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More Like No-ey: Reconsidering Entertainment Weekly's 2004 Fall TV Preview

Was Joey one of the worst things about the 2004 Entertainment Weekly fall issue? Oh, most certainly. But it had a lot of company.

Sometimes, you pick up an old Entertainment Weekly Fall TV preview issue, and in fairly short order you know that you've got a dog of a season on your hands. With the 2004 issue, you don't even have to crack the spine of the magazine: a full frontal assault of failure is staring you right in the face.

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Look at Drea de Matteo, trying to massage poor Matt LeBlanc's face into the hint of a smile. But there will be no smile for the once and future Joey Tribbiani, for he now realizes he's been sentenced to an extended stay in the Bright Kauffman Crane salt mines, sentenced to a lifetime of grinding out middle-of-the-road humor until America grows tired of him. (On the bright side, it will be a short hitch.) All his Friends compatriots have been sprung -- freed to pursue solo careers (Matthew Perry) or become cult favorites (Lisa Kudrow) or make sweet love to Brad Pitt (again, Matthew Perry). But not Matt LeBlanc -- if NBC had gotten its way, we'd probably still be watching Joey. The day that show finally got cancelled, LeBlanc probably wept like a Frenchman when the Allied tanks rolled into town in 1944.

You can debate whether Joey was the biggest turkey that Entertainment Weekly tried to dress up in its 2004 Fall Preview -- I mean, it clearly was -- but it was certainly not the only bad idea to make it to the airwaves that season. Consider these long-forgotten programs that faced a fate almost -- though not quite -- as grim as Joey's.

  1. Kevin Hill

    I've always liked Taye Diggs, who seems like he scored maximum charisma in the Dungeons & Dragons game known as life. If Taye Diggs called you up and asked you to help him move, you'd be like, "Well, sure, Taye Diggs," and you'd probably even bring coffee, only to discover that Taye Diggs not only brought coffee but picked up donuts as well. You wouldn't even be put out. "How thoughtful of Taye Diggs," you'd think.

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    You know what you won't do for Taye Diggs? Watch any of his TV shows. Back when the wife and I filled in on that episode of Murder In The First earlier this year, we remarked to each other, "You know, we should start watching this show, in that it feature Taye Diggs and several other people we feel less strongly about." Of course, we didn't.

    Which brings us to Kevin Hill, the 2004 attempt to get us to watch something staring Taye Diggs. Here, he's a lawyer, and he's just been granted custody of a ten-month-old baby. But that doesn't matter because you didn't watch. You never watch. Frankly, Taye Diggs deserves better than a couple of heels like you and me.

  2. Commando Nanny

    Over the years, The WB picked up a reputation for itself as the network where you could find shows about handsome young people staring down life's problems, whether it was Dawson and his chums or that nice Felicity or Buffy, at least during that show's good seasons. But The WB specialized in another type of program -- the high-concept sitcom that felt like it had been thought up by a random premise generator. This time around the ping pong balls landed on "British special forces soldier" and "becomes Beverly Hills nanny."

    If EW is to believed, Commando Nanny drew its inspiration from the origin story of Mark Burnett, who helpfully tells the magazine that "the American audience does like simple-to-follow humor." Not that much, apparently.

  3. Listen Up

    If you don't know who Tony Kornheiser is, you probably do not know much about sports and have a rich interior life -- as a result, I both resent and envy you. But Kornheiser went from shouting about sports in the newspaper to shouting about sports on the radio to shouting about sports on the TV. Along the way, nobody told him about the invention of microphones and how they can carry sound to far-off people. Anyhow, someone thought a show about shouty sports man would be a great sitcom and that Jason Alexander was uniquely poised to play him. So that's someone who was wrong on two counts.

  4. Dr. Vegas

    Wait a minute. This list is supposed to be about shows that were bad ideas. Dr. Vegas was a great show. Rob Lowe as an on-call house physician in a casino? YES, PLEASE.

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    I'm still angry this show was cancelled. Screw you, whoever put this here.

  5. The Benefactor

    I like to think that all those Shark Tank posts have formed a bond of sorts between me and Mark Cuban, one where I say terrible things about him and he totally ignores me because who cares. So, I say this sincerely, Cubes ol' buddy...

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    I'm glad you've fired whoever told you this photo was a good look.

    EW describes The Benefactor as a show where Mark Cuban puts a group of money-requesting Eliza Doolittles through a a series of tests that determine what it takes to be a success in life. Having seen the show, I think a more accurate description would be, "Hey, can you stand to spend time in Mark Cuban's company if it means free money?" (Based on that description and the twelve years that have followed, it turns out the ultimate winner of The Benefactor was Dirk Nowitzki.) Anyhow, The Benefactor is now a long-forgotten footnote in Mark Cuban's TV history, and we the viewers of Shark Tank are the richer for it.

  6. The Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best

    Jesus Christ, another show where some self-made men throws sacks of cash at people in exchange for us agreeing not to rampage onto his estate and radically redistribute his ill-gotten wealth?

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    At least none of these approval-seeking plutocrats got it into their heads to run for president.

  7. Wife Swap

    Please do not confuse Wife Swap, a new show airing Wednesday nights on ABC in the fall of 2004, with Trading Spouses, a returning show airing Tuesdays nights on Fox. C'mon. These are two completely different shows about sending your wife away to live somewhere else. It's like you're not trying to follow along.

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    I guess, given the me-too spirit pervading much of the 2004 schedule, we were lucky Wife Swap didn't also feature a check-waving billionaire who showed up at the end.

    "Warren Buffet? What are you doing here?"

    "Why, to give you this check for $100,000. And all I demand in return is the right of primae noctis."

    "But... but my wife...."

    "Who said anything about your wife? Now put on these chaps and make with the twirling..."

  8. LAX

    Hey, someone thought we really wanted to watch a show about the airport -- one of the few places on planet earth nobody wants to spend any time in. I guess Dentist's Waiting Room and Dinner With Your Spouse's Ex didn't test well.

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    It's a shame because LAX had so many stories to tell: the one about the guy who nearly missed his connecting flight but didn't; that one where the family can't find space for their carry-on item so they have to gate-check it; and of course, the season-ending cliffhanger about which food court eatery to dine at before that transcontinental flight. So many choices, and yet I have a feeling it's going to be Sbarro.

    You can see now why this was a bummer of an issue in a clunker of a TV season. For heaven's sake, we had an equal number of CSI and Law & Order franchises on the air. No wonder the universe felt out of whack.

    Thank heavens we at least have Entertainment Weekly reader Michael Dance to try and set things right and remind us all of the lost art of letter-writing.

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    I assume Julia Roberts had him summarily executed shortly after this issue hit mailboxes.

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    Issue Read
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    Best Thing About This Issue
    That photo of the Mad TV cast, but only for the delightfully unhinged expression on Keegan-Michael Key's face.

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    Time Warner

    You just want to pull him aside and explain how much better things will get.

    Worst Thing About This Issue
    EW surveyed "television insiders": when asked to name the best reality show on network TV, 30% said The Apprentice. You bastards could have smothered the monster in its crib, and instead you just fluffed its pillows.

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