Welcome to the first post-holiday-break edition of Ask The A.V. Club, our Q-and-A column where we A your Q's about pop culture:
Lost In Mid-Season
I've only relatively recently returned to the network-TV-watching fold via Lost and a handful of other shows. My girlfriend and I watched the first two seasons of Lost on DVD, but have been downloading this season from iTunes week by week. The most shocking revelation for us this season is a wicked little twist called "the mid-season finale," which has basically mothballed the show until March. This appears to have become standard practice for network dramas, but I don't remember them doing this in my indiscriminate TV-viewing days a few decades back. How long have the networks been doing this, what's in it for them, and how do we make them stop it?
Lostie Noel Murray replies:
It's kind of a horns-of-the-bull situation, George, when it comes to shows like Lost. Either it runs in two big hunks, so the network can program a bunch of episodes in a row without repeats, or it runs on the two-weeks-new/one-week-repeat schedule which so aggravated Lost fans last year that a website was established: "Is Lost A Repeat?" Broadcast networks now are learning a lesson from cable, which runs shows like The Shield and The Sopranos for 13 consecutive weeks, then rests for a year, releasing a DVD set in the interim to keep fan interest active.
So, to answer your question, this is a fairly new phenomenon, and it's unlikely to go away unless ratings plummet. More likely is that networks will start cutting their season orders for dramas, and having a fall season and a spring season, with different shows in each. Or maybe they'll find a more creative way to schedule shows—like running 20 straight weeks of a serialized drama, then running its repeats in mini-marathons on off-nights, like Saturday.
Anyway, what I find especially interesting is the way that the networks have started promoting this new development by using the language of media critics. "Fall finale," like the NFL "flex schedule" that NBC touted for its Sunday Night Football package, is the kind of term you'd expect a trade journal or a blogger to use. By turning them into advertising slogans, the networks seem to be acknowledging that their viewers are plugged into a larger discussion, and isn't done with TV once the set's turned off.
Killing Me Softly With Her Film
Okay, this is killing me… I've had this memory of watching a movie, probably in 1999 or 2000, starring Janeane Garofalo as a very Janeane Garofalo-like character who tells her blind date that she is going to kill herself in the morning. They wind up sort of hitting it off, staying up talking all night, but I'm pretty sure she still kills herself. I have always remembered it starring Janeane Garofalo, and I even thought I remembered reading that she had written and/or directed the movie too. But no Garofalo-related search I've done has come up with anything; it's like this movie has been expunged from the records. The only thing I really remember about this movie is her being in it, so I can't imagine that it actually starred someone else, but maybe I'm wrong. Any help?
Steven Hyden reports:
Stop killing yourself: The name of the movie is Sweethearts. The angsty comedy came out in 1996, co-starred Mitch Rouse and Margaret Cho, and was written and directed by Aleks Horvat, whose other big film credit (according to IMDB.com) is a 2000 comedy called The Big Thing starring the dad from Malcolm In The Middle. So Garofalo didn't write or direct it, but you had good reason to think so—from the (very '90s) themes of depression and disillusion to the alt-rock soundtrack, Sweethearts is the closest thing to a Janeane Garafalo vehicle there has ever been.
What Is He Noseworthy Of?
Thanks for adding this feature to the site. It's quickly becoming one of my favorites. Like so many in my generation, I have a memory of a short-lived TV show from when I was in high school (the early '90s). For a long time, all I could remember was that it starred a guy from U-571 who I thought I remembered from MTV. Well I took your advice and checked it out myself. The guy is Jack Noseworthy and the show was Dead At 21. So why am I writing if I figured it out? First, I'm sure other people out there remember and liked the show and might like to be reminded. Second, I never saw the full series, and I can't find any summary of how it played out and ended. Can anybody fill me in? Thanks,
Kyle Ryan has this to say:
Marc, behold the wonders of TV.com: This patently awful MTV show—not funny-awful, but awful-awful—aired in 1994 and was based on this premise: A secret government program (natch) put computer chips in newborn babies' brains to see whether it'd make them smarter. Sure enough, all the kids became geniuses. The downside? The chips malfunction during the teen years, eventually killing the kids by the time they turn 21. The hero of the show, Jack Noseworthy, learns about the chip on his 20th birthday. Hoping to thwart Noseworthy's pursuit of the truth, government agent Whip Hubley, frames him for murder. So Noseworthy goes on the run with pal Lisa Dean Ryan (a.k.a. Doogie Howser's Wanda) to save himself. Alas, it's for naught: At the end of the two-part series finale, Noseworthy "terminates" with his fellow cyborgs. Sadly, Dead At 21 is unavailable on DVD.
Tallying Up The Specialness
A friend is writing part of her dissertation on ABC's After School Specials from the '70s and '80s, but has had a hard time coming up with an all-inclusive list. She's already done the Internet and library research as far as I can tell, and is hoping ABC might actually just give her the list. Anyhow, do you know where to find it?
After School specialist Noel Murray:
When I wrote my piece anatomizing the ABC After School Special, I relied on this site. It appears to be a full list, with cast information and occasionally plot summaries. I wish it were more comprehensive. (It's funny: the Internet gives us so much, but when it doesn't give us exactly what we want, we grumble.) Obviously, the solution to this is for your friend to put her research online, to help the next generation of fools like us.
Next week on Ask The A.V. Club: We visit a local music scene and examine what happens when movie critics fight. Send your questions for future editions to firstname.lastname@example.org.