TV Eye

History Lesson

I know Easter is a high Christian holy day, but in terms of TV specials, it's downright blah. Sure, you can do Jell-O shots every time someone says, "Oh, Moses, Moses" in The Ten Commandments. (Why Jell-O? It was the key "special effect" used in the parting of the Red Sea). But The Ten Commandments isn't even an Easter flick, and besides that, it was already shown last Sunday on ABC. Maybe it'll show up again on cable somewhere. Barring that, maybe you should find something edifying to watch on television. Or go to church. No, television. A good place to start would be catching George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire, part of PBS' American Experience series. Recently shown at SXSW Film and winner of a Special Jury Award for documentary writing at Sundance, the three-hour documentary unfolds the personal and political life story of one of the most controversial figures in American politics. A staunch segregationalist who rose from working-class roots to become the Governor of Alabama (elected with huge African-American support), Wallace led a life of epic proportions.

The two-part documentary is directed by Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler, head of production in UT's Radio-Television-Film department. It was written by Steve Fayer (Eyes on the Prize, Vote for Me, Nixon). A related Web site offers better-than-average resource material for general viewers and educators alike: The documentary airs on KLRU Sunday and Monday, April 23-24, 9pm.

First Stop: Austin

Austin is the first stop for the Antiques Roadshow summer tour. Still in the dark about the show that has been a backdrop for episodes of Frasier and Will & Grace and parodied in places in between? It's simple: The show travels to cities all over the country, and people from all walks of life are invited to bring their family heirlooms or garage sale bargains in for one of the show's guest appraisers to evaluate. In the process, home viewers get a little personal history of the item from the owner, and from the appraiser they get an assessment of the object's history. Sound dull? It could be, were it not for the big ca-ching: finding out the value of the object. Some of the most innocuous items turn out to be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. Others -- to some owners' not-so-masked disappointment -- are worth not much more than the object's original cost. Nearly 14 million viewers tune in to Antiques Roadshow nationwide.

The public is invited to bring in no more than two items for evaluation. A set of dishes counts as one item. The Antiques Roadshow summer tour visits Austin Saturday, June 3, at the Austin Convention Center. Free tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 877/262-9575, starting at noon on Saturday, April 22. For more information on the Antiques Roadshow call 888/762-3749 or visit

Next Stop: Mexico City

The Travel Channel premieres an unusual new series this Sunday, Great Writers, Great Cities. Using selections from an author's writings and informal interviews, Great Writers creates a portrait of the writer and the world-class city that influenced the writer's work. Mexico City is the first featured city, with Edward James Olmos lending his interpretation of detective Hector Belascoaran Shayne, the hero in several novels by Mexican mystery writer Paco Taibo. Taibo's Mexico City is part nostalgia, part "cornucopia of surreal delights held together with humor, cigarettes, and lots of Coca-Cola," according to press material. Years of economic hardship, devastating natural disasters, and police corruption have dramatically changed Mexico City, but it is the city Taibo refuses to abandon. As the camera follows Taibo through his beloved city, he happens upon Super Barrio, the mysterious "superhero" clad in wrestlers attire, who works to protect poor neighborhoods from crime and injustice. A sort of Lone Ranger in tights. Super Barrio provides only one of the reasons Mexico's premiere mystery writer calls Mexico City home. The show premieres Sunday, April 23, at 8pm. Check local listings to confirm date and airtime.

Last Stop: Wonderland

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill applauded ABC execs' decision to can Wonderland after only two episodes. The cancellation of the drama was hailed as "a victory against stigma" by the Alliance's executive director, Laurie Flynn. While I respect the Alliance and its efforts to protect the rights of the mentally ill, I stand behind my critique of the show. In an April 7 "TV Eye," I said that Wonderland, though a demanding watch, was not without its own critique of the larger society which chooses to make the mentally ill invisible. The show was difficult, which probably accounts for the three million viewers who tuned out Wonderland at the midway point. Still, 17 million viewers stayed, although not enough to give the drama the ratings share needed to threaten the competition (ER on NBC). That's a pity. It's also an indication of what viewers will endure, a prime example being Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show which routinely features lurid images of rape and assault victims, mostly women. The only peep that SVU caused were viewer complaints that the show was on too early in the evening. The drama has since been moved back an hour. Wonderland still has six unaired episodes which may make a reappearance on ABC this summer. In the meantime, 20/20 Downtown will play in its Thursday evening time slot at 9pm.

Heads Will Not Roll

Following the embarrassment of Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, the Fox network hired the L.A. law firm Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger to determine who was responsible for the fiasco. The answer: no one. No heads will roll, and no one associated with the program will receive so much as a slap on the wrist. The findings from the investigation determined that the show's producers would not have come across the 1991 restraining order placed on Rick Rockwell, the game show's dubious multimillionaire groom, because federal laws prevent disclosure of that information after seven years, according to the April 13 issue of Lew Irwin's Studio Briefing. In the meantime, Rick Rockwell has taken his stand-up act on the road. Darva Conger, his on-air bride who pled "poor little me" in all manner of interviews, claiming that she wants her quiet life back, recently attended Hugh Hefner's birthday party at the Playboy Mansion. She also attended several Oscar parties -- though she couldn't get into the posh Vanity Fair affair. Poor Darva. Maybe the new manager she's hired can turn that icky glare of the spotlight away from her. Isn't that what managers are for?
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george wallace:settin the woods on fire, paul stekler, daniel mccabe, george wallace, antiques roadshow, great writers great cities, edward james olmos, darva conger, Rick Rockwell

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