Television Sweeps

Television Sweeps

Notes from different corners of the world.
May 3 1997 3:30 AM

Television Sweeps

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       So I'm driving home on Wednesday, trying to think of an excuse not to watch Ellen. I'm listening to Real Radio, as this particular station bills itself, meaning that the disc jockeys are not afraid to be jerks. Two regular guys are taking calls from other regular guys who are not afraid to say they're not going to watch that lesbian and all her lesbian celebrity pals lesbian-ing around; all these regular guys are going to watch some ballgame instead. Unfortunately, I don't watch ballgames.
       I don't particularly want to throw myself in with the double-y-chromosome crowd, but also don't really want to watch Ellen. I don't think it's a bad show; the handful of times I've seen it I've found it acceptably amusing and intelligent. In fact, I find it heartening that there is a show this good--and these days there are several this good--that I don't have time to watch. And not because I'm reading great books or absorbing superior culture, but because I'm watching TV shows that are even better. The simple reason why I don't want to watch Ellen is because I don't watch Ellen. I like to think of myself as being above cheap sweeps stunts, even groundbreaking, important ones that get their own Absolut vodka drink named after them.
       So I'm watching Ellen. It's amusing and intelligent, despite the "Show me the money" jokes and that sure-fire comedy killer, the Demi Moore cameo. It was even a bit shocking: Early on, there is a scene of Ellen naked in bed with a guy. Naturally, I'm thinking the show is going to end with a scene of Ellen naked in bed with a gal. But I suppose that would have been predictable. After it was all over, I felt a lot better for the experience. Because I realized I will never have to watch Ellen again.

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       A few months ago, when there was that totally unconfirmed rumor that Ellen DeGeneres' character would be revealed as gay, the comedian appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell Show and said it was all a big mistake: She was Lebanese. And Ellen joked to Rosie, "I understand you might be Lebanese, too." And Rosie responded, "I could be Lebanese." And they both laughed so conspiratorially at their little joke that I wondered if they thought most of the country was populated by chimps.
       After the lesbian Ellen, the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles ran the results of a poll asking viewers what they thought of a lesbian having her own TV show. Keep in mind this is Los Angeles, the land of Sodom and Granola or whatever it is that fat demagogues are calling it these days. Fifty-four percent of fruits and nuts who responded said gays have no place on television. "Chimps" might be too kind.

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       "Tonight, only on Channel Four News: We've collected the all-time greatest moments in Seinfeld history." I still watch Seinfeld, though I'm not exactly sure why. This week, Jerry became obsessed with his position on his girlfriend's speed dialer, Elaine got irked by an inattentive clothing-store clerk, Kramer worried about having enough ice for his millennium party, and George proved how hard it is to get fired when you really want to. When Seinfeld started, the opening and the lead-ins to commercial breaks consisted of Jerry doing his stand-up routine. They've stopped doing that, perhaps because they realized it would be redundant.

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       Billy Crystal and Robin Williams will be special guests on Friends next week, I have now heard about a thousand times. The network is promoting this on the theory more people will watch. I don't understand television at all.

Larry Doyle will be filing weekly dispatches from his television set during sweeps month (which roughly corresponds to the month of May). When not watching television, Doyle writes for it; he works forThe Simpsons.