Tell The History Of Now
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Set your VCR: Reality shows clash against comedy staples

I vow to stay strong. I will not give in. I will remain loyal. With words as strong as these, you would expect me to talk about something really important, right? Well, I am.

I'm talking about the current "Survivor" vs. "Friends" war now being battled on Thursday nights. Sure, I watched the original "Survivor." Heck, I got way into it. I loved Sue's tirade against Kelly, watching Rudy insult everyone, Sean's alphabetical elimination plan ... but I digress. The point is that while the original "Survivor" was must-see TV, it had two factors working in its favor: its novelty, and the fact that it was a summer thing. Of course people watched it: There were no other options at the time.

But that's changed with the commencement of "Survivor 2: The Australian Outback." CBS chose to air it against NBC's Thursday night line up, forcing audiences without special VCR technology to choose between the game show and "Friends," an 8 p.m. staple for the last decade.

"Friends," a series whose comical growth has risen constantly over the past six seasons, finally seems to have reached a plateau. But that plateau also happens to be its zenith. Audiences may have become tired of the show, now an elder statesman of the television dial, but the truth is that it remains equally rewarding for its cast and audience.

The best thing about the "Survivor" attack is that it has forced NBC to retaliate. As a result, the peacock network created "Super Size Thursday," showing just how malleable the medium of network television can be. "Friends" will air unedited 40-minute episodes during the February sweeps month period, followed by several new sketches from the "Saturday Night Live" cast.

This is good news and bad news for NBC. Fans of the show should have no argument with the one opportunity to see the special elongated episodes, which will be then trimmed down for syndication, and the post-election debacle has provided "SNL," now a quarter-of-a-century old, with a renaissance.

On the other hand, NBC's scramble to restructure shows just how few heavy hitters the network has right now. Apparently, they did not have confidence that any other sitcom could rival the CBS juggernaut. Well, I don't care. "Friends" has always been there for me on Thursdays; I won't abandon them in their hour (or two-thirds of an hour) of need.

I may sound very strong about how I spend my Thursday nights, but that's only because I become a total weakling the night before. Yep, I set a tape of NBC's Wednesday night lineup (the best three-hour block of the week), and head over to my friends' house to watch "Temptation Island," FOX's ode to epicurean desire.

I can dress it up however I want, and use as many big words as possible, but no matter what, the show remains a huge sleaze-fest.

And I love it.

Admittedly, I'm a late bloomer, having begun watching during the third episode. The way the producers manipulate the "contestants" is amazing, turning the least compromising position into a major scandal. But whether the couples in question stay together or not, does anyone care? They all strike me as being able to bounce into relationships as quickly as they bounce out of them. Whether Mandy and Billy stay together is not nearly as important a question as what shape Mandy's hair will take on, if you ask me.

So FOX does what it has always done best - provide cheap thrills for people all too eager to enjoy them. If "Friends" is no longer a hot-button show and "Temptation Island" is, maybe we've changed the rules for cheating. Now it doesn't matter whether a couple is on a break or not, just as long as they're on television when it happens.

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