Twenty Years Later...What I Remember

A look back at September 2001

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September 2021 marks 20 years since the publication of TV Guide's Fall Preview special issue for the 2001–2002 season, which I remembered this week because the bookshelf in my parents' guest room contains—for reasons I'm not sure anyone in the family is clear on—the entire run of TV Guide Fall Preview issues from 1995–2005.

The 2001–2002 preview is dated September 15–21, 2001, and it contains television listings for that week, but subscribers received their issues days in advance. I can't remember when this one arrived; it may have been as early as the Tuesday before.

The first thing I want to note is that I thought Jill Hennessy, Kim Delaney, and Jennifer Garner all starred together in some now-forgotten show, but in fact they were promoting three separate shows, specifically Crossing Jordan, Philly, and Alias. For many years, TV Guide Fall Preview covers featured just text and graphics. It wasn't until the 2000-2001 season preview that they began featuring photos of actors. I think it was a mistake, personally, though it may have helped at the newsstand. (By the 2000s, TV Guide's circulation was beginning to decline, as more Americans found out what was on TV by going to the channel that told you what was on TV. We didn't get TV Guide for the listings, though—I always preferred the listings that came with the Star-Tribune—we subscribed for features like the annual Fall Preview.)

I didn't remember this Frasier episode at first, though it certainly seemed like a major one. I looked up the plot synopsis, and sort of remembered the episode, and it's a complete cop-out: While the credited actresses all appear, their characters do not figure into the plot—Frasier is just imagining or dreaming them. I asked Frasier aficionado Libby Watson, author of Sick Note, if this was a good one or not. Her report: “not bad compared to the rest of season 9, I think.”

Unfold this ad, as I did, and you will discover the biggest mystery of this Fall Preview. As you can clearly see, Crossing Jordan was set to air during NBC's "Premiere Week," on Monday, September 17. The Wikipedia entry for “List of entertainment affected by the September 11 attacks” (I was reminded of this Wikipedia entry by Brian Feldman's excellent Defector story on whether or not the Turtle Club scene in Master of Disguise was actually filmed on September 11, 2001) claims that “several series, such as NBC's Crossing Jordan, were originally scheduled to debut on September 11.” No source is cited for this claim. The Wikipedia entry for Crossing Jordan itself makes this claim: “Crossing Jordan premiered in 2001 on NBC; originally scheduled to debut on September 11, its launch was pushed back due to the terrorist attacks on that date.” Similarly, no source is cited for this claim.

Now, either Crossing Jordan's premiere had already been moved due to terrorist attacks that happened on September 11 and no one thought to mention those attacks anywhere in this issue of TV Guide, including in the Fall Preview's own entry for Crossing Jordan, which also features the scheduled premiere date of September 17, or these unsourced claims in these two Wikipedia entries are simply wrong.


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Here are the new network shows TV Guide was previewing 20 years ago this week, and my memories of them.

Never watched Alias but I remember Alias.

No recollection of this one.

One somewhat jarring thing in old TV Guides is how critical they were. The Fall Preview is both promotional in nature and a prime example of access entertainment journalism, but TV Guide had enough power over which new shows would earn an audience that its editors and writers felt free to be brutally honest in their assessments of each premiering series. Now, that sort of honest criticism is largely a separate venture from the promotional stuff—it would seem odd to see an entertainment outlet quote an exclusive interview with a show’s creator or producer, and then immediately shit on the show. Back then it was normal. This one seems bad and, uh, if you read the blurb, it has probably not been improved by time. Don't remember it.

Sort of remember the name Men, Women & Dogs. Obviously I remember Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

No recollection of Off Centre. The preview for UC: Undercover notably features a very blatant spoiler for the second episode, and I'm also not buying that they didn’t mean to include the show’s main character in the pilot. That's nonsense. Don’t remember it.

Definitely know about Crossing Jordan, couldn't tell you the premise until I read this. I love Miguel Ferrer, though. (Also, as you can see, Crossing Jordan was clearly scheduled to premiere on Monday, September 17, and not the previous Tuesday. If a network believed in a series they’d never air it before the Fall Preview!)

Always love when the main character has the same first name as the star but a different last name. Classic TV stuff. I remember this one sort of.

How much do you think Joe Queenan made for these couple hundred words? I probably don't want to know.

I’m including this because it struck me as a very turn-of-the-millennium magazine ad. (Also evidence for the Long ’90s.) I know a lot of Boomers have a thing with the 1960s and hippies where they all imagine they were somehow part of that whole deal, like how every English person between 60 and 80 imagines they experienced the Blitz, but the actual hippies surely had, for the most part, adult or nearly-adult children by 2001, not "growing families." 

Boy do I remember 24! I didn't actually watch it when it aired, for the most part (as you might be figuring out by now, I was a teenager in 2001 and had largely stopped watching network television, and not just because television was about to get much, much worse). It's one of the more consequentially evil pieces of fiction ever created and also just terrific entertainment. Hear it's coming back, hope my gal Chloe is up for one more adventure!

I do remember that Emeril had a show. Feels like you don't see a lot of Emeril these days.

Undeclared! I actually watched this one. Don't know if it holds up. Always forget Jay Baruchel was in this and not Freaks and Geeks. The "TV Guide Fall Preview Favorite" endorsement was not enough to save it.

I suppose this is not a novel observation but everything about their post-Seinfeld careers has proven that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the only one in the group who has any clue which projects to choose. I remembered “Jason Alexander had a bad-looking new show around then,” but I didn’t remember the name.

I guess The Guardian ran for a few years? I don't remember it, but I remember Simon Baker from The Mentalist (he's The Mentalist). As for Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage, TV Guide rarely hid its contempt for reality shows in this era. (Don't remember this.)

I remember Smallville. It’s perhaps the first piece of mainstream Big Two superhero media that I was ever totally uninterested in.

I remember Scrubs. Think I decided I was too cool for it early on. John C. McGinley's great in everything, though. Don't remember Philly.

I recognized this art immediately as the work of Ward Sutton, a.k.a. The Onion’s "Kelly," the genius creator of the Sickos meme. I think he was doing a cartoon for the Village Voice back then. He probably got a decent amount of money for this job, too! Much harder to make a living in cartoons now.

First Star Trek show (that I was alive for) that I didn't watch. (I was too busy hanging out with my girlfriend.) Do remember it, though.

Everyone remembers According to Jim and The Amazing Race. Here’s a fun fact I uncovered while doing extensive research for this post: The 2002 season of Survivor, which began filming in November 2001, was originally supposed to be set in Jordan. It was moved to French Polynesia.

I remember The Bernie Mac Show. I don't remember Wolf Lake but I wonder if Stephenie Meyer does?

I loved The Tick, which I remember.

Sort of remember Inside Schwartz, or at least the terrible name. I remember the concept of Elimidate.

I sort of remember this. Certainly some really interesting timing for this and 24 to premiere the same autumn. Here's some fun facts about the show The Agency:

  • It was supposed to premiere at CIA headquarters before airing on CBS. (According to Wikipedia, but Wikipedia also has the show's original intended airdate wrong, again, which is quite curious.)

  • The first episode was about an al-Qaeda terrorist attack.

  • That pilot was pulled for, according to someone who worked on the show, "episode 6, which was about preventing the assassination of Fidel Castro," a classic CIA thing to do.

I remember The Ellen Show.

Don’t remember either of these.

I don't remember Thieves. I'm surprised I don't remember Pasadena; it's a Mike White show.

I remember Reba, and I remember the MST3K bit where the Mads were promoting a country radio station called “Frank” that promised "More Reba!", and I remember the ads for the real-life Twin Cities country music station called “Bob,” featuring the slogan "Turn your knob to BOB!," that also promised "More Reba."

I don't remember Raising Dad and I didn't know Gilmore Girls was partially created by an advertiser group!

Don't remember Citizen Baines.

That’s it for the Fall Preview, except for syndicated shows, made-for-TV movies, and a few cable shows, most of which I don’t really remember, besides Harvey Birdman: Attorney-at-Law, which gets a little sidebar blurb.

What are your memories of that long-ago September, and the various shows that premiered that fall on the major networks? Sound off in the comments or drop me a line by responding to this email (which is, at this point, not an email, because it’s too long and has too many pictures).

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