- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Now that school is starting, it’s time to look back at the summer TV season that was. Here’s a quick look at what worked, what flopped and what, well, sometimes worked and flopped at the same time.

Winners:

Entourage (HBO): Given time, this sly, knowing and wickedly funny series about a hot young movie star and his New York buddies/hangers-on could become HBO’s next “Sex and the City”-like hit. Jeremy Piven is a real scene stealer as a slithery Hollywood talent agent.

The Player (UPN): Every TV critic has at least one guilty-pleasure show; “The Player” was mine. Watching a group of bling-bling, trash-talking, chest-thumping “playas” trying to prove who has more game to win the affections of a stick-thin Miami model has been both insanely dumb and very funny.

Summerland (WB): A shamelessly sugary drama that somehow managed to tackle such thorny real-life issues as social isolation, death, parenthood and facing life’s responsibilities without making you gag … too much.

The Jury (Fox): OK, so most viewers didn’t embrace this talky but wonderfully intriguing legal drama that skillfully examined criminal trials from the perspective of the 12 jurors deliberating the case. What’s wrong with you people? “The Jury,” part “Rashomon,” part “12 Angry Men,” breathed new life into what has become an increasingly stale genre.

Last Comic Standing (NBC): The “American Idol” for stand-ups became a bona fide hit as a merry band of comics duked it out onstage for the right to headline their own Comedy Central special. Voters, however, goofed mightily by picking the supermanic John Heffron over the way funnier Alonzo Bodden.

NYPD 24/7 (ABC News): A fascinating seven-part documentary about real New York City cops who fight crime, solve grisly murders and save suicidal men hanging from bridges while trying to maintain their sense of humor — and sanity.

The 4400 (USA Network): An effectively creepy short-run series about a group of abductees who all mysteriously return at once without having aged a day. In a summer overloaded with dopey reality shows, “The 4400” and its eeriness was a welcome treat.

Losers:

The Dead Zone (USA Network): Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) is a do-right psychic who sees the future. He sees the past. He solves crimes. He walks with a cane. He always looks constipated. It used to be interesting. Now it isn’t. When will Johnny see the show’s future cancellation date? The sooner, the better.

The Simple Life 2 (Fox): Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie should go in a cave. For a long time. A very long time.

The Grid (TNT): Who would have thought a series about the war on terrorism starring handsome Dylan McDermott and gorgeous Julianne Margulies would be such a dud? This well-intentioned show was more convoluted than riveting.

The Casino (Fox): An unscripted snoozer drama from uberproducer Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice”) starring the two can-do owners of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, who were about as interesting as a pair of dice.

The WB’s Superstar USA (WB): A mean-spirited “American Idol” parody in which bad singers were told they were good so they could be humiliated. Somewhere, William Hung is nodding his head in sympathy.

Who Wants to Marry My Dad? (NBC): Is it just me, or isn’t it kind of creepy when children seem to enjoy watching their dad making out with a bunch of women? Well, isn’t it?

Mixed verdict

Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (Fox): The first two episodes in which a rich, snotty white mom traded places with a working class, down-to-earth black mom were a riot. Culture clashes are always interesting on television. For a while.

North Shore (Fox): A mostly silly — and predictable — soap that’s still pretty good even when it’s bad.

Amish in the City (UPN): Yeah, it’s “The Real World” except it has a lot of wide-eyed Amish youths in it. Still, you gotta love it when a sheltered Amish hunk gets his chest hair shaved and asks, “Can you carve ‘stud’ in there, or something?”

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE


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