The Austin Chronicle

Channel Surfing

TV Eye

By Margaret Moser, February 6, 1998, Screens

Displaying the buoyant talent that has made her an international star, Pamela Anderson Lee takes home video to new... er, lows.

The Grim Reaper stood by me last week. Okay, maybe it just seemed that way because I had a horrible case of flu. Usually, I watch a lot of TV when I'm ill but this time I was too feverish to care and just slept for most of four days. Maybe that was good because that weekend I noticed some of my channels had changed.

Such changes always disgruntle me, even if I get new channels out of the deal. I'm not really complaining that my birds & bees channels (The Learning Channel and Discovery) are now located near each other, but I hate having to go up the dial to get WTBS. During a lucid moment of the illness, I had turned to channel 47 and didn't get E!. What the #@&%? Next thing I know, Andy Langer is on the phone squawking about it. Send it to me by e-mail, I mumbled to him, overcome by fever dreams in which Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Sean Connery are re-enacting a nativity scene with Matt Pinfield as the baby Jesus. Here's Andy's diatribe:

"Before you read on, go directly to cable channel 47. If you see Court TV, you live in what Time Warner Cable refers to as 'Non-Upgraded Austin' — the half of Austin that has yet to receive a spectrum-expanding fiber-optic upgrade. If you turn to 47 and see E! Entertainment Television, set up an extra armchair, I'm coming over to watch. Really. Since Time Warner inserted a note in December's bill celebrating programming changes, folks like myself have been in denial. Now, E!'s disappearance is seemingly the talk of the town — or at least the non-upgraded half of the town. Why E!? Why not either QVC or HSN? Or CMT or TNN? Unlike those pairs — which collectively cater to the same audiences — E! has no equal. Sure, it dished gossip a bit too proudly and shamelessly recycled talk show snippets and movie trailers into 'programming,' but take FOX News. Please! That TWC admits that this Rupert Murdoch-owned cable news channel is the force that pushed out E! is insulting — even more so than Joan Rivers' recent and candid comment on E! that perhaps it was Kathy Bates who sank the Titanic. Launched back in October of 1996, FOX News is still so void of talent and programming that network rejects like Catherine Crier and Brit Hume actually constitute marquee names, while vanity book editor/shrew Judith Regan hosts her own chat show — oh-so-cleverly titled That Regan Woman. (Note to FOX: That Lewinsky Woman has a ring, too.) In fact, E! better watch out, FOX News might just consider Downtown Julie Brown a hot enough property to warrant luring her away.

"But what's just as insulting as the swap itself is how TWC has presented it. In the insert they say, 'It's [FOX News] included with our Standard Plus Package, what many people refer to as "regular cable"... With these changes, E! Entertainment Television will not be available.' Almost anyway you cut it, Time Warner's reference to 'many people' is condescending at best. Maybe 'many people' without accounting degrees are simply confused by the math it takes to decode Time Warner's multi-level marketing. At presstime, Time Warner offers four different levels of service, which they'll ever so gladly mix 'n' match into another four 'entertainment packages.' And just to keep it easy for them, after an across-the-board price increase for 1998, the 58-channel non-upgraded package costs the same $55.42 as the 72-channel upgraded package. In TWC's view, they're passing on the upgrade at no extra cost; in my view, I'm getting screwed. The guy across the river gets access to MSNBC, the Independent Film Channel, daytime Comedy Central, and evening CNBC. For my $55, I not only get raped of my E!, but I get FOX News' Pet News— a two-hour show focused on 'pet-human interaction.' After explaining that a careful tally of customer surveys and telephone calls led to E! removal, the TWC spokesperson told me I needn't worry — 'you'll get it back in two months when your area's upgraded.' Funny, nobody I know remembers a survey that asked if we'd have minded waiting two months for FOX News instead."

Thanks, Andy! Except where I live, I'll be the last place to get E! back. While the rest of the city will be on top of The Gossip Show, I'll be missing those Melrose Place reruns. I am bitter.

"[MTV] hasn't committed to more shows yet but they have asked us to write more Austin Stories." That's the word from AS star Laura House. The charming and witty actress-comedian was doing the 101X morning show last week with Jenn Garrison and Sara Trexler right across the hall from where I was on KLBJ-FM with The Two Larrys... er, sorry, Dudley and Bob with Debra, so we finally got to meet. (Just an aside here: It used to be that radio personalities were notoriously geeky-looking. All these folks are good-looking!) She and I ended up at the Austin Music Network appearing on Reality, AM15's live noon show with Tim Hamblin and Darcie Fromholz, along with Ana Egge, who'd also been at the radio station.

Needless to say, we got to chitchat a lot. House seems very buoyed by MTV's attitude toward the show; even though official renewal isn't set yet, she regards the request for more Stories as a positive one. She also noted that some changes to the show will take place, perhaps making it a little "smaller than life."

The coolest thing about hanging out with Laura House, though, was that she has a copy of the Pamela Anderson Lee/Tommy Lee video. No, not the one on the Internet or the video store. This one has been edited à la VH1's Pop-Up Videos, though it includes all the most intimate footage. As Tommy leads a blindfolded Pammy down to the rented yacht, a pop-up factoid informs us "1 in 100 Americans is blind," and other such hysterically innappropriate info. (I never considered "You rock!" as something to call out during sex, but hey, who am I to make fun of the personality-challenged folks among us?) Better yet are the scenes where Tommy adjusts the boat's buttons with his appendage, and Pammy engages in a practice sometimes known as "French polishing." Even my fever dreams couldn't compete with that!

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