TV for Fans of TV
After much off-season media attention, the Emmy Award-winning The Osbournes returns to MTV for its second season on Tuesday.
Finally, a TV network that takes popular culture seriously. Trio Popular Arts Television appeared on the digital cable lineup without fanfare but provides more thoughtful programming on television and popular culture than E! or those 30-minute entertainment news programs that seem to trumpet the same faces over and over again. (How many times does anybody have to see Ben and J.Lo smooch in public?)
Starting Dec. 1, Trio offers several new TV-themed specials and series. One series is called Brilliant, but Cancelled and features critically acclaimed series that didn't make it to renewal. First up is the 1963 drama East Side/West Side, starring George C. Scott and Cicely Tyson. The series was the first to feature a black woman in a recurring role (Tyson) and the first to radically depart from prime time's happy family formula, with its socially conscious story lines of poverty, racism, and social unrest. Tyson will introduce 10 handpicked episodes of the Emmy award-winning series on Dec. 2 at 9pm. Larry Gelbart's comedy United States is featured on Dec. 9. Future Brilliant, but Cancelled series include Action, The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Famous Teddy Z, Gun, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Now and Again, and Profit.
Also set for a December launch is Face Time, featuring one-on-one chats with movers and shakers in TV. First up, an interview with CBS exec Les Moonves. Face Time premieres Dec. 1 at 8pm. Also airing Dec. 1 is a special called Perfect Pitch. Dreaded by some, perfected by others, the "pitch" is the make-it-or-break-it exercise where a writer or producer sells his or her idea to a network executive in three minutes or less. Perfect Pitch airs Dec. 1 at 9:30pm on Trio.
I Get Letters
Every once in a while, I get an e-mail from someone who wants to know what Austin bars or pubs offer The Sopranos viewing parties. The short answer is, I don't know. The long answer is, you're going to have to find those places by word of mouth, because even if I did know I wouldn't say. HBO has gotten cranky with pubs (especially on the East Coast) showing their programming to an open audience. Seems HBO thinks there should be a limit to the pairs of eyes per television actually watching HBO shows, and they're going to make sure of it, so there. As long as the proprietor is not charging admission, I'm not sure what the problem is. Besides, if HBO is that cranky about it, why allow pubs to subscribe to the service to begin with? After the recent whacking of Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano), I'm guessing most people were happy not to watch that spectacle over a plate of hot wings. I've received letters from two very cordial local folks wondering why I don't talk more about cable access television -- specifically, their cable access programs. I confess I haven't spent much time on cable access. No excuses, just haven't done it. But since James Laljer (The Olbitty Show) and Bill Stout (UnCommon Sense) were so nice, here are their pitches, edited for space, as to why we should watch their shows:
"The Olbitty Show is, by my own [admission] the worst TV show on the air. It has no purpose, no meaning, and no redeeming value whatsoever. I do it as a hobby and for fun, not to make a statement. That would require effort and thought, both of which I try to avoid. Who is Olbitty? She's the church lady's wicked half-sister. A gin-drinking, man-chasing, bingo-holic. ... The show is live and uncensored. ... We will talk about wood or steel, grits or hash browns, gloss or lipstick, paper or plastic -- you know, the really important stuff." The Olbitty Show airs Saturdays on cable channel 10 at 3am.
"In reference to your article 'TV's Loud Silence,' I wanted to direct you to two other not-so-unknown channels/programs to add to your political viewing selections: C-SPAN and ACAC channel 10 or 16, especially the show I am producing called UnCommon Sense. ... May I suggest broadening your viewing horizon by checking out 'alternative' media venues in order to get a perspective closer to reality, rather than the propaganda or misinformation broadcast by the corporate controlled monopolies." UnCommon Sense airs Sundays on cable channel 10 at 8pm.
The Sundance Channel hosts its Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving marathon featuring "warm" family fare like Nick Broomfield's documentary Kurt & Courtney, Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, Todd Solondz's Happiness, and Ingmar Bergman's 1972 classic, Cries and Whispers. The marathon airs Nov. 28 starting at 6:20pm.
British director David Ward and Scottish writer Robbie McCallum brew up some dark Americana in 60 Cups of Coffee (2001), a curious short about a man who wants to know if there's truth to the urban legend that 60 cups of coffee will stop your heart. Wouldn't you know it -- it all takes place somewhere in Texas. 60 Cups of Coffee airs Nov. 29 at 1pm.