2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best "Unreal" Reality Show or Best Reality Show Spin-off

Did Fox's American Idol deserve the flattery of this kind of imitation? Austin's homage, Gimme the Mike!, followed its more famous predecessor's formula, but took the high road by reversing the trend of most spin-offs: being more wholesome and less complicated than its inspiration. Admittedly, this squeaky-clean approach made for a less desperate fan base, as the Austin version lacked American Idol's main draw: its bitchy judges. Local celebrity judges Mark Murray, Sara Hickman, and Danny Levin could not toss off an insult to save their lives, bless their little hearts. Instead, they focused on the positives, complimenting stage presence if the pitch was off, or tone when the performance was lackluster. Host Michael Jenkins did his best Ryan Seacrest, pretending to hit on contestants. Rounding out the team was perky and pun-happy Quita Culpepper interviewing guests backstage. Through the somewhat saccharine yet always genuine excitement, the show did a great job of exposing local talent. Wardrobes were provided by local clothing boutiques, and the grand prize was a professionally recorded demo and eight weeks of music-business classes at an Austin area music institute.

3201 Steck

Best Access Video Show

You never know quite what to expect from host Denver and his Friday Night Videos program on public access TV. Anything from a "think piece" on the Astrodome (a shot of the sun gradually going down on the Astrodome with no dialogue, just music in the background), to a Smith's tribute, to a program on videos too hot for TV. Well, they're not actually too hot for TV, but with sexy guest VJ Yasmin Kittles, who cares?

Channel Austin
1143 Northwestern

Best Aspiring Journalists

With a little determination and lot of moxie, two former UT students recognized the need for a publication to reach a large but untapped audience: Latina girls. With a few dollars from various angels, Laura Donnelly and Alicia Rascon launched Latinitas, one of the most successful Webzines made by and for Latinas. Under adult guidance, Latinas from across Austin (and the nation) write, edit, and determine content of this rapidly developing publication. Viva Latinitas!

4926 E. Cesar Chavez

Best Austin Blogger

For some time now we’ve been meaning to throw much-deserved props Prentiss’ way, for his techno-savvy, sometimes political, all-the-time entertaining blog. So bravo goes to this self-proclaimed aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada, who must never sleep, for keeping his blog always chock-full of the quirkiest, funkiest, and most humorous bits and pieces that make Austin, well … Austin. Prentiss must spend hours daily scouring the Internet to tickle his own funny bone, finding the best Jesus of the week. (This week it’s a starring role in Dude. Where’s My Cross?) Above all, Prentiss is hip to all that’s clever and witty in Austin, shooting photos of hilarious bumper stickers ("Itchy Gringo" a re-creation of the ever-elusive "Titty Bingo" sticker), graffiti worth noting (a ponderous Goethe quote scrawled behind Burger Tex), and whatever else this brilliant blog visionary deems noteworthy.

2002-A Guadalupe, PMB 285

Best Freudian Headline Writing

Well, we expect those Longhorny students to have it on the brain; as for Perry … perhaps this says something about those rumors we heard? Or maybe those aren't misspellings – perhaps it means the DPS will take over textbook selection for UT. Must abstain, must abstain, must …

The Austin Student<

Best Job Sticking It to the Man

For years the FCC has struck fear in the hearts of independent radio stations nationwide, deregulating the airwaves to the point of corporate stranglehold. For the past two years, a local band of briny brigands has struck back. Operating from an undisclosed location somewhere in South Austin, pirate radio station KAOS 95.9FM offers an alternative to commercially driven, government-sanctioned radio. For two years, KAOS has pummeled the airwaves with enough metal, punk, and hardcore to melt eardrums. Shows such as Drunk-Club and Black Bedtime Stories have the power to keep listeners tuned in for hours. It may be hard to pick up the station’s weak signal outside of South Austin, but a live feed is available from their Web site.

KAOS Radio Austin
4400 Ridge Oak

Best Left-Wing Nut

Like a cranked-up Max Headroom, this animated, gray-shocked talking head hosts one of ACTV's most mysteriously compelling programs. OK, for the record (especially to pre-empt the eye-rolls from our conspiracy-munching libertarian pals): Similar to our BOA endorsement of Alex Jones way back in 1997 (Best-Looking Crank), this award is for showmanship and the ability to compel as much as anything else – no, really. See, Perry is much like your typical yammering crank on access, save for one little detail: He's the "L" word. Yup. Between the stutter-loop editing, cheesy production, and liberal doses of liberal screed (yes, we said "liberal," but trust us, it's still screed ...), Perry Logan's public access TV show keeps our fingers off the remote and firmly on top of our noggins, where we are still scratching. Something about this pontificating professorial elf keeps us glued. Plus, he's cute as a bug and passionate like Alex in that similarly bug-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth kind of way.

Best Reminder of Public Television's Pertinence

We hear – almost daily, it seems – about the dangers growing up poor in Texas. Thousands of kids dumped from CHIP insurance, resources for mental health and a juvenile "correctional" system stretched dangerously thin. But it's entirely different to put a face to the statistics, which is what the searing documentary Are the Kids Alright? does. Mobilus Media's Karen Bernstein and Ellen Spiro spent two years surveying the damage state budget cuts have done to mental health care accessibility for juveniles, and came to the frightening conclusion that oftentimes help comes too late, after our youngest have slid through the cracks. The poignant moments in courtrooms, homes, and intake facilities caught by this incisive film sadly attest to that. Above all, Are the Kids Alright? should serve as a wake-up call, a rallying cry that no, they're not, and we aren't either, for letting that happen.

Mobilus Media
PO Box 685318

Best Retired Meteorologist

After Mr. Smith's bow from the airwaves earlier this year, we felt compelled to examine and honor the life of Fox's former morning forecaster. Graduating from the University of Houston in 1960, Gordon enlisted in the Army, where he worked behind the scenes on several USO tours featuring the likes of Bob Hope. Coming back to Texas in 1965, he served as KXAN's meteorologist for an astounding 20 years before taking a break. In 1991, he returned to television at KTBC, Austin's oldest station, once owned by Lady Bird Johnson and at that time a CBS affiliate. Up until his recent retirement, Gordon most recently helmed the "News in the Morning" weather for KTBC (which turned into FOX 7 in 1995) with friendliness, warmth, and a modest elegance that will sorely be missed.

Fox 7
119 E. 10th

Best Televised Moderator / Gardener

Best known for his long running gig as PBS' Central Texas Gardener ("the CTG," to y'all in the know) and his more recent stint as the host of acclaimed local news magazine Austin NOW, less is known about Spencer's 20 plus years behind the scenes at KLRU. When not cementing KLRU's status as one of PBS' nationally lauded stations, his passion lies in documentary work: His directorial work on The Painted Churches of Texas led to its acclaim as Historical Documentary of the Year by the National Educational Telecommunications Association. He has also helmed Austin Remember When, a loving paean to bygone days of Capitol City, and hosted Austin at Issue, an in-depth round table with the city's leaders and precursor to NOW. Despite all this, he finds the time to update his topiary Web site,, and host The Greenthumb Hour on 590AM KLBJ.

2504-B Whitis

Best Underground Comic Publication

Hitler would've called it degenerate art. It certainly depicts humanity's underbelly – Mr. Hyde rather than Dr. Jekyll. For nearly six years, this coterie of gifted local and national artists has held its jagged mirror up to the world and given us a bimonthly dose of the absurd, the whimsical, and the psychological. If you like linear narratives and punch lines, you may not have the stomach for these anti-comics. Vertigo, confusion, and claustrophobia leave the reader disoriented, but hungry for more. From Marcel Herms' violent ink splotches to Andrew Schoultz's fanciful flying elephants, Proper Gander illuminates the scary contours of our interior terra incognita. This is not the stuff of Sunday comics.

PO Box 434, San Marcos, TX 78666

Best Underrated Morning Crew

Like a big glass of ice-cold morning OJ, KAZI's Thursday morning crew is a refreshing pick-me-up from the exhausting noise on most FM radio AM shows. And like that glass of pure vitamin goodness, KAZI's Thursday and Friday morning show is more nourishing and feels less filling than the pop-tart broadcasts that come out of commercial stations. Hosted by KAZI main man Steve Savage, along with Magic, Butch aka White Chocolate, Missus Marlah, Dee, Merrily, Starr, and occasional guest Clayton the Silver Fox, Juice & Jam is like that welcome surprise visit from your neighbor across the street shuffling over in her slippers to catch up on the latest gossip and shoot the breeze. The Juice crew chews on topics both serious and silly, with the focus always coming back to the local angle. Broadcasting since 1982, listener-supported KAZI's focus is to provide a media outlet and resource for Austin's black community. In keeping with the station's mission, this particular program is about as community as you can get.

8906 Wall St. #203

Best Way to Get the Word Out Cheap

What can we say about friendly Fritz, the affable Motorblade guy, who started out god knows how many years ago – that nutty guy you see Rollerblading his way (or tooling around in his cool Rollerblade van) from venue to venue, slapping up gig posters and other event announcements? He's a force unto himself, the go-to guy when you want to get the word out in over 100 legal locations for under 50 bucks. Watch him skate, walk, and drive his route, from Sun Harvest to the Magnolia Cafes, and at least 98 other stops in between.

Motorblade Postering Service
Fritz Blaw, 5303 Aurora

Best Web Site to Guide You to the Cool Punk Rock Show

After the demise of Sound Exchange (and the Texas Showlist along with it), Dan Machold took matters into his own show-loving hands and started the Austin, TX Showlist. This no-frills Web site gives you the lowdown on the when and where for all the punk, garage, hardcore, indie, experimental, etc. shows going on around town. If your show's not listed, just drop him a line, and he'll gladly add it.

Most Noble Cyber Effort

This idea's time had come when the Internet went public: making Web site browsing accessible to people with disabilities. The Texas organization Knowbility, in conjunction with another local system management and web hosting business Primus Networks, offers the annual AIR Interactive for the Arts competition. Austin area arts and cultural groups that qualify receive professional Web site creation and design that is accessible to the physically challenged – Esther's Follies, the Gaelic League, and musician Sara Hickman were among the lucky recipients this year. The winners are announced during SXSW Interactive – talk about your win-win situations!

Knowbility Inc.
3925 W. Braker, third floor

Most Relaxed Film Equipment Rental Place

Question: How many employees does Mopac Media have? Answer: One, and he is also the owner. With this type of streamlined business model, we think Mopac Media is one of the easiest film equipment rental places to use. Kevin is always available to answer our questions and help us with the equipment we've rented. We're excited to see how Mopac Media has grown, offering the entire range of prosumer cameras as well as a complete array of audio and camera support gear a local filmmaker would need. We also know that if Kevin doesn't have it, he might be willing to create it for us, like the time we needed that remote tripod controller...

Mopac Media
1812 Walnut Ave.

Critics: Kids
Critics: Outdoors & Recreation

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