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Up A Creek Without A Pfeiffer: Reconsidering Entertainment Weekly's 1998 Fall TV Preview

In our second stop through the back catalog of decades-old Fall TV Preview issues, Entertainment Weekly discovers that The WB is an honest-to-god network. Sadly, it makes the same discovery about UPN.

Our Players

Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Lisa Schmeiser.
Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Philip Michaels.

The Talk

Welcome back! While you were busy living life to the fullest, we were thumbing through an eighteen-year-old magazine, trying to see what shows Entertainment Weekly thought were going to blow the public away in 1998.

Ah, 1998. Clintons stalking through the corridors of power. Donald Trump garnering headlines in New York tabloids for saying outrageous things. The Denver Broncos coming off a Super Bowl win. What a very different time from today.

Especially since back then there were extra broadcast TV networks to pay attention to. Both The WB and UPN were celebrating their fourth fall seasons on the airwaves. And yet, only now is Entertainment Weekly deigning to treat them like they were big-boy networks by putting Dawson's Creek on the cover. Like it's a Must See TV show or something!

I can't help feeling this is all a plot by EW to turn UPN and The WB into the Goofus and Gallant of fledgling TV networks. "Gallant lands a show on our cover and also broadcasts Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Goofus greenlights The Secret Diary Of Desmond Pfeiffer."

The whatsit of the who now?

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You know, The Secret Diary Of Desmond Pfeiffer. The sitcom told from the perspective of Abraham Lincoln's butler. Don't act like you haven't written stacks of fan fiction about it.

You know what the real story of 1998's fall season seems to be? Networks giving self-titled shows to people you never heard of in 1998 and probably don't remember now. UPN had DiResta. Fox had Costello.

Lou Costello got his own show?

Hush. And then there's The Brian Benben Show, which couldn't even make it a month.

Kind of hard to have a hit show when all the actresses have to keep their tops on, huh, Benben?

Only D.L. Hughley breaks the Curse Of The Show Named after an Obscure Comic Actor. If four seasons is really breaking a curse.

Just two more and he could have had a movie. I enjoy the Everybody Loves Raymond write-up, which frets about the show's move to Monday nights. Uh oh, you're going up against football. Oh dear, will CBS viewers really want to watch comedy on Monday nights?

Does this mean Ray Romano bears the blame every time I hear some chucklehead shout out "Bazinga"? Because I'm okay with him bearing that sin. Me, I love how Will & Grace gets all of one blurb in the magazine for its debut and the spin is that gay men and straight women have more fun than anyone else. I sort of feel like that downplays the fun gay men have with one another.

After giving Ally McBeal the high hat in the 1997 issue, EW devotes half a page to the show this year, though Calista Flockhart's involvement remains a rumor when you can run photos of Courtney Thorne-Smith.

No, this year Entertainment Weekly is going to miss the boat on Felicity, which gets a teeny-tiny write-up to mark its debut. Combine that with the equally scanty coverage of Sports Night, and you've got almost as much text as EW devoted to The Secret Life Of Whoever That Guy Was Again.

Ah, Sports Night. If you didn't think that was a great show, just ask Aaron Sorkin. He'll be glad to tell you.

I see that Law & Order is introducing Angie Harmon to the cast this season. Her character is described as "she's witty, she's quick, she's got a great sense of humor."

Quite the departure for Angie Harmon.

Did you know that if you repeat three Rizzoli & Isles jokes in front of a mirror at midnight, Angie Harmon appears to tell you the two leads are just good friends?

As for other casting changes, it's the arrival of Kellie Martin on ER.

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Oh, wow, that photo. It's like they're forecasting Kellie Martin's death with that webcam-angle photo, and Mark Greene -- who will die later -- hovering over her shoulder like the Angel of Death.

Truly, it is the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club album cover of doomed cast photos. According to blurb, with George Clooney leaving ER, "Wyle is expected to segue into the role of ER's romantic leading man..." Lisa. Lisa, stop laughing.

I'm sorry. It's just that Noah Wyle somehow skipped that stage in moving from medical intern to cable show librarian.

The section on Friday night's programs brings us EW's annual futile plea to watch Homicide: Life on the Street.

I loved that show, but let's face it -- it was never destined to be a crowd pleaser.

Also, it was the year without Andre Braugher.

Then why bother at all?

Because they teamed up Munch and Bayless! Like it was a dare or something.

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What I like about that photo is that Kyle Secor looks like he's in a totally different show than everyone else. Michael Michele, Giancarlo Esposito, and Clark Johnson are all in a serious drama, and Kyle Secor's in his happy place. "I'm glad Andre Braugher is living on a farm upstate! Maybe I'll get to ride in the car to visit him too!"

Shall we say a few words about Wind On Water?

The sailing movie with Jennifer Grey?

No. This is a Bo Derek show. About Hawaiian cowboys.

Cowboys who take to the extreme-sports circuit. I defer the blurb: "These incorrigible kids leap out of helicopters to snowboard down a hill; they ride horses into the ocean and pull surfboards out of their saddlebags to catch a wave." I don't think they make saddlebags that big, do they? Or are they really tiny surfboards? I'm so retroactively confused.

Perhaps that's why the show didn't last.

Issues Read
Issues Remaining
Best Thing About This Issue
The earnest way that everyone involved with Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place insist that this is the season the show turns a narrative corner. It will be "less of a frat romp," the show's executive producer insists. Instead, 2G,1G,PP -- something the show was never called by anybody -- will tap into "more relatable issues." How does Berg feel about the tricky situation in the Middle East? Does Sharon like gluten-free crust? Who played Pete again?
Worst Thing About This Issue
How clear it is that Wind On Water is doomed. What the hell is wrong with you, 1998 America?


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