Sick of Bette Midler's tramp joke? Josh Wolk feels your pain

By Josh Wolk
Updated August 28, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

CBS bombards viewers with the same promos for new shows

My goodness, am I getting excited about CBS’ fall schedule. I’ll see Bette Midler hold up two outfits for her husband and ask, ”Should I be Lady… or the Tramp?” And I’ll get to see Craig T. Nelson yell ”Look out D.C.!” as the attorney general in ”The District.” And then I’ll get to see Bette Midler hold up two outfits for her husband and ask, ”Should I be the Lady… or the Tramp?” And I’ll get to see Craig T. Nelson…

Or at least that’s the impression I got from watching CBS take advantage of ”Survivor”’s huge audience by relentlessly pimping their new lineup and showing the same ads with the same moments over and over and over again. While watching Tim Daly yell ”I didn’t kill my wife!” might have piqued my interest in a new version of ”The Fugitive” the first time, now that I’ve seen that soundbite 100 times, I’m beginning to wish his wife had killed him. (And the cheaply produced effect of him leaping off a truck as it passes under a low bridge doesn’t look any more believable with age.)

The problem is that CBS seems to be mining promotional footage only from each series’ pilot episodes. And while network executives may have been sold on ”That’s Life” because of the scene where Heather Paige Kent threatens to beat the crap out of an upstart coed who’s an overenthusiastic car horn beeper (”It’s so Marisa Tomei in ‘My Cousin Vinnie’… and she won an Oscar!”), it’s getting a bit stale for the rest of us who don’t have the same pride of ownership.

CBS was smart to try to brainwash its enormous, captive ”Survivor” audience into sticking around for fall. But the network risks completely alienating potential viewers by constantly repeating these ads. A new season’s debuting shows are always largely derivative, and each one risks an audience saying, ”I feel like I’ve seen this before.” But I’m saying that now, and all I’ve seen is 30 seconds of these shows. When I think of tuning into ”Bette,” I instantly wince and think, ”She’ll just be posing the Lady vs. Tramp conundrum, and I can’t go through that again.”

The solution seems simple: Collect more footage. These shows are in production by now, so let’s get some of those dailies, folks! Surely Kent did something equally spunky in episode two. Give us some new scenes as the summer progresses. Otherwise we feel like we’re at a wedding where they never stop coming around with the same damn pigs in a blanket. Would it kill these networks to at least bring us the televised equivalent of sorbet?

CBS could always go another way, which ABC has done with ”Geena,” shooting original footage of Geena Davis talking to the camera about her new show, just like Mike O’Malley did all last summer for his new self-titled NBC sitcom. So follow the example of Geena — whose promos are painfully stiff — and Mike — whose show was yanked after only a few episodes — and… uh…

Okay, Bette, maybe we should run through that clothing choice one more time.