serial ”The Sopranos” (Wednesdays at 9) — are more creative, entertaining, and intelligent than most if not all of the blah broadcast offerings this season. (I’m ignoring HBO’s sports agent ”satire” known as ”Arli$$” because I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t hate that show.) While the Big Four gripe about how the growing number of networks is draining the pool of quality writers and actors — as if that can excuse ”Costello” — HBO seems to have no trouble finding talent who can think outside the idiot box.

Now that I’ve buttered them up, I’m hoping the Home Box Office folks will listen to my modest proposal: Why not give up re-airing theatrical movies and do original series full time? Take the money you spend acquiring big-screen blockbusters and pour it into building an even bigger stable of cable-ready writers, actors, and producers. Hey, even if HBO can’t fill an entire day with series and original movies, I’d be willing to pay the $12.95 a month just for programming from 8 to 11 p.m. That might even be better than a 24-hour channel, because then the Darren Stars (creator of ”Sex”) and the David Chases (creator of ”The Sopranos”) of the world could do two or three 12-episode series a year without finding their creative energy stretched perilously thin. Broadcast networks, on the other hand, often throw lucrative development deals at producers and writers whose debut shows display even a modicum of promise, a situation that usually leads the original show to suffer drastically from creator neglect.

So, HBO, whaddya say? Does the world really need another outlet to see ”Titanic”? That’s what VCRs are for. TV junkies like me are just aching for a new drug: sitcoms and dramas that don’t leave us throwing up in a back alley somewhere. Right now it looks like you’re the only one who can give us just the right fix.


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