Summer School

The summer has gone, and what have we learned?

We've learned that intriguing new shows on network television can be delivered dead on arrival by network executives' poor choices to premiere them in the summer. (See, for example, Fox's "Keen Eddie").

We've learned that intriguing new shows on network television can be delivered alive and kicking by network executives' brilliant choices to premiere them in the summer. (See, for example, Fox's "O.C.")

We've learned that reality television is breathing its last. (See, for example, the unlamentable fall of "American Juniors.")

We've learned that reality television is here to stay. (See, for example, the lamentable celebrity of Clay and Ruben on "American Idol.")

We've learned that movie sequels are no longer the automatic hits that Hollywood has counted on. (See, for example, "Tomb Raider II" and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle".)

We've learned that movie sequels can generate bushels of money, and so we can count on Hollywood to make more of them. (See, for example, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "2 Fast 2 Furious".)

We've learned that movie stars aren't essential to making a hit movie. (See the aforementioned Vin Diesel-less "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Finding Nemo".)

We've learned that movie stars are essential to making a movie a blockbuster. (See Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Jim Carrey in "Bruce Almighty.")

We've learned that cable television is a wasteland, the home where new ideas for television shows go to die. (See "The Real Roseanne Show.") We've learned that cable television is the home of all new innovation, and exciting can't-miss programming. (See "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" and "MI5").

We've learned that Americans can be intrigued by British programming as it is, opening their minds to product from a culture different from theirs. (See the aforementioned "MI-5," and "The Office" on BBC-America".)

We've learned that Americans won't watch British programming as it is, and need remakes in order to defend their minds from product from a culture different from theirs. (See the upcoming remake of "Coupling.") We've learned that American citizens, in a potentially dangerous situation, can band together to behave more sensibly and rationally than their leaders could have hoped - and could take a lesson from. (See the Blackout of '03.)

We've learned that American citizens, in a potentially dangerous situation, can band together to behave less sensibly and rationally than even the most gleeful cynic might have anticipated. (Do I even have to give an example? Arnold Scharzenegger and Gary Coleman, I'm looking in your direction.) We've learned that American citizens are tired of the direction the country is taking and are excited about new possibilities. (See the momentum of Howard Dean.)

We've learned that American citizens are pretty satisfied with how things are going and aren't really looking for new possibilities. (See Bush's still high approval rating and the fact that in a recent poll 65 percent of registered voters couldn't name a single Democratic presidential candidate.)

So what have we learned from the summer of 2003? Screenwriter William Goldman's classic rule of Hollywood still applies: nobody knows anything. And with that in mind, go back to school, work, or the fall television season with an open mind, ready to lead astray the best-laid plans of network executives, studio heads, and yes, even incumbent political candidates. Because you never know.

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