The Pleasure Channel

The Year in TV

Christiane Amanpour: A fly in the ointment, Amanpour pissed off CNN execs by complaining that American coverage of Iraq might not be all that, uh, balanced.


The Reality Principle: For an instant this year, the networks figured out a way to recapture the days before cable smashed the American audience into hundreds of tiny niche markets. Thanks to lowest-common-denominator shows like Joe Millionaire and The Surreal Life, we remembered what it was like to have a nation unified in talking about the same shows—even if what joined us together was disbelief and disgust. Lowlights included Man vs. Beast (featuring a tug-of-war between a sumo wrestler and an orangutan) and Mr. Personality, hosted by Monica Lewinsky, in which a woman had to pick a boyfriend from a bevy of masked creeps.

Aaron Brown: Watching the Iraq war with CNN's Aaron Brown as anchor was like being led through the desert by a pompous student-teacher with logorrhea and a few missing brain cells.

Breakout sitcom: Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman in Arrested Development
Photo: Peter Iovino/FOX
Breakout sitcom: Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman in Arrested Development

Trista and Ryan's Wedding: Does anyone really feel the need to see this Bachelorette thing through to its bitter conclusion? What's next in the franchise? Coming this spring: the divorce proceedings, broadcast live from their lawyers' office.

Dennis Miller: Never hugely amusing on SNL, Miller has since become borderline incomprehensible, scattering opaque in-jokes and obscure, passé pop culture references like pellets of bird poop all over Bill Maher's Real Time, then spouting even more testosterone-fueled political bluster on his own HBO special, The Raw Feed.

I Love the . . . : VH1 has always found entertaining ways to package nostalgia, such as their Behind the Music series and the VH1 Classics channel. But I Love the 80s Strikes Back (following on the heels of I Love the 70s and I Love the 80s) is glib and unsatisfying, its cast of random B-list celebs spouting arch quips and pointless commentary on everything from toys to video games to candy. Like Chris Farley's hapless cable TV interviewer on SNL, they mostly just coo, "Ooh that was so cool, do you remember that time . . . ?" Worse still, they often reminisce by singing hit tunes out loud: "Jenny, I need your number 867-5309 . . . "

Carnivàle and K Street: With Sex and the City and The Sopranos entering final seasons, I had hoped HBO had suitable replacements lined up. Despite the fetching star presence of Nick Stahl and former Maude sidekick Adrienne Barbeau, Carnivàle doesn't meet those high standards. So far, this series is just a hodgepodge of cool images masquerading as something more profound. As for K Street, I'm relieved it's been canceled—all those Dems scrambling to play themselves on TV would have given the Bush campaign an extra boost.

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