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Where are the reruns?

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

These are dire times, tubers.

Just as I'd finally made peace with saying goodbye to many of my favorite shows this year, network executives delivered the final blow last week.

The prime time TV rerun has now joined the eight-track tape and the leg warmer.

It's extinct. Over. Stick-a-fork-in-it done.

The networks rolled out summer and fall schedules recently, and it's clear that reruns have no place among the reality TV-infested lineups.

NBC and Fox are switching to year-round schedules and will not air repeats for series such as "The West Wing."

ABC is also abandoning the customary September-May season. The network plans to air "Alias" in January, not September, without interruptions and without repeats. "NYPD Blue" will air during the first half of the season without reruns, too.

The WB won't repeat shows such as "Everwood" or "One Tree Hill," either.

Network honchos explained that the format switch is a way for them to compete with cable.

They claim their ratings suffer during summer repeats and that audiences turn to cable in search of new programming.

They also claim that viewers now record and store programs, so the demand to re-air shows is not what it used to be.

Note to TV honchos: Not everyone has TIVO!

I know change is supposed to be good and all that. But I can't help but mourn the loss of yet another TV tradition.

For me, summer isn't just for sandals, swimming pools and lemonade. It's a time to catch all the shows that I missed during the regular season. (Yes, even an adept TV diva such as myself misses an episode here and there, despite the fact that my VCR recording list could rival "War and Peace" in length.)

Not only has summer traditionally been the time to watch repeats, it's always given me a chance to check out other shows I couldn't quite fit into my fall schedule.

This summer, I was hoping to watch "Joan of Arcadia," "Two and a Half Men," "JAG," the season finale of "NYPD Blue" and a few episodes of "The West Wing."

The odds of that happening now are not good.

I'm convinced the whole thing is a plot to make us buy DVDs. Am I wrong here?

I'm not averse to networks launching new series in the summer. Hey, it worked for "The O.C.," "Survivor," and "Nip/Tuck." It makes sense to start a new show and build an audience when there's not much competition. But it seems that instead of reruns of scripted programs, networks are replacing them with more reality garbage.

The TV landscape is becoming more and more unrecognizable.

I tend to forget that it's not just about entertaining us. It's business. It's about what can score ratings and sell ads.

What I find ironic about the entire situation is that networks are abandoning reruns in an attempt to trump cable channels, yet many of us who watch cable are actually tuning in for reruns. Who out there hasn't been channel surfing, only to settle on an old episode of "Seinfeld," "M*A*S*H" or "Friends?"

I predict that in a couple years, the word "rerun" will no longer be a part of our vocabulary, unless referring to that lovable character on "What's Happening!"

Canceled shows: Some of you have asked me if a particular show has been renewed or canceled for next year. The best source on the Web I've found for keeping tabs on show status is www.thefutoncritic.com. Here's a list of some popular shows that will not be returning next year: "Boston Public," "Boomtown," "The Guardian," "Karen Sisco," "Whoopi," "Wonderfalls," "Married to the Kellys," "Hack," "The District," "Good Morning, Miami" and "Becker."

Smallville: Say it with me, "Chloe is not dead. Chloe is not dead." The season finale of "Smallville" was hands-down the most shocking of any show this year. It appeared that Lex, Jonathon and Chloe all bit the dust in beautiful, slow-motion cinematography, while an imprisoned Lionel had his head shaved to that creepy music. And I'm not buying for one minute that Clark Kent is permanently gone from planet Earth. We all know better. He hasn't even learned to fly yet. But, wow, what an ending!

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or by e-mail at jbiller@exponent-telegram.com