Moving day

I'm writing this column perched precariously upon a pile of cardboard boxes. No, it's not my new means of gaining inspiration through a form of yogic body control; I'm just moving out of my place in a few days.

Now, as far as the whole moving thing goes, times have been good: I found a gorgeous apartment, great neighborhood, funky restaurants, and I understand that it's wired for digital television, which means that I'll never even see the great neighborhood and funky restaurants in question. After all, with two hundred and fifty channels to choose from, even if there's nothing on, it takes a pretty long time to figure that out.

But I'm still a little nervous about the move itself, and apparently I've got some good reason to be. According to some vaguely scientific study I once read, moving was the most stressful experience that one could have in a given year, short of major trauma, death of a loved one, or divorce.

This hardly fills me with confidence about the forthcoming few weeks. But I've consoled myself with the thought that I'm not alone in my anxieties about moving: lots of television shows are nervous when they need to move, too.

And it's easy to understand why: here they are, all settled into their time slot, their fans are beginning to remember not to make appointments that evening or at the very least to properly set their VCRs, when all of a sudden - whammo! - they've been moved to Friday nights, or traded to UPN, and they've got to start all over again.

This isn't just theoretical: while ABC deserves kudos for keeping "Once and Again", TV Guide's "Best Show You're Not Watching" (and why aren't you? It's good!) on their schedule, their choice to move it to Friday nights has fans worried that the show will get even lower ratings and sink its chances for good.

The remarkable "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is doing more than changing times; it's changing networks, from the WB to UPN. Though this may seem like no big deal, considering that most of this column's readers probably don't watch either of these networks, the fact remains that the WB has done a great job building up an aggressive, creative line of programming, while the UPN ... well, let's just hope that "Buffy" becomes a cornerstone of better things to come there. But that may not happen if the audience doesn't follow.

And last season marked the demise of "Third Rock From the Sun", one of the best sitcoms of the Nineties. While the show was admittedly beginning to feel its age a bit, NBC probably helped give it some of those gray hairs by constantly shuffling it around the schedule.

We're in an age of quick fixes and mid- mid- mid-season replacements, where potentially-promising shows are yanked off the air after one less-than-stellar ratings performance, and programs with a proven track record are shifted around the week like utility infielders on a last-place ball club. And while this may arguably help ratings in the short run, it can't do anything but hurt the potential for audience growth in the long term.

Fortunately, my long-term prognosis is mucb better. I'm taking a nice long lease on this apartment. I don't want to have to go anywhere for a long time.

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