Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs and Rose McGowan, from left, star as the supernatural Halliwell sisters in "Charmed," Sundays on The WB Network. Indiana Gazette TV, Sjjnday^0ctober^7,jq02 — 7 Examining TV's top trends By KEVIN D.THOMPSON Cox News Service WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — So, the new TV season is a month old. You know what that means, right? It's time for a checkup. Time to figure out what's working and what isn't. Which shows — and stars — have disappointed me most? Which networks are making the grade? How many are flunking out? Stick out your remote and say, ahhh... Can they show that on tv? Most disgusting trend: Arms falling out of sharks on "CSI: Miami!" Demons ripping stomach skin and sipping blood on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer!" Arms getting cut off by helicopter blades on "ER!" Are these shows on cable, or what? (And cable isn't much better, if you remember the big vomiting scene recently on "The Sopranos.") What do tv critics know? "Hack" is a hit. Despite scathing reviews — including one from me — viewers enjoy watching a near catatonic David Morse as a vigilante/psycho cabbie. More than 12 million people tuned in to the show's second episode as "Hack" quickly became Friday's top-rated new drama. Ah, so what? I'll still skip this ride. Will Bartlet get booted from office? Falling ratings for "The West Wing:" Fresh off its third consecutive Emmy win, you'd think NBC's smart political drama would be reaching "CSI"-like ratings. But viewership is slowly declining. "The Bachelor — The Bachelor!" — nearly beat "The West Wing" two weeks ago. Forget Bartlet's reelection bid. If this slide keeps up, Bartlet won't have an administration — or an audience. 'Haunted' is the new 'X-Files' Want to watch a spooky creepshow? Look no further than this delightfully eerie Tuesday night series on UPN about a private investigator (Matthew Fox) who gets help from dead souls to wr: By DIANE HOLLOWAY Cox News Service AUSTIN, Texas — When David E. Kelley is good, he's very, very good, but when he's bad, he's awful. Case in point: "girls club," a legal drama that debuted last Monday on Fox in place of Kelley's wildly innovative "Ally McBeal," a legal comedy infused with fantasies, music and mania that ended a five-season run in May. Kelley said last summer he decided to lower-case the tide of "girls club," a play on "old boys' club," because he "liked the way the font looked." But after seeing the pilot for this embarrassing piece of eye candy, it's more likely he secretly hoped the lower-case rendering would make the show less conspicuous. Sadly, it stands out for all the wrong reasons. Three beautiful lawyers in their 20s live and work in San Francisco. They went to law school together, and they wound up working in the same super-sexist law firm (what are the odds?) where they are treated badly and whine continuously. They live together in a fabulous Victorian loft where everybody's business is everybody's business. Kelley's attempts to deal with the serious subjects of sexual harassment and gender politics in the workplace are undermined by having his young leads prance around in their underwear ("legal briefs" would have been a catchier title), gossiping about who's gay and who isn't, and agonizing over how much eyeliner is appropriate for work. And it's hardly enlightened feminism to have a young attorney seen writhing, sleepless in her tangled sheets the night before a trial, then calming her jitters by calling a former boyfriend to pop over for a lusty interlude. In Kelley's world, all women look like su- permodels. (He's married to Michelle Pfeiffer, after all.) The women who make up "girls club" are lovely stereotypes who won't overwhelm anyone with their acting chops. Gretchen Mol, perhaps best known for her role in the movie "Sweet and Lowdown," is Lynne, the blonde whose first trip to trial has her defending a charming but deeply creepy solve crimes. Like "The X-Files," "Haunted" is both unrelentingly suspenseful and often downright scary. Adding to the suspense is Mark Snow's appropriately haunting music. And on which show did Snow last work? Why, "The X- Files," of course. Family comedies rule Maybe it's a byproduct of 9/11. Perhaps it's because TV has exhausted every other trend. Whatever the reason, family comedies are big this year. Doing well is "Still Standing" on CBS, "8 Simple Rules For Daring My Teenage Daughter" and "life With Bonnie" on ABC and "What I Like About You" and "Greetings From Tucson" on theWB. Does crime pay? CBS leads the way with four new crime shows — "Robbery Homicide Division," "Without A Trace," "Hack" and "CSI: Miami." Then there's "Boomtown" on NBC and "John Doe" on Fox. But only "CSI: Miami," "Hack" and "Without A Trace" have clicked with viewers. er Kelley murder suspect. This is the principal story line, and it doesn't hold together for a second. "We're not asking the audience to care about the cases at all," Kelley told critics, "other than the effect they have on the women." That's good to know, isn't it? Kathleen Robertson ("Beverly Hills, 90210") is Jeannie, the red-head who becomes the object of an older partner's unwanted attention; and Chyler Leigh ("That '80s Show") is Sarah, the brunette. Looking out of place is Giancarlo Esposilo as the women's gruff but well-meaning supervisor, Mr. Hahn. He's way too classy for mis featherweight stuff. TV Pipeline By TAYLOR MICHAELS Zap2it Q: Please tell me what you can about Donnie Wahlberg of "Boomtown." — Terri Rhodes, Boyce,Va. A: Born in Boston as the eighth of nine children, the 33-year-old Wahlberg credits high school arts programs with channeling his childhood energies into creative paths. At 14, he put together the band that eventually became known as the pop sensations New Kids on the Block. Near the height of that group's popularity, however, Wahlberg decided to shift into writing and producing for his younger brother, then known as "Marky Mark" Wahlberg. Feeling his way into an acting career, the older Wahlberg appeared in the 1996 film "Bullet" with Mickey Rourke, then in "Ransom" with Mel Gibson.Virtually unrecognizable as Bruce Willis' suicidal former patient in "The Sixth Sense," Wahlfaerg later joined the ensemble cast of HBO's Emmy-winning miniseries "Band of Brothers," where he first met and worked with "Boomtown" writer-executive producer Graham Yost. Coming up: a role in the big screen version of Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher." Q: What happened to "Family Ties" cast members Scott Valentine, Justine Bateman and Brian Bonsall? Also child stars Pamelyn Ferdin and Dana Hill? — Elaine and Sheila Forte, Baltimore. A: That's a lot of people, but in brief: Valentine, 44, is still acting, starring as Steve Rafferty in the syndicated series "Biack Scorpion" and appearing in a February 2000 episode of "JAG." Bateman, 36, got married in 2001 and gave birth to a son last June. She started her own design firm offering both couture and ready- to-wear lines in 2000, but she also has a featured role in the 2003 film "Out of Order" with Eric Stoltz, Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy. Bonsall, now 20, formed a band called Late Bloomers in 1998 and says he hopes to continue a career in music. As we reported just a few months ago, Ferdin, 43, is now an animal rights activist and a voice performer in the animated series "Detention." She maintains a fan Web site at pamelynferdin.com. I am sorry to report that Hill died in 1996 of complications from her battle with diabetes. She was 32. Q: Why did the character of Matt Callan get killed off on "The Agency"? — Dean C-, Amherst, Ohio. A: From what I hear, the departure of actor Gil Bellows was a mutual choice. If you watched "The Agency" last year, you must have noted the wholesale changes that the producers made in an effort to salvage the show, which got off to a very shaky start. The introspective story line originally planned for Bellows' character got short shrift as the show became somewhat more action-driven. Tony Shalhoub stars as a severiy neurotic private investigator who assists the local police with challenging cases in "Monk," Thursdays on ABC.
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