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September 23, 1998 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-23

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 23, 1998

New generation keeps reruns alive

Should we 'trust'
media alliances?

By Michael Galloway
TV/New Media Editor
It's tragic in a way. There was a time when you did-
n't have to go to "TV Land" or visit "Nick at Night"
in order to watch the golden oldies of television.
Stations would simply run old reruns of shows to fill
in air time.
But those days are past. Our generation will prob-
ably be the last who wonders why the passengers and
crew ofthe S.S. Minnow never killed Gilligan so they
could have one escape plan that worked. Someone
born in the mid-'80s might have heard of the Fonz,
but will they ever have a chance to love him? Finally,

who will whistle
Re-runs in
Syndication
Various Networks
Various Times

that catchy Andy Griffith theme
after we're gone?
OK, it's not tragic, and
thanks to the ubiquitous pres-
ence of cable in American
households and with six major
networks now, air time is no
longer something that can be
filled with old episodes of"The
Flying Nun." Networks are
grabbing reruns of shows still
popular and having new sea-
sons, and where that doesn't
work, a catchy slogan doesn't
hurt either.
The CBS affiliate WWJ
(Channel 62) has been a big

Courtesy of Wrner Bros.
Our good t'Friends" will now appear in reruns five-times per week this fall on WKBD, Channel 14.

winner in the early afternoons with their "Big Time
TV" line-up. They have the rather odd commercial
with the boxing nun punching an oversized remote
control and giant TV screens popping up everywhere,
As the ads boast, 62-CBS is now the only place to
catch "Seinfeld," weekdays at 6 p.m., and bookend-
ing that "Must See TV" goliath is another NBC

mainstay, "Mad About You" with Paul "I have no
future after this show ends" Reiser and Helen "My
God, I have an Oscar, and I'm still doing this TV
show" Hunt.
Of course, everyone knows that 6 p.m. is also
when the most loved animated cartoon in history is
on. "The Simpsons" has been showing two episodes
a day on UPN affiliate WKBD (Channel 14), but
now viewers can watch both episodes for a full hour
of D'ohs and Woo-hoos to relax to after a busy
school day.
While many will be watching thisThursday to find
out if Ross and Rachel will get back together, now
you can see how they first got together, and then
broke up, and then got back together, and then broke
up, and then got back together and then broke up. (I
think that's all of them.) Or you can simply marvel at
the hairstyles in the'early episodes. Anyway, WKBD
now airs "Friends" five nights per week at 7 p.m.
With "Simpsons," "Friends" and the somewhat
overappreciated "Frasier," WKBD is almost guaran-
teed to be the ratings winner for early evening. In
fact, WKBD will have better ratings in these hours
then when UPN takes over at primetime.
Oh, but not every NBC "Must See TV" show has
reruns in syndication. Just half of them. The under-
appreciated "Newsradio" will show at 7 and I I p.m.
weekdays on WJBK (Channel 2), a treat for all those
who love to watch "Kids in the Hall" alum Dave
Foley try to keep his sanity while working under
Jimmy James, who is half Dogbert and half the
pointy-haired manager (from the "Dillbert" joke).
Also, Phil Hartman fans get to see this much missed
actor in his last role (although I myself will miss him
more as Troy McClure and, even more so, as Lionel
Hutz on the "Simpsons").
"ER" reruns have been taken up by not one, but
two networks. TNT the Superstation (Channel 17).

shows this pulse-pounding drama weekdays at 7
p.m., and WDWB, the WB affiliate (Channel 6),
shows it on Saturdays at the same time. Maybe it
won't be as exciting when you know what is going to
happen, but there were no real surprises in "ER" any-
way. Everything always seems to go wrong.
But if it's good drama you're looking for outside of
primetime, A&E (Channel 47) shows the classic
"Northern Exposure" at least twice a day, once at 6
p.m., and the second best courtroom drama ever on
television (I'm a "Practice" fan myself) "Law &
Order" at 7 p.m. and every three to four hours.
The FX channel (Channel 61) is also a home of
favorite reruns. Mulder and Scully come really close
to the truth again and again on "The X-Files," week-
nights at 8 and I I p.m. Dennis Franz goes through
leading co-stars like pez on "NYPD Blue" at 9 p.m.
Trekkies can now see how it all began with the
original series of "Star Trek" in "Special Edition"
format. Tribbles and Klingons can be seen on
restored footage along with interviews of the original
cast weekdays at 7:30 p.m. Be warned, though. If you
loved this show as a kid, well, you're not a kid any-
more.
Of course, when you were a kid reruns were used
to fill the time between cartoons, news and prime-
time. You didn't know that you could ask for more
from them. Sure, "M.A.S.H." was good, and we'll
forever know Michael J. Fox as Alex P Keaton (and
Ricky Schroder will never escape "Silver Spoons).
But they have nothing on "Law & Order" or "The
Simpsons." The higher level of competition has
forced networks to put out or shut down, which
means gimmicks with old reruns or running episodes
ofshows that are still hot. So even ifyou're upset that
we're the last generation who will remember Tutti,
you can vegetate those concerns away with the newer.
higher quality reruns.

Los Angeles Times
HOLLY WOOD --People's eyes
seem to glaze over when you raise
the issue of concentrated media
ownership - the fact that a few
companies now control the lion's
share of what the public sees on Tl
radio and in movie theaters.
Last week provided a reminder, at
least in theory, as to why those
glassy eyes should be opened.
A New York Times report suggest-
ed that Rupert Murdoch, Chair of
News Corp., was responsible for
cable network FX pulling the plug
on a proposed TV movie about the
Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hear-
ings. The implication was that the
politically conservative Murdoch
killed the project because of his sup-
port for Thomas, a conservative
Supreme Court justice.
Senior Fox officials staunchly
deied that Murdoch played any role
in the decision. In a broader sense,
however, one can hardly argue with
the premise that Murdoch uses his
far-flung media holdings - which
include 20th Century Fox and the
Fox TV network - to further his
political and corporate interests,
potentially influencing the content
of entertainment and news.
The Murdoch-controlled New
York Post has made especially point-
ed targets of his rivals, ridiculing
Ted Turner, Time Warner Vice chair,
and his wife, Jane Fonda, in addition
to running nasty gossip about other
executives at rival networks.
News Corp. also owns publisher
HarperCollins, which made news in
1994 with a whopping $4.5 million
book advance to House Speaker
Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., when
Murdoch - a naturalized U.S. citi-
zen - was seeking Congress' help
in gaining approval to acquire TV
stations using foreign capital.
Gingrich, seeking to defuse the situ-
ation, subsequently returned the
advance.
Fox News Channel, News Corp.'s
24-hour cable service, contends
other media outlets harbor a liberal
bias, a point made via the tone of its
coverage as well as its promotional
slogan, "We report. You decide."
Even if not directed to pursue
Murdoch's agenda, underlings can't
help but know where his sympathies
lie.
Media consolidation has made
this threat of corporate interest col-
liding with editorial decision-mak-
ing increasingly hard to avoid,
meaning divisions at these massive
communications empires must prac-
tice what amounts to "trust me"
journalism.
In essence, "trust me" journalism
involves situations in which a broad-
caster or magazine covers a sister
company and implicitly asks con-
sumers to trust they will report the
story as if there were no such ties.
Magazines and newspapers usual-
ly disclose these potential conflicts
by adding a parenthetical note citing
the shared corporate parentage. On
television, stopping in midsntence
to add such qualifiers is understand-
ably awkward.
As a result, incestuous relation-
ships usually go unstated. Time
Warner-owned CNN's entertainment
news program "Showbiz Today," for
example, doesn't refer to its link to
Warner Bros. unless a story specifi-
cally relates to the corporation.
Criticism leveled at the studio for
releasing records with explicit rap
lyrics would prompt a mention of
the connection, but a story about
"ER" or a big Warner Bros. film

such as "Lethal Weapon 4" would
not.
"On 'Showbiz,' I've always
approached reporting the story with-
out regard to corporate affiliations,
so it usually isn't necessary to dis-
close it, because we would never
think like that," said Scott Leon,

CNN's vice president of enterta l
ment news. "We cover eervones
mov ies not just Warner Bros.
Indeed, few outlets are that -
gent.
Other than the show-ending logo,
casual x ewers have no reason to
suspect ""Entertainment Tonight" 4f
keeping things in the family by tout-
ing a Paramount mo ie or a seris
such as "Frasier," which the studi
produces.
The same goes for ri al "infotain-
ment" shows "Extra" (from Warner
Bros.) or "Access Hollywood,"
partnership of NBC and Fox.
"Good Morning America" and
"Live With Reg is & Kathie Lee"
both flogged the opening of
Disney's Animal Kingdom park, just
as "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" in-
tially booked an inordinate number
of guests associated with its studio,
Warner Bros.
Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, senior vice
president of current programm
for Disney's Buena Vista Television,
stressed that the producers of "Regis
& Kathie Lee" recognize the pro-
gram will suffer if they allow corpo-
rate alliances to undermine them in
producing the best show they can.
"I am very pro-synergy, but I also
know that what must come first is
what works for the show," she said.
Even America's two most famous
thumb-wavers, film critics Gene
Siskel and Roger Ebert, don't no
within their syndicated movie-
review show when they are evaluat-
ing films from their employer,
Disney.
"I don't notice or remember who
the distributor is of the films I see,"
Siskel said in an interview from
Chicago. "It's really a nonissue."
As to whether fans realize he
works for Disney, Siskel added,
I expect the average person to kn
that? I don't know, but I can tell
them they don't have anything to
worry about."
Disney officials have long stated
they get no breaks from the pair.
If anything, they say, Siskel and
Ebert regularly demonstrate their
lack of concern about whose ox they
(gore by panning the studio's films.
"When we decided we were going
to have 'Siskel & Ebert' on our 4
gramming roster, it was very clear it
had to be church and state, and that
we could never interfere," said
Kellogg-Joslyn, who's also responsi-
ble for that show. "I've never gotten
one call from the movie division
asking me why Gene and Roger did
what they did."
Certainly, news organizations and
even fluffier talk and celebr
shows generally go about their b
ness without fretting about the far-
removed entities that own them.
Yet when synergy-driven
encroachments on their indepen-
dence surface, it should fire off a
warning flare to everyone that room
for impropriety exists - even if it
is merely resulting from an employ-
ee's overzealousness.
Given that risk, wouldn' it be
wise simply to lay bare these c
tlicts and, to quote Fox, let the vie
er decide?
Having been around more than 20
years, Siskel and Ebert's show has
doubtless built up a reservoir of
respectability, but with a handful of
media giants owning everything, can
less-established programs be relied
upon to match that level of integri-
ty?
Surely, these companies will 4,
corporate parentage would never
color such judgments - just as a

cable news network would never air
a major report with unsupportable
allegations against the U.S. military,
or Boston newspaper columnists
would never create fictional charac-
ters and crib jokes from George
Carlin.
Trust us.

Courtesy of FOX television
Agents Mulder and Scully can be seen searching
for the truth in reruns on the FX channel.

phone: 663.5800
1140 south university,(above goodtime charleys), AA
mon.-thurs.: 9:00a-10:OOp sundays
fri. & sat.: 9:00a-11:O0p 11:OOa-8:OOp
MtCG AN 4A A
- . a S 4

STREEP
Continued from Page 11
"That's a perfect example of what I mean," she says. "When I go out and
buy books for my kids, and I'm confronted by a vast array of books, as a
consumer you tend to go with the winner. So I look for the silver thing on
the cover saying the book won the Newbury or Caldecott prize. My quarrel
with the AFI has to do with the fact that from now on, when I go to the video
store - which has that same vast array - there will be a seal of approval
on these films. But of these 100 films, there are only four that have female
protagonists. And that's alarming to me, because that sends a signal to girls
where they stand in the world and in our own mythic life, in our dreams.
These lists are stupid, but they end up being important because they end up
being history and that's where I go crazy."
Though Streep's 18-year-old son, Henry, is heading to Dartmouth, she
still has three daughters at home - Mary Willa (nicknamed Mamie), 15;
Grace, 12; and Louisa, 7 - which, Streep says, precludes her from acting in
more than a few films a year and always under specific conditions that will
not have her away from her family for a long time.
She lives most of the year in Los Angeles but still has a Connecticut
home.

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