THE TELEVISION SEASON HAS only just begun, and at this nascent stage no one can project with clarity how things are going to turn out. Hell, a number of new series haven’t even premiered yet.
Living in an age of instant analysis, however, the pressure exists to provide sweeping pronouncements and commentary before all the facts are known. Under this tyranny, the impulse would be to dub NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” a hit off one promising telecast, even before it faces ABC’s “Commander-in-Chief” and CBS’ “The Amazing Race” this week.
Not everyone, of course, is comfortable leapfrogging ahead of the actual news and opining out their ear, but fortunately, an entire class of TV talking heads and pundits suffers from no such compunctions. So rather than try to say something bold and risk looking like a boob a few weeks hence, the idea arose to enlist a panel of experts — adept in shooting off their mouths before their brains have fully congealed — to see what their TV observations might sound like, if I could stomach actually speaking to them.
Bill O’Reilly: These new ABC comedies like “Freddie” and “Hot Properties,” with all this sexual innuendo, are a terrible influence on kids, OK, and the folks are not gonna stand for it. And NBC seems to have no idea who’s looking out for its Thursday lineup. By the way, my “Whose Lookin’ Out for You” coffee mugs make a terrific Christmas gift.
Ann Coulter: CBS — haw — clearly doesn’t have a clue about what mainstream Americans want to watch, having ordered that “The Reagans” miniseries, which was so awful that they had to pawn it off on Showtime, whatever that is. It’s really shameful, bordering on treasonous, that they’re allowed to have a license. I predict they’re going to finish dead last, except for around — heh — Barbra Streisand’s house.
Nancy Grace: Anyone who’s been payin’ any attention knows that NBC is guilty, guilty, guilty, and that Jeff Zucker’s gonna be put away. I mean, if the Nielsen families don’t decide that way, they just haven’t been watchin’ the TV I’ve been watchin’.
Greta Van Susteren: This should be a big year for “Without a Trace,” the CBS show about missing persons, because that’s what Americans really care about. Actually, between that show and my show, there are more people missing on TV than there those are whose whereabouts are known.
James Carville: People are fed up with bein’ lied to by their government, which is why they’re gonna be eager to laugh a little and escape reality with that good ol’ “Earl” boy. I also think there’s gonna be a huge audience for “Commander-in-Chief” so they can preview what a woman’s gonna look like in the White House come 2008.
Robert Thompson, professor of the Center for the Study of Popular Television, Syracuse University: It’s quite clear that television is at a crossroads unlike any that has been witnessed before, and this season should be the turning point in that progression.
Does that work for your story? Because I can comment on anything even remotely connected to TV. Just call, I’ll be right over.
Larry Elder: Look, NBC needs to shed its “victicrat” mentality, quit making excuses and pull itself up by its bootstraps. And where do these so-called African-American leaders get off criticizing the shortage of minorities in primetime. Have they watched “Monday Night Football” lately, for crying out loud? Unbelievable.
Paul Begala: You’re seeing people’s anger reflected in their appetite for programs that speak to their values, not country-club values. The way “Dallas” and “Dynasty” went with Reagan, that’s how all these paranoid new hours about the government concealing things are perfectly in tune with the Bush administration.
Sean Hannity: The Hollywood Left hates America so much that they’re force-feeding them these terrible programs like “Desperate Housewives” that undermine our core values. And don’t believe what the mainstream media are telling you about the ratings for these shows. We’re in a war here, my friends, but let not your VCR be troubled.
Tucker Carlson: Is this thing on? Can anyone still hear me? Hello?
Rev. Al Sharpton: UPN will be the No. 1 network this season, and if they’re not, we’re going to demand an investigation to get to the bottom of this conspiracy.
Pat Robertson: God is angry, and he will smite these pornographers — that’s what they are, really — by obliterating TV sets that tune in these programs, probably during the November sweeps. Let us pray.
Larry King: Coming up on tonight’s show, “CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves: Scourge or Savior of Network News?” We’ll have a panel that includes Dan Rather and Bernard Goldberg, as well as David Spade, Pamela Anderson and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner.