December 5, 2003
MAKING THE GRADE
TV'S ANNUAL REPORT
Over the past year, television has presented a
schizophrenic array of reality, dramas and
dull sitcoms where "Must See TV" is easy
to miss, and five nights of crime dramas make for a
predictable week. While prime-time television
seems to be a wasteland of unwanted entertainment,
a few shows still stand out and keep our interest.
Report cards are in, and those who don't make the
grade have a rocky future ahead.
- Compiled by the Daily TV Staff
CBS: America's number-one-rated network seems
to be alone in knowing how to schedule program-
ming effectively for the entire week, not even back-
ing down from NBC's formerly "Must See TV"
However, an insistence on franchises ("CSI" and
"JAG"), coupled with shows that appeal only to an
older demographic limit potential viewership. As
the home to the most promising and original show
of the season, "Joan of Arcadia," CBS seems to be
making some strides toward more diverse fare.
FOX: For every successful new program ("The
OC" and "Arrested Development") there is "Skin"
or bad reality shows (i.e. "Joe Millionaire 2") on the
following night. The network's best shows are some
of the finest on television ("24") and their commit-
ment to new ideas is evident. Even though they have
given some innovative shows a chance, there is
always the possibility that they may cancel another
great before its time like they did with "Firefly" or
"Andy Richter Controls the Universe" last season.
Grade: B+ (On the condition that it lets its new
NBC: Once the home to the best sitcoms and most
gripping dramas, NBC is a shell of its former self
looking to find some sort of new hit. With "Friends"
and "Frasier" on the way out and only "Scrubs" as a
promising comedy replacement (sorry, "Whoopi"),
next season should be a struggle. "ER" and all of the
"Law & Order" franchises have began to show their
age, but the new series "Las Vegas" has some prom-
ise whereas "Lyon's Den" is an official disaster.
Their reality fare ranks as some of the most
appalling ("Fear Factor"), but they have yet to let it
inundate their entire schedule.
Grade: B- (Would have been a B before
"Boomtown"'s unfair cancellation; see
ABC: What a sorry state of affairs ABC
is in these days. Still hoping for a breakout
esy of ABC sitcom or drama, ABC has stuck with the
stinkers that the past few seasons have offered,
clinging to any sort of success. "Alias" is the lone
saving grace on a network that seems to believe that
"According to Jim" is worth keeping on the air but
not "Karen Sisco."
the WB: With a lineup of unspectacular sitcoms
and teen dramas, the WB is aiming for a young
demographic. Its best shows are the critically
acclaimed dialogue driven series like "Gilmore
Girls" or genre shows like "Angel" and "Smallville"
which are far too quirky to make it on the major net-
works. At its worst, it is responsible for the mon-
strosity of "The Surreal Life," unfortunately set to
return during mid-season.
UPN: As bad as the WB or ABC's lineups may be,
at least there are a few shows that are worth watch-
ing, unlike UPN. Led by Vince McMahon's "WWE
Smackdown!" as well as the latest "Star Trek" offer-
ing "Enterprise," UPN caters to die-hard fans. "Jake
2.0" is the only promising series, but it airs in one of
the most competitive time-slots available. Its fresh-
man sitcoms range from the bad ("Rock Me Baby")
to the truly wretched ("The Mullets"), indicating the
necessity for a complete network overhaul.
The Best of Cable
HBO: HBO is as solid as ever, with new shows
("Carnivale") and old favorites ("Curb Your
Enthusiasm") both redefining genres and the
concepts of popular entertainment.
FX: The programming feels like HBO-lite, but
"The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck" are engrossing
enough to show that this network is more than
willing to take risks.
Comedy Central: Home to the most hilarious
shows on TV ("South Park" and "Reno 911"),
Comedy Central defines what is funny. However,
not every new show is a comic great or even
tasteful ("I'm with Busey" and "Kid Notorious").
Bravo: The NBC affiliate has come into its own
with the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" phe-
nomenon, and its latest programming ("Celebrity
Poker Showdown") looks to be promising.
Courtesy of University Musical Society
All smiles In this black-and-white world.
Classic horror spooks
in colorless musical
By Sarah Peterson
Daily Fne Arts Editor
FINE ARTs PREVIEW
How do you take a stage production
and turn it into a black-and-white film?
You do it by using only the four colors
khaki, moss, yogurt and bruise. This
weekend, University of Michigan
Gilbert and Sullivan Society
(UMGASS) answers this question with
production of "Ruddigore," a stunning
musical full of love, honor, intrigue and
ghosts that sing
a play that per-
fectly lends itself
to the genre of
film. Its storyline
man and woman
fall in love, but
then man inherits
Thursday - Saturday
at 8 p.m. and
Sunday at 2 p.m.
At the Mendelssohn
musicians and the singers are all of a
professional timbre. Music director
Christopher Scheer explained how, for
the first four weeks of rehearsal, the
only thing that was worked on was the
music. "The actors learned the music
first before learning any of the dancing
or movement," Scheer said, and the
intense practice is obvious from the
moment the singers take the stage.
Margot Rood, the actress who plays
Rose, expressed how the Gilbert and
Sullivan Society "was a nice way to be
introduced to a group of wonderful
people." And, as the actors and musi-
cians who make up the cast, crew and
orchestra pit of this production are
from all over, this group is diverse as
well. Some of the members are stu-
dents from the Music School, students
from all different departments, and
some are members of the community
who simply wanted to get involved.
"This Gilbert and Sullivan Society is
what you call a town and gown ensem-
ble. We have people from both the
community and the university. We have
everything from doctors to lawyers to
freshman," stated Scheer.
After weeks of rehearsal, Ben Robin-
son (Richard), Margot Rood (Rose)
and Sarah Nisbett (Margaret) are all
excited to perform the play for an audi-
ence. Robinson said that, because the
play is rehearsed in separate sections
right up until dress rehearsal, coming
together to run the entire show is a
great feeling "because than there is this
sense of cohesion." And now, not only
will the play be a unified whole, but the
actors will also get the added effect of
audience reaction. Nisbett said, "it's
been a challenge because there are little
things you don't think about," but all
three agreed that the mutually support-
ive environment of the group makes for
a wonderful show.
a castle and a curse which causes him
to have to commit one crime a day or
die - is very reminiscent of an old
black-and-white horror flick. "It is a
parody of the melodrama of the time,"
says artistic director Jason Smith, and
that is why the group decided to gray
scale the show.
As is noticeable as soon as the cur-
tain rises though, the play is definitely
not devoid of color. In fact, there seem
to be many shades of browns and
mauves that find their way into the cos-
tumes of the cast, are as exuberant as
the cast members themselves. Smith
explained, that, "as film starts to age, it
starts to yellow and fade, and that is the
look we are going for. That gives us
more flexibility with the colors."
Once past the pale pallor of the
actors, the aspect of the show that will
steal your breath is the music. Both the
N BC s
Critical acclaim no longer matters. While this
season has seen shows such as "Skin" get what
they deserve, garbage the likes of "Yes, Dear"
continues to air because, apparently, somebody is
watching. However, the biggest injustice by far
was the early exit of "Boomtown."
The show, featuring several different view-
points of one crime, garnered high praise but low
ratings in its first year. Due to those ratings, NBC
moved "Boomtown" from its high-profile Sun-
days-at-10 p.m. time-slot to the ratings black hole
of Fridays at 10 p.m. Despite a revamped cast,
the show was pulled a scant two episodes into the
sophomore effort. An additional six installments
were produced, but it is doubtful these will air. It
is disheartening to know NBC is keeping
episodes of "Boomtown" on the shelf while sub-
jecting the nation to the horror that is "Whoopi."
biggest surprises of the season
"8 Simple Rules" (ABC, Tuesdays 8 p.m.) -
Although it was a shock to many viewers when ABC
announced its decision to continue "8 Simple Rules"
after John Ritter's tragic and unexpected death, the
show's cast and crew portrayed the situation admirably in
subsequent episodes, showing a level of dignity and a
respect for Ritter's work that pleasantly surprised its
"Joan of Arcadia" (CBS, Fridays 8 p.m.) -
While "Joan" may seem strangely similar to another reli-
giously geared CBS series on the surface, this season's
newbie has managed to attract some viewer attention in the
last few months. With God masquerading around town in
an ever-changing visage, "Joan" added an intriguing spice
into the mix of a lagging Friday-night lineup.
"The West Wing" (NBC, Wednesdays 9 p.m.) -
"The West Wing" proves time and time again it can reel in
an audience like no other politically based, prime-time
drama. Despite its often preachy style and suspiciously
"ripped from the headlines" plots, "The West Wing" proud-
ly carried home yet another Emmy to add to its collection.
PUDDLE OF MUDD derivative, too stupid.
LIFE ON DISPAY The single, "Away From Me," is
GFFFEN ctchy enough to get you through
math, but only that and the raunchy-
Spawned from the Bizkit tree, Pud- albeit forced - nihilism of"Cloud 9"
die of Mudd is third-generation "Nu- are worth the brew. The rest teeters
Metal," which, it turns out, sounds a between laughable aggression and
whole lot like grunge. Conveniently, pinful balladry Singer Wes Scantlin
the 12 tracks on Life On Display cost is being shamefully marketed as
about the same as a 12-pack of Bud Kurt Cobain look-alike, despite is
Lite for the 17-year old Guitar Center terrible lyrics and the worst rock
stoners this band is marketed to. Stick voice since Nickel ack hit the radio.
with the alcohol, kids. On "Away From Met" Scantlin sings
Here's the rock critic schtick: "Just sittin' here by myself / And I
Sounds like Alice in Chains ... Blah, think you found someone else I Now
blah .. Stone Temple Pilots ... I'm going to havetofinaway toput
Twiddle thumbs ... bit o'Soundgar- the bottle down" Us too, Wes. *
Sabgab.StaindBizkitFu- drewM aeig
el~reed ... Har har Toall
Coleman and Claus join diverse Boston Pops
By Melissa Runstrom
Daily Arts Writer
FINE ARTS PREVIEW
Mary Sue Coleman can soon add
guest conductor to her resume. The
president is slated to guest conduct with
the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra
this evening. Coleman will be just one
of the guest stars in this performer-
packed concert. Adding their talents to
the evening will be the University
Singers of California State University at
Fullerton, the renowned baritone
Stephen Salters, and what evening
would be complete without University
alum and WOLV-TV anchorwomen
"It is enjoyable for the orchestra to
it is fun to watch
someone up on
the podium who is
having the time of
their life," bas-
soonist and Uni-
Tonight at 8 p.m.
At Crisler Arena
to name just a few. The orchestra has
also made it a point to showcase young
American talent over the years.
Have no fear that the Boston Pops
Esplanade Orchestra will be outdone by
its guest-stars. Returning to Ann Arbor
with its popular Christmas concert, it
can certainly hold its own. According to
the University Musical Society, last
year's performance claimed nearly
For the performance, Crisler Arena is
getting all gussied up. There will be the-
atrical lighting, a full stage and, of
course, the requisite sound system for
the concert. Instead of basketballs on
the court, patrons will find tables lined
with light refreshments. The Boston
Pops is credited with introducing Amer-
icans to the caf6-style orchestral con-
cert. The group is, in fact, sometimes
touted as "America's Orchestra," and it
is certainly one of the most well-known
in the nation. In 2002, it even became
the first orchestra featured in a Super
"The energy level of the program is
very high," Phillips explained. This
concert will feature classic Christmas
songs, including a few sing-alongs for
the audience. As part of the excite-
ment, Santa Claus will also be stop-
ping by the arena.
Though tonight's performance will
be pretty traditional, the Pops caters
to all ages and its concerts typically
encompass a variety of music. This
group is also recognized as the most
recorded orchestra in the world, with
more than 100 recordings under its
belt. It is known for its variations on
artists like Glenn Miller, as well as its
crossovers. Phillips said, "We appeal
to a wide variety of audiences, those
who like classical, light classical and
popular music. Our program is a vari-
ety of styles."
- - - - - - - - -- -
said. The Pops has a tradition of guest-
artists, with stars like Mariah Carey,
Ben Affleck, Jason Alexander, Tony
Bennett, Patti LaBelle and James Taylor
°r'j ._ rlagot
:Fiila 11 0 i
THE A PLAY
By David Hammond
Directed by John Neville-Andrews
A spectacular new dramatic telling of. TA. Hoffmanns
familiar fairy tale - perfect for the entire family!