TV Eye

Geek TV

As I wandered through last week's SXSW Interactive trade show for free candy and promotional toys, a "TV Eye" reader approached me. I'm still not used to the idea that people actually read the column. (I maintain this fantasy that if "TV Eye" is not a particularly noble effort one week, no one will read it. That's exactly when people do read it, I've discovered.) The reader was working one of the booths. Naturally, we talked TV and our likes and dislikes, at which point he told me he thought I'd been spending a lot of time writing about "girl shows." Hmm. Girl shows.

I asked him what he considered a "guy" show. Turned out it was a lot of Saturday afternoon programming on KLRU: Robot Wars, Home Time, Computer Chronicles, and Motorweek. With the exception of Monday Night Football, we shared many of the same tastes. It wasn't exactly a détente between Venus and Mars; it was, rather, with all respect to my reader, a common leaning toward things geeky.

Yes, I have a fondness -- a weakness, even -- for Geek TV. I'm not sure I qualify as a bona fide geek. (Though I recently installed software on my laptop, which gave me an enormous thrill.) But the conversation got me thinking about shows I've never talked about because I was (unconsciously) keeping my geek/dork side closeted. But I've decided to free my inner geek/dork. Here are some of my geek/dork picks:

Robot Wars (PBS) and BattleBots (Comedy Central): Similar premise, two different shows. Teams construct homemade robots, the sole purpose of which is to destroy other homemade robots. The atmosphere is like a live-action video game -- lights, smoke, fireworks, and high tech music blare in the background. The action itself is a cross between a demolition derby, all-star wrestling, and a caffeinated science fair. The bottom line: The shows satisfy the geeky desire to figure out how to make something from nothing, followed by the adolescent thrill of blowing something up. There is no physical violence between contestants. It's bot against bot. Geeky, cool fun. Robot Wars airs Saturday, 5pm, on PBS. BattleBots airs at 9pm on Comedy Central.

The Lone Gunmen (Fox): This show isn't doing well ratings-wise, and it had some mighty big shoes to fill in The X-Files time slot (it moved to its regular Friday slot last week). The reviews have been mixed, and I disagree with remarks that describe it as a dismal failure. The bottom line: I like the high tech espionage toys. Where can I get one of those devices that look like a retainer and change the timbre of your voice when you speak? Then there are those cool facemasks that characters rip off, just like they did on old episodes of Mission: Impossible. And what's up with Zuleikha Robinson, who plays the mysterious Yves Adele Harlow? Is she working for good or for evil? Well, that's part of the fun, now, isn't it? And Stephen Snedden as the consummate dumb blond (Jimmy Bond -- get it?) can be laugh-out-loud funny. The show teeters toward embarrassment when it veers too close to body humor. It clicks when it isn't trying so hard to be funny. Last week's episode prologue, in which Snedden's Bond explained in a voiceover the importance of heroes, while mangling historical facts ("It's like when China bombed Pearl Harbor ...") was a hoot. Like Freaks and Geeks, Lone Gunmen features a palette of unlikely leading characters that are refreshingly doofy and unconventionally appealing. That, plus I like the gadgets. Check out The Lone Gunmen on Fridays, 9pm, on Fox.

Good Eats (Food Network): If there was ever a cooking show with a high geek factor, this is it. Host Alton Brown not only explains how to cook certain meals, he goes into details about the science of food, the physics of cool culinary gadgets, and the chemistry of how foods like cheese are processed. He's a film buff, too, and this comes out in episode titles like "Silence of the Leg o' Lamb" (set to air Saturday) or "Fry Hard" (an episode about all things deep-fat fried). The use of pop cultural and film references are sometimes clever, mostly dopey, but always entertaining. Good Eats usually airs on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Check local listings for air times.


Your Oscar Ballot

In case you haven't heard, the 73rd Annual Academy Awards Show is this Sunday, March 25, 7pm, on ABC, hosted by Steve Martin.

Best Picture

end story Chocolat

end story Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

end story Erin Brockovich

end story Gladiator

end story Traffic

Best Director

end story Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot

end story Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

end story Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich

end story Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

end story Ridley Scott, Gladiator

Best Actor

end story Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls

end story Russell Crowe, Gladiator

end story Tom Hanks, Cast Away

end story Ed Harris, Pollock

end story Geoffrey Rush, Quills

Best Actress

end story Joan Allen, The Contender

end story Juliette Binoche, Chocolat

end story Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream

end story Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me

end story Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

Best Supporting Actor

end story Jeff Bridges, The Contender

end story Willem Dafoe, Shadow of a Vampire

end story Benicio Del Toro, Traffic

end story Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich

end story Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

Best Supporting Actress

end story Judi Dench, Chocolat

end story Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

end story Kate Hudson, Almost Famous

end story Frances McDormand, Almost Famous

end story Julie Waters, Billy Elliot

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

end story Robert Nelson Jacobs, Chocolat

end story Wan Hui Ling, James Schamus, and Tsai Kuo Jung, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

end story Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

end story Stephan Gaghan, Traffic

end story Steve Kloves, Wonder Boys

Best Screenplay (Original)

end story Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous

end story Lee Hall, Billy Elliot

end story Susannah Grant, Erin Brockovich

end story David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, Gladiator

end story Kenneth Lonergan, You Can Count on Me

Best Foreign Film

end story Amores Perros (Mexico)

end story Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)

end story Divided We Fall (Czech Republic)

end story Everybody Famous! (Belgium)

end story The Taste of Others (France)

A complete list of nominees can be found at www.oscar.com/nominees/nominees_home.html.

And there's still time to enter the Chronicle Oscar Contest: www.austinchronicle.com/oscars/.


E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

battlebots, robot wars, the lone gunmen, good eats

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