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September 21, 1998 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-21

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 21, 1998

No heavy hitters among fall season TV debuts

Los Angeles Times
HOLLYWOOD - TV critics are
famous for judging hastily. It's what
makes us so lovable.
So, welcome to the annual pantheon
of impetuous knee-jerk opinion.
To use a baseball metaphor, the very
best of the fall television season, which
officially begins today, has only warn-
ing-track power. A few deep flies are
noteworthy among these 36 new series,

but nothing McGwiresque or Sosan.
Nothing that comes even close to leaving
the park.
But whiffs? Get out your calculator.
The season appears bottom-heavy
with bozos. And these are failures not in
quest of something grand or unique or
bold - which is always to be respected
and saluted, even when achievement
doesn't match ambition -- but are
efforts in the service of timidity, a case of

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putting on the green eyeshade and doing
business as usua! with a quill pen.
It's known as aggressively, tenaciously
playing it safe.
What a goofy strategy to lure back
viewers who are spending more and
more time with cable or the Internet.
Here's a plan: Let's knock em on their
butts with something beige.
Networks give birth to series as labo-
riously as sea turtles do their young, and
with about as much long-range success.
If tradition holds, 80 percent to 85 per-
cent of this season's network hatchlings
will live only briefly before getting
crunched by the great jaws of low rat-
ings. So if you're a programmer, why not
take your shot and at least fail memo-
rably?
Yet even as their combined audience
share continues trickling elsewhere, the
big networks maintain their Javert-like
pursuit of the ordinary. They seem to pre-
fer this slow, gurgling erosion to granting
chunks of prime time to risky, dramatic,
breakout TV programs that have the
potential to recapture former viewers in a
dramatic way. Just as possibly, of course,
the result could be a flop - not just one
that would disappear without conse-
quence, but a truly spectacular fiasco that
would create a sinkhole in the schedule.
In other words, a groundbreaking series
whose deployment - and this is the
great fear - could doom an entire
evening should it fail miserably in the
Nielsens. Their problem.

Based on one- or two-episode sam-
plings, meanwhile, news about the new
season is hardly all bad. Among new-
comers having the most promise, cre-
atively, are the CBS comedies "The King
of Queens" and "Maggie Winters,"
ABC's "Fantasy Island" remake (da
plane lands again) and possibly JPN's
time-travel drama, "Sex en Days."
Still better, though, are ABC's work-
place comedy "Sports Night," the W B's
"Felicity" and the CBS hour "To Have &
to llold."
Inspired by ESPN's franchise
"SportsCenter" and its numerous smirky
clones, "Sports Night" is one of those
rare comedies (HBO's recently conclud-
ed "The Larry Sanders Show" topping
the list) that needn't be always funny to
be appealing. Although its initial
episodes are often humorous while mon-
itoring a pair of anchors (Josh Charles
and Peter Krause) and "the network" to
which they and their producers (Felicity
Huffman and Robert Guillaume) reluc-
tantly must answer.
One-liners notwithstanding, it's these
characters' basic intelligence and
responses to a wider life beyond sports
that are so attractive and make you care
for them immediately, giving this series
the potential to be a shrewd observer of
human behavior beyond the tight uni-
verse of TV Big laughs would be a
bonus.
One of the shows facing "Sports
Night" on Tuesdays is the enjoyable

* drama "Felicity," which finds a bright,
sensitive college freshman (Keri Russell)
coming of age in New York with her
pals. Let's call this ABC's former "My
So-Called Life" meets Fox's "Ally
McBeal." A la Claire Danes and Calista
Flockhart in those series, respectively,
Russell has That Certain Something that
separates her from the crowd and supcr-
sedes the written page. Which helps
make the pilot of "Felicity" easy to be
around.
Script flaws loom large in the initial
episode of"To Have & to hold." But not
as large as the presence of Moira Kelly
and Jason Beghe, who click as a soon-to-
be-wed couple (she's a public defender,
he's a police detective) in an Irish
Bostonian universe replete with the
neighborhood bar and one of those bois-
terous, big families that typify a number
of new dramas this season.
The premiere is at once genuinely
moving and witty, and Kelly, especially,
is so strong that you tend to turn the
other cheek when things get cutesy and
surreal in the courtroom.
Nothing is more surreal, though, than
the new series on the bottom of the fall
food chain. The very worst of these
clunkers includes WB's "The Army
Show" and Fox's "Living in Captivity,"
both of which have already premiered.
They also include ABC's "The Secret
Lives of Men" and UPN's "The Secret
Diary of Desmond Pfeitfer" Not secret
enough.

Goulet
dulls
Camelot
By Christopher Tkaczyk
I here comes a time in every per-
sonis life when he or she must
decide to cuit their profession and
enjoy a retired life before age and
senility set in. While the American
government has set the standard
age at 65, some workers earn early
retirements and start collecting
their pensions long before age
becomes an issue. Robert Goulet
should of considered this option
more than a few years ago.
In last Tuesday's opening of
"Camelot," Goulet sang off-key
and flubbed lines left and right. The
once-great Lancelot has now
matured into a pitiful King Arthur.
While it would be easy to dismiss
the whole farce upon the fact that
Goulet is a presence, and that his
voice is unparalleled anywhere in
the world - well, he's no longer
the swanky baritone that made the
women of the '60s swoon. And he
can no longer carry a tune.
Goulet's most recent project was
a series of basketball commercials
recorded for LSPN. His first
Broadway appearance was 1960's
original cast of Lerner & Loewe's
"Camelot." in which he portrayed
Lancelot opposite Julie Andrews as
Guenevere. That production made
him famous. Now, many years and
a few wrinkles later, Goulet dons
the crown each night as King
Arthur, bringing shame to the role
so respectfully created by Richard
Burton.
"Camelot's" failure cannot be
put entirely upon Goulet's shoul-
ders. With a weak and unsupport-
ing ensemble cast of less-than-
mediocre players, the principal cast
had much to overcome. Patricia
Kies, as Guenevere, became an
irritating caricature of Julie
Andrew's famous persona. She
tried to immitate not only
Andrews' voice, but her tone and
inflection as well. The fact that she
looked a good 50 years old doesn't
help either.
Cancelling out the flawed per-
formances of Goulet and Kiesj

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Daniel Narducci and James
Valentine as Lancelot and Merlyn,
respectively, made the production
bearable.
Narducci's
voice is very
Camelot pure - much
more so than
Fox Theater in Goulet, wh
Detroit seems to be
September 15, 1998 forcing him-
self to cough.
Valentine
proved him-
self as a true
improvisa-
tional actor,
as he had to
cover most
of Goulet's flubbed lines and
quick surprises. At one point
Valentine stopped the show
when his character's dog refused
to follow him while crossing the
stage. The dog gave a hearty
resistance, and Valentine's leash-
tugging eventually pulled the
collar right off. Once freed, the
dog lazily lumberedoffstage
while Valentine looked on in dis-
belief. "I guess you know the
way better than I do," he quippe
to the dog's hind end.
With a set and costumes that
gives many community theaters a
run for their money, "Camelot"
obviously hasn't any big-name
investors.
Nepotism alert: Portraying the
villain role of Mordred was
Michael Goulet, son to Robert.
Michael's knack for acting is much
like his father's -that is, it should
n't be attempted. With a very
phony Scottish accent that drifted
in and out of Michael's character, it
became hard to decipher what his
purpose was toward the rest of the
show.
Capping off the evening, the
Detroit area chapter of the
American Cancer Society pre-
sented Goulet with an apprecia-
tion award for taking the time t
record television commercials
that urged viewers to have them-
selves tested for prostate cancer.
Goulet, a survivor of the sick-
ness, urged again the importance
of taking the initiative to see a
physician regularly. Going into

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