Out in Beverly Hills, the networks are showcasing their new series for the nation's TV critics (which is sort of like parading your kids through a bears' cave).
The funniest moment of this annual donnybrook so far came when NBC trotted out its Thursday-night comedy queens past and present, announcing that Jerry Seinfeld will appear on the season opener of Tina Fey's 30 Rock on Oct. 4. Sarcasm filled the air.
"I think it's going to be so refreshing for me to be playing myself on a show that has nothing to do with neurotic, dysfunctional New York characters," said Seinfeld.
Fey responded, "Finally, my parents have an excuse to watch the show."
Whoa, is the pride of Upper Darby really having trouble getting the folks to tune in? Not according to her father.
"That's Tina being funny and scoring some good copy at the same time," responded Donald Fey by e-mail. "She knows Jeanne and I are big fans of the show. We often watch it two or three times to make sure we don't miss anything. The humor comes at you so fast and on so many levels that once is never enough. I can't think of any other show that sends up anything and anybody in such a subtle, clever way. I also try to go up and watch them film 30 Rock at Silver Cup Studios whenever I can. They let me sit in an extra director's chair where I am lucky enough to see and hear how the writing and scenes evolve. I try to keep quiet and stay out of the way while I am there, but it's an amazing thing to watch my daughter in action."
Did somebody say "action"? The listings refer to them as "reality series"; I consider them surefire platforms for people to humiliate themselves on national TV.
Take VH1's Scott Baio Is 45 . . . and Single. The premise is that the former sitcom star (Happy Days, Charles in Charge) wonders why, despite his serial womanizing, he has never settled down. He hires a life coach who counsels him to reconnect with the ladies he once dated.
She asks him who his first lover was and can barely conceal her amusement when he admits it was Erin Moran, his costar on Joanie Loves Chachi.
So, in Sunday's episode Baio arranged to meet Moran in a restaurant where, with the cameras rolling, he asked her why they hadn't lasted as a couple. After blaming that old bugaboo (he had intimacy issues), she gets down to brass tacks: She always thought he pulled away because he was ashamed of his package.
Dude, do you think the Fonz would let someone impugn his manhood on his own show? Not even Potsie would allow that.
We're back in Kansas, Toto. This week's vintage TV DVD is Gunsmoke: The First Season (CBS Video, $38.99), featuring James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon, the imposing lawman of Dodge City. The pilot is introduced by none other than John Wayne, and among the guest stars of these 39 half-hour b&w episodes from 1955 are Charles Bronson, Sebastian Cabot and Chuck Connors (who would go on to western renown himself in The Rifleman).
You meet for the first time limp-along Chester (Dennis Weaver) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), the Wild West's most wholesome-looking saloon moll. You'd never believe this show would last a record 20 seasons, not after Arness gets plugged twice in the first episode.
Can't touch this. The strangest moment at this week's ESPYs had to be the big opening production number in which LeBron James performed Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" in a fade wig, Elvis sunglasses, a platinum chain, a Sgt. Pepper jacket, and the kind of saggy harem pants we haven't seen since MC Hammer left the building.
The getup was tacky enough, but it certainly didn't help that LeBron sings worse than Leon Spinks.
He wasn't drafted for his looks. The funniest moment at the ESPYs came when LeBron's cohost, Jimmy Kimmel, singled basketball phenom Greg Oden out of the audience.
"How can you possibly be 19 years old?" Kimmel insisted. "You look like Grady on Sanford and Son."
Contact TV editor David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http:// go.philly.com/daveondemand.