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Repurpose- o-Rama

Cable is eating up network TV programming, and now vice versa. It could get ugly.



Why are all these network shows you can watch for free turning up on your overpriced cable?

For those who have lives and don’t spend every waking hour studying the minutia of the TV biz, it’s called “repurposing,” a sneaky practice where media conglomerates repeat programs produced for their wholly/partially-owned broadcast networks on their wholly/partially-owned cable networks in the name of giving you, the oh-so-lucky consumer, more opportunities to avail yourself of their fine product. In other words, a cheap way to fill time on cash-strapped cable nets while providing extra exposure for broadcast shows which may or may not actually deserve it. Sound cynical? That’s what happens when you spend every waking hour studying the minutia of the TV biz.

At first it wasn’t so bad, with quality shows like NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (and third L&O spin-off Criminal Intent) repeating on USA after its initial appearance, and ABC’s Once & Again receiving an encore on corporate Disney cousin Lifetime. Another go-round of Fox’s 24 on FX? All good. ABC’s Alias getting a second spin on ABC Family? Bring it. The WB’s Charmed rerunning on fellow AOL/TimeWarner network TNT? Well, it wasn’t all that great the first time … but sure, why not?

Premium channel Showtime took it a step further by letting The Chris Isaak Show repeat on decidedly un-premium Viacom sibling VH1. Exactly which channel the move was supposed to benefit remains unclear (Does anyone need another reason not to subscribe to Showtime? Does VH1 need a great-but-borrowed program showing how lousy their own are in comparison?), but at least viewers were getting the better end of the deal.

This summer, however, something’s gone wrong.

NBC’s craptastic The Rerun Show, wherein long-dead “classic” sitcom plots are reenacted with winking “contemporary” twists (i.e. fart and drug jokes) by talentless “actors,” should never have gotten on the air in the first place, but now it’s rerunning (or is it re-rerunning?) on VH1—fergawdsakes, why?! With no corporate-synergy excuses to fall back on, one can only assume that VH1 believes The Rerun Show is stellar programming preferable to, say, more episodes of Chris Isaak. Also, VH1 only has two long-standing programming rules: 1. It has to be music-related. 2. Whenever possible, that music should be Def Leppard. The Rerun Show fits neither criterion.

The Sci-Fi Channel is infamous for picking up flop shows killed by other networks, but The Dead Zone is still very much alive and kicking on sister net USA—next to The Anna Nicole Show (which really belongs on the Sci-Fi Channel, not E!), it’s the biggest cable splash of the summer. Seeing it five days later on Sci-Fi is only slightly less strange than the phrases “critically-acclaimed” and “highly-rated” being associated with Anthony Michael Hall and USA.

No, the weirdest exchange of them all is the very same network’s Friday-night detective hit Monk making the backwards cable-to-network trip to ABC: Repurposing isn’t all about in-house corporate incest; it’s about licensing Other People’s Product out of sheer desperation, too. ABC is beyond screwed when it comes to programming these days, so much so that they can’t even trust their own Disney production peeps to deliver something as cheap and simple as Monk, which is basically Matlock with OCD.

Not that Monk isn’t a decent show—believe me, it’s waaay better than any drama any network has in the queue for fall 2002—but it just looks wrong on ABC Tuesdays, like something from the Independent Film Channel thrown in as a last-minute The WB Movie Night replacement for the 78th showing of Austin Powers. Anyone used to glossy network fare may be hard-pressed to understand what the fuss is over this little low-budget cable oddity … assuming ABC still has more viewers than USA.

Next: The Anna Nicole Show is repurposed to the Speed Channel; Earth spins off axis.

Tube Stops

* Thursday, Aug. 22: Movie: First Shot (2002, TBS, 8:50 p.m.) Mariel Hemingway is back as a Secret Service agent protecting the president from assassins in a third cable flick. Has anyone considered that maybe the prez is just a dick?

* Friday, Aug. 23: Monk (USA, 8 p.m.) Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive is still wracked with grief over his dead wife, but he can’t seem to stop touching (and touching, and touching …) a hot divorcée who may be a murder suspect.

* Saturday, Aug. 24: Sorority Life (MTV, 6 and 6:30 p.m.) The girls get drunk, rub on some boys, stay up late and have a fight—unlike last week, when they stayed up late, rubbed on some boys, had a fight and then got drunk. Miss a single episode and you never catch up!

* Sunday, Aug. 25: Movie: Hysterical Blindness (2002, HBO, 10:30 p.m.) Chick-Flick Alert: Two big-haired skanks with no fashion sense (Uma Thurman and Juliette Lewis) are trapped in the ’80s and desperately seeking men. Just another weekend in Kearns, ain’t it?

* Monday, Aug. 26: Jimi Hendrix at Isle of Wight (Trio, 7 p.m.) The greatest rock guitarist of all time’s final concert, caught in all his incendiary glory on film—too bad the local cable monopoly took away Trio and bumped it up to a pricier digital tier. Thanks again, AT&T.

* Tuesday, Aug. 27: Monk (ABC, 8 p.m.) Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive is still wracked with grief over his dead wife, but he can’t seem to stop touching (and touching, and touching …) a hot divorcée who may be a murder suspect … Wait a minute, this sounds really familiar …

* Wednesday, Aug. 28: Miss Teen USA Pageant 2002 (CBS, 8 p.m.) Willa Ford and ’N Sync’s Chris Kirkpatrick play host to 51 teen girls, half of which don’t show up because they were out drinking and fighting the night before with the visiting Sorority Life cast from MTV.