The Austin Chronicle

TV Rocks

By Margaret Moser, October 23, 1998, Screens

Dale Watson on Bravo this week: Pam Tillis gave him a "Nashville Rash."

The singer onstage looked too good to be real. She looked like Melrose Place's idea of a female vocalist, all dimples and cover-girl looks. She wasMelrose Place's idea of a female vocalist. Kyle (Rob Estes) and Amanda (Heather Locklear) were auditioning singers for Upstairs, the jazz club that Kyle started a couple of seasons back. Unfortunately for the young hopeful, Kyle earnestly declared her voice too "folkie" and not suitable for Upstairs, because he was running "a rock & roll club."

Weezer and I hooted so loud and hard we missed the dialogue for the next few minutes, but not the point. Upstairs is a rock & roll club! Our heads spinning with delight, Weezer and I quickly named off a few performers at the TV show's club: Johnny Reno, Tom Scott, Lisa Fisher, Tuck & Patti ... when I think of rock & roll, I think of Tuck & Patti, don't you? Agog with the news, we gamely tried to keep up with the rest of the show, and even though Lexy Sterling (Jamie Lunar) is giving Amanda a run for the Bitchiest of Them All title, "rock & roll club" was the phrase of the evening. Not even the subsequent episode on Ally McBeal's short skirts could quell the topic.

Weez and I laugh about Upstairs. We get to, having enough cumulative years of clubbing between us to qualify us as barroom vets of the first order. Both of us agree that Upstairs, looking like a cross between Top of the Marc and the Speakeasy, is not the kind of place we frequent because we value our lives (not to slight TotM and Speakeasy, fine venues both). I mean really, somebody's always getting punched out, bitch-slapped, confronted and told off, or doused with a drink in there. And that was in a normally sedate jazz atmosphere. Just wait 'til they get bands like Pushmonkey booked in there! No joke -- the band taped an episode (see Ken Lieck's "Dancing About Architecture" for details, though the club is misidentified in the quote) slated for December viewing. I believe this is the first appearance of an Austin Music Award winner on my favorite trashy soap, so this is a moment of great pride for "TV Eye."

Another Austin MusicAward winner on TV this week is Dale Watson, who is featured in the second part of Bravo Profiles' (weeknights, 7pm BRAVO) new three-part series Naked Nashville.

"I Won't Die for Any Man" (10/26, 7pm) is the name of the first segment, and it cannily juxtaposes the careers of the late Tammy Wynette, still country music's biggest-selling female star, Reba McEntire and her rise to the top, and Mindy McCready, groomed to follow in their footsteps, but can she?

Watson and singer-songwriter Keith Harling are profiled in the second part, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys"(10/27, 7pm), which examines the way talent is marketed for contemporary country audiences. This ought to be ripe for some good quotes, since Watson did his time in Nashville, and wrote the withering "Nashville Rash" after a less-than-pleasant video experience with country queen Pam Tillis. In the final episode, "Hillbilly Hollywood" (10/28, 7pm), the business of songwriting is analyzed; Harlan Howard and rising star Matraca Berg are interviewed. What? No Roy Rogers?

I confess to not having watched many Bravo Profiles shows, mainly because I don't watch much Bravo anymore. I find their edited movies really annoying to watch, even more annoying on their IFC Fridays, which ought to stick with the spirit of indie films and let 'em swear. The Puritanical subtext that the viewing audience's sensibilities are too delicate to offend with cuss words or sex scenes is insulting at the very least. It is why I prefer films on TCM or AMC -- those networks may run G and PG stuff exclusively, but at least they don't masquerade as art stations playing censor. I do think the quality of music and performance programming on Bravo is as good or better than A&E's, but sometimes that's not saying much. A&E can make me feel like an Anglophile with a taste for highbrow gossip (the Biography series) and lowbrow crime (Investigative Reports, etc.).

Speaking of A&E, while gushing over A&E's "Showbiz Sweethearts" series on Biography in last week's column, I talked a lot about why the women who were profiled deserved more respect and credit than many of them got. What I didn't really say was that my admiration and respect for all those women is relatively recent.

Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, Mary Tyler Moore, Dinah Shore, Ann-Margret ... for much of my life I considered most of them hopelessly unhip, relics of another generation and time. Even Ann-Margret, who was relatively within my age range, I thought much too straight. In the Sixties, she was an Elvis girl; I was a Rolling Stones girl, and never the twain would meet. Doris Day? She was running around still playing virgins when my friends were getting the Pill. Debbie Reynolds? My mother's generation! Dinah Shore? Some cornpone crooner whose celebrity I could never quite figure out. Only Mary Tyler Moore, in her Seventies TV show where she discreetly spent the night out on occasion, had any relevance to me. The rest? Boring. Was I wrong.

These were all women who were knocked down seven times and got up eight, their pain and iron courage veiled by bright smiles and sweet faces. Why did it take so long for me to see that? Maybe it's just that it takes a while in life for some things to sink in. And maybe it's that you need to be around for a while before things begin to make sense.

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