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I Love Television™

On Beating Dead Horses

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OKAY, HAS ANYONE ever actually "beaten a dead horse"? You hear that phrase a lot (especially in this column), but have you ever seen or heard of anyone actually going through with it? I'm really wracking my brain here, trying to think of any conceivable occasion where one might be inclined to physically assault a dead horse. Okay... how about this: Let's say the horse was the mastermind behind a huge Ponzi scheme that robbed me and my family of millions. But before I could have the horse arrested, he overdoses on a big pile of snort he was enjoying with some high-priced call girls and drops dead on the spot. I rush into the room to find him dead, and seeing that my opportunity for revenge has been dashed, perhaps I would be tempted to beat the horse—you know, out of sheer frustration.

However, since there would still be some cute hookers hanging around, I'd probably just chill out with those guys first. And you know what? After a couple of snorts of leftover horse coke, I'd probably realize I have some grudging respect for this dead animal—even though he totally ripped me off. I might even think, "That horse really had some huge balls." And who knows? Maybe I'd peek under the horse's leg to see if I was right.

So even though the horse may really deserve it, I'd never beat him. Because... he's dead. And only a freaking idiot beats a dead horse. And yet? That's what the ABC network continues to do on a regular basis!! (Anyone who wants to nominate that last sentence for the "Segue of the Year Award," feel free.)

You've undoubtedly noticed that this is the final season of Lost, yes? And when it goes, so goes ABC's dominance in the field of television science fiction. Oh, sure—they've fought tooth and nail to hold on to that dominance by loading up their schedules with a pantload of sci-fi selections like V, FlashForward, and such blessedly short-lived shows as The Nine, Day Break, and Life on Mars.

Unfortunately, ABC has yet to realize that Lost was one of those rare "lightning in a bottle" shows that pop up, capture the public's imagination, die a slow painful death, and then disappear to be replaced by the next flavor of the moment. It happened with Twin Peaks, it happened with Seinfeld, it happened with The Cosby Show, it happened with Friends—and yet? These networks never seem to realize that it was the innovation behind these shows that made them popular—so instead of searching out creative new shows, they settle for Law & Order... and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit... and Law & Order: Criminal Intent... and Law & Order: Trial by Jury... and next season? Law & Order: Department of Dead Horse Abuse.

So my advice to ABC: Just let Lost go. Forget the whole sci-fi copycat craze, and start focusing on innovation. Find the next Sopranos. Scour the screenwriting community for another J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon. Rip off a crazy Japanese game show—just stop beating the dead horse. It makes you look like an idiot, and I'm pretty sure the horse doesn't like it.

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