On the Air
The latest news from the TV beat
Slaying the Competition?
Is Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s new home running scared from The WB? First, UPN planned to premiere a two-hour episode of Buffy on Oct. 9. Then lickety- split, UPN pushed up its Buffy unveiling by a week, shortly before The WB announced that it would be debuting its two-hour Gilmore Girls season opener on Oct. 9. Although a UPN spokeswoman maintains that the network simply decided to debut the Slayer closer to the Sept. 26 premiere of its new Star Trek franchise, Enterprise (for which UPN expects to draw record numbers of viewers), the skeptics have suggested that UPN caught wind of The WB’s schedule and averted a potential ratings bloodbath. ”By the second hour of Gilmore Girls, viewers across the country will be keeling over from sugar shock,” says smack-talking UPN CEO Dean Valentine, who refutes the scaredy-cat charge. ”We’re trying to establish a clear alternative on the night between kiddie suburban, white-bread programming and something more visceral, exciting, and urban. We think that over the course of the year, the difference between the two networks on Tuesday night will become more clear and UPN will prevail.” The WB had no comment.
Heights of ‘Fear’
Let’s hear it for buffalo testicles. NBC’s summer lineup of gross-out reality shows (Fear Factor, Spy TV) has been raking in record ratings: The Peacock just wrapped up its 16th consecutive weekly victory among adults 18-49. That’s a far cry from last summer, when it stalled in third place while CBS stole all the thunder with Survivor (this summer the formerly No. 1 Eye has dropped to fourth place in 18-49). How fortunate has NBC been? Even the typically sensitive People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) seems close to giving Fear Factor — which has cornered the market on bug and animal-parts eating — a big bear hug. ”We’re not happy with insects or sheep’s eyes being eaten, but the difference is that NBC is not encouraging animal cruelty by bludgeoning rats or stabbing to death baby wild pigs,” says Lisa Lange, a rep for PETA, which believes CBS staged the Survivor 2 episode in which Michael Skupin killed a boar. ”[Fear Factor] made a pledge that no animals would be killed or harmed, so we’re thrilled they took at least that much of a step.” (FYI: Those devoured ewe peepers came from USDA-approved sheep heads, courtesy of a meat supplier.) Now, if only NBC could get the Parents Television Council to jump on its bandwagon.
AND SO ON… Break out your clam diggers. ”Clams” are what writers call gratingly pervasive pop-culture catchphrases used for easy yuks — a la ”Houston, we have a problem” and ”Is that your final answer?” This year, comedy scribes anticipate painful exploitation of ”You are the weakest link. Goodbye” — already uttered, in fact, in NBC’s Emeril pilot. ”That will totally be a clam,” says one Emmy-winning comedy writer. ”And it’s the exact reason why we can’t argue when people say sitcoms are pathetic.”