APRIL 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 4


Bravo! Programming

Super Bowl XXXIV ads a big waste of money


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Also starring Bruce Willis.

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Winner: People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture.

Nominee: Six Oscars (2000), including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress.

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  Bravo, Bravo!Low-Key Cable Network Saves a Friday Night Channel-Surfer

Bravo, Bravo!
Low-Key Cable Network Saves a Friday Night Channel-Surfer

Friday, 7:00 p.m.

Starring Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Paul Sorvino.

Friday, 8:00 p.m.

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Dana Ashbrook, Lara Flynn Boyle. Produced by David Lynch


Spare yourself. Don't do it. Don't attempt a Friday night session with your TV -- unless you have a Saturday one already scheduled with your shrink.

Through some sick twist of programming fate, Friday night has become the epitome of everything eye-rollingly bad about TV. Unless you are a pre-pubescent who can still stomach the talking cats of ABC's Sabrina centered line-up, or an elder actually charmed by the treacly wistfulness of NBC's Providence, your chances of being entertained are vanishingly slim.

Get a life, you say? Sure, it's a reasonable enough solution. But since most of us turn to TV on any other given night (read: every other night), the question becomes frustratingly clear -- why does the last night of the work week need to be the only one so seemingly hazardous to our health? Even Saturday night -- usually regarded as Friday's torture-inducing twin -- at least offers the high camp kick of CBS's Martial Law and Walker, Texas Ranger, two shows so ridiculously bad they're almost good. (Friday lacks even these modicum pleasures of irony.) ABC might as well revive Kevin Williamson's justly-maligned Wasteland series and saturate prime time Fridays with it; at least the title would be apropos.

But when the networks fail us, cable saves us, or so the theory goes. Yet Friday is too often just another generic night for cable, with more and more channels bound by their own franchised identities. Check the Cartoon Network anytime Friday; guess what you'll find? The History Channel? You get the idea. The premise has become the programming for these channels, their predictability a brand name, dependable, uncontested. It's a special event, in other words, when Court TV decides to break from their regular format to re-run a circa 1987 Perry Mason movie. Entertained yet?

Not so fast, though; there may be one glimmer of hope, even if it is buried suffocatingly betwixt The Hughleys and Comedy Central's latest Rita Rudner offering. It's not an obvious choice, but one that's worth seeking out. It's unique. It's unusual. It's ... Bravo!

Bravo!? Come again? Despite its aggressive punctuation, Bravo! is actually a low-key, virtually anonymous presence in cable's clutter. Chances are it's a station stacked way up at the end of your local system's line-up, if it's carried at all. Chances are it comes in with a little static, if at all.

But Bravo!, in all its modesty, is making its own carefully measured move. Friday evenings, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., their programming choices converge into an interesting, iconoclastic, decidedly offbeat alternative to the usual dreck. It's a block of only two hours -- comprising only two shows -- but considering the competition, it's an event worthy of its exclamation point.

First up, at 7:00 p.m., is an artifact from the '80s: Moonlighting, a show that paired two top stars at the peak of their respective games. Maybe you remember the retro-cool Al Jarreau theme song. Perhaps you recall the last time Bruce Willis's half-smug smile was actually charming. Or maybe you can call to mind Cybill Shepherd's slinky wit, before it was lost to her boring, self-titled follow-up series. Watching it amounts to quite a bit more than some simple time-travel nostalgia trip. In fact, sampling an episode now, some ten years plus after it last left the airwaves, is jarring -- first because the blanched color scheme and aged grainy look is so unsophisticatedly mid-1980s; but second because the show itself is so vastly good. Indeed, Moonlighting, which aired from 1985 to 1989 today suffers from a sense of datedness not just because of unfashionable hairstyles but because of how it outshines almost all its present day counterparts.

[ CONTINUED: Moonlighting's gleeful influence ]

RICK CONNELLY is the staff television writer for Renaissance Online Magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]


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