Burning questions & demographic deconstruction

PUTTING A COLUMN LIKE THIS together every week, one has to keep coming up with issues that warrant insightful examination — or, to put it in television terms, worth at least the verbiage necessary to get you to the big fat ad that’s occasionally at the bottom of the page.

The problem is that a lot of those matters don’t merit a whole column, in the same way that pilot premises like “The Famous Teddy Z” or “Flying Blind” don’t have enough strength to carry a whole series.

Fortunately, unlike TV, there’s an outlet here for such flimsy items via occasional collections of random thoughts, thinly veiling the failure to find any weightier issue. Here’s a sampling:

  • Is there anyone else out there who watches “Beavis and Butt-Head” at 11 p.m. but switches to local news if someone else walks into the room? If so, how many have found that the actual difference between those choices is negligible?

  • To paraphrase a Rodney Dangerfield joke, if you look up “glutton for punishment” in the dictionary, will you find a picture of Timothy Dalton? Not only did he pick up the mantle of James Bond from Sean Connery (a few other guys played it in between, but no one else counts), now he’s going to try to fill the shoes of Clark Gable — Clark Gable! — in “Scarlett,” the TV miniseries sequel to “Gone With the Wind.” What’s next, playing Rick in the sitcom version of “Casablanca”?

  • After the energy Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson and others put into getting ABC to renew “Where I Live,” why didn’t any of those well-intentioned folks try to get people to watch the show once it returned?

  • Does it really make sense for every VHF station in Los Angeles — all seven of them — to concurrently broadcast something like the Reginald Denny beating verdict? KCOP, at least, stuck with children’s programming, providing some alternative. For others, there was a particularly riveting female workout show on ESPN.

  • Now that Moose, who plays the Jack Russell terrier Eddie on “Frasier,” has made the cover of Entertainment Weekly, will “seaQuest DSV’s” Darwin demand more fish? Also, has the magazine heard yet from representatives for Bear, who plays Dreyfuss on “Empty Nest” and was shockingly left off the list of non-human power brokers? And by the way, why didn’t more agents make that list?

  • Is there a dictionary somewhere that defines the word “hiatus” as “To kill, to eviscerate, without saying so”?

    DEMO-FISHIN’ DERBY: Those who cling to the comfort of household ratings, however irrelevant they may be in regard to ad sales, may feel evenmore compelled to hang on to them as some sort of objective standard after witnessing how the networks manipulated the November sweeps numbers.

    Seeking to put the best spin on their performances, the networks found various ways to claim they were on top somewhere, proving the long-held belief that, in the age of peoplemeters, everyone can be No. 1 with some group, no matter how obscure.

    In a creative use of the data, Fox noted that it ranked first among adults 18 -34 in its “core schedule” of Wednesday through Sunday, raising a whole new way to measure network ratings. Instead of rating the entire week, networks will play a form of poker in which you only count the best five of your seven nights. Saturdays and one-eyed Jacks are wild.

    Not to be outdone, CBS acknowledged that its Monday lineup was down year-to-year in both households and younger demographics but pointed out that it had held its own in terms of socioeconomic factors — like household income and education — compared to October ’92. This sort of rationale was of course popular in the 1980s: Fewer people are watching us, but they have more money.

    CBS also touted its relative improvement among kids and teenagers — the key word, based on the network’s appeal among those demographics, being “relative.” The same goes for NBC claims about its Tuesday lineup, or, for that matter, the performance of “seaQuest DSV” at 8 p.m. Sunday.

    ABC, to its credit, shunned the temptation to make excuses about “Monday Night Football’s” second-place household finish, instead noting that the big difference in its overall tally was the performance of the miniseries “JFK: Reckless Youth” compared to “The Jacksons: An American Dream” in November ’92. It comes to mind that a timely hybrid of the two, “Michael Jackson: Reckless Youth,” just might have put the network over the top.

    EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSEANNE: Finally, after a week in which the tabloids made asses of themselves for swallowing the latest Roseanne-and-Tom story hook, line and sinker, we can think of no more fitting close than to reprint last Friday’s “Late Show With David Letterman” top 10 list for those who may have missed it.

    The category is “Good things about marrying Tom and Roseanne”:

    10. Guaranteed spot on “Geraldo.”

    9. In family Christmas card photo, you’ll always be at the top of the pyramid.

    8. Two words: Engagement tattoo.

    7. You have a say in who the three of you will marry next.

    6. They’re really rich.

    5. On wedding night, you get to operate the winch.

    4. Finally satisfy your family, who’s been nagging you to settle down with some nice man and woman.

    3. Your very own five-inch section of the bed.

    2. When you marry Roseanne, you automatically get your own TV show.

    1. No leftover wedding cake.

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