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News » TV & Games

Repeat Offenders

When it comes to TV reruns and repurposing, too much is never enough.



As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much Will & Grace—and NO!, I’m not gay! The show just cracks me up, especially when the content gets so racy (the gloriously multilayered word “gash” even popped up recently) that you can actually hear the sphincters at KSL clamping shut all the way across town. It’s quite musical, really—during the very special Jack-meets-Dick-Armey political episode come November sweeps, there’s gonna be a symphony.

This season’s new twice-daily syndicated reruns of Will & Grace are all good by me, too, just as The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Friends and Drew Carey were before them. In fact, I can also get daily doses of the last two on TBS, which got The Only TV Column That Matters™ to thinking: How much repeat business is too much? (As well as, on a more subliminal level, doesn’t liking Will & Grace make you just a teensy bit gay?)

There are almost 40 dramas and sitcoms—and a handful of talk shows—running concurrently on networks and in syndication or on cable or some strange combo thereof. Remember when a show would just reach its syndication quota, get canceled and then turn up in reruns? Now, you can see a “vintage” 1998 Frasier or Everybody Loves Raymond within an hour of a 2002 episode and easily confirm those deep-held suspicions that Emmy voters are all smoking crack.

Likewise, extra viewings of Just Shoot Me and That ’70s Show only add heft to the theory that America will sit through anything for 30 minutes, just as long as someone else is paid to do the laughing. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, however, is allowed slack only because she’s now reaching her early-30s sexual peak and there’s always the chance that Salem the talking cat is going to drop a primo “pussy” joke.

Dramas like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ER benefit from network/cable/syndication exposure—the former allowing people to catch up with one of the most underrated shows on television; the latter reminding them what a squinting annoyance “wide-screen” letterboxing has become. On the downside, NYPD Blue butts against ER daily on TNT, just as The Practice does with Buffy on FX—I can’t see now why either was ever taken seriously by anyone other than crack-addled Emmy voters. On the “huh?” side, there’s JAG and Touched By an Angel, two shows no one will admit to watching, and yet both have run for years on CBS, and now on cable every day. Is the witness protection program that big?

Almost as tough to track are actual fans of warm-fuzzy pseudo-soaps like Providence (now in syndication). Me, I relived the very first, very different episode of Providence in the middle of a “family-friendly” Sunday afternoon last week—who among you phantom viewers remembers what an icy Melrose Place bee-otch Dr. Syd originally was? And the part where she strips down to her unmentionables and accidentally catches her boyfriend doing something else unmentionable to another man in the shower? You don’t get that on Will & Grace.

Then there’s the whole “repurposing” thing, previously covered by Tube Town (which also runs in a local business newspaper as Time-Management Tips for Effective Downtime Redirection). The usual suspects in the network-to-cable version of flipping your underwear inside-out for another week’s use—Alias, 24, Charmed, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Monk—have recently been joined by Robbery Homicide Division, Third Watch and Late Night With Conan O’Brien. The glass-half-empty would be “Sheesh, no one’s producing much original programming anymore,” while the glass-half-full goes, “Hey, less channels to flip between—choice is better left to TV professionals, anyway.”

Most amazing of all has been Fox’s repurposed MTV transformation of the craptacular Fastlane. On Fox, it’s just a badly written, horribly acted and laughably executed hour of cop-show action-porn with no money shot. But, when it runs on MTV a week later next to no-budget “keepin’ it real, y’all” filler like Cribs and FM Nation, Fastlane suddenly looks like sweeping cinematic genius. Weird.