Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle TV Eye

By Margaret Moser

AUGUST 3, 1998: 

The lights were dim, the room quiet, and the television on FOX last Monday evening. Weezer and I were rigid with anticipation as we sat on the couch and chair. Suddenly, with a great torrent of cheesy guitar, our second most-anticipated event of the summer had arrived: Melrose Place was back.

I clicked the TV off with mild annoyance not long after Melrose was over, just when Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) was waffling about whether or not to go on the date with the Biscuit (Peter MacNicol). Hmmph. I waited all summer for that hour of slack? We didn't even get in the first "spurt, spurt" cheer until 7:17pm, when the smarmy Rory got into the steamy shower with Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear). The catfight between Jennifer Mancini (Alyssa Milano) and Sam Campbell (Brooke Langton) was too tepid for words -- all that rolling around and not one good bitch-slap or earring ripped from an earlobe? C'mon! Good thing Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro) had weased his way back into practice with the equally sleazy Dr. Peter Burns (Jack Wagner) and overgrown crybaby Coop (Linden Ashby). Even the appearance of Taylor (Lisa Rinna) and her tearful confession about her baby's paternity to ex-husband Kyle (Rob Estes) was anti-climactic, and I regarded Rinna's slutty Taylor as one of the more interesting characters added to Melrose recently.

And what about Billy Campbell (Andrew Shue), the affable nebbish? It can't be that the men on Melrose are all weenies just because the women have the balls, brass and otherwise. No, I think that we are seeing the end of an era here for ol' Melrose Place and its cast of schemers. After all, the decade is drawing to a close. Hell, the century is drawing to a close. Remember howDynasty petered out in its last season at the end of the Eighties and turned into a clotheshorse slapfest? Look what happened to Beverly Hills 90210, now in its pathetic last season and limping like a wounded animal. Shoot Melrose and put it out of its misery. I can't wait for ER.

Fear had begun to set in.

Perhaps I was being stood up. After that lovely, seductive come-on from John A. Dimling, president of Nielsen Media Research Inc., inviting me to participate in the sweeps by keeping a TV diary, I had heard nothing. Not the promised phone call or even flowers. I was bereft. I would never be one of those anonymous Nielsen viewers I had come to think of as "dimlings," so dubbed in honor of Mr. Dimling himself. But life would go on.

Then, in a matter of two days, another postcard arrived and finally, the hotly anticipated Nielsen TV Viewing Diary came in a green-and-white envelope as promised.

Lordy, but this thing looks unwieldy. First there are the instructions for how to fill out the grid. I noted with amusement that one column is used to indicate when the TV is on but no one is watching it. Then there's a little survey. How many TV sets are in your home? and the equally important, How many are in working order? Mr. Dimling wants to know! I kept reading.

Please check one box for the race of the person [who is the homeowner] ó White, Black, American Indian, Aleut, Eskimo, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Other. I paused as I have waited for such an opportunity ever since someone in the Gaelic League clued me in that whites are all lumped demographically as Anglo-Saxon. I am not Ango-Saxon. I am Scots-Irish and Alsatian. If the distinction can be made between "Pacific Islander" and "Aleut" (technically a Pacific Island chain too), then the difference between a fair-skinned person of Slavic heritage and a fair-skinned person of Nordic heritage is equally relevant.

Assuming that the people who put together the Nielsen ratings are reasonably intelligent and aware of the distinction between most races, this seems to be a grossly distorted generalization of both White and Black that "Other" doesn't even begin to cover. A separate category acknowledges Hispanic but even that is confusing. You can be Spanish but if you are Galician you may have a great deal of Celtic blood in you, too. In the end I drew a little box myself, made my own blank, and wrote in "Texan."

Mr. Dimling may not find much continuity in my diaries ó I watch too much old TV and too many reruns. For example, this weekend the Vivien LeighAnna Karenina (8/1, 3:35pm TCM) is showing, followed by a one-hour special on Leigh called Scarlett and Beyond (8/1, 6pm TCM). It is showing opposite Frank Sinatra's Hole in the Head (8/1, 5pm, AMC) and Sinatra: The Man and His Music (8/1, 7pm, AMC) but if I had my druthers, I'd probably be slacking and cackling over Eddie Haskell in the Leave It to Beaver marathon (8/1, 7pm, TVL) on Nick at Nite's TVLand. Unfortunately, I still don't get the improved cable lineup and am still suffering my E!TV-less life.

Good thing there is another Melrose next week for me to gnash my teeth over.

Speak up! Write TVEye@auschron.com

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