TV Eye

The New Frontier

I don't know what's scarier: the fact that another sweeps month is upon us, or that the presidential election is right around the corner and you-know-who (fill in the blank with the smarmy candidate of your choice) will be elected the new leader of the free world. Fortunately, there are programs to take our minds off the gathering storm, along with programs to make us confront it. Let's start with the balm:

The Territory: Film and video art "exploring the edge of the media frontier" is showcased in this 13-episode, half-hour series airing every Friday at 10pm on local PBS affiliate KLRU, featuring an eclectic mix of experimental, documentary, narrative, and animation shorts. Many people shy away from the avant-garde or experimental, thinking it too high-brow, perplexing, or just plain weird. So I think it's a perfectly wonderful public service that KLRU, along with several PBS affiliates across the nation, carry The Territory, touted as "the longest-running PBS showcase of independent short film, video, and digital work in the country." The 25th season of the series is produced by Houston-based Southwest Alternative Media Project (SWAMP), KUHT-TV, and the Austin Museum of Art.

This year's series includes two Oscar-nominated works, shorts from around the world, and eight pieces by Texas filmmakers. The current season premiered in October, but the bulk of the works are yet to be shown, including this Friday's episode, which features the provocative work of "video visionary" Nam June Paik. His film "Global Groove" is described as a "radical manifesto on the media-saturated global village, in a blend of antic wit, media critique, and technical experimentation."

Nam June Paik is also one of the featured artists in the Austin Museum of Art's exhibit "The New Frontier: Art and Television, 1960-65." If you've not had a chance to see this exhibit, you have few excuses. It's free and open to the public, thanks to corporate support. It continues through November 19. And for those of us who thought we knew all the possibilities of television, the exhibit offers a fascinating history of how the medium was perceived, interpreted, and ultimately transformed by visual artists of the Sixties. Paik's work in the show is particularly intriguing. Who would have guessed that with a little recircuitry of an ordinary television set, the "idiot box" could be transformed into the soothing Zen for TV, a piece that literally makes you look at television in a different, and more profound, way?

The series continues through January 26. For a full schedule of The Territory, see the feature story in the October 10 issue of the Chronicle at or visit SWAMP online at

Election Coverage

Those interested in the influence of Latino voters in Texas can tune in to Hector Galan's Texas and the Latino Vote at 10:30pm, Monday, on KLRU. All stations will be covering election night on Tuesday. In my house, the screen will be tuned to A NewsHour Special Report: Election Night 2000 on KLRU. Senior correspondents Gwen Ifill, Ray Suarez, and Margaret Warner will comment on election results, beginning at 9pm.

Eleven-year-old filmmaker Chaille Stovall asks kids what they think about the candidates in The Booth in the Back Election Special: Voice Your Choice. Kids from an inner-city Catholic school in New Jersey, a suburban private academy in Massachusetts, and a racially and economically diverse private school in New York City are interviewed. In addition, Stovall interviews the candidates from a kid's perspective.

The Booth in the Back is an "interstitial show between the shows" which airs on HBO Family. The Voice Your Choice episode airs Nov. 2, 4, and 7. Check listings for air times.

Bring Back Simpsons and Seinfeld!

When Fox affiliate KTBC announced in August plans for a revamped and expanded news hour at 5 and 9pm, I thought, "Well, why not?" It's what adults do -- watch the news and read the paper, as we sit in wingback chairs, smoking pipes and drinking tea, commiserating on the day's events with our loved ones, right? Yeah, right.

First of all, the 9pm news hour meant that reruns of The Simpsons and Seinfeld would be no more. To be honest, I like Seinfeld and The Simpsons. It doesn't matter that I've seen nearly every episode. I liked watching them at 9pm. Why? Because it was the adult version of cartoon time. It was the perfect time to decompress and wind down for the evening. Watching Seinfeld and The Simpsons at 6pm (also part of the new KTBC format) is too early, and, besides, what working adult sets foot in the door at 6pm, and even if you do, aren't you doing things like making dinner or chasing after kids? No, the new format is just not making me happy. Fortunately, I found out I'm not alone.

Other viewers, namely Chronicle staff members, have expressed their dismay with the new format and have informed KTBC of their feelings by e-mail. So, if you share the need -- for whatever reason -- for a return to the old Seinfeld/Simpsons hour at 9pm, please contact programming to state your complaint.

The Sopranos Watch

Since I am a fan of The Sopranos, March 2001 can't come soon enough. The HBO series, currently in production, is slated to launch its third season that month.

Many fans are wondering how the drama will develop following the death of several key characters. The most profound effect on the show will be the passing of Nancy Marchand, who played Tony Soprano's (James Gandolfini) manipulative mother Livia. As expected, Livia's death will figure into the ongoing exploration of Tony's moral and emotional terrain that has kept viewers riveted from the beginning.

Several new cast members join The Sopranos in its third season. Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) joins the cast as a new character, Ralph Cifaretto, and Steven R. Schirripa (The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas) reprises his role as Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri. Charles S. Dutton, renowned actor and the Emmy award-winning director of HBO's The Corner, will guest star as a police officer who tangles with Tony, and Peter Riegert (Local Hero) will appear in several episodes as a corrupt politician.

Although Tony's sister Janice (Aida Turturro) was sent packing after killing fiancé Richie Aprile (the steely David Proval), she returns to the show as a regular. Behind the camera, several of the series' regular directors return, along with guest directors Jack Bender (Northern Exposure, Judging Amy) and Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge, Fargo). The fine stable of writers also return, to the series, including David Chase, Mitchell Burgess & Robin Green, Todd A. Kessler, Terence Winter, and Michael Imperioli, who plays Tony's nephew, Christopher.

For those who have been pining for the stellar first season of The Sopranos for their home video library, HBO Home Video just announced that the first season will be released on VHS and DVD December 12. Were you wondering what to get that special "TV Eye" writer on your list? Woo-Hoo!

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tv eye, the territory, the simpsons, the booth in the back, election coverage, the sopranos

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