TV Eye

Buffy Falls to Hellmouth

First, an apology to those Star Trek: Voyager fans who wrote me last year after UPN left Austin, meaning they could no longer watch the last season of their beloved series. I didn't fully understand their dismay, their panic, their heartbreak. Well, now I do. The news came down late last Friday evening (April 20) that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is moving from the WB to UPN starting in the fall 2001 season, effectively driving a stake through the heart of Buffy fans across the River City. Yes, that's right. No more Buffy in Austin. No more crossover events with spin-off Angel, no more rushing home on Tuesday night to curl up for two hours of good vs. evil, demon vs. human, the Scoobies vs. the creepies. Oh, the humanity.

The move comes after a battle over money and a fair amount of dissing, according to various reports, including an April 20 article by Mark Armstrong for E! Online. Creator Joss Whedon was reportedly put off by comments by WB Chief Executive Jamie Kellner, who implied that BtVS was not valuable since it was only ranked third in the WB's program ratings. It follows 7th Heaven and Charmed. And how many Emmy nominations have those shows earned, how much critical acclaim? Sure, 7th Heaven gets pats on the back for being family-friendly, and there is certainly a need for that kind of programming. But it's also saccharine, annoyingly precious, and often downright dull. While the premise of Charmed was no doubt inspired by the success of BtVS -- three sisters learn they are witches, each with special powers -- the show is simply not as smart as Whedon's supernatural hit.

The UPN network inked a two-year, 44-episode deal with an agreement to pick up BtVS spin-off Angel if the WB cancels the show. BtVS will reportedly earn $2.3 million per episode for the first season and $2.35 million per episode in the second season -- a considerable jump from the $1.6 million per episode the WB put on the table.

In January, as negotiations were just starting to go public, Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar publicly announced that if the show left the WB, she wouldn't return.

"I will stay on Buffy if, and only if, Buffy stays on the WB. And you know what? Print that. My bosses are going to kill me, but print that. I want them to know." Her comment was quickly retracted, and it is assumed that Gellar and the rest of the cast are on for the move.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent FCC ruling that allows media companies to own multiple broadcast networks, as long as none of the big four -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox -- are owned by the same company. In other words, it's now acceptable for Viacom to own CBS and "netlet" UPN.

What's to be done by ordinary viewers? Maybe nothing, if reports by Armstrong for E! Online are accurate. "In a statement released Friday, the WB said it was no coincidence that UPN's Buffy announcement came just a day after the FCC loosened restrictions on network ownership, which would allow Fox (which has a pending merger with former UPN co-owner Chris-Craft) to merge with UPN."

Fox merging with UPN? If that happens, then maybe there is hope for Austin BtVS fans, assuming that this means the Buffster would show up on Fox -- which is carried in Austin.

The milestone 100th episode of BtVS and, as it turns out, the last episode on the WB, airs May 22.


New on VH1

Cable network VH1, known for Pop-up Video and their addictive Behind the Music series will launch four new shows this summer:

Cover Wars: Paul Schaffer of Late Night With David Letterman hosts a game show in which competing bands test their licks. Celebrity judges pick the best.

Strange Frequency: Influenced by The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, this series features an anthology of stories of the strange and unexplained.

VH1 Undercover: The rock version of Candid Camera, from what I can gather. "Pop music is the basis for a kaleidoscope of hidden-camera pranks, daredevil stunts, sight gags and funny video clips" -- that according to a Reuters article posted on CNN Entertainment.

What's My 20: A countdown show of the top 20 music videos in various categories. Viewers are invited to vote online and one lucky viewer is invited to host the show.


Survivor Log

It's come down to the final four -- two men, two women, three episodes, and one cash prize of a million dollars. Who will win? Right now, the Colbster (aka Colby Donaldson of Texas) is looking pretty good. He's the only one who can muster enough strength to win the all-important immunity challenges -- that is, when speed and brawn are necessary. But don't count out the conniving Tina Wesson just yet. Underneath that Southern twang and her prompt to "tell momma all about it" is a she-devil of epic proportions. Hey, she was one of the first to latch on to Jerri Manthey's character assassination of Kel Gleason, rushing over to shamelessly paw through the man's belongings in search of contraband food, which didn't exist (shocker).

So, now that the show is winding down, I offer my top 10 things I learned from Survivor 2:

10. The fit and the beautiful are the first to waste away to twigs. Chalk one up for the value of the spare tire.

9. Don't put your camp in an obviously abandoned riverbed. If you don't have the huevos to fight the person who pushed the idea (Jerri), vote them off.

8. Nothing says "I Love You" like proposing to your mate thousands of miles away over the Internet, while television cameras capture the intimate moment for prime-time television.

7. "The tribe has spoken" still sounds dumb, no matter how serious you try to make yourself look and sound.

6. No one wears khaki as well as Jeff Probst.

5. Rodger Bingham (aka Kentucky Joe) is about the sweetest man you could ever hope to meet. How did he get on this show?

4. Ditto for Elisabeth Filarski. She's doomed.

3. Leave it to a Texan to pillage a natural wonder of the world, pass it off as a token of friendship, and walk away with a big ol' grin on his face and possibly a million dollars in his pocket.

2. For all your travel needs, there's nothing like the Royal Australian Air Force.

And the number one thing I learned from Survivor 2 ... The Australian Outback may be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

buffy the vampire slayer, upn, vh1, survivor 2

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