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Remember The Titans: Reconsidering Entertainment Weekly's 2000 Fall TV Preview

The turn-of-the-millennium issue can't shake a last-century feel in this fourth reassessment of Entertainment Weekly's Fall TV Previews, as 1990s monsters and tired premises go out with a whimper, not a bang.

What is this?

The fin-de-siècle issue of EW's annual TVstravaganza. Yasmine Bleeth is on the cover. Her show, Titans, was killed after thirteen episodes. I realize that, in 2016 terms, that sounds like a real season, but in a pre-cable, pre-Netflix original programming world, thirteen episodes was half a network season.

Original publication date?

September 29, 2000.

Why do you still have this?

I wrote a high-minded explanation back in my report on the 1999 issue. Also, by this point, the household had already committed to a few years' worth of issues, so we decided to see how long we could keep this up.

What stands out on re-reading?

Aside from the prediction that Karenna Gore Schiff is about to become the First Daughter? Oh, so many things.

Reality TV is still not a thing yet. Although the writers at EW want you to know they're hip to this Survivor thing all the kids were watching in the summer.

Somewhere in Tracee Ellis Ross's attic, there is a picture of her getting older. Because this is her début year in the magazine with Girlfriends...

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...and she looks the same as she does in 2016.

If there is a trend in 2000-era TV, it is this: The shows that survived were not the ones with established actors in the leads, but the ones where the actors were fresher faces.

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Exhibit A: Ed, a show which would lead us to believe that Julie Bowen, a woman presumably in her right mind, would throw over silver fox John Slattery for Tom Cavanagh.

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Exhibit B: Gilmore Girls, which is introduced in EW with a lede paragraph that is basically a duplicate of the French and Saunders sketch that led to Absolutely Fabulous, only the writer thinks this premise of serious child and immature mother is completely novel.

(By the way, Absolutely Fabulous had already aired three series by the time Gilmore Girls got on the air. You would think that someone somewhere in the editorial process would have recalled this, but perhaps that's too much TV knowledge to expect of any magazine with Entertainment in the title.)

(To be fair, YouTube would not be invented for another four and a half years, so it's not like anyone could go trawling for clips.)

Both Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham did okay, right? And I like how Graham's take during the entire piece is "You know the premise is that my character's too young to be a mother, much less a decent one, right?"

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Exhibit C: CSI, which relied on a Chicago theater actor and a supporting actress from the 1980s, and defied the prediction that they'd be killed by The Fugitive.

What does not hold up on re-reading?

Darn near everything else. This is the year that the entire television landscape shifted between pilot season in the spring and the flurry of fall premieres. Survivor was like a big, bikini-clad comet streaking across the sky and hitting the TV landscape, and the dust clouds were beginning to rise and choke such dated-feeling fare as That's Life, The District, Tucker, The Michael Richards Show, The Geena Davis Show, and Normal, Ohio. You wouldn't know it from any of the coverage: it's all still about who will win the time slot, who's likely to get creamed by Must-See TV, who's doomed on Friday.

Also: the writing is kind of boring. The coverage of each show relies heavily on one of three premises: "You've liked this actor in other things, right?" (Bette) and "This idea is bananas!" (Dark Angel), and "We're not sure why this is still on either" (Two Guys And A Girl).

Final verdict?

We can all agree that the best part in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is the "cool girls" monologue Amy delivers, but for me, a close personal second has always been how elegantly she skewers Entertainment Weekly (where she worked from 1998 until the magazine laid her off in 2008, writing about TV and film) and the profligate culture of old-school magazine staffing by making Nick a mediocre music journalist and Amy a magazine quiz writer. They literally have nothing else to do -- they're not required to tweet, blog, produce both beat news coverage and criticism, or start making slideshows or videos or podcasts. Nick does an interview every other week and Amy writes a one-page quiz.

I thought about Nick and Amy's pre-digital workloads when I counted up bylines and saw that it took twelve different writers to handle writing seventeen show profiles and sixty-three formulaic show blurbs. And what's more, they had seven editors polishing their work (and none of them knew about French And Saunders...but I digress). Are there even nineteen people working at Entertainment Weekly now?

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TiVo

When TiVo was advertising in the issue, when VCRs were still blinking 12:00 in households across the land, when websites showed every sign of actually sticking around (and a certain recap-centric one had produced a thriving fan forum culture), the nineteen people responsible for putting together this package did not provide (a) any URLs or email addresses anywhere; (b) any supplemental material to be found online; or (c) any respect for viewer time: the best grid for planning your TV viewing actually came from an ABC ad.

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In a way, reading this issue is akin to reading a Honolulu Star-Bulletin from November 1941. We know something's going to happen that changes everything, but the people living in the present are still reporting on the past. This issue seems a little sadder than the prior three issues: so many things are shifting how people view television, but none of them are being covered as they happen.

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Best Thing About This Issue
Seeing a fetal John Barrowman in the Titans promo shot
Worst Thing About This Issue
That it took so many people to write and edit something so boring

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