Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Race we dare not lose...

Sometimes I think us fans overlook the fact that networks have millions of dollars of marketing info and whatever at their disposal. Even so, I’m a little surprised at the fact that CBS has rescheduled The Amazing Race to the 9:00 slot. That’s 9:00 in the central time zone. In other words, it’s now occupying for the first time the third network evening hour, right before the nightly news.

The 8:00 (middle) hour will be filled by The Unit, a new military black ops show starring the guy who was the black President on 24 (I think; I’ve never seen 24) and Robert Patrick. Presumably this is because it’s a military themed show, and will follow NCIS, which although the sort of show that non-fans just DON’T GET, continues to be one of CBS’ highest rated shows.

However, I think the reasoning here is all wrong. For all it’s attempt to be all hip and gritty, NCIS is pure cornpone. That’s why it plays at 7:00 on CBS. For all the gore and such, including the murder of a major character last year, the show is hopelessly square, full of woefully obvious plotting, painfully stiff comic relief (the grown man who is a successful military investigator yet also a horny comic boob who can’t score, ala Jack Tripper) and the bizarre predilection of the entire cast to be constantly holding either Starbucks or 7-11 Big Gulp cups.

For all the grue and attempts at cynicism and whatnot, NCIS is Your Father’s Crime Show. Worse, assuming you find that statement damning (and it really shouldn’t be), it’s also Your Mother’s Crime Show.

The Amazing Race is also a family show, and in the best sense. Yes, some of the teams are skanks, and others are hooting, horny frat boys, but on the whole it’s a terrific show, and one that is light on the sort of tiresomely sex and scatological banter that for some reason showrunners believe defines “mature” television.

In that sense, NCIS and The Amazing Race went together like peanut butter and jelly, although I don’t really like peanut butter and jelly, and following that metaphor, have a lot of trouble not digging at NCIS when I see it.

Then there’s The Unit, which premieres tonight. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The problem with “24” is that it’s so darn wimpy. OK, it’s not, but compared to “The Unit” (8 p.m. Tuesday, WBBM-Ch. 2), “24” is a wussy, three-hankie Lifetime weeper.” That’s a joke, of course, but even so, it doesn’t sound to me like The Unit is a good match for NCIS, even if both are about the ‘military.’

Tonal issues aside, the resultant Tuesday night schedule is Family / Adult / Family. I understand that shows like 24 and CSI and House M.D. have made the 8:00 hour a lot friendlier to hard edged programming, but even so, The Unit sounds a lot more like a 9:00 show to me.

In the end, my real fear is that the move to 10:00 will harm The Amazing Race in the ratings. That’s my favorite show right now, and I’d hate to see it harmed by moving it to what on the face of things seems like a wildly inappropriate timeslot.

Oh, well, The good news is that when I go over to Techmaster Paul’s house to watch The Amazing Race with him and his wife Holly, I can tape both AR (for rewatching later) and Scrubs, which otherwise would run at the exact same time, and which coincidentally are the only two shows I really try to watch anymore.


At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuesday's are the prime reason God invented dual-tuner TIVO's.

At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

24 is definitely worth a look. It blends realism with absurdity in a way few shows have been able to manage since the 1970s.

And not to oversell the show, but Jack Baur is the greatest action hero.. ever.


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