Film and TV

Handicapping the TV Dead Pool

Place your bets, place your bets. Anyone’s a winner, anyone’s a loser.

Especially these shows.

Every season, there’s a TV dream that dies early. Someone’s pet project gets hit by the car of audience reaction, and has to be put down so it (and no one else) can suffer. So what else is there to do, really, but place wagers on which will feel the pinch of the euthanasia needle first?

1. Kid Nation Seriously, if I wanted to see kids in peril, I’d go to Wal-Mart on a Saturday. The beauty of Lord of the Flies was that it was pretend, see? No actual children were marooned on their own, deprived of the emotional connections that their parents have ostensibly worked to establish over their short lifespans so far, and expected to dance for the rest of society like small, trained monkeys. These are children! And the fact that some stupid parents signed a contract allowing this show to happen doesn’t mean that they should have been allowed to. This show is just all sorts of ick. Still, odds on it being axed before a second, low-rated, and doomed second season? 20-1. There’s no accounting for taste.

2. Back to You Kelsey Grammar reinvents himself as Frasier 3.0, this time with a new name, new career, but same old personality (this guy defines the difference between actor and performer). And what else is there to say about Patricia Heaton, other than to recall that shrill, menacing, harpy-like performance that seemed to come from great theatrical skill on Everybody Loves Raymond, and suddenly realize that hey -- she’s not acting. Still, some very low expectations may be what keeps this show on-air for a while. Odds of its demise? 10:1.

3. Viva Laughlin Already cancelled. (See how fast this game changes?) After two front-loaded episodes in one week, canned. And rightly so. Did Cop Rock teach us nothing, people? Those who ignore bad TV history are doomed to repeat it. Odds: Betting closed.

4. Journeyman This show doesn’t propel me into the mystery that it intends; instead of wondering what the logic behind the jaunts that the main character takes through the recent past, I end up wondering how this pale and charmless imitation of Quantum Leap got on the air, and what Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell are doing these days. Odds that it doesn’t see season two? 4:1.

5. Cavemen Who’d have thought that ads for car insurance couldn’t be expanded into a cohesive narrative universe that speaks to our basic humanity while exploring our Neanderthal past? Oh, that’s right…just about everyone. Odds on this show going the way of the dodo? 2:1. -- Teague Bohlen