You still have to sort through the listings but it does pay off to have a schedule that leaves out those stations you don't care about (that would be ESPN and FNN for me). What you end up with is a cyber-version of a grid much like the Statesman's "Show World," which is a sensibly designed format, albeit in minuscule print.
Looking at these customized grids is also an exercise in seriously self-indulgent viewing. I can't imagine having children and having time to sort through all this information. On the other hand, discriminating parents may find that this sort of guidance allows them to monitor what shows their children watch better than those infernal rating codes plastered on the screen.
Here's a cockeyed look at various shows that turned up on my TV Guide grid this week:
- Fri, Jun 20: Politically Incorrect (ABC, 11:05pm). Some of the bite of host Bill Maher's humor has been diluted since the show jumped from Comedy Central to network TV, but he can smirk with the best of his guests. My all-time favorite show was last November's post-election show when rapper Chuck D. and former Governor Ann Richards looked like they might end up as running mates. Tonight, Jon Secada, MTV's Chris Hardwick, Wendy Wasserstein, and comic Jonathan Katz are the scheduled guests.
Renee O'Connor - Texas girl does good! O'Connor plays Xena sidekick Gabrielle and has her own cult following.
- Sun, Jun 22: Daria (MTV, 8pm) The Nineties animation trend continues (even HBO is getting into the act with Spawn). Although FOX's The Simpsons get credit for reviving this form, MTV gets the points, having launched Beavis and Butt-head and Aeon Flux, and swiping Ren & Stimpy from NICK. Originally a side character on Beavis and Butt-head, MTV gave smart-girl Daria her own delightfully cheeky series. This week, she accompanies Quinn to the plastic surgeon, who instead regards Daria as the blank canvas. Bet it keeps you in stitches, yuk yuk.
- Mon, Jun 23: Travelers (DISC, 4pm): One of my beloved birds-and-bees channels travels to Cajun Country this week for an episode of Travelers titled "Festivals Acadiens: Lafayette, Lousiana." Although the focus of the show is scattered -- rare is the effort to distinguish Cajun music from zydeco -- the exuberant look at cooking, dancing, and other festivities of the annual event is as infectious as the music itself. While they're there, Travelers also ventures into the swamp and goes eye-to-eye with them alligators.
- Tue, Jun 24: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (NICK, 10:30pm); M*A*S*H (KTBC, 11:05pm): Sometimes the best television is the old stuff. Few shows genuinely hold up into syndication (witness the gaseous Saved By The Bell) but both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H broke brave new ground and retain that edge today. Tonight, Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) confides a big secret to Murray (Gavin Macleod): Lou (Ed Asner) has slept with Sue Ann (Betty White), while the 4077th (the original cast with Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, and Loretta Switt) think a cease-fire is imminent.
- Wed, Jun 25: Pacific Palisades (FOX, 8pm): You didn't think you'd get through this column without at least one reference to a trashy fave, did you? What's notable (and it may be the only thing notable) is that FOX is smart to use the summer re-run doldrums to establish this steamy new Spelling melodrama. Of all the prime-time network shows this week, this is the only one that's not a repeat. I also use the summer to catch up with other shows I like but am too busy to watch during the regular season but for sheer escapism. This week's potboiling synopsis has that hottie plastic surgeon (Dylan Neal) in a lather over having to operate on Frank's wife; Jessica (Jocelyn Seagrave) returns to work at the firm while trying to avoid married ex-lover Robert (Greg Evigan), whose wife Kate (Finola Hughes) attempts to gussy up herself to keep his attention.
- Thu, Jun 26: Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World (HBO, 7pm). This unusually moving hour-long tribute to tennis player Arthur Ashe was first broadcast in 1994, and neatly avoids the treacly sentiment that often sticks to such after-the-fact shows. Narrated by Ossie Davis, Ashe's life is detailed lovingly and humanely, following him from his childhood through his fervent and un-self-conscious dedication to international civil right and humanitarian causes, his success as one of the first great black tennis players, and the dignity in which he faced his death from AIDS in 1993 at age 50. The grace with which this particular show was put together is remarkable, not only for its subject matter but the way in which it balances the often-alarmist nature of the subject of death by AIDS with the story of a man whose memory in death is as powerful as his lifetime achievement. With all the attention heaped on pathetic celebrities like O.J.Simpson, it's truly refreshing to see a man like Arthur Ashe -- so worthy of being honored -- get the attention he deserves, even in death.