While the Irony Is Hot

Poor network television. What do you do when your writers refuse to write? When your
characters and talk show hosts have nothing deep or clever or witty to say? Apparently there are a few options. All it takes is a little scrounging. For example, you could get some steroid-and-silicone-enhanced she-males named Siren and Titan to lunge at each other with giant padded sticks . . . but wait, hasn’t that been done before? Who cares! The American Gladiators are back and bigger than ever. (Never mind the “steroids” snickers, we are referring to their debut ratings.) 

Okay, but what to do for the rest of prime time? they hum and haw around the boardroom. “I know,” says one bright young executive. “What if we were to find a clever, popular show that has already been written?” Whoa. Where to find such a thing? On Showtime, of course. And so it is that they cleaned up the blood and bleeped out the obscenities and proudly announced that whatever was left of Dexter’s dismembered corpse would be premiering on CBS.

That just leaves us with the troublesome Friday night. Urkel? ALF? Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? No, we need something new, something fresh, something now, something for the kids … something from MySpace! Does it matter if the show doesn’t even have much of a following, or that it is as boring as hell? No, of course not. Hence, quarterlife: The first show to ever be produced for the Web (where it ought to have stayed) and then edited for network broadcast. The Web broadcasts on MySpace — each and every eight-painful-minute episode — were produced by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the award-winning team behind thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. Is there such a thing as an Emmy recall?

The Webisodes will be edited into six hour-long shows to inaugurate the first season of quarterlife, with a network television debut in time for sweeps. Starting this February 18, instead of thanking God for Friday, we may decide to take a walk. Or play darts. Or sit in the corner of a dark bar and remember when preview week was something we looked forward to. Anticipated even. And then we may order another gin and drink to the writers getting whatever the hell they want and wonder if an ever-dwindling TV viewership will return after being subjected to this pap.

Then we’ll stop for a moment and say, “Hey, what’s this strike all about anyway?” The writers asked for a share of Internet revenue. And where do the networks look for scabs? Why, the Internet, of course. How about some salt in those wounds, writers?

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