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TV's fall lineup to hit two small screens

September 5, 1996
Web posted at: 5:30 p.m. EDT

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- Just when you thought you couldn't sit through one more rerun, the beginning of the fall television season is around the corner. The Big Three networks plan a whole new roster of shows to keep you entertained while you're playing your role of couch potato.

But will the web sites for their new shows live up to the standards already set by existing shows' sites? Read on for the shows to come, and the sites that set today's high-water marks.

NBC has mined ratings gold with its Thursday-night lineup of comedy programs, including "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "The Single Guy." The network made no secret that its strategy for fall 1996 is to dominate the other six nights of the week with similar programs -- ergo, the recruiting of Brooke Shields to star in "Suddenly Susan," and the "Single Guy" franchise expands with "Men Behaving Badly."

Somehow, though, the cookie-cutter web sites that NBC has created for most of its shows -- all of which can be found at http://www.nbc.com/entertainment/shows/ -- don't quite match up to the really good web sites that have been created for other shows that broadcast on other networks. In the comedy realm, in fact, some of the best sites were created by fans, not by the networks.


Kids in the Hall Tribute Page

Kids in the Hall

For example, one fan of the show "Kids in the Hall," created by a Canadian comedy troupe, has built a tribute page for the show. What's it got over the network sites? More than one layer of information, short but interesting bios of the five Kids in the Hallers, frequent news updates on the members' activities, and links to other "Kids" sites.

It also takes advantage of existing technology, allowing users to hear sound files from the actors, hear a clip from their movie "Brain Candy," and roll a JavaScript "ticker" telling when the page was last updated. (Note: You won't see it if your browser isn't compatible with Java.)


PythOnline

PythOnLine

Arguably the most detailed (and perhaps also the most tacky) web site in the comedy show genre is for a show that is no longer in original production. Nevertheless, its stars came back, Spam in tow, to put together a site that breaks all the rules, just like the original "Monty Python's Flying Circus" did when it first aired in the early 1970s.

If you ever liked the show or any of its sketches, you will indubitably like this site. It has games (which you can play with the TopGun plug-in, available for download on site), including "Catch the Mad Cow Disease Game," "Hang Knight," and "The Pig Game." You can join the Spam Club, which gives you access to the Abuse program, a Mad Libs-style form letter whence you can insult your family and former friends.

Lost in the maze of features? One of Monty Python's tasteless cartoon characters will lead you through the different features. And, of course, there's shopping, which the site managers don't want you to forget about, because that's how they're paying for the site. This site is not for the easily insulted. But then if you've ever seen the show, you already knew that.


The Chicago Hope Homepage

Hope

CBS is in no hurry to be left behind in the Nielsen ratings. The network has a two-pronged strategy, introducing shows that it hopes will catch on with viewers, including a newsroom drama entitled "Early Edition," (hmm, wonder if they knew about CNN's show by the same name when they named theirs?) while still leaning on proven successes to hold their audience share.

One of their proven successes is of course "Chicago Hope," which gets to keep its day and time slot this season because it's done so well there (now that it's finally moved out of the shadow of its NBC parallel, "ER"). CBS's page is at once a plug for the show and an acknowledgment that right now, CBS has more pressing things on its mind than on-line matters. Instead of setting up an elaborate page itself, it's linked to The Chicago Hope Homepage.

The Chicago Hope Homepage is yet another page set up by a fan as a labor of love. Its layout and design, by Stanford University student Christine Lee, are professional and thorough. Available on the site: episode summaries, gossip on Hope stars, their bios, of course, best one-liners, an outline of how each character is related in the hospital's tangled web of friendships and divorces, rules for "The Chicago Hope Drinking Game," and much more.


The X-Files Official Web Site

X-Files

In the science fiction arena, NBC presents its new show "Dark Skies. " Although the show hasn't hit air yet, it already has a page on NBC's site. Like all NBC's new shows, it touts a "Must Click" RealAudio greeting.

NBC's use of RealAudio is good, but the "Dark Skies" page still has a long way to go before it catches up with its nearest television rival, "The X-Files."

Fox, unlike most of the networks, is giving each of its shows' web sites distinct flavors. The pages for the animated series "The Simpsons" are under construction, but the cover page is still distinctly Simpsonesque. Its show "Mad TV," "Saturday Night Live's" competitor, has a relatively detailed and unique site as well. But it's the "X-Files" site that comes out on top against its network companions.

Among the offerings: an episode guide, in case you missed a show and have to know what happened. The guide goes all the way back to the beginning, covering not only the show's content but background on recurring characters as well. Then, when you finish catching up on the show and find yourself to be completely confused, elated, or disgusted, you can hop over to the site's Fan Forum to tell other fans how you feel.

While the networks have yet to incorporate a lot of new Web technology into their show pages, some are beginning to find ways to work techno stuff into their sites as a whole. If you feel like playing, check out the following special features. In general, they require the appropriate plug-ins, which are indicated at the sites.

Vivo at ABC
Watch promotional spots for their new fall season, as they download

NBC CyberChats
Real-time conferences with NBC's stars

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Check the site requirements


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Related sites:

  • The X-Files Official Web Site
  • The Chicago Hope Homepage
  • PythOnline
  • Kids in the Hall Tribute Page
  • "Dark Skies. "
  • CBS's page
  • Vivo at ABC
  • NBC CyberChats
  • Site Seer Archives
    See previous Site Seer reviews.
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