Channel Surfing

My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho, a retelling of Henry IV, Pt. 1,
is part of Bravo's birthday celebration for the Bard.

Men and women watch and explore television differently. Surely there's hardcore scientific evidence to support this statement. If not, all one has to do is come to my house and do some fieldwork.

The "Papi Chulo" of my house has the attention span of an insect when it comes to channel surfing. The number of times I've missed the crux of an idea because El Chulo was bored and changed the channel in the middle of a sentence is countless. And forget letting me be in charge of the remote control. Within a few seconds, he's irritated with my surfing pace, words are exchanged, and I politely give him back the remote. Actually, I toss him the remote, but I never aim at his head.

In lieu of those happy moments of joint viewing time, and there are some, I sometimes enjoy watching El Chulo watch television. It's an opportunity to explore his psychology, and perhaps find answers to our perplexing differences on the small things that become dramas of their own (Why is it necessary to soak an empty ice cream carton before discarding, for example?).

Last weekend, our set was tuned to ESPN for no less than five hours for the first three (out of seven) rounds of the NFL draft. Not my idea of fun, but I was curious, so I sat in on part of it. The resemblance to the buying and selling of livestock was not lost on El Chulo. But still, it was vital and necessary, and strangely enough, compelling for him to watch. At one point, quarterback Tim Couch's potential as a first-round pick was staked on the change of his grip on a football. Now that his pinky finger touches the center of the football laces, and his index finger is no longer splayed toward the tip of the ball, he was deemed a strong choice. Interesting, but when all of this was demonstrated with slow-motion video footage, and a count of the number of revolutions the ball made when Couch threw the ball with the old grip, I knew I did not have the endurance for this -- and this was just the beginning of the first round.

A few hours later, I gave it another shot. They were still at it. El Chulo was still watching. But at least now, there was something oddly amusing about watching all those coaches, owners, and sportscasters kvetching, and all those meaty young men, fresh from college (UT's Ricky Williams included), waiting in anticipation.

"You know, this is like the male version of a debutante ball," I said. "Or a prom."

El Chulo looked at me blankly.

"It's got its own sense of pageantry followed by a 'crowning' when the player puts on the team hat and sash (the team jersey with the player's name on the back). Then there's lots of picture taking, and I bet they all go out to eat somewhere nice, maybe riding in a limo."

Who says men are from Mars and women from Venus?

Speaking of prom season, the May 11 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Tuesdays, 7pm, WB) is titled "The Prom." The WB network has sent photos of Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar in a lovely Pamela Dennis number and a wedding gown by Vera Wang. (There's a dream sequence where Buffy marries her love interest Angel.) My only concern is, won't all that organza and taffeta get in the way of kicking some supernatural butt?

I must admit, watching Buffy kick butt each week is one of the thrills of the show. It's not that I'm into the violence. I'm into the strong, young woman not only defending herself, but also embracing and defending a higher code of justice and honor -- ideals not ordinarily associated with the youth market the show allegedly caters to. I say "allegedly," because among myself and other 40+-year-old female friends, Buffy is the doppelganger we imagine for ourselves. Spirited but not crazed, compassionate but not frail, smart but not elusive.

Not having gone to my high school prom, I forget that it's considered one of the rites of passage. So the whole prom theme for the upcoming Buffy episode is a bit of a turn-off. But who am I kidding? I'd throw on a Vera Wang frock if given the chance. And something tells me that I'll still be chanting "You go, girl!" at some moment during the show. I can't believe that the writers of this bright, funny series will let a gown get in the way of Buffy taking care of business.

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare: The incomparable Bravo will offer back-to-back programming devoted to the work of the great bard beginning tonight with Bravo Arena: Shakespeare's Women (4/22, 7 & 10pm), hosted by British actress Claire Bloom. Bloom began a long relationship with Shakespeare's female characters at the tender age of 17, when she was cast as Ophelia at Stratford-Upon-Avon, starring opposite Paul Scofield and Robert Helpmann as alternating Hamlets. Through her recollections as a young actress dealing with the work of a master, years of self-doubt following her sensational theatrical debut, and finally, her triumphant performance on Broadway as Clytemnestra in Sophocles' Electra, Bloom offers a candid look at her career juxtaposed with some of Shakespeare's most notable female characters.

Based on the play of the same title by Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard (who recently shared the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Shakespeare in Love), "15-Minute Hamlet" (4/22, 8:30 & 11:30pm) is a film short featuring Austin Pendleton as a modern-day filmmaker who makes a 15-minute version of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, and the dilemma he faces when forced to cut his film to three minutes.

Bravo Profiles: Franco Zeffirelli (4/22, 9pm & 12:30am) zeroes in on the director of several film adaptations of Shakespeare's work, including The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson. Zeffirelli talks about his lifelong love of Shakespeare and opera.

Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (4/23, 7pm & 12:30am) is often cited as his interpretation of Henry IV, Pt I. Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix star in this story of Portland street life. And finally, there is also Tony Richardson's 1969 Hamlet (4/23, 9:30pm & 2:30am), starring Nicol Williamson, Anthony Hopkins, and Marianne Faithfull.

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Bravo, Shakespeare's Birthday

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