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5 THE SIMPSONS (Fox) Unappreciated now because the media celebrated Bart-mania years ago, The Simpsons continues to be the most reliable satire on network TV.
The season opener, in which Homer and family left Springfield to work and live in a happy-faced, fascist corporate community was such a dead-on critique of the Disney empire, I swear I heard Rupert Murdoch chuckling.
In thieving attitude and atmosphere from The Larry Sanders Show, Arli$$ renders its unfunniness not merely sad but infuriating. RHODES (NBC) Even if this show about a hep-cat teacher didn’t star the charmless, barber-deprived Tom Rhodes, its ceaseless procession of ignorant yet cool students makes the show’s ”education is good” message merely depressing.
3 DARK SKIES (NBC) The second-worst copycat, this time an insufferably pretentious X-Files variation.
The ongoing theme — alien invasions in the time of the Kennedy administration — manages to be boring, trite, and tasteless all at the same time.
4 THE JEFF FOXWORTHY SHOW (NBC) The redneck routines that brought Foxworthy fame were pleasant, innocuous bits, but in retooling the comic’s flop ABC sitcom, the NBC version turns his material into marathons of joke-free vulgarity.
David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully now give off a united glow that says to the world, ”We’re right, you’re wrong, back off.” There’s no denying that The X-Files is more uneven these days (that episode where Mulder was remembering past lives was more heartburn commercial than X-File), but this is one series in which such erratic-ness is less a sign of creative exhaustion than of an admirably heedless faith in flaky flukiness.
High point thus far: Michael Richards’ Kramer accidentally entering the corporate world and having his entire business career rise and fall in the space of 30 minutes.
I’m thinking not only of the racism embedded in the soul of Andy Sipowicz (the earthshakingly good Dennis Franz) but of the increasing complexity of Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits).
Whether Bobby was cruelly slapping around that squirrelly little creep Henry (Willie Garson), or finding himself unable to resist the little-boy selfishness that’s been mucking up his relationship with Diane (Kim Delaney), Smits somehow managed to make every flicker in Bobby’s mind register on his stoic face.
5 BAYWATCH NIGHTS (syndicated) All-powerful producer and bathing-suit wearer David Hasselhoff has turned Nights into X-Files with Plan 9 From Outer Space F/X.
The results are dumb, sure, but also lacking in Baywatch’s blithe goofiness.