Peter Chianca: This ‘Battle’ may make you cry
Peter Chianca is on hiatus until September; this column first appeared in 2005.
You may have heard about the disgruntled “Star Wars” fans who’ve asserted that George Lucas did to their childhoods what the “Law & Order” writers do to the victims on “Special Victims Unit.” (I’m paraphrasing.) Personally I think that’s a little harsh — even if the new movies stink, without them we’d never know what Yoda looked like kicking butt with his light saber, except in our own little fantasies. Not me, other people.
So I didn’t truly know what they meant until I happened to see an ad last week for (brace yourself): “Battle of the Network Reality Stars.” After I returned my jaw to its upright position, I could only think: Does Hal Linden know about this?
Because for people of a certain age, the whole idea is sacrilegious. Nothing could possibly reproduce the grandeur of the combat that took place among the “Big 3” networks in those heady pre-cable days. (Of course, any thinking “Battle” fan rooted for ABC, since it had “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley,” and it didn’t have “M*A*S*H” — boooooring! Especially when you’re 8.)
I ask you: How could any show hope to match the suspense generated when Gabe Kaplan out-ran Robert Conrad to break a tie with NBC and pull ABC into first place? You’ll recall Conrad didn’t take it well; I wouldn’t have wanted to be the guy to try to knock the battery off his shoulder at that moment.
It’s my argument that you just can’t recreate that kind of magic. Sure, “Circus of the Stars” came close, but it never quite got there, no matter how many times Peter Scolari crossed that damn tightrope.
The worst part is, the new show features not actual stars but reality show stars — in other words, people who can’t get it through their heads that the celebrity party has long since broken up, and it’s time to get in that "Apprentice" taxi and go home already. After all, how can we miss Omarosa if she won’t go away? I mean to somewhere without cameras.
This all comes on the heels of the movie version of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” another appropriation of one of my childhood favorites — it’s not every show that can make a man spend the rest of his life battling the urge to enter his car through the driver’s side window.
I haven’t seen the new “Dukes,” but I did read how the guy who played “Cooter” urged people to boycott it, because he thought it did too much sexing up of the wholesome family show he’d been a part of. (You know, the wholesome family show about moonshiners who may or may not have been in love with their barely dressed cousin.) And yet it’s a huge hit, thus proving a cinematic truism: Nobody listens to the guy who played “Cooter.”
Oddly enough, though, the PR material for the new “Battle” show actually mentions a “Dukes” icon: “Just as Katherine Bach of Daisy Duke fame got dunked repeatedly,” it says — misspelling “Catherine,” probably because whoever wrote the PR is 12 — “you’ll see Coral Smith from ‘The Real World’ get dunked in the new series.” This despite the fact that Coral Smith, whoever she is, is not worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Daisy Duke, or even Uncle Jesse. Maybe Enos.
Still, according to host network Bravo, the new show will “generate unending drama and tears.” Well, I know I’ll be crying — but if it doesn’t end, please find somebody to knock me unconscious.
Is Robert Conrad available?
To receive Peter Chianca's At Large by e-mail, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”