The new hour-long “dramedy” looks at life inside a weekly alternative newspaper. Sort of “Lou Grant” meets “Sports Night” meets “M*A*S*H” is the way the show’s creators first pitched the series to network executives, who were intrigued by the complicated, sometimes hilarious consequences that result when a freewheeling “altie” founded by mildly reformed hippies is sold to a mainstream media conglomerate based in Hoboken, N.J. In the first episode, all sorts of fun breaks loose when bean counters from corporate headquarters unexpectedly show up at the paper on “hash brownie Friday” and let both their hair and their pants down, after unwittingly sampling the high-test fudgy treats left out on the lunchroom counter, then begin flirting with the paper’s transvestite advertising director.
Pushing the “you are there” idea to the limit, each weekly half-hour episode takes us into the home of an existential sufferer as s/he climbs the walls, paces the floor, numbs out on TV or otherwise kills time because of heartbreak, unemployment, lack of motivation, lack of direction, infinite angst or despair. At no time do we see them washing dishes, cleaning the toilet, raking leaves or doing anything else mindful or productive. Inspired by such classics as Andy Warhol’s Empire State, Kiss and Blow Job, the show is comprised of one long shot per episode. Excruciating, but real.
“Through the Manhole Fog: A Love Story”
This made-for-TV rock opera spins the sordid tale of ill-fated lovers on the hard streets of Detroit. When Rodney Streetenstopholis, a methadone-addicted homeless immigrant steps through the fog from a manhole cover, he is run down by Nadia Patchouli, a former prostitute turned “woman on the go” news reporter. Their eyes meet and Rodney bursts into the opening love aria, “Bus Fare To Pontiac.” Nadia visits the hospital daily during Rodney’s touch-and-go health situation, finally making love to him moments before he dies, while singing the tear-jerking “I Used to Turn Tricks (But None Like This)/Bus Fare To Pontiac Reprise.” Filmed in real time, this maxiseries will air once weekly for 10 years.
“Then Came Denson”
A saga of self-discovery about a former big-city mayor, Archie Denson, who mounts his vintage Harley-Davidson and roars off to explore the highways and byways of America, searching for the love he never knew as a savvy but misunderstood politico. Earning gas money as an itinerant lawyer, our hero finds himself enmeshed in a different conflict every week. The first episode has him defending migrant grape pickers battling a corrupt agribusiness combine in California’s wine country. Spike Lee makes his television-acting debut as the easy-riding ex-mayor who occasionally finds respite from his tumultuous past in leather biker bars.
The loves and lives of a production company endlessly churning out unsuccessful pilots for television shows based on (you guessed it) other television shows: a little bit of Waiting for Godot, a little bit of “Friends,” a little bit of “The Richard Pryor Show.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry about the behind-the-scenes love, lust and politics involved in the creation of such shows as “My Mother the Stealth Bomber,” “Smurfy, the Umpire Killer,” “The Silicon Valley Hillbillies,” “The Days of Our Past Lives,” “Romper Stomper Battlebots Room” and more.
“Born in East Windsor”
Looking for a better life south of the border, a down-and-out Canadian family sneaks across a frozen Detroit River during the dead of winter and takes up residence in Motown. Culturally confused and struggling to adapt to life in an alien culture, the family plays a constant game of cat-and-mouse with an overzealous INS agent who has vowed to track them down and see them deported. Amid the high drama and tension (they live in constant fear that a slipped “eh” will give them away), there is much heartwarming humor as the illegal immigrants attempt to adjust to the ways of their new homeland. The first episode features a particularly funny scene that has the entire family sitting down on a Friday night and forcing themselves to drink this country’s inferior domestic beer.
“Bands on the Runs”
This edgy documentary series tackles the reality of road food and its effects on the fragile digestive systems of whiny, waify, mediocre, touring rock bands. The series opener, “The Fast Food Taco Incident,” features a young drummer struggling through an entire set with a stomach that’s rumbling louder than her bass drum. In “The Sack of 10 Trauma,” watch a tormented guitarist try to hide his gas from a groupie. After the series is over, watch the bands sign hot record deals, go on one huge tour, break up, get screwed over by their record labels, spend a year in rehab and, if they’re lucky, end up on “Behind the Music.”
Set in a fictional Midwestern city that grew up around the auto industry, this show follows the few highs and all-too-frequent lows of the Tigercats, a perpetual Major League Baseball cellar-dweller striving to one day break .500. Their crusty old manager is at wit’s end as he tries dealing with a penny-pinching owner and players who apparently spent their formative years playing for the Bad News Bears. There’s the pitcher who takes the mound while high on Ecstasy and the gritty one-legged catcher who’s beloved by all but has a hell of a time chasing down a pop-up. In the show’s premiere episode, team vice president Joey Festucci — the owner’s handsome hunk of a son played by newcomer Adonis Tork — uses his masculine wiles in an attempt to convince the town’s female mayor (played by Charro, who delivers a career-reviving performance) to come up with a half-billion dollars in bond money to finance a new stadium for the team.
“For Women Only”
With “Xena: Warrior Princess” no longer in production, Lucy Lawless treks into new TV land territory by hosting a female version of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show.” The all-female studio audience sips complimentary herbal tea while male bodybuilders strut their stuff around the studio, taking turns giving each woman a free neck massage. Gratuitous footage of men washing dishes and performing other household chores is interspersed with Lawless and friends laughing about how it always takes a woman to get a job done right and sharing tips including how to “take care” of a creep who’s bothering you, Xena style.
In the tradition of such Asian cooking hits as “Iron Chef” and Ming Tsai’s “East Meets West,” this early morning series of seven half-hour episodes (shown each day for a week, then repeated once a month) features a large room, empty but for a cushion on a tatami mat. A diner enters the room, sits in a modified lotus position on the cushion and waits to be served. After almost a half-hour of this silent sitting, a waiter appears, but without utensils, napkin or order pad. Instead he whacks the diner across the shoulder blades with a bamboo stick.
Return to the Fall Guide home page for more features and choice events.Contributors include Curt Guyette, George Tysh, Nate Cavalieri, W. Kim Heron, Melissa Giannini and Nicole Jones. E-mail [email protected]