Don't know where 413 Hope St. is? Don't know who Dellaventura or Hiller & Diller are? Then you're not primed for the slate of new prime-time TV shows. If you go online, you'll find hype from the networks, expert analysis from e-zines and even a little sass from cynical types.
Ironically, the Web is becoming a great source of information about TV, with almost every network putting up glitzy sites and fans filling in the gaps. Many media types see online surfing eating into the time that people channel-surf, and the big networks have fought back on the PC's own turf.
At NBC.com, you'll find "Must See TV U.," with pop quizzes regarding stars of its popular Thursday night lineup. "Young people are drawn to the glow of the most popular teaching tool ever invented," reads the copy. "No, not the PC, the TV!" And ABC's dumbed-down advertising approach to luring viewers is evident at ABC.com, where page headers include "It's a beautiful day . . . what are you doing outside?" and "The couch is your friend" and "Life is short. Watch TV."
NBC.com is planning to give "The Pretender" and "Profiler" more online synergy, as it did to "Homicide." But it's also launched a TNBC site called "At the Max," for teens who watch NBC's Saturday morning lineup. The site will have special chat areas, an interactive gaming zone and surveys relating to serious teen issues.
But CBS.com has provided the most info on its fall lineup online, with Virtual Press Tour '97 giving the public the behind-the-scenes dirt from this summer's press junket. What used to come out as bite-sized chunks in the daily papers now is unedited promotion in all its glory. Want to read a Q&A; with CBS' newest newsmagazine host, Bryant Gumbel? Or see pictures of the stars of Steven Bochco's latest cop drama, "Brooklyn South"? Maybe you'd like to read network honcho Leslie Moonves' entire strategy speech for fall (two words: "get younger")? It's all there.
UPN.com has only a schedule to show for fall, and the WB is still a no-show, but fan Aaron Greenhouse has put up a useful unofficial WB site (www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~aaron2/wb/wb.html), which has more extensive links than any official site.
Fox, meanwhile, has beefed up its TV-related site (www.foxworld.com/entindx.htm) with an interactive space for "America's Most Wanted" (www.amw.com), letting you send in tips. The animated show "King of the Hill" has its own site too, with biting sound bites from the main characters.
But Fox has pulled out all the stops with "The Simpsons," not only releasing a CD-ROM game called Virtual Springfield, but also giving away a life-sized replica of the Simpsons home during the season premiere, Sept. 21. The game, not unlike a "Beavis and Butt-head" game called Virtual Stupidity, lets you explore the cartoon town of Springfield, thumbing through faux magazines at the Quik-E-Mart or viewing censored TV at the Flanders' house. Plus there are mini-games such as Larry the Looter, or a water balloon toss from Bart's treehouse.
If you tire of the company line, you can read less biased opinions at UltimateTV (www.ulimatetv.com) and E!Online (www.eonline.com). UltimateTV is a breathtaking site for boobtubers, with an assortment of schedule grids, star chats and even TV job listings. E!Online also has a splashy fall roundup called "Totally Tube."
If you're about ready to shoot your TV, check out TV Hole (www.tvhole.com), which mercilessly skewers the industry, stars, commercials--anything that moves on-screen. A breath of fresh hot air.
Mark Glaser is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. You can reach him at McGlaze@aol.com