TV Eye

A Cable Summer

Summer used to be the rerun season, but now, the cable networks roll out original series.
Summer used to be the rerun season, but now, the cable networks roll out original series.

Ordinarily, watching TV in the summer is not my idea of a good time. This is left over from the days when three networks ruled, and summer reruns made TV watching as exciting as peeling sunburned skin. Today, cable takes advantage of the networks' hibernation to launch their own season of special movie events and series. Here is a list of some of the upcoming "must check out" programs.

A.J. After Hours on E! Entertainment Television, premiering Thursday, May 31, 9pm. I have to admit I'm not much of an A.J. Benza fan. As host of Mysteries & Scandals (also on E!), Benza does little more than provide intros and outros to each episode. The show's tagline -- "Fame, ain't it a bitch?" -- is right up there in eye-rolling preposterousness next to the Jeff Probst utterance, "The tribe has spoken" on CBS's Survivor. Still, I am intrigued by anyone attempting to revisit the variety show, which this new Benza vehicle promises to do. Described as an hourlong weekly series, the show will "mix interviews with sketch comedy and man-on-the-street interviews" in a New York City milieu. I'll watch anything once.

Further Tales of the City airs on Showtime, Sundays, 10pm, through May 27. All right, you've already missed half the series, but I'm banking that this miniseries will reappear throughout the summer in reruns. It's based on Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City, first published in The San Francisco Chronicle in 1976 and aired on PBS in 1994. The third miniseries based on the Maupin saga of San Francisco life, Further Tales is set in 1981 and follows the love, home, and work lives of several gay and straight singles in the Golden Gate city. If it all sounds like a big, old-fashioned soap opera, it is, but this is an opera in the best sense, filled with intrigue, twists of fate, tragedy, and kooky coincidences. Sure, some of the plot points are telegraphed from a mile away, but Maupin still manages to make it all work in this compulsively watchable miniseries starring the divine Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal. Laura Linney, Billy Campbell, Whip Hubley, Mary Kay Place, and Paul Hopkins co-star. For more information about Tales of the City, visit www.talesofthecity.com.

The season premiere of Sex and the City airs on HBO, Sunday, June 3, 8pm. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte return for another season of candid, racy, often funny, but always insightful views on single women navigating through sex and relationships in the Big Apple. New episodes premiere each Sunday and recur throughout the week. For show times, check local listings.

Iron Chef, the IC3 Battle on the Food Network airs Sunday, June 3, 8pm. Get your VCR fired up for this rematch between Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto and returning challenger Bobby Flay. At last year's "New York Battle," the two met to slice and dice, sauté and flambé each other in a battle that was nail-bitingly fun. This time, Flay travels to Japan to meet Morimoto on his own turf.

Witchblade, a new TNT series, premieres Tuesday, June 12, 8pm. Based on the Top Cow comic book series of the same name, the series picks up from the original Witchblade movie which aired on TNT last summer. Yancy Butler stars as Sara Pezzini, a New York City detective who acquires a powerful, ancient weapon that brings her in contact with the dark forces of evil. Encore showings are Tuesdays at 10pm.

POV (Point of View) on PBS begins its season on Tuesday, June 19. Check local listings for airtime. This Peabody Award-winning showcase of documentaries returns for its 14th season on PBS. The season kicks off with Scout's Honor, directed by Tom Shepard. Winner of the Sundance Audience Award and Freedom of Expression Award, the film tells the story of 12-year-old Boy Scout Steven Cozza and 69-year-old Scout leader Dave Rice and their efforts to change the Scouts' anti-gay policy.

Mists of Avalon plays on TNT, Sunday-Monday, July 15-16, 7pm. Anjelica Huston, Julianna Margulies, and Joan Allen star in what looks to be a luscious rendering of the Marion Zimmer Bradley novel that gives the female version of the King Arthur legend. Huston plays Viviane, the High Priestess of Avalon and sister to Morgause, played by Allen. Margulies plays Morgaine, Arthur's half-sister, in love with his wife's lover, Lancelot, and mother to Arthur's son Mordred. Confused? Might be a good time to reread the novel.


Chavez on HBO Sports

Fans of Jesus "El Matador" Chavez and Marcy Garriott, the documentary filmmaker whose Split Decision tells the story of Chavez's parallel struggle toward a featherweight championship and gaining his rights as a U.S. citizen, should tune in to HBO Sports next Saturday. Chavez meets Juan José Arias in the undercard fight to the main event pitting undefeated super featherweight champion Floyd Mayweather against Carlos Hernandez.

A match between Chavez and Mayweather was promised in June, following Chavez's February 23 defeat of Tom "Boom Boom" Johnson at the Erwin Center (aired live on ESPN). So what gives? Garriott offered this explanation by e-mail: "Right after the Austin fight, Top Rank [Chavez's promoters] told Jesus they wanted him to take one more warm-up fight before he fights Mayweather. If he wins the fight in May, he'll supposedly fight Mayweather in September."

Mayweather (25-0, 19 KOs) meets Hernandez (33-2-1, 21 KOs) before a hometown crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Austin-based Chavez (34-1, 24 KOs), widely considered the top-ranked super featherweight contender, will meet rising contender Juan Arias (32-1, 26 KOs) in a 10-round bout. Arias is described as a "dangerous puncher who's won eight of his last 10 fights by knockout in five rounds or less."

Watch both matches on HBO Sports, Saturday, May 26, at 9:15pm. Check local listings to confirm air time. For more information about Jesus Chavez, see a feature story I wrote about the boxer and the documentary about him at www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-02-09/screens_feature.html .

E-mail Belinda Acosta at [email protected]

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

further tales of the city, aj after hours, iron chef, the IC3 battle, POV, witchblade, jesus chavez, jesus el matador chavez, mists of avalon, scout's honor

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