On and On

Fair warning that March's "TV Eye" columns are likely to cover a lot of turf over the month due to extenuating circumstances — namely South by Southwest — and also may contain a guest columnist. (Aside from the Austin Music Network's dedicated coverage of the Austin Music Awards and attendant festival coverage, SXSW seems uniquely suited to a television medium and yet oddly detached from it. For example, edited clips from panels — especially with interactive festival participation — would make great viewing, but even with three related conferences involved, there's almost no attention paid to the not-insignificant business of video-making. That said, please know that I direct the Austin Music Awards show and am making no effort whatsoever to be impartial.)

Spring is here and I'm in love. Okay, so it's just that we haven't had much of a winter and the love involves KLRU and A&E. I believe this was mentioned recently but, like a high school crush, my heart just leaps at the thought of uninterrupted television viewing. This sometimes involves a delicate balance of videotaped shows and regularly sheduled programs, but with those dandy eight-hour tapes, I can zone for hours. I regard this as a good sign because I haven't really been in love with a network since Nick at Nite in the early Nineties, when I watched The Patty Duke Show endlessly. (One of these days we'll discuss TV show themes, but for the moment I'll just leave you with these lyrics to ponder: "Patty loves to rock & roll, a hot dog makes her lose control." Readers, please feel free to begin your commentary on TV show themes. We'll discuss in April.)

My love affair with A&E isn't new, but it is on a second honeymoon since I fell for Law and Order. It was an eloquent e-mail comment from reader Wendy Wheeler about Law and Order that made me start tuning in regularly. I've always loved cop and lawyer shows — NYPD Blue and Homicide also get big points from me. I'm a veteran of Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law, I grew up on Perry Mason and am a die-hard fan of Dragnet. In fact, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I have seen every episode of Dragnet at least three times. (If you detect a salute to Dragnet in the works, you're correct.)

The worst thing about A&E is that they are pretty humorless. Wouldn't Quincy, M.E. be so much more fun with a Nick at Nite approach? I mean really! It is possibly the most obnoxious show to ever sustain a successful run on TV — it ran on NBC from 1976 until 1983, though it offers that one notable punk episode with Melora Hardin (whose only real stab at stardom would be starring in Lambada), but the best item of trivia that emerged years later from that episode was that an aspiring singer/guitarist/desperate-for-any-kind-of-fame actress named Courtney Love had a role as a punk extra. Somehow, at the end of that episode, seeing the smarmy Jack Klugman — surely one of the least-appealing leading men — give a wrenching speech about kids and love and parents made me want to plow into the nearest line of methamphetamine.

The TV timer in my bedroom is set to turn on like an alarm and I wake up these mornings to Judge Judy (M-F, 9am, KVUE). I may snooze through the opening but once the judge has delivered her first comment, I'm wide awake. Hey, she's no Judge Wapner but she's a damn sight better than Ed Koch, who has turned the once-thrilling People's Court into Wussies on Parade. She's a little hard to look at with the helmet hair, her grimly pursed lips, and a look Hawaiians call "stink-eye," but I kinda like ol' Judy because she takes no guff and thinks nothing of jerking people up by the short hairs with her East Coast honk. The other morning she was so incensed by the bullshit story a defendant was givng her, she started into the old "Slowly I turn, step by step..." routine. I spewed toothpaste on the mirror, laughing.

Besides, Judge Judy is on right before Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (M-F, 9:30am, KLRU). A solid dose of the Neighborhood balances out JJ's acerbic comments, gives me quality time with my man Fred Rogers, and makes me remember to help my mom in the kitchen.

"TV Eye" recognizes that most adults without children probably won't watch Mister Rogers with the same enthusiasm I do, but KLRU has a lot to offer in the month of March that is related to St. Patrick's Day, meaning you're about to read a lot of loving blarney. (It's true that the Rolling Stones are the cover of KLRU's program guide this month but I am fairly sure that is a coincidence. Look for their Bridges to Babylon (3/20, 10pm) concert filmed three months ago in St. Louis. That's in the middle of SXSW — see what I mean about hectic?) None of the following shows even start this week, but if there's any Irish blood in ye, you'll doubtless save this information.

The Chieftains in Concert (3/8, midnight) feature Ireland's beloved traditionalists in concert at the Opera House in Belfast and never fail to delight. (That professor-looking harpist, Derek Bell, pinched me on the butt once, and whispered in his brogue, "Ye've got a gret ass." "You mean you like it or it's just big?" I asked. "Both," he replied.) The show repeats 3/22 at 1am... Riverdance Live From New York (3/17, 8pm) is a revised version of the hit touring show that can be blamed for Lord of the Dance (which I love but am not unaware of the inherent humor), and is followed by Over Ireland (3/17, 10pm), which looks at Ireland's breathtaking geography. Watching these shows is better than drinking green beer and I hope my Irish language teacher isn't reading this. Conas tá tú, Searlás? Tá mé go mhaith!

A few more shows of (musical) note on KLRU include Stevie Ray Vaughan: A Retrospective (3/7, 7 and 10pm), a one-of-a-kind tribute based on his Austin City Limits performances, which is followed by Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (3/7, 8:30pm), which you may have seen on VH1. Nanci Griffith and Buddy Holly's backup band The Crickets are featured on the late-night Austin City Limits (3/7, 11:30pm) There are 10 hours back-to-back of country music programs the next Saturday including the three-hour Country Music Legends (3/14, 3pm); three Austin City Limitsshows (begins 6pm) featuring Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Marty Robbins, and Roy Orbison; Willie Nelson Down Home (10:30pm); and Sessions at 54th Street (midnight) with Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois.

P.S. I lost all my "TVEye" e-mail a few weeks ago. All the Desert Island lists I had, the left-over comments about 1997 TV, my e-mail from Scott, Wendy, and Juan... everything kaput. This is how tragedy is defined in Nineties cyber-terms. That and discovering the real sex of a cyber-lover.

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