Do those ''Previously on...'' recaps at the start of TV shows really get a new viewer up to speed? Plus: a ''Heroes'' obsession, the five most embarrassing projects to star a former cast member of ''Saved By the Bell,'' and your mail

By Dalton Ross
Updated May 13, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Paul Michaud

Dalton’s new obsession: ”Heroes”’ future

Previously on…The Glutton, Dalton campaigns for a 19-time Oscar loser, reveals himself to be a sci-fi dork, and admits to going to rock concerts all by himself. And now, this week on…The Glutton.

I became fascinated by the ”Previously on…” montages that precede episodes as part of my love-to-hate relationship with The L Word. Now, I don’t have a stopwatch, but I’d venture to guess that approximately half of each hour-long L Word episode is a rehash. When you keep up on a show, these things are a colossal waste of time, but how good are these recaps at drawing in new fans? To find out, I decided to test-drive a few on programs that I had always purposely avoided.

Previously on…Ghost Whisperer
The ”Previously on…” for Ghost Whisperer begins exactly how one would expect: with an unapologetic shot of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s mind-numbing cleavage. (Unfortunately, gratuitous cleavage shot No. 2 is covered by a poorly timed ”available in HD” banner, although I have no doubt whatsoever that HD and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s ample bosoms go beautifully together.) There’s something about a rival ghost whisperer, but in between J. Love’s twins and the appearance of Jay Mohr (he still works?), I am far too distracted to follow it. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. B+

Previously on…America’s Next Top Model
Last time I checked in on this show a few years back, some crazy woman was yelling, ”Bitch poured beer on my weave!” so I had high hopes for this ”Previously on…” Instead, all I got were fashionistas slinging slogans like ”That’s easy, breezy, beautiful” on the streets of Sydney. Where are all the divas? The catfights? The unfounded accusations of bulimia? These models seem way too adjusted for my taste. C-

Previously on…Grey’s Anatomy
I always wrote off this show as a sex-obsessed soap masking itself as a serious medical drama. Let’s see if the ”Previously on…” can prove me wrong. Hmmm…well, here are two doctors (I think one is McDreamy, or McSteamy, or McSomething-Or-Other) ripping off their lab coats while getting it on in a hospital. That’s followed by one of the other McStuds half-naked in bed with a woman, which is followed by Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight sucking face in their bed. Finally, we come full circle with McSomething-Or-Other blowing off some chick he just slept with, informing her, ”You’re not my girlfriend.” Obviously, I was mistaken. This is a very serious medical drama. C+

Previously on…The Unit
This recap revolves around a guy giving a bracelet to his married girlfriend. Eventually the bracelet gets back to the husband, who must be a badass because he wears a Triumph T-shirt and beats the snot out of some bikers. Just one question: Isn’t this supposed to be, like, a military show? Shouldn’t someone be rocking a little camouflage? Can I get a little ”Sir, yes, sir!” at the very least? Even on Grey’s Anatomy they bother to slip on a uniform once in a while. B-

Previously on…One Tree Hill
Oh my God, One Tree Hill is the best show ever! At least judging from this 40-second clip. First, some blond girl tackles a brunette down on the ground while yelling, ”You made fun of my mom’s death!” (I don’t really get that, but I don’t care.) But wait, she’s not done. Then blondie tells her, ”She’s dead, and as far as I’m concerned, so are you.” (Excellent!) And then she goes and punches her in the face at a party. (More excellent!) Chad Michael Murray eventually shows up to do some seriously awesome brooding, and finally, a preppy guy who looks like Chad Michael Murray but is not Chad Michael Murray smiles and punches the blond girl in the face. And…scene. Where has this show been all my life? Utterly spectacular! A+++

I’m not saying this because Heroes was just on the cover of EW, but the NBC drama has been nothing short of terrific these past few weeks. So why aren’t people watching? The ratings have been steadily dropping since the show came back from a mini-hiatus in April. It’s pretty inexplicable, especially since unlike some mythology-based dramas, this one actually gives you answers. Of course, those answers may lead to more questions, but at least if you watch, you’ll get a sense of closure from time to time. The show has also taken risks, and those risks have paid off. A recent ”possible future” episode could have been — in fact, probably should have been — a jump-the-shark moment of epic proportions. But somehow, it worked. I mean, really worked. And it set the table for the final run of episodes. But perhaps even more paramount than how the show ends this season is how it begins the next. Red-hot dramas like Lost and Desperate Housewives have had trouble maintaining both their quality and quantity of viewers after big first seasons. Will Heroes be able to avoid a sophomore slump? Will it be able to regenerate as successfully as its famous cheerleader? Who knows, but for now, let’s just enjoy what we have, and hope that the season finale will offer not only a satisfying ending, but a bold new beginning as well. And if you’re not watching, well, your loss.

NEXT PAGE: The Five and Reader Mail


1. Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Atomic Twister
Note to aspiring actors: Try to avoid movies with Olympian Carl Lewis in them.

2. Mario Lopez in Pet Star
Post-Bell and pre-Dancing, Lopez occupied himself by introducing a pig that could raise an American flag. USA! USA!

3. Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls
The film in which the former Jessie Spano takes stock of her life and concludes that ”I like having nice t–s.”

4. Dennis Haskins in Tangy Guacamole
Tangy Guacamole? Mr. Belding should give himself detention for starring in this (and as ”Toss Honeycut,” no less).

5. Dustin Diamond in Celebrity Boxing 2
Screech lacing up the gloves probably should rate higher, but in his defense, he did thoroughly kick Horshack’s ass.

Hundreds upon hundreds of letters came in this week in response to last week’s column on saving Friday Night Lights, probably the show’s entire audience. [This just in: NBC renews Friday Night Lights!] Writers pleaded for a second season and weighed in on the great Riggins vs. Street and Lyla vs. Tara debates. Let’s get to the mailbag…

Team Riggins or Team Street? How about Team Smash? He’s always trying to make his mama happy and seems to really care about his unstable girlfriend. But if I’m forced to pick between Riggins and Street, I’ve gotta go Riggins — because you know, bad boys like him are really good boys at heart. —LisaMama

It should be noted that not one — not one! — single person wrote in for Team Street. Riggins absolutely crushed him, meaning that most of you ladies out there either have some sort of handicapped bias or love alcoholic teenagers who hook up with their crippled best friend’s girlfriend. Why even Smash, Coach Taylor, and Saracen tallied more fans than the former all-American pretty boy! Poor Jason. First he gets bounced from the rollerball team, and now this!

Riggins is the new Jordan Catalano (without the eyeliner). —Ann Linhorst

Funny, Ann. My wife said the exact same thing, which is not surprising considering she is obsessed with both of them. I’m just shocked she didn’t somehow work Hugh Grant into the conversation.

OK, is it really even a contest when it comes to Lyla or Tara? On one hand, you have the hot cheerleader who would even stick with you even if you were confined to a wheelchair. On the other hand, you have the mentally unstable Tara who has a stripper for a sister and a mom who needs a man to make her happy. Not gonna lie — it’s pretty clear cut. Lyla is the way to go! —Cory Smith

Well, she did carry on a passionate affair with her boyfriend’s buddy once ”Little Street” stopped working, so we shouldn’t canonize Lyla too much. But between you and me, Cory, I almost always go with the brunette.

I feel for you and all fans who have to worry about FNL being cancelled. I, however, have come up with a plan to shield me from heartache. I do not watch shows until the 2nd season and sometimes not until they are cancelled and in syndication. I also do not follow shows when they change nights. These studios, they know we care about the shows, but they don’t care that we care. I preempt their not caring by not caring first. Make sense? —Amy Gehring

Amy, I could preempt your not caring preemption of their not caring, but 1) just talking about this is making me dizzy, and 2) I love your refusal to commit to a show and a network which will not commit to you in return. Or course, you could then be to blame for these good shows getting cancelled in the first place, since you didn’t bother to watch them. It’s a chicken-or-egg argument.

A little late, but here’s my reality-TV star sighting. I went to the American Idol tour stop in Nashville last year. As I was leaving the concert with my friend, I saw this girl holding a sign that said ”Nashville’s Own American Idol, Corey Clark!” I wandered over, and there he was, the disgraced Mr. Clark, with a table set up, signing autographs and taking pictures. I bought an autographed picture (yep, paid $5 for it) and was told by one of the people with him that the picture would also serve as a backstage pass to one of his concerts. Even better, everyone at his table seemed to be inebriated! So basically, my only reality-TV star experience was kinda sleazy, but it makes for a great story! —Kristen Anderson

You’re right, Kristen, it does make for a great story, and easily worth the $5 you paid for it. I can’t help but wonder where that $5 went. Into the recording of a new album? Lawyer’s fees for suing American Idol? Cell phone bill for calling Paula every three minutes? Either way, you kind of end up being an enabler. Have fun sleeping tonight!

Do you have a favorite ”Previously on…” segment or a must-see appearance involving a Saved By The Bell alumnus to share? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week!