The November Sweeps have arrived. What I'm doing in their honor is this: sweeping into one corner of the paper (this one) all the most Overlooked Pleasures of current TV I can think of -- and along with them, some of the most overlooked TV heroes. For instance:
1. Eagle Eagilsson, cinematographer of "CSI Miami." He's so good at what he does that they made him an associate producer of the show. Not only does the sun-dazzled, tropic-colored "CSI Miami" look completely different from other "CSI" shows, it doesn't really look like any other show I've ever seen, not even "Miami Vice."
Granted, the show's production design is brilliant (have any police forensic wizards anywhere in the known universe ever worked in a building with interiors as beautiful as that one's?) but it took an incredible cinematographer to know how to film inside that set. It's said that CBS uber-honcho Les Moonves loves sunshine in his shows but even he couldn't possibly have imagined what "CSI: Miami" does with it.
If you haven't noticed how singular-looking a TV show "CSI: Miami" is, it's probably because you don't yet own a high-def TV set. I assure you that when you finally do get one, it will look downright hallucinatory sometimes.
2. Tom Bergeron, reality show host. He's as glib and funny as any host of anything has ever been in prime time. Nobody does it better. It makes me feel sad for the rest, as Sister Carly would say. Listen to his unscripted comments after every round of judging and every dance on "Dancing with the Stars." They've got so much smooth, low-pressure wit that you wish the rest of the show weren't as scripted as it is.
Between "Dancing with the Stars" and his deeply unfortunate video blooper show (whose name shall not pass through these fingers), he's too busy being a prime-time junk TV star to be doing what he clearly has an incredible natural gift for -- talk show host, or at the very least, sidekick on one for a star comic (a Fenniman to a Groucho or, at the very least, an Andy Richter to a Conan O'Brien). But then why would he take the pay cut? Too bad.
3. Shannon Sharpe, Pigskin Clown. Just who invented the role of Pigskin Clown is up for debate. I'd nominate "Dandy" Don Meredith, whose way of putting up with Howard Cosell on "Monday Night Football" was to fill every available crack with 86-proof good old boy charm.
Terry Bradshaw changed it on Fox's Sunday football team from Meredith's bottled-in-bond country smoothness (Jack Daniels, straight up, no ice) to a bald hillbilly, Lil Abner looking for Daisy Mae. He's gotten more mileage out of pseudo-naivete than any grinning hillbilly has since the era, decades ago, when they were the staple of god-awful sitcoms.
I like the Pigskin Clowns. They know their football, generally, but the after-dinner act they layer on top of all that is practiced and a whole lot more entertaining on Sunday afternoons than a lot of what passes for comedy prime time.
Sharpe, of CBS' football roundelays, is doing the kind of magpie trash talk Deion Sanders was trying to do some years ago but was too much of a self-adoring jerk to carry off. Sharpe, a former Denver tight end and brother of ex-Green Bay Packer Sterling Sharpe, is sometimes genuinely funny. Sometimes, he tries so hard to be funny that the embarrassment of watching him try is, in a different way, funny after all, just as he wanted it to be.
The addition of former Steeler coach Bill Cowher to the CBS Sunday football team has been a godsend for Sharpe. For all his football savvy, Cowher is so lackluster that, by contrast alone, Sharpe sounds like Chris Rock -- a locker room anarchist ready to lather up every jockstrap in sight with Icy Hot just to keep the boys loose.
It seems to me Sharpe's got it going on.
4. Jean Smart, TV's sexiest and funniest "mature" woman. Who'd have thought, back when "Designing Women" was the gender ambiguity comedy of the moment (there's usually at least one) that Jean Smart would turn out to be its last woman standing? But she's the last on that show still plugging away at prime time, as the ditzy mother on "Samantha Who?" And, at 56, she's as funny as ever -- maybe funnier.
In the meantime, of course, we've seen her as the ex-wife of Craig T. Nelson on "The District," and even, before Charlize Theron got an Oscar out of it, as Aileen Wuornos, America's most famous female serial killer. In its quiet way, that's a heck of a lot of range.
A suggestion, then, to Oprah, Ellen, Regis and the sorority at "The View": If Jean Smart is a quarter as smart in life as she is functioning as an actress, she's a talk show guest just waiting to happen.
Then again, she may have to wait until Tom Bergeron gets his own show.