R Is for Rerun
It's truly remarkable how un-great the world is when the seasonal network ratings sweeps are over. Bye-bye to season finales and publicity-hungry guest stars. No more police chases, surveillance tapes, cutesy home footage, or videos revealing magicians' tricks. We're safe until November, when we can look forward to... oh, say, World's Greatest Video Filler From Lazy Programming Execs.
Yes, it's an R-rated world on television in the summer, "R" standing for rerun, that is. And it's not that bad. It's often more enjoyable than the frantic fall bids for your viewing time. I try to use summer television for two things: catching up with primetime shows and watching far too many black-and-white and classic films I've already seen a zillion times but just can't get enough of.
That's why my viewing guide this week has such zingy titles as the early Lucille Ball vehicle A Girl, A Guy, and a Gob (5/29, TCM 9:15am) and reform-school nostalgia with Humphrey Bogart and the Dead End Kids in Crime School (5/28, TCM 5pm). It also has Hitchcock's deliciously wicked Rebecca (5/30, AMC 9:30am) and Leave Her to Heaven (5/31, AMC 8:35pm), the 1945 Gene Tierney vehicle my brother once forced me to watch while we were snow-bound in Seattle. I fussed. "Shut up and watch it," he hissed. "The clothes are fabulous ó just look at the way Gene Tierney's dressed for the ride in the canoe!"
Ah, well. The viewing selections are indeed light in the midst of post-sweeps fallout. I did watch most all of "Poor Little Rich Girl" week. Christina Onassis, Camilla Parker-Bowles, and Sidney Biddle Barrows have already been featured but Doris Duke and Gloria Vanderbilt finish the week on Biography (weeknights, 7 and 11pm, A&E).
I must agree with food critic Virginia Wood, who wrote me after watching Camilla's episode. Wood theorizes that "the royals are making a genuine effort to rehabilitate her image and maybe soften the resistance to her. The program was very pro-Camilla and made several references to the fact that Diana knew about her from the beginning and that good old Camilla was the only person who ever made Charles really happy. It was soft-core propaganda but propaganda just the same." One of the less notable aspects of A&E's Biography is the way it glosses over huge chunks of time with snappy voice-overs. I thought the CPB episode spent too much time on Diana.
Besides the Biography on jeans queen Gloria Vanderbilt on Friday, A&E devotes more time to the Vanderbilts on America's Castles (5/29, 8 and midnight) and in a Biography extra,The Vanderbilts: An American Dynasty (5/29, 9pm and 1am). The rich, as all these segments make Waterford-crystal clear, really are different from you and me.
The time to genuinely mourn a finale happens this Sunday night whenThe Larry Sanders Show (5/31, 9pm HBO) tapes for the very last time. Larry Sanders is not only the best show on television, but it also has never put out a dud episode. Warren Beatty, Jerry Seinfeld, David Duchovny, Greg Kinnear, Ellen DeGeneres, Clint Black... I shouldn't have to explain any more why this show is so good, so just watch it.
The 33rd annual KLRU Auction kicks off this Sunday, (5/31-6/6, 7pm). You know the drill: KLRU goes on the air nightly with a different lot of items to bid on and stays on the air until everything is sold. Proceeds support KLRU's educational, entertainment, and public affairs programming, raising over $300,000 in sales each year. Items open for bidding include art, fashion, games, gift certificates, furnishings, jewelry, travel packages, and much more. Many of these bids start very low, too, and if you miss one night, there's always the next.
New for this year's fundraising effort is the KLRU Online Auction (http://www.klru.org). This interactive site supports the station with auction items exclusive to the website.
It's a great time for sports. Baseball is in full gear -- the Astros are in first place but they're hardly ever on TV in Austin. It's a great time for basketball, playing toward the finals. Pay-per-view is showing soccer games leading up to the World Cup (Univision will televise every game of the World Cup starting June 10 with Brasil vs. Escocia.) Hockey is heading into its conference finals. The College world series of baseball is about to begin, too. ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FOX Sports, TNT, WGN, and network sports affiliates carry lots of sports programming. This opinion comes not from me but courtesy of South by Southwest's creative director Brent Grulke, otherwise known as the Music Festival Guy. He offered this alternative view to my assessment of this time of year as only being good for classic movies, TV auctions, and catching up on prime time.
Brent had dropped into the office and chatted about TV with me. This was good; writing the column was going slow, and I wouldn't have thought about writing about TV sports -- I leave that to Coach. (Editor Nick Barbaro offered additional World Cup info via his new subscription to Soccer America upon hearing of Brent's visit.)
"What's on right now?" I'll sometimes ask Weezer as he surfs with the remote. "I dunno but I'm sure there's a ballgame on somewhere," he'll mumble.
And that's the way I view sports on television. There's always a ballgame on somewhere.