Best of the Box '98
By Devin D. O'Leary
JANUARY 11, 1999:
"Crocodile Hunter" (Animal Planet) Nutty Aussie
herpetologist Steve Irwin, his intrepid wife Terri and their hapless
dog Suey circled the globe looking for dangerous reptiles to wrestle
with, and we tuned in addictively. Steve's unbridled enthusiasm
and unchecked bravura resulted in some of 1998's funniest "do
as I say, not as I do" highlights. "This is the third
most poisonous snake in the world," chirps Steve as he snatches
up some puzzled reptile by the tail. "I'm 200 miles from
the nearest hospital. If he bites me now, I'm a goner!"
It's like watching "Wild Kingdom" on crack. Gimme more.
"The Daily Show" (Comedy Central) We're still
waiting to see how replacement host Jon Stewart will do behind
the desk of CC's sarcastic news show in 1999, but we have Craig
Kilborn to thank for a sublime year of snide quips, rude comments
and easy presidential potshots. If only Dan Rather were this funny.
We'll be watching attentively as Craig takes over hosting duties
on CBS' "The Late, Late Show."
"Friends" (NBC) Thursday night's Must See TV
fell apart after "Seinfeld" lit out. "Frasier"
seems to be in a holding pattern, "Veronica's Closet"
has become unwatchable and "Jesse" just plain stinks.
Thank the Cathode Ray for "Friends," though. It overcame
the early hype machine, it weathered the criticism of big star
salaries and it's grown funnier every year. An ensemble cast with
Swiss watch timing and scripts that are willing to exploit every
possible "friendship" angle have made for a killer season:
Chandler and Monica trysting on the sly, sad sack Ross shacking-up
at Joey and Chandler's pad, Phoebe giving birth to triplets. NBC
ought to be thanking their lucky stars this show is so good.
"Maximum Bob" (ABC) It's a cryin' shame that
1998's best new series wasn't even a series. ABC gave Barry (Men
In Black) Sonnenfeld's hilarious adaptation of the Elmore
(Get Shorty) Leonard novel a six-week summer run and that
was it. The show gave Beau Bridges his best role in years as the
corrupt but lovable titular judge. The eccentric cast (including
Bob's mermaid-turned-psychic channeler wife) recalled "Northern
Exposure" in its heyday. Producers are trying to sell the
show to cable now. Wake up, ABC, and make this a midseason replacement!
Merlin (NBC) I'd forgotten how good a TV
mini-series could be until this fantasy-filled extravaganza popped
up. Dazzling special effects, an epic storyline and some big name
stars (Sam Neill, Helena Bonham Carter, Miranda Richardson, John
Gielgud, Isabella Rossellini) made Merlin the premier
TV event of 1998. This TV classic-to-be also proved that Martin
Short is a fantastic actor. Who knew?