For the television universe, summertime is only good for reruns, rehashes and the promotion of new fall series that nobody cares about except TV columnists and others who don't get out enough.
But in the last couple of months, some trends have emerged that can only be described as unexpected and worth getting excited about.
Reality shows meet the Grim Reaper: Not one of the dozens of rip-off reality shows rolled out this summer has come anywhere near the summer hit status once achieved by 'Survivor,' unless you want to count Bravo's 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'
'Queer Eye,' the latest makeover series, grabbed the highest Nielsen numbers ever for a new Bravo network show, which isn't saying a whole lot, really. Now Bravo's parent, NBC, is airing cut-down, half-hour versions of the show. Otherwise, new editions of 'Survivor' and 'American Idol' can't come back soon enough.
My take: The doldrums encompassing the reality genre will have an impact this fall because there will be fewer knockoff replacements ready when new shows falter. This is, after all, the first summer since ABC debuted 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' that not a single summer reality show has risen to prominence. So, for the third consecutive summer, despite having been wrong the first two times, I'll again predict: The glut of reality shows will disappear faster than a Mariah Carey movie.
• • •
FCC backlash: Last week saw a welcome landslide victory in the House of Representatives for a bill reversing the despicable decision by the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the country's handful of media conglomerates to gobble up even more TV stations. The FCC decision also would permit cross-ownership of a newspaper with TV and/or radio stations in a single market. The Senate now gets to slam-dunk this abomination.
My take: If it weren't for the public outcry and opposition by both liberal and conservative political forces, the changes probably would have squeaked by. At the end of the day, though, everybody woke up to the realization that the only people who would benefit would be the Rupert Murdochs and Viacoms of the world.
• • •
Tim Russert rules: NBC's Washington, D.C., bureau chief and 'Meet the Press' guru owns Sunday morning, but ABC now says it's going to revamp the hurting 'This Week' by getting out of the studio more and airing taped pieces. Ever since former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos took over as anchor, viewers have been disappearing.
My take: If Russert has proved anything, it's that doing your homework and asking good, tough questions are enough to make an interview show popular. As a host, Stephanopoulos was clearly the wrong guy and way too green in front of the camera.
• • •
Quick hits: Now that NBC has announced plans for a 'Friends' spinoff in fall 2004 starring Matt LeBlanc, the 'Seinfeld' curse is ready to rear its ugly head again. No 'Seinfeld' supporting cast member has been successful in a subsequent series. LeBlanc's character, Joey, has the same problem: He's too connected to his pals. É If they're going to make a made-for-TV movie about the Kobe Bryant story, and you know that's going to happen sooner or later, Woody Harrelson is a shoo-in to play his look-alike, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.