As long as they don't mess with "Veronica Mars." That's how I feel about the upcoming fall merger of the struggling WB and UPN networks into one, presumably sturdier, youth-pandering network to be called the CW.
Just put "Veronica Mars" into a nice, juicy time slot far away from other dramatic "appointment TV" (across the dial from a bunch of dumb sitcoms, perhaps) and then leave it alone to do its work.
I'm a big fan of "Veronica Mars," as you've no doubt guessed. All of us kids at school are. We have the show's logo on our gym shoes, Kristin Bell's picture in our lockers and chortle over all the super-cool things she says -- especially her knack for making every grown-up within a 100-mile radius look like a corrupt, dunderheaded hypocrite. (In truth, what some of us graybeards in the "Mars" battalions love most is the model relationship of her schlubby father -- played by Enrico Colantoni -- and his hair-raisingly clever and resourceful and charismatic daughter. We've -- uhhh -- been there.)
The forthcoming merger of the WB and UPN was a huge story, if you ask me. It didn't usually come off that way because what was huge about it was down there in the fine print. To wit: it was an open admission that raw youth-pandering just doesn't make it in American media anymore.
Both the WB and the UPN were aimed at youth and/or minority demographics and, except for a few shows, both couldn't make a go of it. A lesson was learned. The two were married off in the hope that their few winners could stand alone.
Don't look now, but that ominous, piercing sound you hear that resembles an Eminem-filled iPOD in the morning -- or a bass-thumping SUV pulling up next to you at the stoplight -- is the sound of a nice, hefty crack forming in the wall of 18-to-34 demographic worship that has been flushing American media down the tubes for the past 20 years.
The hard truth is that the two baby networks just couldn't make it on their own. Grownups had to step in and start making sense of the mess. That, we can now see bold and plain, is what happens when you put two many eggs in kiddie baskets -- you wind up with a soupy and eventually stinking yellow mess on the floor.
Which brings me to CBS' "Love Monkey," a delightful show whose demographic appeal is an oh-so-clever illusion. Before it went on the air, the network promos quoted some benighted TV critics elsewhere extolling it as "hip."
If "Love Monkey" is musically hip, I'm Kanye West. A show about a label's A&R (artist and repertoire) man couldn't possibly get less hip than "Love Monkey" which is precisely what's cool about it. Its maximum claim to currency, thus far, has been to float cameos by Ben Folds (looking a week overdue for a shampoo) and LeAnn Rimes. We are, to put it blandly, not exactly talking about a pop culture intelligence here that is screaming up the charts with a bullet.
A good thing, that. Though it's about some urban males shooting hoops, chasing women (and, in one closet case, men) and hanging out in bars, it is, to its credit, much softer-edged than "Sex and the City," for all the emo-whining.
These guys are all either damaged or confused or both. All -- especially Tom Cavanagh as the corny, idealistic music exec -- are major life wounds in waiting. Cavanagh speaks in the same wildly unreal way he did in "Ed." Prolix "wit" tumbles noisily through his sentences like clothes in a laundromat dryer. His best friend is a woman who adores him and is six times tougher and shrewder than he'll ever be. His closest workmate is a goddess (played by Ivana Milicevic). He hasn't figured out how to deal with her either.
Machismo takes a weekly drubbing in "Love Monkey" (unlike "Sex and the City" which is all about machisma in flower). That's the show's whole point. It's about the exact opposite of what it purports to present. It's about being sensitive and hopelessly unhip in a world that operates on cool.
It's a TV show about New York, then, designed to play in Peoria.
It wears its conflicted heart on its sleeve and, even better, it completely and entertainingly takes us out of the TV world of law and order and illness and death for an hour. And if its hero ever meets a grownup Veronica Mars, TV will have its perfect couple.