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War Kills Prime-Time Programming

LOS ANGELES, CA (SP) — As the military campaign in Iraq winds down, millions of Americans have experienced the grim realities of war, with many of their favorite television programs being pre-empted in favor of round-the-clock war coverage.

Among the hardest hit have been fans of NBCís "Must See TV" lineup. Popular shows such as "Frasier", "Friends" and "ER" were all casualties of war.

"I was really looking forward to 'Watching Ellie'", says Ross Eisley of Yuma, Az., referring to the Julia Louis-Dreyfuss sitcom that had been in hiatus since last spring. "Instead, Iím watching Ted Coppell giving live updates from the middle of the Iraqi desert at four in the morning. Now I know why they say that war is hell!"

Harvard law student Daniel Smith believes that the war has had a tangible effect on his studies. "My brain ceases to function unless Iíve had my weekly dosage of 'That 70's Show' and 'Malcolm in the Middle'," he explains, referring to a pair of popular FOX sitcoms.

Reality television viewers are also experiencing their share of withdrawal symptoms. "I donít care how many times a contestant on 'Survivor' or 'Fear Factor' has been forced to eat a fresh turd. That stuff just never gets old!", says Lise Levesque of French Lick, Ind.

Cable television viewers have also been profoundly affected by the war. Whereas Atlanta Superstation TBS has traditionally been known for showing light-hearted teen comedies such as "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Buellerís Day Off" on almost a daily basis, the station is now opting for war-themed films such as "Full Metal Jacket" and "Apocalypse Now". "If they show 'Starship Troopers' one more time, I donít think Iíll be able to resist the urge to throw something at my television set," exclaimed a war-weary Eisley.

Even viewers of news channels such as CNN are growing tired of the unrelenting war coverage. "Before the war," suggests Stephen Paul of Reston, Va., "the great thing about 'Larry King Live' was that on any given night, you might enjoy a very serious, probing discussion with world leaders and political commentators, but it was just as likely that youíd see Larry chatting with D-list celebrities such as Pauley Shore and Latoya Jackson. Now, youíd think that the war on Iraq is the only thing going on in the world!"

Washington Post television critic Tom Shales has a suggestion for network executives: "Looking at the Nielsen ratings, itís clear that Americans have had enough of the war. In my opinion, CNN should simply cut its losses, cancel its war coverage, and fill the timeslot with a proven ratings winner, such as reruns of the O.J. trial."

The horror! The horror!

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