- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2000

[p[ David Letterman's heart, Richard Hatch's flab, Keri Russell's hair, Regis Philbin's questions, Dennis Miller's diatribes, Dr. Laura's hello, Michael J. Fox's goodbye, Britney Spears' thong, late-night politics, late-night engagements, "Survivor" and "Big Brother," Al and George, Regis minus Kathie Lee, Rick minus Darva.

Another year in television ticks away, and it is time we'll never get back. But what a year, huh? Twenty million viewers watched Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger exchange marriage vows and darn near gunfire on "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" Fifty million caught Mr. Hatch conniving his way to the top on "Survivor," yet only about three people admit to ever watching reality programming.

Television news was tested severely, with dismal to mixed results, with the messy case of Elian Gonzalez and a messy presidential campaign.

Moments to remember

{bul} David Letterman: The late-night talker, 53, makes an emotional return to his CBS show after bypass surgery. It brings out Mr. Letterman's softer side (there was a tear, really) in a show in which he trots out the medical personnel who helped him. Funny, witty, touching.

{bul} Late-night politics: On "Saturday Night Live," Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond make the election bearable, with Mr. Ferrell as a clueless George W. Bush and Mr. Hammond as an out-of-touch Al Gore. The sketch "The Presidential Couple," modeled on "The Odd Couple," is hilarious.

{bul} "The Corner": This HBO miniseries about a smack-ravaged Baltimore neighborhood is so intense some viewers can't get past the first episode; others can't wait for the next installment. The best miniseries in years.

{bul} Too little too late: Kellie Martin finally gets a meaty story line after doing relatively nothing for a season on "ER" — and it's her death scene. Miss Martin's Dr. Lucy Knight is knifed to death in one of the most harrowing TV episodes of the year.

{bul} Monday night madness: Dennis Miller embarks on a crusade to inject a little highbrow into the no-brow telecasts of "Monday Night Football." On announcer Al Michaels' comment that the ref needs indisputable visual evidence to overturn a call on a replay challenge: "Nothing in life is indisputable … how do we know we're even here, Al? How do you know this whole stadium isn't an electron in another atom?"

{bul} Timely news flash: A teary-eyed Bernard Shaw tells his CNN audience he's stepping down as anchor after 20 years. His plans? To write his autobiography and "give my wifely friend, Linda, her husband and our adult daughter and son their father." What dignity.

{bul} Long-overdue news flash: A teary-eyed Kathie Lee Gifford leaves "Live With Regis & Kathie Lee," singing a song and going on and on. After five months of this farewell tour, it's a "good" day for television.

{bul} Goodbye, for now: More than 30 million viewers watch Michael J. Fox bow out of "Spin City," embracing his cast and acknowledging his studio audience with a wave.

Moments to forget

{bul} Oops, sorry: A disastrous election night for network news, during which Florida's decisive 25 electoral votes are credited to Mr. Gore, then pulled back, then awarded to Mr. Bush and then pulled back again. A full-scale search for blame and answers ensues, with ABC's Peter Jennings admitting, "OK, we erred."

{bul} Talk about product placement: Obviously sick of lawyers, politicians and academics, television cameras spend a day focused relentlessly on a yellow Ryder rental truck carrying 462,000 paper ballots from Florida's West Palm Beach to Tallahassee.

{bul} Not again: ABC News calls Florida for Mr. Bush again after the state's secretary of state officially certifies Mr. Bush as the winner despite continuing legal challenges from Mr. Gore. NBC doesn't dare bite this time. After spending millions of dollars to air "Titanic," the "peacock network" decides to stay with Leo and the big ship.

{bul} Music rage: At the MTV Video Music Awards, Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford is arrested for scaling a huge prop during Limp Bizkit's speech as audience members scream "Jump."

{bul} And now for the dying mother: NBC's version of Summer Olympics coverage is hours of sappy, sentimental feature stories occasionally peppered with some on-the-field action, which is tape-delayed by about 12 hours.

{bul} Where's Dr. Laura?: Dr. Laura Schlessinger airs her new TV talk show on a number of CBS stations, and homosexual groups object.

{bul} Clooney's playground: The made-for-TV movie "Fail Safe" airs live on CBS, with George Clooney producing and starring alongside Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel and Don Cheadle. Few watch; many viewers turn instead to "The Practice."

{bul} Living up to its title: "Cursed" airs on NBC after a number of rewrites, and the critics aren't kind. The series will try again in the second half of the season, but one of its cheerleaders won't be there to see it. Entertainment head Garth Ancier is replaced by Jeff Zucker, executive producer of "Today," in yet another attempt to revive the once powerful network.

{bul} The bigger the better: Time-Warner and America Online strike a deal to create the world's biggest media business, putting even more media entities in fewer hands. Time-Warner already is home to HBO, Turner Broadcasting and the WB network. Proponents of the merger insist there's nothing to fear.

{bul} The bigger the better?: Time-Warner fights a contractual dispute with the Walt Disney Co. by pulling Disney-owned ABC from its cable systems, shutting down the network for millions of viewers. Nothing to be afraid of?

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