Monday, March 4, 2002
The ABC network's strategy of underdevelopment and overexposure has put it in a programming pickle. For the past two seasons, it has saturated its schedule with too much "Millionaire" and too many chances to watch Drew Carey. As a result, viewership has all but evaporated for Philbin's game show, "The Drew Carey Show" and "Whose Line is it Anyway?"
Tonight's schedule represents the network's post-"Millionaire" approach to Monday nights. They will air new and repeat episodes of "My Wife and Kids" at 7 p.m., and "The Wayne Brady Show" (7:30 p.m.) returns. John McEnroe's annoying torture chamber "The Chair" moves to 8 p.m., and "Once and Again" (9 p.m.) makes its third, and probably last, schedule change.
"The Wayne Brady Show" aired to decent reviews last summer. As singer, dancer, mimic, comedian and off-the-cuff song improviser, Brady is at least a quintuple threat. And after the recent surprise success of "The Carol Burnett Show" retrospective, maybe Brady is riding the wave of a variety revival.
But Burnett had a solid ensemble, including Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence. Heck, even Sonny and Cher had each other. Brady's sketch team of Brooke Dillman, Jonathan Mangum and J.P. Manoux are spirited clowns, but they're not in a class with their headliner. As a result, Brady has to carry most of the show by himself. This combined with his frequent appearances on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" brings us back to ABC's consistent problem: much too much of a good thing.
ï¿½ On the last episode of "Once and Again," Karen (Susanna Thompson) had been hit by a car and almost died. She's pulled through, but she's now in intensive care. The same could be said of this ratings-challenged series. In a letter to critics, "Once and Again" producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz joked that the latest schedule change "is either a last valiant effort to save us, or else the network's version of Valhalla."
While "Once and Again" has never shied away from emotional overload, tonight's traumas become almost unbearable. We get to watch the black-and-blue Karen suffer mental and physical tortures at the hands of a physical therapist. Meanwhile, Eli and Grace react to her woes in self-destructive ways. But their guilt is small potatoes compared to Rick's feelings of responsibility for abandoning her, and in effect, wrecking her life. Is this a smart, honest, adult show about divorce and its consequences? You bet. Is this entertaining? If you think so, you'd better start watching "Once in Ag ain" while you still can. I hear that bus for Valhalla warming up in the network garage.
ï¿½ Pop music stars salute the music of the Great White Way on "Broadway's Best" (7 p.m., Bravo). Cyndi Lauper jump-starts the show with a variation on Ethel Merman's signature song, "There's No Business Like Show Business." Other highlights include Trisha Yearwood's rendition of "Luck Be a Lady," Darius Rucker's "Summertime" and George Benson's version of "Easy to Be Hard." Other performers include The Bacon Brothers, Shawn Colvin, Linda Eder, Mandy Moore and Joan Osborne.