THE NEW YEAR represents an opportunity to begin fresh — or in my case, reload the dart gun for an onslaught of TV shows waiting to be tagged prior to their release into the wild.
In this spirit, it’s time for the semi-annual rate-the-critic segment, pleading guilty to observations and predictions I botched, which seems only fair given the abuse heaped on programmers and producers. It’s the equivalent of a customer service department, except the window only opens twice annually.
Beyond reminding us that critics ought to take it as well as they dish it out, this exercise also underscores that no matter how much I foul up my shooting percentage remains higher than those ordering and producing this stuff, unless they work at Pixar. After all, most series fail, and no movie turns a profit until forensic accountants sift through the receipts, which is why you will never see a series titled “CPA: Hollywood.”
But enough stalling. To my dismay, there were again projects in 2004 that fared considerably better than I thought they would, and others that possessed less commercial appeal than anticipated.
Moreover, 2005 is already off to an inauspicious start, since my ESP didn’t foresee the large numbers for the debut of NBC’s psychic crime drama “Medium.”
LAST YEAR’S BIGGEST GAFFE surrounded “The Apprentice,” which I managed to screw up twice — first surmising that Donald Trump would alienate viewers, then predicting that the second edition would equal the success of the first. Of course, Trump’s casinos filed for bankruptcy, so nobody’s perfect.
In another case of “Must-Foresee TV” gone haywire, I significantly overestimated the appetite for NBC’s “Joey” as well as the show’s creative merit, failing to recognize that there wasn’t enough of a support system in place to keep the lightweight character aloft.
On the flip side, I was overly skeptical about ABC’s “Lost,” finding the premise potentially too confining. Nor did I see the allure of USA’s “The 4400,” a highly derivative sci-fi concept that nevertheless abducted up boffo ratings by cable standards; or TBS’ “The Real Gilligan’s Island,” another show I tried to vote off TV.
Of course, just because something succeeded commercially doesn’t mean it was an artistic triumph — an increasingly popular misconception when criticism is evaluated after the fact.
Nevertheless, I can stand up like a man (or slouch like one) and acknowledge these shortcomings knowing that I also had my share of hits — without assistance, by the way, from any illegal steroids.
PICKING LOSERS is usually a safe bet, so I won’t pat myself on the back for forecasting the demise of “Surviving Christmas” or “Father of the Pride,” not to pick on DreamWorks, which was responsible for both.
That said, I nailed “Desperate Housewives” (perhaps I should rephrase that) as a likely winner as well as the sappy Mitch Albom movie “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” — an accurate diagnosis despite the fact that watching it was, for me, a little taste of Hell.
Speaking of which, no casual opining might have been more myopic than a flippant observation I made months before “The Passion of the Christ” opened. Few people would line up, I said, “for a bloody, subtitled version of the crucifixion shot in Latin and Aramaic, unless evangelical churches feel compelled to support the movie and bus them to theaters against their will.”
Let the flogging begin.
DADDY’ ISSUES: Diligent critic that I am, I fully intended to watch “Who’s Your Daddy?,” Fox’s controversial, find-your-biological-dad gameshow. Yet when I arrived home, my TiVo had malfunctioned (“internal error,” it said) and failed to record the special.
Once again, TiVo knows best.
Media types took the expected whacks at Fox’s latest “reality” pinata — with CBS Radio’s Dave Ross speaking for many when he dubbed the spec “video nicotine.” If so, many viewers must be on the patch, weaning themselves off over-hyped stunts.
Indeed, despite all the hand wringing “Daddy” didn’t make much noise ratings-wise, though viewing spiked upward in the last half-hour — more evidence that we are surrounded by a lot of sick twists. Still, the tepid tune-in suggests Fox’s rope-a-dope strategy — enduring sight-unseen criticism in the hope people will then watch out of morbid curiosity — is wearing thin, leaving no ratings afterglow to justify the headache.
In that sense, “Daddy” seems destined to demonstrate what those in Hollywood have always known — that while success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan.