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Miss Match, Snuffed In A Mercy Killing: Reconsidering Entertainment Weekly's 2003 Fall TV Preview

No, Miss Match couldn't survive the 2003-04 television season, but at least we'll always have NCIS, because apparently that show is unkillable.

What is this?

The Fall TV Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly...

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...with Alicia Silverstone on the cover so that conspiracy theorists have one more reason to believe getting the cover of the magazine will curse your show.

Original publication date?

September 12, 2003.

Why do you still have this?

By this point, it was almost a dare. How long can we drag around these weirdly specific themed magazine issues? Will they survive our moves? (Spoiler alert: this particular issue has survived three moves in the last thirteen years.)

What stands out on re-reading?

Well...

NBC

NBC

That's right, we were trying to make Rena Sofer a thing for a while. She appears here as Susan in the U.S. adaptation of Coupling, a pale knockoff of the infinitely superior U.K. comedy. In the U.K. version, Susan is played by Sarah Alexander, a preternaturally beautiful actress with Grace Kelly's sangfroid and Madeline Kahn's comedic skills. In the U.S. version, she was played by Rena Sofer. The series lasted ten episodes.

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Oh, dear God, NCIS has been with us for 13 years, if this feature is to be believed. Sasha Alexander has since fled to the Rizzolian Isles, but Pauley Perrette's look has been fixed in amber since the pilot.

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Whomever wrote the blurb about 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter had really unfortunate timing. The blurb in question begins, "Be afraid, John Ritter. 'We've earned the right to go to some really dark places,' says creator Tracy Gamble. 'I would like our characters to become more real and bleed more."

Immediately after the issue hit the newsstands, John Ritter collapsed and died on the set. That dark enough for you?

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The best thing about the promotional photo for Tru Calling? How Zach Galifianakis looks like he's praying for death in it. Reader, we used to watch this show because it was one of the best belly laughs on television -- I mean, the people running the show were so convinced the viewers were dumb, they began recapping the episode within the episode around the twenty-two-minute mark! In every scene, Galifianakis looked like the only thing keeping him going was the sure knowledge that the hitman he hired to release him from this vale of tears was about to squeeze the trigger. And then Jason Priestley showed up as the big bad and it was ah-maaaaaaaaaa-zing! Anyway, this photo reminds me of how Phil and I would tune in every week and just laugh hysterically all the way through.

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Alicia Silverstone is the reason we all know so many vegan jokes. My favorite is this one: "How do you spot a vegan at a dinner party? Don't worry, they'll tell you." And how do you spot Alicia Silverstone in an interview? She talks about her (entirely laudable) mission to outfit the cast in cruelty-free togs. None of us should have been surprised when she later shared how she regurgitates food for her young.

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My other favorite photo in this issue is the one for Hope And Faith. Mostly because Faith Ford looks like it is taking every ounce of willpower she possesses not to snap and strangle Kelly Ripa. "It would be on film," one can practically hear her mutter between her clenched teeth. "There's no way I could get out of it in court." I look at that photo and suddenly Michael Strahan's hasty departure makes so much sense.

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Look at this photo of Travis Fimmel and tell me he and Charlie Hunnam are not part of some Aryan cloning project. Go on, look. I can only conclude Chris Hemsworth escaped from the same lab.

What does not hold up on re-reading?

The dueling, misguided convictions that (a) the women of America were clamoring to see suety smirk factory Bob Guiney test-drive 25 women on national television...

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...and (b) the readers of Entertainment Weekly needed to see FIVE WHOLE PAGES on him.

Also hateful in this issue is the intimation that twenty-six-year-old Alicia Silverstone is already past her sell-by date and has turned to television because the movies will no longer feature her withered visage on screen. The entire feature story on her is how it's amazing this wizened crone has bravely summoned the inner resources to tell the world, "Sure, I'm no longer the nubile, personality-free teenager upon which you can project all your sexual fantasies -- but I'm still TV-attractive, right?"

Final verdict?

You read this issue and you get the sense that 2003 was a weird cultural inflection point: reality TV was beginning to grab the notion of "appointment television" from scripted series, and cable was beginning to grab all the critical attention and cultural cachet. (Lest you forget: by 2003, Six Feet Under, The Wire, and The Sopranos were all in the thick of their runs at HBO.) The Fall TV issue was on the verge of a transition: the overall tone of the coverage is "Well, we've thrown 102 shows on the wall -- who knows what will stick? Can someone tell us? We're so tired of trying to figure it out." The issue is a reminder that it can be hard to see how an entire medium is changing while you're in the middle of the transition.

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Issue Read
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Issues Remaining
Best Thing About This Issue
They call it on Arrested Development being the best comedy of the season. And David Cross calls it on Arrested Development's appeal: "It's always the cancelled shows that are considered really brilliant."
Worst Thing About This Issue
Have I mentioned FIVE WHOLE PAGES ON BACHELOR BOB yet? Let me do so again.

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