No. 1 in a Series

TV I: The biggest joke about growing up with television was that it was the perfect place for my parents to dump me with my three brothers when they were feeling generous. When they were mad at us for spending time doing just that, the set was called the "idiot box" or somesuch.

In retrospect, I seemed to have grown well into maturity without too many ill effects. I will confess to having been addicted to All My Children for many years and eventually kicked the habit, but then my college professor father was so hooked on As The World Turns when we were growing up, he used to schedule his classes around it. I will also readily admit to having watched many of the most vile programs ever conceived except She's the Sheriff. Remember Fox's Model Stink, oops, I mean Models Inc.? That would be me. I say this freely because I think the worst thing a TV columnist can do is be above watching shows like that. Fortunately, I am not.

Bad television is more than just a fact of life, it is the most important standard by which you can measure good television. Despite the knee-jerk reaction to dismiss the notion of "good television," it is available in abundance. I mourn the network cancellation of My So-Called Life but I collected every episode on tape. That was a genuinely superb series -- well-acted, thoughtfully conceived, and completely over the head of the viewing audiences, who avoided it in droves.

That didn't stop MTV (Ch 34) from picking up its 22 episodes and re-running them ad nauseam until recently. Of course, MTV seemed to be adding every type of show possible to avoid programming actual videos, so they could have done worse than MSCL. And did do worse: Along came Singled Out and made-for-MTV programming reaches yet another low by inflicting the scary-looking Jenny McCarthy on the world, then spinning her to her own execrable series. But I come to neither praise nor bury McCarthy; my theory is that if we stop putting her on magazine covers, don't tune into her TV shows, and ignore her, she'll go away. I bet Beavis and Butt-head is MTV's biggest cash-cow anyway.

I owe my couch potato buddy Weezer everything in regards to B&B; for a long time I refused to allow Beavis and Butt-head watching in my house, just as I can now say that I don't like The Simpsons. But Weezer was a huge B&B fan and if I wanted to hang out with Weezer, I had damn well better get used to B&B. Besides, the Weez is a smart guy and if he isn't bothered by their unabashedly sophomoric humor, why should I be? The first episode I watched was "Cornholio" and I liked to have died laughing. I have been a fan ever since.

In its own delightfully sick little way, B&B led to Fox's (Ch 42) King of the Hill -- both being the product of B&B/KOTH creator and local resident Mike Judge. I laughed myself stupid watching last week's repeat of that Willie Nelson episode where Hank Hill pushes aside Lyle Lovett, saying "Outta my way, rooster boy!" Is Judge the great hope for TV viewers? Who cares -- he makes us laugh and it's not mean-spirited. Good TV!

This Is Who Marilyn Is Named After? He's baaaaack! No, not Marilyn Manson (trust me, that talent-free little flavor-of-the-month will be outta here in no time). It's time once again for the Charles Manson Horror Show! How quickly five years pass -- Mr. Manson was once again up for parole and Court TV's Prime Time Justice (9pm, Ch 42) reported on the futile exercise of his constitutional rights but without the plan to save the environment this time. As a bonus, ultra-clean CTV Ken doll anchor Terry Moran puffed up in self-righteous indignation during PTJ's report on the hearing last week. Say, does abuse-excuse/courtroom drama queen Betty Broderick come up for parole anytime soon?

Check This Action Again and Again: The Austin Music Network (Ch 15) has added two additional showings of their popular weekly program hosted by multi-station deejay/veejay Jenn Garrison. CTA airs at 10pm Sunday nights; 5am, 4:30pm, and 10:30pm Mondays; 5:30am and 5pm Tuesdays. Besides the rundown on live music, AMN last year nearly debuted 50 Texas videos on CTA, a significant number of which were Austin bands. Kerry Brown's "Vulcan Death Grip" for the Ugly Americans and Calvin Russell's "Let the Music Play" placed in SXSW Film 97's video division. Other local videos airing on AMN that judges cited were Sangre de Toro's "Sweet Milk," Courtney's "If You Ain't Got No Job," and Drums & Tuba's "Fists of Spaghetti." The first-place winners were tied between Exene & Stone Fox's "Something to Brag About" and Kelley Deal 6000's Xena: Warrior Princess tribute, "How About Hero?"

Network of the Week: American Movie Classics (Ch 26), for having the right film at the right moment. I came home from the first Wednesday deadline after SXSW -- traditionally a fairly deflating time. I dragged ass home, flopped on the couch, and flipped on AMC just in time to catch some of the finest script dialogue ever opening All About Eve. For the next 138 minutes I sat glued for the umpteenth time to every scene, every line, every nuance of the 1950 Oscar-winner. Bette Davis and Ann Baxter are transcendent in their performances (it's also a Triple-S movie for Hollywood Babylon types like me -- George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe, and Barbara Bates all committed suicide). A brilliant cast, terrific acting, top-notch direction... one of the great films of Hollywood, yes, but more importantly, it lives on by the grace of television. "TV Eye" hopes you enjoyed this and the other musings of its debut column, and will return weekly. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy flight. n

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