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World Party

By Belinda Acosta

JANUARY 17, 2000:  And then we woke up, and it was over. No satellites fell from the sky, no cruise missiles were accidentally launched, money didn't spew from ATMs, and lights burned brightly through the night and into the new day.Considering all the millennium madness, the turn from 1999 to 2000 was downright uneventful. In some ways, it was like that eyeball-rolling episode of Dallas, in which Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal) awakens from a terrible nightmare -- the entire 1985-86 season -- to discover that husband Bobby (Patrick Duffy) had not been shot and killed or buried at an opulent funeral but was alive and naked in the shower.

Of course, this New Year's wasn't entirely unextraordinary. It's not every New Year's Eve that you get to ring in a new millennium. Yeah, sure, it doesn't really start until 2001, but as Mulder told Scully on The X-Files when she pointed this out to him, "No one likes a math geek."

Following the festivities around the globe on ABC, PBS, and the other networks was the celebration of choice for many people, though the Nielsen TV ratings indicate that overall viewing was down for the evening. ABC claims that its ABC 2000, hosted by Peter Jennings, was viewed by 175 million homes, while the Nielsens indicate that about 12 million households were tuned in during the primetime hours, according to a Studio Briefing report.

Whatever the numbers, it was swell viewing, and it was encouraging to see that the evening was uniformly jubilant around the world. Whether the event was marked by high ceremony or blood-pumping celebration, for one moment in time, the entire world really did seem like a global village. Doing tequila shots as the clock struck midnight from time zone to time zone surely added to my joy about the world euphoria, but not entirely. For one day, the world set aside grievances, hostility, and worries and had some fun. We should all do it again next year.


It's time for midseason replacements, long-overdue cancellations, and returning gems. On the "it's about time it got canceled list": Ally (Fox) and It's Like, You Know ... (ABC). The underexposed Freaks and Geeks (7pm, NBC) moved to its new time slot on Monday, its most formidable competition now being Jennifer Love Hewitt's Time of Your Life on Fox and 7th Heaven (yawn) on the WB. The return and season premiere of NYPD Blue (9pm, ABC) was this past Tuesday, following a territorial dispute over air time with the more soapy drama Once and Again.

High on my list of things to watch includes the season premiere of the phenomenal HBO series The Sopranos. You know, this show is so excellent, I hesitate to extol its virtues for fear of jinxing it -- that, plus I feel like I've gone on and on about it already. Can the show meet the high mark it made its first season, or is it a one-time wonder? Early reports from the entertainment media (the fat cats who actually get to see previews of shows like The Sopranos) say that we're in for a second outstanding season. The bad news is that its Sunday premiere (1/16, 8pm, HBO) conflicts with a new episode of The X-Files (Fox) and the premiere of the long-awaited Steven Bochco medical drama, City of Angels (1/16, 8pm, CBS). The good news is that HBO and the other cable nets schedule multiple play dates for their programming. So if the VCR is broken or you have somewhere else to be on Sunday night, you can catch The Sopranos premiere on the following Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. At least this appears to be the case for the first two episodes. By the third episode, additional play dates shrink to one on the following Monday. Check listings for air dates and times.

The highly touted midseason replacement Malcolm in the Middle (7:30pm, Fox) also airs on Sunday, temporarily airing in the Futurama time slot. It premiered last Sunday, and gosh it's quirky. Okay, so the direct address to the camera is now a tired device. But unlike the premiere episode of Get Real (Fox), which turned the gimmick into a bloody horse-beating, Malcolm doesn't overplay it. And I can already hear self-anointed advocates for the preservation of the American family criticize the show's portrayal of the parents, who are played screamingly off-kilter by Jane Kaczmarek and Bryan Cranston. As the preoccupied and harried mom, Kaczmarek schleps around the house topless while Cranston's dad reminds you of that puppy that is short on good sense but long on empty-headed patience.

Frankie Muniz is a charmer as the title character, an 11-year-old boy genius who just wants a normal family and to be treated like the rest of the kids. While comparisons to that other subversive family sitcom, The Simpsons, is not far-fetched, the fact that Malcolm is not animated may make it difficult for some viewers to accept the zaniness of the show. How many times have we seen Homer in a nude or semi-nude state and not batted an eye? I'm not sure if viewers will accept a topless, live-action mom (you only see her back or shoulders) or a nude dad reading the paper while mom shears his prodigious chest and back hair at the breakfast table (you only see his hair). Still, this cross between The Wonder Years and The Simpsons is a wacky addition the Fox's already-entertaining Sunday lineup.


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