Ask any woman I know—I know nothing about women. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Zero. As far as I’m concerned, they’re an alien race that no amount of insightful Maxim or Gear magazine articles will ever explain. Believe you me, I’ve read ’em all. And studied the pictures very carefully, too.
I do know this, however: Few, if any, women are staying home on Friday nights and watching the estro-trifecta covertly cooked up between conspiring network TV weasels. Dig the “random chance” synergy between supposedly competing networks: NBC’s Providence, about a strong-but-lonely thirtysomething career woman with great hair and a tight-knit family, kicks off the night at 7 p.m. Then, CBS’ That’s Life, about a strong-but-lonely thirtysomething college student with great hair and a tight-knit family, comes in at 8. ABC’s Once & Again, about a strong-but-lonely fortysomething divorcee with great hair and a tight-knit family, follows at 9. (OK, star Sela Ward’s character got married this season and no longer has great hair, but the collusion theory still stands.)
Sure, Providence has been a Friday-night 18-49 demographic tentpole for nearly three years now, and star Melina Kanakaredes has caused most every 18-49 man who’s accidentally flipped by the show to pitch his own tentpole, but are females really watching this increasingly bizarre soap-minus-the-sex? Do women actually enjoy spending Friday nights with an impossibly gorgeous cosmetic surgeon (Kanakaredes) who left her high-paid gig in Hollywood to move back in with her mildly dysfunctional family in Rhode Island and work at a low-rent medical clinic? Who also talks to her dead mother in dreams and wakes up from said dreams in the morning still looking impossibly gorgeous? Oh, and did I mention that her amiable veterinarian dad was recently shot in the head in a suburban drive-by (!) and is now lovably brain-damaged?
Again, I’m just an ignorant guy, but I’m thinking any female or male who’d be stuck home on a Friday night watching Providence (especially those actually living in that godforsaken burg) would just love to slap Kanakaredes across her perfect olive-skinned face and yell, “Move your dumb ass back to L.A., bee-otch!”
Slightly more believable and better acted is middle Friday-night sister That’s Life, starring equally hot brunette Heather Paige Kent as a blue-collar New Jersey gal who, after 14-odd years in dead-end jobs and relationships, goes back to college. A dash of Providence, a pinch of Felicity and, during the show’s best-just-forgotten first season, a tablespoon or 12 too much of Sopranos-lite Italian pride.
Playing down the pepperoni this year, Kent herself mercifully recorded a new theme song, replacing the original clunky Italian-waltz opener with a breezy Jewel reject written by Steve Plunkett of ’80s hair-metal casualties Autograph. While not at all pertinent, that fact alone is the weirdest thing I’ve dug up this whole season—if I find out that some bonehead from Night Ranger penned the music to Judging Amy, I’m gonna plotz.
The supposedly locked-in Friday chick-show ratings for That’s Life have been on the slide—further reinforcing my crackpot theory—but the audience drop for critical darling Once & Again has been even more precipitous than The Anthrax Channel’s (check local cable listings). Why ABC insists on keeping this weepy, pseudo-educational snoozefest—there’s actually a discussion board with a psychology professor on the net’s Once & Again website following each episode to help you deal with similar “family” issues—is beyond me. Turn the sound off and the show looks like a 60-minute Abercrombie & Fitch commercial; turn it on and … well, you’re better off with it muted, trust me.
Personally, I’d like to believe that the female demo is actually watching and identifying with Absolutely Fabulous on Comedy Central and BBC America, because Edina and Patsy are my kind of women: Drunk, fashion-obsessed and insane. It’s my own little world and I’m just fine there, thank you.